20 April 2020


I hope that you are OK and keeping yourselves as safe as possible.

I've been thinking that as our generation now faces a massive, global disruption that will affect us all (and that is what is happening), at least it isn't a war. At least it isn't certain groups of humans trying to kill certain other groups of humans until the killing encompasses almost everyone. At least this emergency is about preventing loss of life and showing care for others. There's a lot of war-like language going around, and perhaps that helps some to frame/parse what s happening, but I do think that we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is all about health, not killings.

We are showing compassion for ourselves and others, and that needs to continue even when it feels hard. Our sacrifices vary, and of course many people are sacrificing a lot for others, but this isn't easy for anyone. We need to pull together whilst (ironically) keeping a certain physical distance apart. We want to save lives, and now we all have the ability to do that, even in small ways. I take hope from the fact that we've so swiftly and massively changed our behaviour and inconvenienced ourselves out of care for others. Let's hope some of this solidarity and consideration continues after the current crisis.

Anyway, it's just a thought but I'm hoping it brings a bit of hope or comfort to others.

3 November 2019

I, Borg

Episode: s5, ep 23

Can you transmit empathy? This episode weirdly doesn't contain the word genocide even once despite it being planned.

What Happens
The Enterprise investigates a mysterious signal while mapping a system. Riker, Crusher and Worf beam down to a moon and find a crashed Borg ship with a young survivor. Picard wants them to leave it, but Crusher wants to treat it. Worf wants to kill it and make it look like part of the accident. Picard reluctantly decides to bring it aboard under heavy security. Troi offers Picard her support, which he predictably refuses. Crusher treats the survivor in the brig. The Borg's damaged implants could kill it, but perhaps Geordi can make substitutes? Grim-faced Picard asks Geordi if he can make the new implants hold a virus that could take out the Borg collective. Crusher is understandably horrified that her boss and old freind is suggesting genocide. The Borg stumbles about, apparently unable to understand being alone. Crusher points out that it will need energy to feed on as apparently no one else considered how to look after a Borg. Guinan and Picard fence, Guinan's very angry about the Borg being on board.
Geordi and Crusher collaborate while working with the Borg. Geordi installed a food-energy port and tried to ignore the single-minded Borg talk, but got increasingly salty with his charge. He has to limited the food to make it comply with their tests and questions, but gets defensive when Crusher says he's treating it like a rat. Crusher is following orders, but makes it clear that she disapproves of this whole thing. Crusher and Geordi explain the difference between names and designations to the Borg, who Geordi calls Hugh. They try to explain that no one on the Enterprise wants to be assimilated, but Hugh hates how quiet and lonely it is. Neither want to answer when he asks what's going to happen to him. Geordi talks to Guinan about his conflicted feelings, and she's initially scornful until he says how out of character this attitude is for her. Guinan goes to see Hugh and explains that resistance isn't always futile. An approaching Borg cube is detected.
Hugh and Geordi talk more and Geordi tries to explain why the Federation don't practice assimilation to learn about others, what individuality is and why he'd rather die than lose his. Hugh again latches on to how lonely this sounds to him, so Geordi explains friends. Hugh decides they are friends. Geordi and Data report to Picard about how they're goint to use Hugh's visual interface to shut down the Borg collective. Picard is pleased until Geordi mentions his second thoughts about using Hugh. Picard angirly tells Geordi to unattach himself. Guinan discusses Hugh with Picard, and after that Picard has Hugh beamed to his office. Once they're alone Picard steps into the role of Locutus because Hugh recognises him as such. Picard acts very Borg-ish, rejecting Hugh's name and insisting on assimilation. Hugh gets upset at the idea of assimilating Geordi because he knows Geordi would rather die. Picard orders Hugh until he denies a direct order and uses a singular pornoun to identfy himself for the first time as Hugh, not Borg.
Picard holds another staff meeting to decide Hugh's fate. Picard wonders whether Hugh's memory of individuality and feriendship could spread through the Borg. When asked Hugh says he wants to stay with Geordi, but he knows the Borg will follow, so he asks to be returned to the Borg in order to help his friend. Geordi checks Hugh does want this, then beams down to the crashed ship with him. Since the Borg ignore individuals in favour of assimilating civilsations Geordi is safe from the investigating Borg who collect the dead and find Hugh.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard's hatred of the Borg is unsurprising, they did abduct, assault, violate and mutilate him. That this principled man is planning genocide and refusing to hear the concerns of trusted friends and colleagues is worrying. I mean he even says what he's planning is an awful thing, except in this case, which happens to involve his abusers. The plan to destory the Borg consumes Picard, and he shies away from anything that might derail it; Crusher's objections, Geordi's reservations or later Guinan's change of heart. Guinan, as a fellow survivor, has a massive influence on his mood, egging him on at first then encouraging him towards making an informed decision later. When Hugh recognises Picard as Locutus the Captain draws on that awful time to bring out the worst in Hugh, to prove to himself that the young Borg deserves destruction. When Hugh proves his willingness to resist and his individuality, Picard sees that he's doing something awful and has brought out the worse in himself. It's interesting that using technology to infect and destroy an entire civilisation is a very Borg thing, and it's good that Picard realises that he was about to behave in the way his abusers did.

Doctor Doctor
As usual Crusher is the voice of reason, the humanitarian of the senior crew. Her instinct to act for the welfare of her patient never wavers and she's not intimidated by disagreement from others. She helps an injured young man and advocates for his care early on. Later she's disgusted that genocide is being suggested, let alone planned. She doesn't let anyone hide from the implications of what they're discussing. She's the first one to assign an emotional motive to Hugh's actions and the main person to consider his care before Geordi gets to know him. When she's overruled she follows orders, but is ready to express her distaste. I think it might have been more powerful if she'd refused to be involved, or even insisted that Picard's mental health is assessed, but since Troi doesn't agree with her I guess that's not possible. Crusher's insistence that this plan is wrong spreads gradually from person to person in different ways, just as they think memories of individuality might spread through the Borg.

