20 December 2016

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

I'd quite been looking forward to this Netflix reunion show. I spent a good chunk of the first trimester of my pregnancy binge-watching Gilmore Girls when it came on Netflix. I'd watched most of the series before, but in bits and pieces on broadcast TV and mostly out of order, so it was nice to watch again while also getting a different perspective on things by seeing episodes in the correct order.

It was nice to see the characters again, to revisit old places, but structurally this was super odd. The usual tone and the whimsy are there and many of the emotions feel real, but it's all kind of hanging in space, and feels disconnected. So many plot lines are introduced then abandoned with limited impact. I suppose it could be the concept, the title makes it sound like a slice of life idea and I think that is part of what's at play here. In real life there's plenty of randomness, but we usually don't want that from our fiction, events progressing and flowing together is more satisfying. The changed format adds to this instead of 6 hour(ish) episodes there are 4 90-minute ones and I think that almost left too much space per episode. There's a lot of lingering shots on the sets and scenery, and a lot of scenes that don't lead to anything or are just gags. Various new characters are introduced, but we aren't really encouraged to get to know them and many are there for comedic value only, even when it looks like they will be significant or stick around. A lot of old characters appear, there are Stars Hollow regulars, all of Rory's exes and some of her friends. None of these characters are given much of substance to do except for Luke, and perhaps Logan in a small way. Everyone else just shows up, is a bit zany or whatever, and leaves relatively little impact. Paris is going through some stuff has, children that we aren't supposed to care about (did Rory even look at those kids more than once when she was babysitting them?) and is given a scene where she literally regresses to her teenage-self for no reason before disappearing.*

I was glad to see Sookie, though there was far too little of her. It really did feel like Sookie though and not just Melissa McCarthy doing the part (I've seen a lot more of her work since she became a biog film star). It was nice to see Alex Kingston, and she was funny first, but her plot never went anywhere, so that seemed like a bit of a waste. The Star Hollows Musical was funny, but ultimately pointless and seemed out of character for Taylor. It's good to see Lane again, but boy she is given very little to do. Also her life doesn;t seem to move on at all, she and her husband and their twins (who must be 8 or 10 or something) are still living in the shared flat with Brian. Is Brian in their relationship now? That would've been interesting, but the show isn't really bothered about these characters anymore. Michel has a husband -nice of them to finally confirm that the character isn;t straight- but we never get to see him and I'm curious.

Oy with the Spoilers Already

Although I enjoyed watching the comeback, I found that the main characters didn't seem to have progressed much and that mostly made me sad for them.
Luke and Lorelei didn't get married or have kids, which seemed to be where they were heading when the main show ended. They've been in a relationship and happily living together for 8 years (10 years?), which is fine and don't get why the show took so many pot shots at the idea of being in a relationship without marriage, loads of people do it and are very happy. The problem with Luke and Lorelei is that they just seem to have drifted aimlessly along together and have not once in a decade discussed their desires or relationship/family goals. The issue in the main show was often lack of communication, and it seemed in the last series they were getting over that, Luke admitted he used April as a way of driving Lorelei away. Lorelei realised she wanted Luke not Christopher, despite all the pressure to be with Christopher. So why, after they'd finally come together again, did they apparently never have another meaningful conversation? Luke is restrained and tight-lipped, but he does get in touch with and express his emotions when it counts, as proved when he asked Lorelei out to begin with, so why has he been unable to tell her he wanted kids until it was clearly too late? I just found myself judging them for being so uncommunicative.kn It's a similar issue with in Inn nand who even knows what the deal is between Lorelei and Sookie (I get that Melissa McCarthy was probably busy, but this seemed an odd way of dealing with that). The happy ending is nice, but even at his own wedding Luke takes a backseat to the titular girls.

