17 October 2016

Redemption (Part 2)

Episode: S5, ep 1

I remembered how to blog! Apparently I have not yet remembered brevity, but it's been a while and this is a pretty full and complex episode. And I feel really bad for Tasha Yar all over again.

This episode is a direct sequel to Redemption (Part 1), but also follows on from Yesterday's Enterprise back in series 3 and the whole Worf's honour plotline across various epsiodes.

What Happens
Previously: there's a Klingon civil war and Picard -despite his past involvement in Klingon politics- can't get involved. Worf convinced his brother Kurn to fight for Gowron and must resign from Star Fleet to join him. Worf and Gowron's opponents, the Duras family, have secretly allied with Romulans and... wait, is that Tasha Yar?
Kurn's ship is attacked by other Klingons, his bold flying near a star shakes off the pursuers in a sheet of plasma. Picard explains the Klingon situation to an Admiral who points out that it's nothing to do with the Federation. Picard says that the Duras family have a known history of Romulan collusion and Picard believes the conflict is being used by the Romulans to gain a foothold and destabilise peace between Federation and Klingon Empire. Picard says Geordi has developed a way to use a beam to detect cloaked ships. Picard suggests sending a fleet to cast a net and catch Romulan ships supplying the Duras. The Admiral gives Picard permission to assemble and command a fleet. Picard calls in all ships in that sector, including new and damaged ones from the ship yard, meaning they have just over 20 ships. Picard sends experienced officers from the Enterprise to supplement ranks in the new ships. Data asks Picard why he's not been assigned a command, is it because he's an android? Picard gives him a ship to command, but when Data goes to take his captain's chair the 1st officer asks to be transferred because he doesn't think androids can command starships. Data refuses his request and so the 1st officer is super grudging about everything and it is so awkward for all the extras.
Worf doesn't understand why Klingons from both sides of the conflict are socialising, even though it involves a lot of drunken bragging and recreational fighting. Kurn tries to get him to lighten up and points out people can't always been on duty. Lursa and B'Etor, the Duras sisters who are really running the family, observe that Worf is different to his brother and most other Klingons, their voices are heavy with scheming. Gowron's council aren't happy that the Duras are doing so well, there are challenges to Gowron's authority, which means that Gowron must take time to defeat the challengers. Worf is disgusted by the in-fighting, but no one understands his concern. As Picard's fleet sets out the Duras family and their Romulan allies discuss what to do, ignoring Lursa and B'Etor's nephew, the male figurehead. The sisters plan to bring Worf to their side and Romulan!Tasha says her people can send supplies but can't officially join the war. When she encounters the Federation fleet and realises its purpose she decloaks her ship and hails the Enterprise. Picard is shocked to see her face and even more shocked when she says Tasha Yar is her mother. She introduces herself as Commander Seela and says that the Federation has 20 hours to remove their illegal invasion fleet from the Romulan border or it will be considered an act of war.
Troi tells Picard Seela isn't lying, Crusher points out that Tasha was never pregnant and would've only been a small child when Seela was born. Guinan crashes the meeting to tell Picard that Tasha Yar was on the Enterprise C as an adult when it disappeared 24 years ago while fighting the Romulans, and that Picard sent her. Picard points out that Guinan never knew Tasha, and Guinan concedes this but stands firm. There is no further explanation, but no one argues with Guinan about this kind of thing. Worf tells Kurn that there should be no more fighting in Gowron's camp until the conflict is over, Kurn is disgusted by this un-Klingon idea and points out that Worf was the one who persuaded him to join Gowron in the first place before storming off. Worf is knocked out and dragged away by 2 Klingons, but it's a Klingon bar so no one notices. Picard meets Seela and asks to see her mother, Seela reveals that Tasha is dead. Tasha was captured from the Enterprise C, sent there from the future by Picard, and was given to a Romulan general instead of being executed. When Seela was 4 years old her mother tried to run away with her, but they were caught due to Seela's cries and Tasha was killed. Seela is angry that her mother tried to take her from her home and now identifies only as Romulan. Neither mentions the detection net and both pretend they have no intention of interfering with the Klingon situation. Picard has 14 hours to remove his fleet.
Worf is woken by B'Etor pawing at him in a skeevy way. Lursa points out that the Duras will win and their nephew will lead the council, but Worf could mate with B'Etor and guide the lad. Worf refuses, pointing out that the Duras have no honour. Seela videos in to say that this plan has failed, Worf is to be kept captive for now. Worf isn't surprised to see a Romulan with the face of his dead boss, I guess he's distracted. Picard contacts Gowron and tells him that he should launch a big attack on the Duras in order to draw their Romulan allies into the Federation detection net. Do remember that it is very important that no one from Star Fleet gets involved in this internal conflict in any way, that's why Worf doesn't work there anymore. Once the Romulan connection is proven the Duras will lose support. Picard tells Riker to pretend that his ship is damaged, fall back to make a hole in the net, then once the Romulans go through other ships will swoop in and catch them.
Seela tells the Duras she can't help while the Federation fleet is ready to catch her ships. Romulan scientists have found a counter-measure to disrupt the Federation's beams. When the gap opens Seela's subordinate suggests they fly through, but Seela knows a trap when she sees one. She orders that the counter-measure is targeted on Data's ship, breaking the beam-net. Picard orders the whole fleet to move back and reassemble. Data stops his ship and figures something out using his super-speed. Ignoring the questions and accusations of his 1st officer Data starts tinkering with the sensors and charging the weapons, even though doing so causes a flood of radiation that could harm the crew. There are hails from the Enterprise and then a direct order from Picard to bring his ship to join the rest of the fleet, but Data just shouts at his 1st officer, brings up a sensor display and orders weapons to fire at some weird blobs on screen. The blobs are briefly shown to be cloaked Romulan ships. Realising they've been detected Seela orders her ships to turn around, leaving the Duras on their own. At the Duras house, which is under attack, Lursa and B'Etor beam away, leaving their nephew and Worf. Kurn arrives, checks Worf is OK and captures the nephew. Picard disbands the fleet, and Data comes to him for discipline as he disobeyed an order even though it turned out well. Picard points out that blindly following orders isn't what Star Fleet needs. Then Picard goes to give his report on the Romulans to the victorious Gowron. Gowron gives the life of the young nephew to Worf, but Worf refuses to kill him for the sins of his releatives. Kurn steps forward ready to do the killing, but Worf refuses saying he was given the lad's life and he chooses to spare it.