Blind Engineering
At first Geordi is irritated by the usual Borg dialogue about assimilation and futile resistance, which loses its threat when spoken in isolation. Geordi attempts to correct the Borg, which has little effect at first. Geordi is the one who controls the food-energy to force compliance, and it's not explored but it's likely that the young Borg sees him as a provider. Crusher's the one who explains names to him, but Geordi is the one who comes up with Hugh. Once dialogue increases Geordi shows curiosity and empathy towards Hugh, key Star Fleet values. He takes on board what Hugh says about the quiet, lonely ship devoid of the voices he's had in his head his whole life. Geordi is able to explain the Federation viewpoint, the importance of individuality and the strength of his feeling against assimilation. It's Hugh who decides they're friends, which is sweet but sad. I think it might've been nicer if the friendship had some fun to it, but that isn't the focus of the episode. As Geordi affects Hugh, so Hugh affects Geordi and leads him to doubt his orders. Geordi even ends up being the wiser one in a conversation with Guinan! It ends with Hugh willing to deny his programming and put himself in danger to save his friend.

Guinan's Hat:
Silvery Headscarf under Fencing Helmet
While fencing Guinan asks Picard about the Borg on board. Picard says the rescue was humanitarian and Crusher's decision, distancing himself from human values; the kind of thing he usually speeches in favour of. Guinan warns him of the danger, then feigns injury so that Picard lets his guard down. She takes his foil and scores a point against him. "You felt sorry for me. Look what it got you," she says without compromise. This was pretty shocking to me, because Guinan's whole thing is compassion, empathy and insight. Then I remembered her people were refugees because of the Borg and I guess I get it. Still, these are two of the most moral characters descending into blind hatred.
Purple Hat
Geordi tells Guinan that he didn't have a problem with the plan at first, but now he's named Hugh and is empathising with him, as though he's a lost child. Guinan finds this freaky. Geordi's starting to feel bad about turning him into a weapon. Guinan points out how awful the Borg are and says they woldn't do any of the soul searching Geordi's doing (apparently she fails to see that she's advocating Borg-like behaviour). Geordi, used to understanding rather than accusation from this quarter, suggests she goes speak to Hugh. He reminds her that her skill is supposed to be listening. It is a sick burn, but how mixed up are things that Geordi is the insightful one in this conversation?
Blue Hat
Guinan goes to see Hugh, intially challenging and expecting Borg dialogue. When he says resistance is futile she angrily contradicts him, points out that resistance is why she's there. She blames him for the massive loss and scattering of her people. Hugh immediately identifies that she is lonely, which she wasn't expecting at all. He empathises with her; loss of home and others of your kind is all he has known since he came to the Enterprise, he is lonely too. She is rattled.
Guinan visits Picard, who is wearing his dressing gown. She's still rattled and asks Picard if the Borg surprised him. She says she wasn't going to visit depsite what Geordi said, but she got curious. She asks Picard if he's sure he's doing the right thing, because she's the one that needs convincing now. Picard is surprised by this reversal and reminds her of the dramatic foil snatching two days* before. Picard says he's never talked to the Borg and Guinan is surprised. She calls the Borg a person, and Picard yells that it isn't. Guinan, back to the calm wisdom that usually defines her, points out that Picard plans to "use this person to destroy his race". After Crusher this is the second time someone's come close to saying genocide. Guinan says she thinks Hugh isn't really Borg anymore. Picard, understandably angry to again be judged by a fellow survivor who recently mocked him for even showing sympathy, gets angry and refers to Hugh as Geordi's pet. Guinan finishes it by pointing out that Picard should talk to Hugh to avoid major regrets later. Of course Guinan's the main person on board who gets where Picard is coming from, so it's hard to ignore this coming from her. It feels like her conversation with Geordi kinda foreshadowed this one, and this is foreshadowing for Picard's encounter with Hugh later.

Counsellor Pointless
I don't understand why Picard has Troi sit on the Bridge when he refuses to use her services. (In fact, does anyone on the Bridge even need/accept counselling?) He's unexpectedly having to deal with his former abusers, so of course she privately offers her professional help. He tells her he's comfortable, whilst looking strained as all hell, and you don't need empathic powers to see he's repressing like anything. Of course Troi can't force counselling on him (or can she? I assume she would have to coordinate with Crusher and declare it a health emergency) Once he starts planning the destruction of a whole people I feel like an intervention is needed, but disappointingly Troi argues for genocide.

Staff Meetings: 3
1. Discussing Picard's idea to use the survivor to wipe out the Borg. Geordi explains technical issues. Crusher wants them to define precisely that they're talking about annihilating an entire race. Picard concedes that usually it would be unconsciousable, but has decided it's fine in this case - so that's OK. Riker points out they're at war. Crusher points out war has never formally been declared. Troi counters that Borg actions have only ever been hostile. Crusher points out rules of war include not killing civilians. Riker says the Borg don't have civilians (remember that time Riker found a Borg baby in drawer?) and they're a single being. Crusher reckons the single being thing is a convenient argument, she points out that the youg man is her patient and that's all she sees. Picard says they're justified in doing anything to survive because there's no hope of peace in this case.
2. Geordi and Data explain the plan to Picard, they will use the image of a paradoxical shape in Hugh's imaging apparatus to destroy the Borg. Picard is pleased and tells them to do it as soon as possible. After Data leaves Geordi tells Picard that he has second thoughts about using Hugh. Picard firmly says that in the past scientists who grew attached to lab animals had trouble killing them, so Geordi needs to unattach.
3. After listening to Guinan and talking to Hugh, Picard admits he avoided meeting Hugh because he didn't want anything (like his conscience) to get in the way of the plan. He asks Riker, Crusher and Geordi for an alternative plan because he knows he can't use an individual the same way the Borg does. Riker suggests wiping Hugh's memory, but Geordi and Crusher don't want to destroy who he's become. As they discuss Hugh's fate, Picard wonders whether Hugh's memory of being an individual will spread through the Borg collective before the Borg reset him to factory settings. Crusher asks what if Hugh doesn't want to go back.

Girl Talk
After the excellent showing on the last episode, which was filled with women and girls, this is a big letdown. I mean it's good that Crusher is fairly prominent, but that feeling like a novelty is an ongoing issue. Guinan gets some pretty meaty scenes and although her role feels like it wraps around Picard's arc it doesn't feel like it's about him over her. I don't think this episode passes the Bechdel-Wallace test. Crusher addresses a meeting to make a humanitarian point and Troi (the only other woman in the room) responds against it. Since they're talking about the Borg and -at this point in Trek continuity- every Borg has been identified as male or ungendered, I don't think this even scrapes a pass. Let us not forget that the point of the test is not to scrape by on a technicality, but to highlight a lack of representation by presenting a pretty low bar to clear.