Rory, who was always supposed to be bright and promising -although these expectations seemed to come entirely from people who had loved her since she was a child- has apparently wasted her potential. I get that she's meant to be a bit aimless, but honestly it seemed like she really had no plan or even much idea how to do her job. She'd clearly done a few impressive things, but her behaviour seemed a bit unprofessional or at least pretty lacklustre. I know little of journalism myself, but it seems like Rory was just flying about and not really doing much to advance her career. While she clearly had goals and aspirations she didn't seem to be putting in a lot of work, or planning for if her immediate goals/current projects didn't go through. The impression I get from the freelancers of my acquaintance is that you have to be willing to hussle and display a lot of tenacity and flexibility. Of course Rory doesn't really have to worry about it really as she has rich relatives and friends, and even not-very-wealthy friends, who will put her up and help her out. I guess if Rory's situation seemed to be a comment on precarious living styles, or quarter-life crisis, or millennial issues it would be more interesting, but it doesn't feel like any wider point is being made, Rory's just gadding about. I think she's supposed to be falling apart a bit, but I don't get why.

Then there's Emily, Emily's story gives me hope. Of course patriarch Richard Gilmore would be deceased as Edward Herrman -the actor who played him- had passed away. Emily is a widow and her life is full of grief and emptiness, the main show explored very deftly how Emily's entire life had been devoted to being a society wife. Like the other two main characters Emily goes through phases of action, reaction and freaking out in her own way -her calling out her friends' bullshit is priceless- and it all has so much more weight when she's grieving the loss of her husband, as opposed to just feeling aimless in her life. In the end Emily makes the most progress, though sadly much of it happens off screen. After firing maid after maid for not meeting perfection Emily ends up with a woman she can barely understand** looking after her and introducing a massive extended family to the house. Although Emily doesn't seem warm to the family it's clear that just being surrounded by people and children is good for her, especially when she didn't have much of that carefree joy in her own family. In the end she has found a new partner and relocated to a new home for a fresh start. Seeing her joy at giving a gory talk about whaling at a museum is wonderful and so uplifting. Bravo Emily!

* In a bit-part a briefly recurring character from the one of the middle seasons asks if she's walked into 2003, the answer is yes, but no one ever explains why, nor does it ultimately matter in the slightest.

** I think that whole joke is kinda problematic, because it seems to be all about a funny foreigner that no one can understand. Lack of understanding and a patronising attitude was expected when it's just Emily or the other main characters, but frankly the gag goes on too long. Hahaha, these people are so incomprehensible even someone from the UN can't tell what language they speak. Crazy foreigners with their manual labour and vast numbers of kids.

6 December 2016

Ensign Ro

Episode: s5, ep 3

The Bajorans are introduced and though they make far more sense than that Trill guy a while back I still have questions.

What Happens
After a visit to the ship's garrulous barber Picard is called to the Bridge. There's a distress call from a Federation colony near the Cardassian border, when they get there an audio message claims Bajoran responsibility for the destruction of the colony, they will attack more until they get their homeland back. Survivors (who we don't see) are taken to a star base and Picard meets with Admiral Sneezy (he got a Cardassian virus from a delegate at a function), who orders the Enterprise to find the leader of the Bajoran splinter group who destroyed the colony and take him and his people to the refugee camps. We learn that the Bajorans' home planet has been occupied by the Cardassians for 40 years; they are mostly refugees and aren't liked much. The Admiral says Picard can tell the Bajorans that now the Federation is allied with Cardassia they'll quietly pressure their allies to be less brutal. The Admiral has also arranged for the notorious Ensign Ro to come on the Enterprise, she was court-martialed and has a Bad Attitude, but she's Bajoran and the Admiral insists. No one is happy about this.
After a staff meeting where Ro is fatalistic and surly, Picard accompanies her to a Bajoran camp to meet a community leader. The camp leader doesn't condone the violence against the Federation, but he's also reluctant to help as Star Fleet has never helped them before. In 10 Forward Ro keeps people away with grumpiness, but Guinan talks to her and decides they will be friends, then Ro gets a private call from the Admiral. Later the Enterprise has presumably tracked the splinter group leader to a planet. An away team waits for Ro only to find she beamed down hours before. They follow her and are captured by Bajorans, the leader has been talking to Ro and says they didn't destroy the Federation colony. On the Enterprise Picard tells Ro off for beaming down alone and confines her to quarters.
Guinan comes to see Ro, who is annoyed and confused and doesn't know who to trust. Guinan says she can trust Picard and takes Ro to see him. Ro tells Picard that the Admiral gave her a secret mission to negotiate with the Bajoran leader and offer weapons and support against the Cardassians. It's against what the Federation stands for, but Ro felt she had to help her people. When she was told that Bajorans didn't destroy the colony she didn't know who to trust. Picard takes this seriously and asks if she can get the Bajoran leader to help find out more.
The Enterprise escorts a slow Bajoran ship to the camps. At the Cardassian border two ships appear and the Cardassians insist the terrorist ship is handed over to them. Picard refuses even though the Admiral said maintaining the Cardassian treaty was important. When the Admiral directly orders the Enterprise to withdraw the Cardassians destroy the Bajoran ship, but Picard reveals to Admiral that no one was harmed as ship was remote controlled, Ro's idea. He points out the Bajorans couldn't have attacked the colony as they don't have the resources or  ships and the Cardassians did it to trick the Admiral and use Star Fleet to resolve their terrorist problem.

