16 February 2016

Devil's Due

I'm now half way through Star Trek: The Next Generation!
I did not quite expect this to take so long, but periods of regular posting have been interspersed with major gaps. I plan to do the rest quicker, if only because I'd like to finish TNG before the new Trek show starts (or at least airs in the UK). Anyway on to the episode!

Episode: s4, ep 13

Do you ever get the feeling that the interesting stuff is happening off screen?

What Happens
Data is playing Scrooge for Picard in the holodeck, the scene where Scrooge is first visited by Marley's ghost and Scrooge doubts his own senses in the face of the supernatural. Picard and Data discuss these acting sessions and Data talks about studying the Method, but instead of using emotions to develop his performance he wants to use performance to develop his emotions.
The Enterprise gets a distress call from a science station on a planet, there's a mob outside and things have gone badly wrong. When the ship arrives the lead scientist can be retrieved but the rest have been taken hostage and can't be beamed away (for some reason). The lead scientist explains that the planet used to have a science-based society (presumably they achieved warp, or else the Federation has no business being there), but a thousand years earlier they changed to being a peaceful, agrarian society uninterested in technological advances. Legend says that the millennium of peace happened because the planet made a contract selling themselves to Audra, a supernatural being that the lead scientist compares to the devil. The planet's leader firmly believes that Audra is about to return due to earthquakes and visions, and so social order has completely broken down.
Business Casual
Picard goes down to the planet and sees the leader, who is very apologetic about the missing scientists, but has also lost his grip on things and is scared. Then Audra appears to claim what she is owed. The planet leader is ready to give everything over to her. Picard confronts her, not convinced that she is what she appears and she demonstrates shape-shifting and earth tremor powers. Picard isn't convinced and is immune to her flirting, he leaves Data to look into the local legal system and returns to the Enterprise. Later Audra appears in Picard's chair on the Bridge, does some magic and lays claim to the Enterprise and everyone on it because the contract stated she owns everything in orbit around her planet too. Picard is convinced Audra is a con-artist and is determined to expose her. He discusses the situation with Data, then sends him down to the planet to look through the contract and find any legal precedents that could be used against her.
Audra comes to Picard's quarters while he is sleeping and tries to seduce him with a variety of outfits, but he's just irritated by this. Then she transports him -in his pyjama-robe- to the lab on the planet where Geordi is working with the lead scientist. He can't be beamed back to the Enterprise, so Data is sent to collect him in a shuttle with a spare uniform (so funny!). On the way back Data explains that he has found a precedent for arbitration. As they approach it the Enterprise disappears. Back on the planet the Enterprise can't be found within a light year, but Geordi has noticed something odd on the scans and says if Audra does more magic tricks he might be able to pin down what's happening and find the ship.
Business Smart
Picard requests arbitration, but Audra isn't interested so Picard makes it a bet and offers to take her to some ruins I've never heard of where there's a jewel I don't know about. She's not interested in that but says she'll agree if Picard will give himself to her entirely of his own free will. She chooses Data as arbitrator because even though he's a member of Picard's crew he will follow the rules and can't deceive (how would she know that?). Data tells Picard to refuse, because he will apply the rules exactly, even if it means Picard loses. Picard agrees. In arbitration Picard questions Audra and she demonstrates her powers; shape-shifting, earth-shaking and making Picard disappear and reappear. Meanwhile Geordi and lead scientist notice something in orbit above a pole. Picard argues that the peace was created by the inhabitants of the planet, not Audra, but the Leader is unwilling to speak out against the powerful being that now rules his planet. Geordi arrives with info and Picard requests a recess. Geordi and the scientists found the source of Audra's powers, a cloaked ship hiding above the magnetic pole and a variety of tech. TheEnterprise is just where they left it, but cloaked. Back in arbitration Picard tells the leader that he can steal Audra's powers. He creates earth-tremors, changes shape and dares Audra to stop him, which she doesn't. Picard explains that a team from the Enterprise has taken control of her ship and they're now operating her pre-set programmes for Picard. Audra's crew revealed that she is a con artist with many aliases. It's a shame we don't get to see any of this, or even how the people on the Enterprise figured it out, I expect it would have been interesting.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard commends Data's performance even while pointing out that Data can't experience fear (which I guess is a compliment). He's confused that Data is studying the method, which is outdated by the 24th Century (plus Sir PatStew is a British thesp and the Method comes from a very different, more American traditional).
Picard never wavers from his belief that "Audra" is a flim-flam artist (and he's apparently turned into a newspaper man from the 1920s), though his actions -or lack thereof- after the arbitration suggest that he became more interested in proving his point and winning than in protecting the people of the planet. Considering the danger than Audra and her unseen crew can pose you would think that Picard/Star Fleet/the Federation might want to do more than just best her legally. Picard's irritation with her flirting and seduction attempts is amusing, though the wider of trope of a man who manfully ignores the sexual advances of a beautiful femme fatale is not one I'm overly keen on.
Picard and Data chat about Audra and Data plays devil's advocate (see what I did there?) by speculating on whether "Audra" is actually a powerful, supernatural being. Picard speculates that the fundamental theology of the planet may have created a latent fear in the entire population, which is interesting. Picard references their scene from Scrooge and the previous discussion of fear, thus tying that all together in case we didn't get it.