The End
Hugh says goodbye to Geordi before the Borg arrive. Then Geordi watches, entirely ignored, as the Borg from the Cube collect devices from the dead before the bodies are beamed away. He's alone as the Enterprise is hiding from the Cube's sensors near a sun. When they find Hugh the other Borg plug into him, which either erases or shares his memories, or both. Just before the Borg beam away Hugh makes eye contact with Geordi

It's kinda sad, but I think we're supposed to be hopeful that Picard's idea about Hugh's memories affecting the collective will work.

*Is it really 2 days. I never know how long anything takes on the Enterprise, but just as in the last episode 2 days doesn't feel right here either. Is everythng just 2 days?

3 August 2019

Imaginary Friend

Episode: s5, ep 22

What Happens
Troi is playing tea party with little Clara, whose father is a new engineer on the ship. Clara is describing her imaginary friend Isabella. Meanwhile the Enterprise is exploring a weird nebula when a glowy ball of light enters the ship (never a good thing) and flies around eavesdropping and flying through equipment.It finds Clara planting in the arboretum and flies through her head. Suddenly Isabella is there, talking to Clara, who's suprised but pleased. Isabella is as Clara described earlier, but she's got a very sour look on her face.
The Enterprise stalls, like it hit something but htere's nothing there. Clara's dad is helping Geordi and Data to investigate when Clara goes into Engineering and Geordi almost trips over her. Her dad hustles her out, and isn't happy to hear that Isabella wanted to see Engineering, he instructs her to return to quarters. As soon as Clara's alone Isabella says she's invisble around grownups because they don;t believe in her. She disappears to do something, and whatever she does means the ship can move again, much to Geordi's surprise. Then Isabella decides she wants to be around people, so they go to 10 forward, literally running into Worf on the way. At the bar Guinan spots Clara, who seems to be alone, and discusses imaginary friends with her. Troi arrives to escort Clara back to quarters and tries to tell "Isabella" not to pressure Clara into doing things she's not allowed to do. Isabella has Clara deliver a warning to Troi. The counsellor has a word with Clara's dad and suggests they encourage her to make real friends.
Isabella is a toxic friend (even aside from being a glowy light from a weird nebula), she tries to emotionally manipulate Clara whenever the girl is reluctant to comply. Troi invites Clara to a ceramics class, but says that Isabella isn't invited. After they leave Isabella appears and her eyes glow red. The Enterprise keeps running into weirdness in the nebula. After investigating Geogrdi and Clara's dad find a plasma string. Knowing what they're looking for they adjust the view and suddenly the ship is surrounded by big plasma strings, it's like being in the middle of a heavily cobwebbed room. Troi introduces Clara to Alexander, then goes to her quarters where Isabella knocks over her cup a bit. Clara and Alexander chat and model nicely together until Isabella knocks over Alexander's cup and throws clay at him. Clara is acccused, gets upset and runs out. Isabella persues Clara to the arboretum, and angrily says that she won't protect her when the Others come and she can die with everyone else.
Troi and Guinan are chatting about Clara and imaginary friends when Clara's dad calls Troi because Clara is terrified by Isabella's threats. Troi tries to calm Clara and "looks" for Isabella. She's shocked when Isabella appears and zaps her unconscious. Troi wakes in sickbay reports the incident to Picard, and then Worf realises he saw Isabella with Clara 2 days ago.* Clara comes in and says Isabella is angry about being ignored. The ship keeps hitting plasma strands and slowing. More glowy balls apear from the nebula and start draining the shields, causing system problems. Picard, Worf and Clara's dad escore the girl to the arborteum where Pciard calls Isabella out for terrorising a child. Isabella came to investigate the ship, turns out the shield enrgy is delicious but the adults of the crew are cruel and uncaring (was Isabella even there when Guinan was talking to Clara?), so desrve to be destroyed. Picard points out that Isabella was using Clara, then speeches at her about how rules and restrictions are for protection of children. Clara asks Isabella not to hurt them and says they can still be best friends. Isabella turns into a glowy ball and leaves, taking the other glowy balls with her.

Guest Stars
The girl playing Clara looked very familiar to me. Turns out Noley Thornton was also in an episode of Deep Space Nine, she played a little girl who dax and Odo meet in a settlement of people who are (unbeknowst to them) holograms. I think that's where I know her from, although she was also in anepisode of Quantum Leap.
The girl playing Isabella didn't look quite as familiar, but I kinda thought I'd seen her somewhere. Turns out Shay Astar was also in an episode of Quantum Leap, but I think that mostly I know her a August, Tommy's girlfriend from 3rd Rock From The Sun. I expect I didn't recognise her because she's a fair bit older when she's in the sitcom.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard is mostly involved in the nebula stuff, which is standard fare for the Enterprise. He only gets involved in what's happening with Clara after Troi is attacked. After the girl bursts in while adults are talking Picard asks her if they can rely on her when needed. She responds serious with "Yes Captain." This is far from her first starship.
When Picard goes to the arboretum with Clara he's the one who calls Isabella out angrily. Isabella tries to make out that Clara is being creully restricted by adults, but Picard sees that Isabella is only angry because the restriction stopped her from doing what she wanted. He speeches at Isabella and while I have often found this type of ending corny this is actually a pretty good speech about how adults use rules and restrictions to protect children for their own good. Like, I might memorise bits for when my kid is older. He also makes a pretty good point that a society should be judged by how it treats its children.

Blind Engineering
Clara's dad asks Geordi abut being raised in Star Fleet and moving around a lot, clearly thinking about Troi's conclusion that an imaginary friend is a point of satbaility for a child that's been moved around since she was 2. It's cool that he feels comfortable talking to his boss about this, it suggests that maybe Engineering is becoming a more friendly place, like how Sickbay is (see Girl Talk). Geordi describes a childhood of moving around a lot and not knowing which parent he would be stationed with if they were assigned separately. Clara's dad comments that that must have been hard and disruptive, but Geordi brushes that off and says he didn't think so then and it was all an adventure. He talks about how strong kids are as long as they know they're loved, which is certainly a nice thought. My thought is that surely it would be difficult for a blind child to be moving around a lot and living in various different places? Though being in the Federation it's likely that young Geordi was given all the support he could need for any transition.