Oh Captain My Captain
I'm not surprised to see that Picard is the kind of person who dislikes ideal chatter but feels like he awkwardly has to put up with it when someone is giving him a haircut. The barber fits various hairdresser stereotypes except for how he is blue and uses an ear laser.
Picard is concerned by the Enterprise being sent on the Bajoran mission and suggests that diplomacy would be better, which is odd really as the Enterprise does diplomatic missions a fair bit and Picard has a history of going to negotiations. Isn't he a kind of diplomat? Picard feels bad about the plight of the Bajorans, but it's clearly not something he's given much thought to as it's outside his experience. After visiting the refugee camp Picard offers aid to the residents, it's something he can do so easily. It is only through listening to Ro's experiences that he -and the viewers- come to understand the awful position Bajorans are in.
He gets angry when Ensign Ro is assigned to his crew without his knowledge, it's obviously not done in general and so it's especially bad when the officer in question has a dodgy record. As with every other Star Fleet officer (except maybe Crusher and Troi, who knows) Picard judges Ro by her reputation and service record. There's definite snobbery around the fact that this is the flagship and they have standards. Picard is right to punish Ro for the botched away mission, though we don't see him play headmaster that much. Once Picard has been encouraged to give Ro a chance he sees her value and gives her due credit for her plan. He even offers that she can stay on the Enterprise seeing the benefit of a crew member with a different outlook.

Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
As is often the case Riker is on same wavelength as Picard, also angry that they've been saddled with a dubious officer. Riker loves the ship so much he keeps turning down promotions in order to stay (not explicitly stated, but only thing that makes sense, especially as we know he's put career before love in the past), so he's really offended by someone who doesn't want to be there. He's obviously decided he's going to make things hard on Ro from the start. Probably lucky for her that she doesn't have to do any paperwork in the episode.

Guinan's Hat: purple then dark blue
As the only non-Star Fleet main character, and all around awesome person, Guinan is curious about Ro. Geordi bitches about how unworthy Ro is to wear the uniform, so Guinan leaves him mid-conversation to get to know Ro. While she does impose her company on Ro against her stated wishes Guinan is observant enough to see that the new Ensign might want a way out of her isolation. She talks candidly with Ro about herself as she does with everyone else, and asks without judgement about the incident that everyone else is whispering about. She ready to listen to Ro's side of things even if no one else is (with possible exception of Crusher and Troi). Guinan decides they'll be friends and mostly bemuses Ro. Later when Guinan leaves 10 Forward to see Ro we're reminded that both come from refugee backgrounds, it's not a major point but it's there and important. Guinan tells Ro she can trust Picard and alludes to their mysterious background, Picard got her out of trouble in the past. By bringing Ro to Picard and vouching for each to the other Guinan creates a sense of trust and safety that allows Ro to talk and Picard to listen.

Girl Talk
As Crusher and Troi were approaching Ro I felt hopeful that there might be a decent conversation between female characters. They ask to sit with Ro, showing they aren't judging her as the male senior staff are. Ro's immediate dismissal of them shows how surly she is and makes Guinan's persistence all the more impressive. Thank goodness for Guinan (that conversation is Bechdel-Wallace passing), but it feels (again -Redemption 2-) like the main female characters are barely allowed in an episode. They literally ask to be included but are immediately sent away (it's like writers don't know what to do with Crusher and Troi if they aren't needed to be healers/caregivers/sexy/mothers). I am happy with Guinan's role here and Ro is a good character with complex background, but Crusher and Troi are mostly treated like secondary characters.

