30 September 2015


Episode: s4, ep 6

This is like a series 1 or 2 episode and at this point I know the show can do better.

What Happens
The Enterprise receives a distress call from a malfunctioning freighter and arrives just as it explodes. The escape pod crashes onto a planet that is entirely bad neighbourhood; it's the lawless colony that Tasha Yar came from. The away team don't meet the violent response they expected, but they are intercepted by one of the two ruling factions, who say the escape pod landed in their enemies' territory. The faction offer to help retrieve the crew in exchange for weapons, Riker refuses and beams back. Picard isn't happy about things on the planet, but thinks that having already established contact they should keep in touch. The gang-leader does some homework and contacts the Enterprise, offering to help them rescue the crew-members for free. He sends as liaison Ishara Yar, sister of Tasha.
Ishara briefs the crew on the layout of the underground city and the methods of the rival gang. She expects their scepticism about her identity and offers to take a DNA test. One of the missing crew sends a broadcast saying their captors will kill them if they don't pay up. Ishara knows where the escape pod is and Geordi can use it to find where the crew are. A team beams to the pod and Ishara creates a distraction by setting off her enemies' alarms. She provides cover for the Star Fleet crew while Geordi tracks the captives. Riker has to save her. After the risks she took for them everyone is more accepting of Ishara and Dr Crusher confirms that she is Tasha's sister. Ishara calls Tasha a coward for leaving and Picard tells her about her sister's bravery.
The captives are hidden deep underground and Ishara can't lead them there because her gang-implant will alert the other faction. Data suggests a way the implant could be removed without harming her. Ishara and Data talk about Tasha and about how he makes friends. Ishara agrees to have her implant removed and says she'd like to join the Federation. The Enterpise shoots a hole in the planet (as you do) so the team can beam down near the captives. During the rescue Ishara goes to shut down the power supply for her rivals' security system. Data catches her and she reveals that her faction have people ready to move as soon as the security system goes down. Data can't let her do that as the Enterprise crew would be complicit in the resulting deaths and so he stops her. The crew members are rescued and Ishara is taken to the Enterprise. Ishara's leader demands she's returned and Picard sends her back despite Riker's preference for her to be punished. Ishara tells Data that their friendship wasn't entirely a lie.

Oh Captain, My Captain
The Enterprise was heading to an archaeological survey, and given how much Picard really likes old stuff I bet the detour to rescue some guys was an irritation. Picard's assessment of the factions running the planet is that they might have reasonable-sounding names but their behaviour is that of "urban street thugs". This is clearly something he takes a dim view of, as is missing out on archaeology no doubt.
When Ishara calls her sister a coward Picard tells her about the act of bravery that first brought Tasha to his notice. He also tells her about the bravery that led Tasha to her death. At the end Picard lets Ishara return without any further trouble. Riker queries the Captain's leniency, but Picard says they were all too quick to trust Ishara because she reminded them of Tasha and they all wanted to like her.

Riker: lover, adventure-junkie, middle-management
Riker and Data are dominating at the poker game. Riker shows Data a card trick, but Riker's hand is not faster than Data's eye and the android sees what he did. This means Data gets all the money even though Riker did complete the trick.
Riker leads all the away teams, as usual. When he puts himself in danger to rescue Ishara Picard has a stern word about taking unnecessary personal risks. I wonder if Riker enjoys taking these risks? Despite his senior position he's always on the away teams. Maybe that's why he won't accept the promotions they keep offering him? Captains are supposed to live safer than Riker does.
At the end of the episode Riker talks to Data about trust, vulnerability and balancing the benefits of closeness with the possibility of betrayal.

Does Not Compute
Ishara becomes particularly close to Data, as many visitors to the Enterprise do. You'd think having no emotions would put him at a social disadvantage, but humans seem drawn to it. She talks to him about Tasha and friendship. Data explains how his systems allow him to get accustomed to people, in what he claims is an facsimile of friendship. Data is the one who advocates most for Ishara and she tells him that she's thinking of joining Star Fleet. It's possible that in this case Data is chosen for his naivete, which is saddening. He's the one who discovers Ishara betrayal's and won't let her enact her plan, though she later tells him that their burgeoning friendship wasn't entirely a lie.
At the end Data tries to work through his feelings about Ishara by talking to Riker, all the while pretending it is just a learning experience and nothing to do with feelings that he obviously doesn't have. He claims that he's spared the emotional fallout of betrayal because he can't feel. I don't think Data realises he's lying, but he is. I am less and less convinced by Data's assertion that he doesn't feel, I believe he is repressing/deluding himself in that respect. I know what repression looks like and I suspect Data has told himself he can't feel anything and persists with this belief in the face of all evidence to the contrary. I can identify with that (of course I could be projecting). Either way, his reactions certainly seem like emotional ones, even if he wants to couch it all in computer terms. If you doubt this just look at Data's face at The End

Klingon Warrior
Worf is bad at bluffing (except for when he's not), which is why he's no good at poker. (Of course Troi was doing badly too and she apparently has the ability to tell when people are lying, except for when she can't, which is actually most of the time.) He is paranoid that Data and Riker are in cahoots, which is ridiculous because Data wouldn't do that. Of course this grumpy paranoia is entirely lacking later when Ishara starts to win everyone's trust. There's a moment when it looks like Worf may be questioning Ishara's idea to join Star Fleet, but he too is warmly respectful of her for her sister's sake. Picard is right that everyone desperately wants Ishara to be like Tasha. Still it's a bit disappointing in Worf as his job (and most frequently used character trait) is to see possible threats everywhere (and to be ignored by everyone regardless of whether his suggestions are sensible or not).
Worf warns about Dr Crusher going down to the planet, he's the only one in the whole episode to bring up the rape-gangs Tasha mentioned. His concern is well-meaning but it does single Crusher out as the only woman on the away team. There's no suggestion that anyone else is in particular danger, even though Riker is also weaker than Worf and Data, being just a human. Crusher refuses point blank to be put off, which is good. She has a job to do and is armed like everyone else.