It's Not Easy Being Troi
Troi is doing so well with Clara, joining in with the imaginary tea party and taking what Clara says seriously. Even when Clara knows Troi doesn't believe her the counsellor is never patronising, she says if Clara believes in Isabella that's good enough for her. Troi also does well with Clara's dad, reassuring him at first, brining up the problem when Clara acts out and telling the dad to be more available for Clara so she can rely on him when she needs to talk. Troi facilitates Clara making friends, taking her to ceramics class and introducing her to Alexander, another child whose transition to life on the ship was tricky. It's shame Troi gets the sharp end of Isabella's attention, though considering Isabella is planning to kill (or facilitate the killing of) everyone on the ship Troi probably got away easy just having her cup kncoked over and being temporarily zapped. In fact it seems that if Isabella -and her people- were as murderous as claimed she probably could have done much more. Perhaps it was just more manipulation, if emotional manipulation doesn't work just move on the threats? I hope troi has some follow up sessions with clara about all this. Part of me feels like maybe Troi should have been able to sense Isabella, but of course Troi is much better counsellor than she is empath.

Guinan's Hat: Crimson
Clara knows that Guinan believes her about Isabella. They chat about imginary friends and Guinan is able to explain so well why grown ups don't really understand stuff they can't see:

"they get preoccupied by other things ... Like how much fuel it takes to power a star ship, or whether we should go to one star system or another ... So their heads can get so full that they forget about the things that are important to you and me, like imaginary friends."

I mean if you replace all the star ship stuff (which still sounds pretty cool) with bills and work and bad news, then... wow, that's powerful stuff! Being an adult sucks sometimes. Guinan describes her own imaginary friend, a razor beast (with an unclear gender but likely masc-presenting?) and reflects on how important that relationship was and how safe her friend made her feel.
Later similar sentiments are repeated when Guinan observes that Troi is worried about Clara and again discusses her imaginary razor beast friend. In this conversation Troi has identified Isabella as a problem (though not yet a material one), but is concerned about taking some magic of childhood (and a useful coping stratgey) away from Clara by discouraging her closeness to an imaginary friend.

Staff Meetings:1
Picard, Riker, Data and Geordi discuss nebula exploration, and the acceleration issues and how weird it all is. Only 4 of them are there and Picard and Geordi are standing, so it's less formal usual. Picard is positively giddy about "unique phemona" and Riker shows his interest by pointing out it "might be dangerous". They have to seem like they're disucssing it seriously, but they were always going to keep going. Picard's "proceed with caution" is just a fig leaf for taking a civilian population into a situation which, as Data points out, has impossible to estimate risks.

Girl Talk:
1. Troi and Clara - in Clara's quarters several times, in 10 Forward and the turbolift, also a little at the ceramics class.
2. Crusher and Ogawa - talking about Ogawa's date while doing equipment checks.** Crusher is interested but not pushy. It's great that Crusher immediately says Ogawa can be covered if she wants to go on shore leave with her date. It's also cool that Ogawa can admit to not really liking the uninhibited atmosphere of Riza, and not being ready for that kind of fun (I didn't get much sense of Ogawa's personality before, but I'm with her on this). She sounds a little embarassed, but I'm not sure if that kind of thing is not for Ogawa in general, or whether she feels it's a bit early in this particular relationship. Either way it's clear she's pleased to be asked, but also feels a bit weird about it due to the destination. I love that Crusher knows her staff well enough to suggest an alternative holiday destination, somewhere with beautiful natural features which sounds more romantic than sexy. Ogawa giggles as Crusher walks away, pleased but maybe a little bemused that her boss has given her this tip. It's a really lovely scene that's less than a minute long.
3. Isabella (is presenting as female, so I'm treating her as such) and Clara - in the aboretum a few times, in the corrdiors a fair bit, and in Clara's room.
4. Guinan and Clara - in 10 Forward, Clara identifies Guinan as a rare adult who gets what she's talking about and believes her.
5. Troi and Guinan - Who counsels the counsellor? It's Guinan! She knows Troi is worried about Clara, they discuss the power of childhood fantasies and how important they can be.

It's only in writing this blog post that I realised female characters talking to each other is actually a lot of the episode, especially if you count Clara and Isabella. Even if you only count adults there's still a lot more female interaction than usual.

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?
-Traditionally this section is where I'd point out that taking your big civilian ship into plainly dangerous territory is a bad plan. Feels like a while since I did that (one gets desensitised to these things), but it seems very relevant here. (See Staff Meetings)

-Clara is unsupervised a lot. She's helping Keiko on the arboretum, but we never see Keiko at all and she doesn't seem to have any direct adult supervision there (it doesn't look that big for an arboretum, but maybe there's a more foresty bit off screen). Clara can stroll through the corridors alone and wander into Engineering -a very crucial and potentially dangerous part of the ship- without any kind of preventative measures. At least she's not some armed Klingons, but what will it take for them to install swipe card access or something? Then her dad just sends her off on her own, and Worf does the same thing with both girls later. Neither father considers that maybe a child who is already somewhere she shouldn't be might need to be taken back to where she should be. Also when Clara returns to their quarters, what is she supposed to do there alone?
Which brings us to...
-How are children supposed to occupy themselves here? I think there's a school, but we've only seen glimpses of it before. I don't understand the education system on this ship. Wesley seemed to have a lot of homework and projects, but he was older and also had definite future plans that required formal education. This episode features the children's centre (is that school or more like a play scheme?), which seems very free form. The ceramics class is clearly a drop-in session and I'm not sure if anyone is guiding the class or just providing materials. Is school not in session at the moment? Has Clara not been placed in a class? Clara helping in the arboretum seems like the kind of fun work-duty children can be given, which makes sense in a ship environment. Not sure if this is a general thing, or something for Clara specifically because she's new? I feel like when we've had sadder kid episodes in the past the children have been left to themselves a lot, and while those were kids grieving they didn't seem to have the kind of supportive adult presence or structured routine I'd have thought they needed.