They're Bajorans, But Not As I Know Them
Another species that seems odd at introduction when you've already got to know them through DS9, like the Trill. Here Bajorans are a refugee population and looked down on by most of the quadrant. There's little sign of a big, scattered Bajoran diaspora in DS9, though I suppose after the occupation most Bajorans might have just gone home, though that seems too big an undertaking to never be mentioned. From everything on DS9 I thought Bajor was a backwater planet that most hadn't heard of, I thought they were isolated, not spread out. Are the camps we see here on Bajor? The planet itself never gets mentioned once. Are the camps in Cardassian space?I get that Bajorans here are meant to be a symbol for groups that have been oppressed, occupied and exiled, but it's not explored very much. It almost seems like it's more about Cardassians being sneaky and Admirals being dodgy.
Ro's name causes friction when Picard gets it wrong, apparently most non-Bajorans don't understand that the family name comes first, and most Bajorans just put up with being called the wrong thing. It's a simple but effective example of cultural insensitivity and unknowing people being inconsiderate while the disadvantaged group puts up with it. Though I think in an interplanetary community there would surely be many names structured all different ways, and family name then personal name is hardly likely to be so odd. Several Earth cultures do the exact same thing, so how hard is it for a human get that right? Plus Picard has studied Bajoran culture so you'd think he would know it already. Also, it's not explicitly stated that Ro's earring is religious wear, but I understand that Bajoran earrings are. Would Riker/the uniform code have made someone remove a turban, a cross, a yarmulke or similar? Though suddenly I realise I've never seen anyone wearing anything like that on the Enterprise. Worf's sash is closest thing I've seen. Perhaps the uniform code really is that strict, which hardly seems supportive of people's cultures and faiths.
The nose wrinkles are kind of different, but it's not as jarring as the first time we saw a Cardassian on this show. People keep saying Bajoran differently to what I'm used to. Firstly the plural I am familiar with is Bajorans, but here people keep saying Bajora. Secondly Picard keeps saying it BaJARan, which may just be his accent, but it sounds odd to me.

Death by Space Misadventure
That Federation colony that was destroyed at the beginning presumably involved massive loss of life, but we see none of it and don't know how many died or how many survived. It's almost like the details don't matter.

The End
Ro asks what will happen to the Admiral, Picard reckons court-martial and Ro jokes about how she was in Star Fleet jail. Picard offers Ro a permanent position in Star Fleet and on the Enterprise, acknowledging her talents. She's relucatnt, certain that she doesn't fit, but Picard praises her defiant attitude and says he's seen it in some of his best officers. She relents, but only if she can wear her earring. They both beam up and I think things are supposed to be all jolly now, which is odd seeing as how nothing's changed for Ro's people and they're chatting in a refugee camp.

30 October 2016


Episode: s5, ep 2

I don't normally enjoy scrolling through lots of fan art and memes to find episode images, this episode is the exception.