Planet of... Urban Gangland Dystopia
What we see of the planet see is a shadowy, decaying underground city complete with random pipes that vent clouds of ominousness. We are told that the gangs are violent without actually seeing them do much. This is not to undermine Tasha's brief horror stories from series 1, but although Worf mentions rape gangs once as a security concern Ishara says nothing about that kind of thing and there's little sign of intimidation. Yes, people are shooting at each other, but it is basically a war-zone, plus the Star Fleet crew with their better phasers and undetected movement are actually more of a threat than anyone else. The gang we meet don't threaten the away team and they're stealing booze with the attitude of excitable teens rather than serious criminals. The main bad thing I noticed is that most of the non-speaking parts for gang members looked to have been filled by people of colour. Star Trek is meant to be progressive, but probably only for certain characters, everyone else can be damaging stereotypes, sure why not?
We are told part of the history of the place. Terrible unrest, civil disturbance, and weak government caused it to split from the Federation thirty years earlier. The last contact Star Fleet had was death threats issued 6 years earlier against any away teams that showed up. Isn't this kind of thing exactly what the Federation is there is prevent? I mean their totalitarian brand of utopianism surely means Star Fleet should have intervened when this place first started to go bad. After they've issued death threats to authority shouldn't that authority have swooped in with their starships? (I'm not saying I think that's the best way to react at all, it just seems like the kind of thing Star Fleet Admirals would do.) These are not pre-warp people, so there's no Prime Directive stopping anyone with enough authority from going in and forcing them to completely change their way of life.
I don't understand the present set-up. The gangs were originally issued with proximity sensors by the authorities, and took them as badges of membership, which makes sense. What I don't get is that now there are no authorities but the sensors still alert the gangs to each other's presence. Complex deceit involving an unexpected third party is required to be rid of one. Does it not occur to either of these gangs to just start recruiting people who don't have the sensors? I mean the government's been gone for over a decade (maybe two), how many more of those sensors can they even have? It doesn't make any sense.

Staff Meetings: 2
1. Ishara explains the situation with the gangs. A message from the captives is received, and Ishara tells them to take it seriously. She reveals that she knows where the crashed escape pod is.
2. Data tells Picard that Ishara will have her implant removed and wants to come away with them. Troi says that Ishara has only ever known this way of life, but she can't tell if she's definitely trustworthy and insinuates that Data likes her.

The End
After talking to Riker about how he keeps thinking about Ishara, even though he apparently can't feel anything, Data stands alone in a corridor and looks down at the implant Ishara gave him. I don't care what he says, he is hurting.

This android is sad

24 September 2015

Kindness of Strangers

Hello! I have returned.

Well I haven't actually been anywhere, but I've not been blogging due to work and life and such (at least this time it was planned). I've seen what full-on August is like at work now, so hopefully I'll be more prepared for next year.

I thought I'd start on a positive note and mention some nice real life stuff that has happened to me. There have been some specific occasions over the past few months when total strangers have been really kind (not that they are normally horrible or anything) and I thought it was worth sharing.

I went to Homebase after work to buy seed potatoes and a paint sample (it was kinda random) but when I got to the till I discovered that I didn't have my wallet on me (I remembered almost straight away that I'd left it at home). Bit awkward, but I have a bus pass so I don't need cash to get about. When I left the shop the woman who had been behind me at the till came over to me in the car park. She said she'd overhead my predicament and asked if I needed any help or any money. Looking back I think she was concerned about whether I was really stuck and needed help getting home or something. I think my facial expressions can come off more sad/worried than I actually am. At the time I briefly wondered if she was offering to help buy my random non-essentials. Either way I thanked her for her generosity but said I was fine.

The day my first rat died (as mentioned here in July) I'd booked to give blood in the afternoon. Obviously I was pretty sad when I got to the appointment and it's possible that that combined with the heat (July was so hot!) was what made me feel faint afterwards. I had to lie down for a bit with a fan pointed at me. A woman who had also been giving blood asked how I was getting home and said she'd give me a lift rather than me waiting for the bus. The Blood Service people seemed to know her and made clear that I was texting my husband about coming home (I sensed no threat, but best to be on the safe side and all). Actually we had quite a nice chat about the city we lived in.

After the busiest day at work (by which I mean the specific day we have to come in early for and get other people in to help out with) I stumbled to the bus stop feeling a little punch drunk. In fact I missed the bus going past, so I legged it down the footpath to the next bus stop. when I got on the bus I realised I didn't have my phone on my any more. On the bus home I was making plans to phone it as soon as I got in. At home I had an answer phone message from a woman who had found my phone, she'd also added me on facebook and sent me a message there. Luckily she was doing research at the University where I work, so we exchanged some messages on facebook, arranged to meet  and she gave the phone back to me the next day.

Part of my bus pass fell out of its wallet (same bus stop where I lost my phone). I got things sorted out to get a new one, but in the meantime a letter came to me from the bus company with my missing bus pass inside. There was also a letter from a woman who said she had found it and wanted the bus company to try and get it back to me. Not found her to thank her, unlike the others.

I guess the moral of this is that people can be very nice and considerate, or possibly that I lose things.

Normal service will return shortly.