-Troi tells Clara's dad he needs to be someone she can talk to, and he nods or whatever, but is he doing that? Should he take time off to be with her while she adjusts? Should he be making friends with other families? Should he just play with her a bit? It seems like he does care but doesn't really know how to be a presence in his daughter's life. Which is particularly not-great if he's a single parent. It's odd to me that after Troi is injured Clara's dad is hanging around at Troi's bedside, while Clara (who's just witnessed something very scary) has been left in a different room with Ogawa and has to burst in to see her dad and Troi. After what just happened Clara's dad shouldn't leave her side.

The End
Free of glowy balls and strings the Enterprise readies to leave the nebula. Picard orders Geordi to send a burst of delicious energy into the nebula, because after manipulating and threatening a child, and endangering the whole ship, why not send creepy Isabella and her people a little reward? Isabella appears to Clara, apologises for scaring her and misleading her and says she never had a friend before. Clara is very forgiving and is sorry that she's leaving the nebula. Both girls hope they'll meet again.
Is this heartwarming? I feel like Isabella was awful and got no comeuppence for what she did. It doesn't seem like Clara has learned anything from this either. I hope Troi or Guinan or someone gives Clara some advice about guarding aginst manipulation.

A behind the scenes picture, but one that looks amazing!

* I never know how much time is passing on the Enterprise. I'd put it down to the lack of natural light on the spaceship, but I'm often not sure how much time is passing when they're on a planet either. Unless they make an effort to show how time is passing most episodes feel like a day and a half.
**It's about the date itself and how Ogawa found it rather than the man (who has not descriptor besides 'he') so I think it's probably Bechdel-Wallace passing, not that that's the only measure.

29 June 2019

Good Omens

Good Omens has been turned into a TV show, it is my favourite book. I talked about why I love it on this blog over 7 years ago, and I've reread it more since then.

I wasn't sure what I expected when I heard Good Omens was finally going to be a TV series, though Neil Gaiman being heavily involved felt positive. The casting of experienced actors David Tennant and Michael Sheen as the 2 main characters was hopeful. Other casting anouncements felt more mixed to me, but the trailers were encouraging.

I watched the series on Amazon Prime one episode at a time, we don't do much binge-watching anymore. I had intended to reread the book before the TV series started, but I don't read as fast as I used to, so I was still reading the end as we watched the beginning, meaning I quoted a long with a lot of it.

I really enjoyed it. I missed some stuff that was omitted, but a lot more of the original text was in the show than I'd expected. I also really enjoyed a lot of the additions. The whole thing felt very in the spirit of the book, so that's good.

I have a lot more thoughts. I have bullet pointed them.

Crowley and Aziraphale
  • Main focus on Crowley and Aziraphale makes sense since they're the only characters there from the Beginning and also they're the stars in the cast. 
  • This focus fleshes out Heaven and Hell (Heaven especially), creating more roles for talented actors to play angels and demons, who look very different but seem equally unpleasant. 
  • Book focuses more on Crowley and Hell as the Antichrist is their operation, Aziraphale is only angel with character, so the show improves on this showing Heaven's attitude early on and rounding out Aziraphale's character.
  • TV show also depicts the evolution of Crowley and Aziraphale's relationship more clearly, from adversaries to friends, to something slashier than the books (though of course the books generated a lot of slash). It initially felt odd to me that Crowley seemed more dependent on and worried about Aziraphale than vice versa, but I realised Crowley was never as committed to being a demon, he enjoyed his job but not the people (Evil is fun, demons are not). Aziraphale on the other hand really does believe in what he's doing (it is Good after all), and so he's far more willing to hold onto a positive, hopefull view of Heaven, even if it endangers his relationship with Crowley.
  • Have I been pronouncing Crowley wrong in my head all this time? The TV show it's Crow(like the bird)-lee, whereas I'd thought of it as Crowl(rhymes with growl)-lee. Like how Ozzy Osborne sings it in Mister Crowley. Is that a West Mids thing? I think my way sounds more snaky.

The Humans
  • The focus on Crowley and Aziraphale means the human characters get shorter shrift, with less development for basically all of them. Crowley and Aziraphale do disappear a bit from the middle of the book as the affairs of humans and horsemen (or bikers) are lined up and investigated, which doesn't happen in the show. 
  • Shadwell looks and sounds too normal, but I appreciate it'd probably be difficult to cast an actor who could match with Shadwell in the book, it's a special kind of awful. Giving him a backstory also took away from the horrifying mystery that is Sergeant Shadwell of the Witchfinder Army ("I never dreamed when I was a kid"), and he seemed a bit too organised and proactive. We don't get much chance to see him through Newt's eyes which flattens him out a bit.
  • Madame Tracy wasn't as old or weathered as I'd pictured, but again TV casting is what it is. She was pretty good otherwise and I though the seance scene was very good.
  • There was more of Warlock and the Dowlings, which was fine.
  • I was worried about Jack Whitehall being cast Newton Pulsifer, but he played Newt so well I kept forgetting it was Jack Whitehall. It's probably due to the kind of performances I've seen Whitehall do in the past, but here he actually perfectly convey a man who would need to undergo a phone box transformation in order to look like Clarke Kent. Bravo to him.
  • Anathema felt a bit hard done by, and so did Agnes by extension. I get that not all of the prophecies or asides could have been included, but Agnes's prophecies and the little details about her life developed Anathema's character in the same way the details about Shadwell and the Witchfinder Army did for Newt.
  • At least we still got Giles Baddicombe (oh look, Samjeev Bhaskar), which I liked. I understand why the history of the Box was abridged, I did miss Newt putting a saucepan over his head and hiding behind the door.
  • Adam and the Them get a fair bit of screen time, but the whole Tadfeld set up is briefer. I can see why Greasy Johnson and the Johnsonites and other Tadfield miscllenia had to be removed, but I didn't realise how much f it there was until it was gone.
  • Adam felt more obviously threatening, more showy than what I'd pictured in the book, which may well be a factor of adapting for TV (though in general the book uses a of filmic tropes and audio-visual description). In my head the rise of the Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of this World, Father of Lies was more quietly terrifying and the eventual victory of Adam Young more triumphant for it. 
  • I was a little surprised the book didn't have more of an environmental message. That's always struck me as a big part of the book, and Adam's rise to his powers is sparked by his realisation of what's been allowed to happen. Goodness knows the anger of youth at the folly and apathy of their elders is a very fitting theme for a show made nowadays.
  • Following on from this, I missed Jaime Hernez, the Brazilian mall maintenance worker who helps a light-starved tree, that was a nice bit. I'm glad the Atlanteans and Japanese whaling ship and Kraken were featured, but Jaime was the main heroic human character from those one-off sections.
  • Adam didn't mention Heaven (Aziraphale) and Hell (Crowley) messing people around, which struck me as missing another major point the book made. I like that fact that the angel and demon talk about it later and come to realise their complicity in how humanity has turned out.