What Happens
The Federation have received messages from an enigmatic race called the Tamarians. Previous attempts at communication have been incomprehensible and the recent messages don't have clear content. The Tamarians are letting the Federation know they're there, but no one is sure why, so the Enterprise goes to investigate. They hail the Tamarian ship, but the Tamarians speak in a series of names and short phrases, neither Data nor the ship's translators can understand the meaning. Picard tries to suggest diplomatic relations, but this doesn't go anywhere. The Tamarian captain discusses Darmok at Tanagra with his crew, who seem shocked by his words. He does a symbolic-looking gesture then he and Picard are beamed to the planet's surface and the alien ship creates a barrier that blocks transporters and communications.
Riker tries to get Picard back, but the communication issues with the Tamarians remain. Worf suggests an aggressive approach, Riker wants to avoid that. Picard and the alien captain are monitored by sensors from the Enterprise. The senior staff realise the Tamarians talk entirely in references, but without the context they can't get at the meaning. Data and Troi look at what the Tamarian captain said before he and Picard went to the planet, they figure out that Darmok is a semi-mythical hunter and Tanagra is an island continent. Geordi tries to get through the barrier using tech, but this doesn't work. Worf tries to go down to the planet in a shuttle, but the Tamarians won't let him, although they're careful not to do lasting damage.
On the planet Picard and the Tamarian captain try to communicate, Picard is frustrated because he doesn't know why they're there. He keeps trying to figure out the other captain's phrases, but offers no teaching about his own words. At night the Tamarian offers Picard some of his fire when the Star Fleet captain can't get his own going. In the morning the Tamarian is gone, but Picard finds what he thinks is a journal, though he can't understand the writing. The Tamarian races over and Picard at first thinks he's angry, but a distant roar reveals that the danger is elsewhere. The two captains face down a beastie that phases in and out of sight. As the beastie attacks Picard is nearly beamed away, but the Enterprise can't get a lock on him and when he's returned to the planet the Tamarian is badly injured.
Round a campfire the Tamarian tells Picard the story of Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, two men who came separately across the sea, meet during a hunt and become friends while fighting together. Picard realises that his companion has tried recreating this story between the two of them in order to forge a bond, perhaps just between them or between their people. Picard tells his friend the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, then the Tamarian dies, mirroring the fate of Enkidu.* Picard lays his friend to rest and says he understands his sacrifice. He hears the creature's roar. When the Enterprise sees that the other captain has died Riker is determined to retrieve Picard and they attack the Tamarian ship to destroy the barrier. The ships exchange fire, the barrier is destroyed and Picard beamed away just as the beastie is about to attack. The Enterprise is damaged so they can't go to warp. Picard hails the Tamarian ship and uses the phrases he picked up to explain what happened to their captain, then presents his friend's journal, which is beamed away. The hostilities stop and Picard isn't sure if they've made friends, but at least they aren't enemies.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is keen to communicate with patience and imagination and is sure the Tamarians aren't truly incomprehensible. He doesn't demonstrate this at all when actually confronted with them. Although neither group have any idea what the other is saying Picard initially suggests a mutual non-aggression pact, trade agreement or cultural exchange. These are not the best concepts to begin with when facing communication and language issues, maybe just start with a friendly greeting? Despite his earlier confidence he doesn't seem comfortable with a situation he can't talk his way out of. The Tamarian captain's solution to the issue is pretty drastic, kidnapping his counterpart and putting them both in dangerous situation to forge a bond. Even if this is the kind of thing that is more acceptable in their culture the Tamarian deputy is pretty shocked by the plan. It's just lucky Picard is wearing a warmer version of his usual uniform, although he couldn't have known in advance that he'd end up spending the night outside.
On the planet Picard first assumes that when he is handed a dagger it is so the two of them can fight, and he throws it back at his companion. It is clear from the other Captain's body language that he is disappointed, but also determined to see his plan through. Each keeps trying to communicate, and the Tamarian initially extends a hand of friendship, but of course he knows why they're there. I'm surprised more isn't made of body language and gesture as other methods of communication. Both are humanoid, space-faring people, so one would think certain similarities could be found, but I suppose that isn't the focus of the episode. Once the danger of the teleporting beastie (if it is teleporting, I'm not really sure and I don't think it matters) is plain the two work in concert through necessity. Picard does not stop talking, even when they're fighting the beastie. He's dismayed when he's nearly beamed away and his friend is injured. Picard grasps the story of Darmok and Jalad at Tenegra and how that relates to their situation; a purposeful recreation of a story. He picks up the meaning, if not the context of many other Tamarian phrases. There's no sign that Picard tries to impart any of his language to his companion, but again the focus is Picard learning, not teaching. 
Picard tells the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu to his injured friend, and although he knows that he can't understand the bulk of the words he tells a simplified version. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest known work of human fiction, although Picard only tells one section of it and misses out the bits with the harlot and the goddess.** It has parallels with the Darmok story, two men who come together and participate in a hunt then become friends. It is natural therefore that events should mirror the story with one of the newly-made friends dying. Picard determines that his friend's death shouldn't be in vain, though there's no indication of what the follow-through is, other than Picard using his language skills to prevent hostilities in the short term.

Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
While Picard is away Riker demonstrates the leadership skills that people keep offering him promotions for. He does all the stuff Picard would probably do. he tries talking to the Tamarians, but they mostly ignore him and he doesn't have Picard's calm. He calls a staff meeting to discuss the situation, including how to communicate with the Tamarians and how to destroy or get around the barrier. The Tamarians make it clear that they won't allow anyone else to go down to the planet, although they too are careful not to escalate the situation. It is only as they realise that Picard and the other Captain are in real danger that Riker becomes more threatening towards the other ship. He doesn't understand their apparent indifference to their Captain's fate, not realising that the Tamarians are in fact displaying loyalty to their Captain's wishes. Once the Tamarian captain dies Riker is willing to attack the other ship to save Picard, but like his counterpart he only uses the force necessary to achieve his aim of destroying the barrier and getting Picard back.

Klingon Warrior
Typically Worf is wary about not knowing motive for the messages, says they could be threatening the Federation border, the others ignore his concerns. After Picard is taken Worf wants to attack the Tamarian ship, but Riker holds him back to find a peaceable solution. Worf is sent to the planet in a shuttle to retrieve Picard, but the barrier causes communication problems and as he gets close the Tamarians fire on the shuttle, just enough to damage it without injury. It is clear the Tamarians still on the ship are being careful and deliberate.

Planet of... Pop Culture References
An entire method of communicating through reference to and imagery from shared stories. It's an interesting thing to explore and means that the little-mentioned -but presumably oft-used- universal translators in Trek only work to an extent. Given how much references are used to communicate in online spaces this concept feels pretty forward-looking. I really like the focus on narrative, history and myth as a method of communication and by creating even the little cultural background we get here it gives the Tamarians more depth than most of the random species that turn up for an episode. Also I'm totally here for Classical and ancient references, so the brief tale from the Epic of Gilgamesh was a lovely surprise.
ETA: So looking through images for this ep I now understand a lot more memes. Also the meta-ness of all this is a thing of beauty.

Not from this ep, but made me giggle
Staff Meetings: 3
1. Picard and senior crew discuss the Tamarian situation and the history of their ambiguous and confusing contact. Worf is wary (natch) and Troi says all previous encounters suggest peaceful intentions so they have to start from there. Picard is (misguidedly) confident about communicating.
2. Riker runs a staff meeting about getting Picard back. Geordi thinks he can help but it'll take a day to work. Worf isn't concerned about Picard's safety as he's convinced of the captain's skills as a warrior, but he does think they should attack to end the stalemate. Troi says they don't know whether it's a challenge and Data says further study could help. Riker wants to leave violence as a last resort, and tells Troi and Data to study.
3. After failing to beam Picard back and realising the Tamarian captain is injured Riker says they have to take out the barrier. Geordi and Worf figure out a way to do it fast using the ship's weapons, Riker ends them to sort that out. Troi and Data report that their research revealed the Tamarians abstract unusually and communciate entirely in imagery based on narrative. They've found definitions for Darmok and Tanagra, bit without knowing the stories behind the words they can't understand the meaning of what is being said. So all that research was a dead end really.

Death by Space Misadventure
Captain Dathon (whose name is said in dialogue only once at the very end and I had to check a transcript and Memory Alpha to be sure that's what it was), who gave his life to create a bond with an incomprehensible alien. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Shaka when the walls fell.

The End
Riker brings Picard a damage report and notices that the captain is reading Greek. Picrad says he's reading the Homeric Hymns, believing that a greater understanding of the root narratives of their own culture may help in future interactions with the Tamarians. Picard wistfully points out that his friend's commitment to communication between them meant more than his life. Picard stands sombrely by his tall window, framed from outside the ship.

* No spoiler warning seeing as how the Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest known narrative in human history. An epic poem from Sumerian (the oldest known language) and Akkadian, it was told in ancient Mesopotamia (Middle East) back in the early days of human civilisation. Gilgamesh's adventures don't end with Enkidu's death though and the story is worth looking up if you're interested in that kind of thing.

** I'm always amused that some translations of Gilgamesh use the term harlot, presumably because the translations were done by respectable, scholarly men in the 1950s. There's another Mesopotamian myth with a male character in a similar role and he is at times referred to as a play-boy, because there's no good term for a male harlot.