Oh Captain My Captain
Again I feel like Picard gets to decide for himself what interfering and not interfering look like, and even convinces an Admiral. While some personal judgement is obviously required in these situations it was apparently not in any way a problem for Picard to act as adjudicator in the previous selection competition for Klingon leader, but getting involved in a civil war is bad. (Obviously conflicts are worse and often more complicated than peace-time politics, but it does feel a bit like the Federation are only strictly hands-off once the shit has hit the fan.) The argument of not being involved would feel more valid if Picard weren't in contact with Gowron. Had the conflict gone another way Gowron could've lost support for seeming to be the Federation's pocket.
The detection-net is a good solution to detecting cloaked ships and because there's a lot to cover here we did not see Geordi's usual 2-step try-fail cycle. This episode is about action and character more than tech-based problem solving, I am fine with this.
Picard doesn't seem to believe Guinan or Seela's explanation for how Tasha could be Seela's mother, even though both accounts independently verify the other. In an episode with a different focus more time could be given to exploring or untangling the temporal knot created by the events in Yesterday's Enterprise, but that's not what this is about. There's enough to give people who haven't seen the older episode an idea, but nothing more. Though it does make Guinan's assertion that Picard is responsible for all this a bit odd, as that idea is never actually explored again, it's just dropped. So why bring it up? Plus, while I'm always happy to blame Picard for things that happened under his command, even his alternate version didn't send Tasha, she went herself.