Horsemen (and Bikers) of the Apocalypse
  • The Delivery Man was taller and slimmer I'd imgained. I'd always pictured  It was nice that they showed his wife though.
  • I'm fine with the fact that each of the Horsemen only got 1 section each, they weren't much in the way of characters.
  • I'm OK with the Other Bikers of the Apocalypse being cut. That section was so much from Pigbog's point of view that it would be difficult to do on screen, especially without somehow introducing him earlier.
  • I did miss the rain of fish and the octopus that waves at the shocked policemen

Many Diuerse Wonders and Precepts for the Wife
  • Using the voice of God to do the narration means that a lot more of the jokes were included than I was expecting, so that was good. Initially I felt as though the narrative gave the show a bit of a Hitchhikers feel.
  • There were a lot more women and people of colour in the cast than I'd pictured, which says more about me than anything else. There's some stuff in the book that was a bit iffy (mostly displaying the casual racism and small-mindedness of some characters) and that stuff was gone, but I did 't miss it.
  • Watching the show is the first time I got the bit about the Nightingale in Berkley Square. I mean, I knew it was a reference to a song, but I didn't know the lyrics so didn't get the connection to angels dining at the Ritz until they played it.
  • The theme tune was a lot of fun, the visuals were reminscent of some Python stuff.
  • I like the addition of the ending, it felt very good that Crowley and Aziraphale took the next stuff in their collusion and actually backed each other aginst their superiors. Plus it makes more sense with the militancy and control we see from Heaven and Hell in the show that they would try to punish their rogue agents.
  • I can't rememeber if Aziraphale says the bit about Evil containing the seeds of it's own destruction in the show (it's been a bit since I saw the show, I'm slow to write things up nowadays), but I thought of it when Crowley has trouble crossing the M25 because of his own actions in shaping it to be evil. Also there was a thing with the mobile phone networks, but that's more obvious.

Is it weird that I used my husband's (hardback and unbattered) copy of Good Omens to check some stuff for this post and was disconcerted by the typeface and formatting being different.

3 June 2019

Perfect Mate

Episode: s5, ep21

Given that this episode has a guest actor from the early part of the X-Men film franchise -and of course Patrick Stewart- I was thinking I could do a sort of X-Men/TNG crossover thing. But this episode was so enraging that I just don't feel like being flippant.

What Happens
The Enterprise is hosting a ceremony to end a centuries-long war and transporting an Ambassador, business as usual. He has a gift with special storage requirements, but he didn't tell the Enterprise about this before he came aboard.* Meanwhile 2 Ferengi are beamed aboard as their ship explodes. Despite the general distrust and dislike of Ferengi they have freedom of the ship, just like every other unexpected visitor. One accosts the Ambassador to talk about trade while the other sneaks into the cargo bay where the Amabassdor's golden egg gift-thing is precariously balanced on lasers.* Picard and the Ambassador walk into the cargo bay as the Ferengi topples the egg, which dissolves to reveal a beautiful woman. She greets Picard as the Leader of the opposing nation. Picard angrily asks for an explanation, he and Riker are appalled by having their ship used for person traffiking. It's explained that the woman isn't property but a gift (so, property). She says she's a very rare, empathetic metamorph who adapts her personality to please the desires of whichever man she's around. When she reaches maturity (or something, cos she looks pretty grown to me) she will bond to a single man and become his perfect mate. Her being given to the Leader of the other side has been planned since her birth and has great cultural significance. Picard tells Riker to escort her to quarters, seems like a bad plan. And it is, she explains to Riker that she's giving off lots of pheromones**, then she kisses him twice before he hastily leaves for alone time in a holodeck.
Crusher admonishes Picard for allowing trafficking, he points out the Prime Directive stops him from intervening if Fantasy-Gift-Woman says she's doing this of her own accord, though he's clearly not comfortable with his argument. Crusher makes many good points and says Fantasy-Gift-Woman is imprisoned by the Ambassador. Picard visits Fantasy-Gift-Woman and is uncomfortable with the way she behaves; seduction is as natural to her as breathing, yet Picard is curious about her as a person. Picard insists she be allowed out, and despite the Ambassador's objections Data takes her to 10 Forward where she's pleased by the attention of some miners and there's a brawl. 
Picard talks to Fantasy-Gift-Woman about her situation suggesting she should remain in her quarters after all (hmm, so it's OK if he's the one imprisoning her). She's fascinated by Picard who tries to present himself as dull, but as she points out part of him must want her interest or she wouldn't be interested (this is really the clue that it's all her programming). Meanwhile the Ferengi accost the Ambassador to buy the metamorph, he refuses their bribes, things get a bit rough and the Amabassador is knocked unconscious. This means Picard needs to work on the ceremony with Fantasy-Gift-Woman as he has the most authority and she has all the info. Picard and Fantasy-Gift-Woman talk about themselves a bit, even though Picard tries to keep it all business. She thought about his questions (having never metanyone who didn't treat her like a commodity before) and she's decided that she is destined to be the Leader's mate, but meeting Picard has intrigued her.
The Leader arrives, he's more interested in trade agreements than Fantasy-Gift-Woman. It seems like he's not interested in women, or maybe he's not interested in this particular arrangement, it doesn't seem to have the weight in his culture that it does in hers. I think he's supposed to seem unpleasant, the focus on trade is reminiscent of the Ferengi maybe, but he's focusing on the practical matters that will come from peace, not the Fantasy-Gift-Woman he didn't actually ask for and has never met. Fantasy-Gift-Woman asks Picard what her inteded is like and he tries to be diplmatic. She says she craves the Captain's company, but that's the kind of thing a woman designed to fulfil fantasies would say.
Picard unloads to Beverly about the situation, knowing he's gotten involved in something he shouldn't have, but not fully regrettng it. He knows she's different with anyone else, but wishes it didn't have to be that way. Crusher provides a sympathetic ear, which is a different energy from before. As Picard is going to give Fantasy-Gift-Woman away she tells him that she's bonded to him and the person she is with him is the person she will always be (so avoidable), but because he's all about duty so is she now. To do her duty she will go through with the gift-giving cermony and as an empath she'll still be able to please Leader. Picard watches sadly as the gift-giving ceremony happens.