Does Not Compute
Formal Nightwear
Data plays Scrooge as a croaky-voiced old coot, reminding us again that Brent Spiner can do various faces and voices. (It's a more comedic portrayal than Sir Patrick Stewart's haunting version of Scrooge inA Christmas Carol.) Data's attempt to reverse the Method for his own purpose makes some sense and Picard praises that Data came up with his own interpretation instead of just imitating.
Data tells Picard that he can't deceive and that he's a rules robot or something and so won't act outside of a load of laws he just found out about, even if it's in the best interests of others and the safety and freedom of a whole planet hangs in the balance. What I don't understand is why everyone knows that androids are all neutral and incapable of lying. There are only two androids out there (so far as we know, there's no reason another species shouldn't have come up with artificial versions of themselves), and the other one is Lore. Murderous liar Lore who, based on the last time we saw him, is probably less stable than ever. Even if he's keeping a low profile it seems like word could have got round that androids are creepy jerks, since everyone can always identify them from appearance alone.
As arbitrator Data gets the best lines:
"The advocate will refrain from expressing personal affection for her opponent."
"The advocate will refrain from making her opponent disappear."

No Magic Here
Little Red Number
There's never any suggestion that Audra is really has any magical powers, and I don't know why. They've met Q several times now and though Audra's powers aren't as great as his, her performance on the Bridge is a lot like the kind of thing Q does. There was also that magic old man who just wanted to protect the wife he'd resurrected and keep people off his lawn. There was Troi's dull alien baby, which created itself then disappeared in a ball of light. Hell, their bartender is kinda mystical. It's not like supernatural beings are unknown, so why shouldn't Audra be among them? I guess because that's not what this story is about no one really considers it. It seems that interest in filthy lucre is not in-keeping with higher beings, dead giveaway apparently.

Future Is Better
Seductive Nightwear
Con artists have a dizzying array of tech in the future. I mean "Audra" and her crew were able to destabilise the geology of a planet and beam aboard a top-of-the-line Federation Starship, block it's transporters and then cloak it. That's got to be some high level gear they've got, where did it come from? How often are criminals going around doing this stuff? Are there whole systems ruled by species with more advanced tech than the natives pretending to be deities? I mean Picard was briefly worshipped as a god by accident. It's all a little Stargate really.
Having said that "Audra" is a bit stupid challenging Picard as she does. I mean targeting the planet Enterprise and further provoking Picard by getting into his quarters and then hiding his ship may have been in character but it made the whole thing a Federation matter.
when it had a Federation presence was a bit risky, but releasing the unseen scientists should have made the Federation leave. Maybe she thought seducing Picard would distract him, but when that seemed to rile him perhaps she shouldn't have pushed things. Claiming the

Staff Meetings: 2
1. Picard and senior crew discuss the situation on the planet with lead scientist, things are getting worse and they must secure the return of the hostage-scientists (whom we never see).  Troi observes that levels of distress on the planet are approaching suicidal. Picard decides to go and see the leader himself.
2. Picard and senior crew discuss Audra. Pic believes she's flimflam artist. Rker and Crusher suggest she could be a Q, or even their Q, Picard dismisses the idea that she's their Q and focuses on her interest in financial matters. Troi says her mind is focused so she couldn't sense deception and Picard confusingly suggests this is due to some kind of sleight of hand. Picard sets crew to investigate.

The End
"Audra" is proud in defeat and walks out of the room. It's not clear whether the guards who walk with her are taking her into custody or just following her out (they didn't come in until after she had been exposed). Happy to have been proven right Picard takes no further action and leaves with Data.

We don't hear anything about how this planet and its leader are presumably left to pick up the pieces of it's entire population being distressed and terrified to the point that the social order fell apart. Nor does anyone show concern about Audra being on a planet where most of the inhabitants believe she is their god. But who cares about all that?

Star Trek Cosplay

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