Does Not Compute
Data is right there as Picard is assigning commands and asking for other commands to be assigned, soit is a bit egregious that he never even considers Data. I don't think Picard was purposefully being prejudiced against Data, I think it just didn't cross his mind to give him a command, which is a type of prejudice in itself because it denies Data experience that is being offered to others, just because it's not malicious or intentional doesn't mean there's no harm to it. Once Data raises the question and asks if it's about him being an android Picard corrects the situation by giving Data a command, but we're never shown what Picard's thinking was.
Data's 1st Officer doesn't think that androids can be captains, he also says no one would think a Klingon could be a counsellor or a Berellian could be an engineer. Now obviously this guy is prejudiced, and I suppose the suggestion is that the 2 examples he gives are common stereotypes and therefore his prejudice against Data is no worse than that. What I don't know is how widespread or believed these other stereotypes are, or how much this guy just says it to justify his prejudice. I mean Klingons don't seem like they would be good counsellors in the Federation style, but there must be people in Klingon society that provide some form of therapeutic role, even if they're rarely seen by other races and work very differently to what a human would consider therapy (I imaging a lot of primal screaming and hitting things is the Klingon version of therapy, and it's probably not called therapy). I don't know what a Berellian is or why they seem unsuited for engineering, but I guess there may be biological/cultural reasons they don't do that kind of thing. Does that mean one could never be an engineer, or does it just mean that they would approach such things in a very different way or aren't encouraged to do engineering by their social norms? The issue with these two examples is that they are presumably races of people. Androids are not a race, there's just Data and his jerk brother and most people will never have interacted with an android. This means that any prejudice Data experiences is personal (while also never being taken personally because Data doesn't experience emotions -as usually understood). In fact Data is the perfect oppressed person, because he will never get angry or upset or 'hysterical' about the injustices he faces and will always be logical and rational in the face of ill-treatment or harm, which means third parties never have to deal with his emotions and his oppressors can easily be proven wrong. This isn't how oppression works. I assume that the 1st Officer believes Data's programming isn't up to command, but he has no basis to think this when a superior officer who has more experience of Data has given Data the post. The 1st Officer's later objections to Data's behaviour suggest that he believes Data isn't taking the safety of the crew into account, which is perhaps a more understandable fear when dealing with a being who has capabilities beyond humans. It doesn't excuse the guy's behaviour, but there is a basis for the way he acts (which is more than we ever got for Pulaski).
Data's command style could do with some improvement, especially in the area of communication. Him being brisk and by-the-book is not a surprise, though a word to senior staff/Bridge crew about how he wants to handle things might have been helpful. Calling out the First Officer, who was likely to make trouble given he's now in post unwillingly, isn't surprising, but again Data makes everything really awkward by reprimanding the guy in front of everyone and demonstrating that he is totally willing to pull people up on minor chain of command issues. It's only a temporary assignment, and a militaristic one at that, but even so Data doesn't show consideration for his crew. Later, when Data figures out how to catch the Romulans, he doesn't explain what he's doing or reassure anyone. He doesn't respond to the First Officer's concerns, which at one point are for crew safety, and just shouts orders making them all complicit in insubordination. I know time was of the essence, but a word to say that he thought he could catch the Romulan ships wouldn't have gone amiss. It's not surprising that it's people skills that let Data down as a commander, though again that doesn't justify the 1st Officer's initial prejudice.

Klingon Warrior
You know, it's almost like Worf isn't very comfortable with Klingon social norms. The tragedy of Worf's life is that he identifies so strongly as Klingon in all the Federation/human-centric spaces he occupies and uses this as a distancing tactic, yet when he's in Klingon spaces he feels no comfort and gets frustrated with the ways people behave. Worf kinda doesn't belong anywhere and is stubborn enough not to change that (it does explain a lot about his choice in women). Of course Klingons aren't the kind of folk who are necessarily going to take time to understand things like this, and so prior to this Worf is constantly accused of being 'too human'. It doesn't happen in this episode, and maybe now that Worf isn't dishonoured anymore and is taking an active part in Klingon warrior culture, he has earned some respect. Even so, Kurn clearly finds his odd-duck brother frustrating, with his bizarre insistence that getting things done is more important than fighting.
Worf is captured and is woken by B'Etor pawing at him. It felt very inappropriate to me, given she's his captor and he was unconscious. Though what I understand of Klingon sexual norms sounds kinda gross, so I guess it might be fine in context. Still made for uncomfortable viewing. Worf refuses the Duras sisters offer of behind-the-throne power, pointing out that the Duras family prefer backroom dealing to honour and would put the Klingon Empire in the hands of the Romulans. Despite his discomfort in being around his own people Worf does have a keen sense of his heritage and the moral system that comes with it. Of course when you're a woman in this kind of society backroom dealing is largely all you've got, so I see why Lursa and B'Etor engage in it.