Guest Stars: 
Famke Janssen as Kamala (aka Fantasy-Gift-Woman)***
She played Jean Grey in the first 3 X-Men films, alongside Patrick Stewart as Professor X (though of course that was a while after TNG finished filming). In this episode the character even says mutant to describe herself early on, so it's annoying to me that I can't focus on that more.

Max Godenchik as a Ferengi (Par Lenor)
He will later play Rom on Deep Space Nine, which is confusing because Rom is fairly nice and this guy is a jerk, as all Ferengi on TNG are.

Oh Captain My Captain
My X-Men idea might've ended up a bit creepy
Why doesn't Picard ask Troi or Crusher to keep Kamala company, for goodness sake! Crusher is the one who highlighted her plight (plus she's definitely only into men). Troi's actual job is to make sure people are mentally well, and maybe her powers would be useful here, as an empath (albeit a much weaker one) she has stuff in common with Kamala. There's no one better qualified in the senior staff than the two women. And if they were busy then maybe any female crew member would have been better. Does Picard even remember that he employs women? Or what about any crew member who isn't attracted to humanoid women. They can't all have been away that week. Maybe he should've tried Data again, the android can chat in her room without there being trouble. Even if Picard feels it has to be him, why doesn't he use video chat or conference calls so the magical "pheromones" aren't a factor? It feels like such a preventable situation given the information provided and the technology available.
Picard keeps protesting that he finds the set up bad, and yet he's enjoying her attention and keeps coming back even though he knows it's nonsense. He might be able to do more (not like he hasn't ignored the Prime Directive in the past) and if he can't surely he should completely stay out of it. The episode praises Picard for his restraint, it's meant to be a sign of the good, intellectual man who may feel strongly but will not act out of line, except he keeps coming back. Additionally, I know we're supposed to feel sad for Picard and/or Gift-Lady, but how likely is it that she's actually in love with him? She's designed/bred/trained to please those around her, so of course she makes Picard feel desired and also dutiful. Of course she would tell him she loves him and he's had the most profound affect on her that any man could, telling people what they want to hear is her entire function. He feels like he's bravely sacrificing his own feelings for a nobler purpose, without any chance of having to make a comitment or disrupt his life in any way. For a life-long bachelor who's committed to hs job but is still a bit of a romantic that seems, well... perfect.

Riker: he has a beard you know
Riker sleeps with ladies quite a bit, and he has facial hair (which is not affectation[link]) and this makes him manly or something, so of course he's going to get a bit of action. While I will generally argue that Riker is a pretty sex-positive, woman-friendly ladies man (and pretty progressive for the time of the show) there are times when the show falls back on stereotypes and he's not so great. This is one of those times. I suppose the show could be emphasising the power of Fantasy-Gift-Woman's Sexy-Magic by showing that it overcomes Riker's restraint, but it's not clear enough that that's what's happening. Also, based on the premise as stated, she only kisses Riker cos he wants her to.
I think we all know what Riker is going to the holodeck to do, and that is a shared space, so ew gross! I hope those things are self-cleaning. I guess they must be.

Does Not Compute
Data is a bad chaperone. He really needs to work on developing the disapproving manner and authority of a posh old aunt who views the world with moral absolutes. Also Kamala may be the only person not charmed by him, she doesn't seem interested in him at all, possibly because he wants nothing from her. I feel like people often project their own stuff on to Data, and Kamala is a being made of people's projections, so possibly he's just null to her. That's something interesting that could've been explored.

Doctor Doctor
Beverly is only one speaking any sense here, she should be listened to. I'm just gonna quote the good
"She has been conditioned since the day she was born to believe it's perfectly acceptable to exist only to please men. ... And bred by those people to seal a treaty with a seductive coup de grace."
Much though I like the words here (and I do!) I feel like it doesn't go far enough, I would have preferred if Beverley had taken some action. Maybe she could have chaperoned (she does disapproval so much better than Data) or offered support and company to Kamala directly. Of course Beverley trusts Picard and probably never assumed he'd get involved the way he did; she was highlighting an injustice to friend who could do something about it. She's a sympathetic ear about his feelings later, but I wonder if she shouldn't have busted his chops more about getting entangled in something she considers to be slavery.

Future is Better?
-This whole set up is very heteronormative. Fantasy Gift Woman's powers are only ever mentioned as working on men. There appears to be no consideration of the fact that some men aren't attracted to women. Or that people who aren't men are attracted to women. Do her powers work on everyone? Do they manifest in any way besides romantic/sexual? What happens when a woman is near her? There don't seem to be 2 women on screen together once in this episode, so I guess we never know. What about an asexual person? Honestly there were so many more interesting things to do here than straight male fantasy made flesh.
-Arranged marriage is mentioned by Picard (Troi did almost have one a while back), but this is more transactional and preceeded by conditioning/grooming. (Why do terms for something so unpleasant sound like hair care?) I mean she's literally trained in sex (alongside music, history, literature and art), and has never been presented with another option her whole life. Also no one ever says wife or spouse, so to me this feels like concubinage. She says partner once, but the main word is mate (and I dont think it's meant in the British/Australian sense).
Though she's in a white dress for the ceremony and it looks kinda weddingy, there's no suggestion that Leader's making any committment to her. She's not his peer, won't lead alongside him or have any political power, there's not even a suggestion that she'll bear his children to unite their peoples. No wonder he finds her part in the peace process so irrelevant and perplexing, she's a cultural symbol and one he has no context for. She is just a woman, standing front of a man, being given to him as a present. A spoil of peace, if you will.
-There are miners in 10 Forward for some reason. They start a mass brawl under the infulence of  Sexy-Magic. There needed to be some unexpected manual labourers around to act in an uncouth manner, because of course the educated and morally upstanding crew of the Enterprise would not behave in such a manner (apart from that time everyone was super angry, but that wasn't about sex). Basically lower class people ain't no good, and if you need proof see the Ferengi.
-Male metamorphs are mentioned as being common, and I have to know what the deal is there. Are they perfect mates to (presumably) women? Do they change themselves entirely to meet the whims/personality/desires their partners? Honestly that's more interesting, why don't we see that? Oh right yeah, male gaze and assumed gender/sexuality of the audience.

The End
Ambassador is awake now. He's curious how Picard could resists Kamala, he was chosen for the mission because he's old**** but even he felt something. Picard pretends he didn't hear the question and sends the Amabassador on his way.

* This is a failure of communication and storage. If the Ambassador had special storage requirements and needed the cargo bay to be guarded, those arrangements should have been seen to before he boarded the Enterprise. Also, why is Kamala even in a floating, golden egg precariously balanced on 3 laser supports? If they want to conceal that she's a person surely there are safer, less flashy ways to transport her. I think hiding people among freight is common for a reason, and probably easy if you're only smuggling one person.

** Pheromones don't work that way! There's no evidence humans even have pheromones. If they do the only thing close to human pheromones is a new born's instinctive reaction to human milk (not so sexy now, eh. And yet that's the only context pheromones are referenced on TV). There's no evidence of a human sex pheromone, and if it does exist it certainly doesn't work at a distance. Additionally, pheromones don't work between species, so the chances Kamala's biochemistry would any effect -much less this effect- on anyone of a different species is unlikely. Just say she's a magic sex lady who'll be whatever you want and have done with it!

*** I debated with myself whether to call Kamala by her name rather than use my usual one-episode character epithets. It initially felt disrespectful to not use the character's name and describe what she is, but it occurred to me that that was only because the role she has is so troubling. Additionally, she's not a real person she's a character purposefully dreamed up to be a straight male fantasy, so hey why not call a spade a spade?

**** It feels both insulting and staggeringly inaccurate to assume that age makes people (especially men) somehow sexually neutral.

7 April 2019

Resolutions - 1st Quarter

I don't usually revisit New Years resolutions much, that might be why I often don't do so well. I'm trying to be a bit more intentional in how I do certain things and spend my time, which is not a resolution so much as a general goal. I'm having mixed success with that, but I figure checking in with myself periodically is probably a good thing. Here I'm doing it publiclly, because accountability.

My original New Year post has more detail (I don't remember how the weird background colour on the text came about, just that it was a massive pain to get rid of it after posting).

1. Get out more 
An oldie but a goodie. I've not done too badly with this so far. I've done some toddler-less cinema trips, went to a meal with the local Coeliac group, and made it to an event with the group I volunteer with. Plus I have another cinema trip and a colleague's wedding coming soon.
I regularly take toddler to the local park, and now the weather's getting nicer I should probably make an effort to invite others along. I took him to a birthday party recently and chatted a bit to other mums. I haven't taken him to as many kids/families sessions as perhaps I should do (though most pre-school ones are when I'm at work), but I have booked tickets to go to a little kid's show next month.

2. See Friends More
Another one that I have more trouble with than I should. Not doing too badly though, considering I'm working full-time and I'm a mother most of the rest of the time. I've gone to the cinema and a comedy show with friends. As a family we hosted a Pancake Day meal with local friends and just recently we went to visit an old friend in a different city. I should get better at inviting people round to my house more, Toddler isn't shy and seems to like having adults about so that's not a problem. As I said above I could invite people on park walks pretty regularly. Plus there's some museum exhibits in the city centre I'd like to see, just need to remember to ask others along.

3. Reduce Carbon Footprint (or generally help the planet more)
There's more detail in the original post (and I do recommend the video I posted there as an accessible guide to practical things to do). I've been doing reading around this, and boy is there a lot out there, but there's some clear and simple stuff that most people can do. Not everything is going to work for everyone, but I'm figuring out what works for me.

3a) Home Improvements and Food Waste
Not sure now why I lumped these together, might have to rethink that.
Home Improvements are mostly things we were going to do anyway, but that doesn't mean they don't have an impact. As well as the new draft proof back door we got last year we now have draft (and moisture) -proof patio doors. We had to get the flat part of our roof redone because water was coming in. That was sorted a couple of weeks ago and I was pleased when the roofer said ours is a warm roof, meaning it's already well insulated to keep heat in and actually better than what's required by current building regs. I have also replaced our halogen bulbs with brighter LED ones, which (according to a mate who works in energy) use about 20% of the energy, so that'll reduce our electricity bill.
Not made as much progress with food waste, I may be more aware of it but other than the composting (see below) not much has changed. I'm not the one who does the bulk of the shopping and cooking, so I probably need to discuss this with my husband more. He is good at feezing or chilling leftovers and planning meals to make the most of what's been bought. I've got a few ideas we could try, but I'm still mulling stuff over. There's going to be some waste in our house for a bit, because Toddler will just stop eating when he's had enough and hand you a half-chewed food item and there's little you can do about that.
3b) Garden
Composting has been going on since the start of the year. Husband has gotten on baord with it and says that its reduced how much we're putting in general waste, which is good. He's bought a few things to help in the kitchen, though I think it's something we could tweak a bit, it's going well. I feel as though we're not doing so well with the layering of different kinds of compost that most posts on the subject recommend, but I do know people who just throw everything in and see what happens, so I guess we'll go with that for now.
We've recently planeted some potatoes, carrots and parsnips in a bed in our garden. Toddler helped plant things, although he keeps poking at the bed and saying 'taytoes' when we go out there, and it'll be a while before there's anything to show him. We're starting small, but do have plenty more seed potatoes and seeds we can sow later.
3c) What I Buy
Going to be honest there's not been much change on this front, although I do not buy a lot of things usually. I have bought some beeswax food wraps to replace cling film/tin foil, I've used one a bit, but still getting the hang of it.

Additionally I invested in a local community energy project with Community Energy Birmingham, which has put solar panels on a community building. I know I can't get them on my own house due to the orientation of the building (plus the Government recently stopped tariffs encouraging people to do this), so it's nice to have contributed to solar elsewhere.

Here's another video from Katharine Hayhoe, because I'm still finding her to be a very accessible source of information on climate change and people's reactions to it.

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.