Guinan's Hat: Blue
Guinan crashes a much depleted staff meeting to cryptically explain how Commander Seela could be Tasha Yar's daughter. It's mostly background exposition, but since Guinan is often cryptic about the timey-wimey stuff she knows it fits with her character. I don't quite get why she suggests that this whole thing is Picard's responsibility. I mean it could be said to be the responsibility of alternate-timeline Picard, but looking back it was alt!Tasha's decision to go on the Enterprise C and help foil the Romulan attack, despite alt!Picard's initial objection. This Picard had nothing to do with any of it, and I see why he gets prickly about it. Guinan says all this like it's important, but it isn't the focus and isn't explored and while that's fine it does leave this feeling like a potential plotline that got lost, and Guinan's words don't seem to affect anything here. Of course Guinan's in a room with Troi and Crusher, so maybe they should just start a support group about being under-used.

Girl Talk
Despite having more female characters than usual, this episode does not pass the Bechdel-Wallace test. It could as there's at least one conversation where Lursa, B'Etor and Seela are discussing their enemies, but as all those enemies are male it doesn't feel like a pass. It's interesting to me that the regular female characters are given very little to do while antagonistic female characters take centre stage. Troi and Crusher each have one thing to say in one scene and that's it. They're the only senior crew left to advise Picard and for a moment after Guinan showed up I was hoping for some kind of trusted all-female group (like what Nick Fury had before Winter Solider), but it was not to be. Let's face it Crusher and Troi remain because they're the only senior crew who are in  medical/caring roles rather than command roles. The Fleet Admiral who listens to Picard and give him permission to form a fleet is a Black woman, and I think she's the main admiral so far who wasn't trouble, so there's that I guess.
The Duras/Romulan alliance by contrast is run entirely by women. Lursa and B'Etor are the family power and their nephew is ignored as an inexperienced child. He's only there because they needed a male of their brother's line. Seela seems to be running things, giving stern orders to the other Romulans and to the sisters. I get the impression she masterminded much of this situation, and the part gives Denise Crosby plenty of meaty lines and important scenes. Seela's story about what happened to her mother is pretty unpleasant though. Tasha was captured and avoided execution only because a high-ranking Romulan took a shine to her, so she was spared and given to him. Seela describes her mother as her father's 'consort', but lets face it this was the forced marriage/sex-slavery of a POW. Seela is angry when she describes how her mother tried to steal her away from her home and her father, and while her reaction is understandable for a child, it seems she never thought about the situation further than that. Seela speaks of Tasha's ingratitude, which is pretty gross considering Tasha was a prisoner and never asked for any of it. Seela has internalised a lot of bad messages about her background and her human heritage. Although this is a good performance for Denise Crosby I find myself feeling really bad for Tasha all over again. One of the features of Yesterday's Enterprise was that it seemed to give Tasha a death with more purpose. Now it transpires that she endured about 5 years of a forced marriage before being killed when she tried to escape with her child. It feels like the show has gone back on Tasha's ending again, and so we have yet another disservice to the character.

Staff Meetings: 4
Considering most of the action doesn't happen on the Enterprise and most of the main cast are in small roles this is quite a lot of meetings.
1. Picard (with Riker as backup) explains Klingon situation to Fleet Admiral Shanthi (and her aide). She is initially unwilling to get involved with an internal conflict of an allied power, but Picard mentions his Romulan suspicions and outlines his plan, which seems to involve no interference in Klingon affairs. She has to run the idea past the Federation Council, but tells Picard to assemble his fleet.
2. Picard, Riker, Data and Geordi discuss the ships and crew of the new fleet. Picard assigns a command to Riker with Geordi as his 1st officer. When the others leave Data asks Picard why he doesn't have a command.
3. Picard gathers the senior staff on the Enterprise (basically Troi and Crusher) to discuss Tasha-Yar-doppleganger, Commander Seela and her extraordinary claim. Guinan crashes the meeting to provide vague background exposition, and raise a point that is not really resolved or explored.
4. Data comes to Picard to receive discipline for disobeying a direct order. Picard explains...

Death by Space Misadventure
Tonnes probably, but no numbers listed. Klingon society contains a lot of violence in normal circumstances, with blood feuds and murder-for-promotion being standard, so I can only imagine a Klingon civil war to be very brutal.

The End
After insisting that he has spared the nephew's life Worf asks Picard if he can report for duty. Picard grants permission. They leave the Klingon council chamber together, this time victorious. It is a nice callback to the end of Sins of the Father, which started this whole arc of Worf against Duras back in series 3.

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