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.

30 August 2016

Big News

Back in July I mentioned that a period of low energy had delayed most of the blogging I intended to do. July was followed, as ever, by August which is always a busy month at work and certainly doesn't help with feeling tired. Anyway there is a reason for this, which will also explain future delays as well.

I'm pregnant.

This is my first pregnancy and it's going comparatively well, even if there were a couple of months when I felt exhausted most of the time. I'm coming out of that now, at last. Though a lot of my spare time is going to be devoted to preparing for the baby, I do intend to keep blogging at least semi-regularly.*

I have no idea whether I will be able to do much after the baby comes, I hear they are rather disruptive, so I am not setting myself any blogging goals or targets. It's due early next year, so all plans for 2017 are very fluid. I'll do what I can when I can, can't expect more than that.

Anyway I'm currently both happy and daunted. Cautiously looking forward to when the baby is here, but slightly dreading the preparation needed and the mode of its arrival.

*This is a useful term because it can mean just about anything.

7 August 2016

Redemption (Part 1)

Episode: s4, ep 26

I'm not used to this level of serialisation on this show, I quite like it. Though it does lengthen my write up.

What Happens
The Enterprise is going to the Klingon homeworld so Picard can finish his job as arbiter of the Klingon succession from Reunion and see Gowron installed as Emperor. Picard tells Worf that this could be an opportunity to regain his family's name and honour, which was lost due to unKlingon-like politiking in Sins of the Father. Worf is reluctant to rock the boat, but admits dishonour weighs on him. Gowron arrives and tells Picard that there could be a civil war unless he is installed fast. (I gotta say, I kinda assumed this part of the process would've already happened off screen after Reunion.) Gowron explains that the family of Duras (the murderous opponent of Gowron, who framed Worf's father to cover his own father's treachery and was later killed by Worf after he killed the mother of Worf's son) are making power plays, they have lots of influence on the High Council. Key players in this are the sisters of Duras, Lursa and B'etor; they can't be on the Council or throne because sexism, but they're totally plotting for their family. Gowron insists Picard must help install him, Picard refuses to do anything more than his official role and adhere to Klingon law. Worf tells Gowron the truth about his discommendation, that he accepted dishonour in order to protect Duras' powerful family. Gowron is interested to hear that his rivals have been party to further treason and duplicity, but won't help Worf because he really needs the support of the Council, so exposing their lies won't help him just now. He pretty much tells Worf that he has to live with his decision.
After a talk with Guinan Worf requests a leave of absence, Picard doesn't ask why and Worf doesn't explain. He goes and finds the ship of his secret brother Kurn, who thinks the whole Klingon leadership is terrible and talks of full revolt. Worf refuses to support this and will stand by Gowron, despite his lack of help. Kurn reluctantly does as Worf says and goes to rally other military leaders who don't like the current state of things. Worf wants Gowron in charge, but he also wants to convince Gowron to expose the truth. Meanwhile Picard goes to the ceremony to formally appoint Gowron as the next leader. The sisters of Duras arrive with some lad who they claim is Duras's son and therefore should be considered for succession. Picard is to decide on his validity as a candidate. I have no understanding of why this young lad should be considered when no one really knows who he is. Oh, and it turns out Romulans are secretly involved! And there's a shadowy woman who is part of the plotting.
Worf's brother has got a few military leaders on his side, their enemies have more people, but much of Klingon fleet is undecided. Worf gets Data to go through the files on the Enterprise that proved his father's innocence in Sins of the Father, Picard stops him and points out that this is a conflict of interest because Worf is a Star Fleet Officer (also I guess he shouldn't go into his workplace and use their resources when he's on a leave of absence). Picard is concerned about his own conflict of interest, because he doesn't want the Duras family have any power given their Romulan connection and that time Duras tried to kill him, but he has to follow Klingon laws in his role as arbiter. Plus he cannot interfere with an allied nation specifically for the good of the Federation (why did he agree to be arbiter in the first place then?) Picard says he and Worf must keep personal and professional separate, but then says he'll make the information about the truth behind the massacre public for anyone who wants it, not just Worf.
 Picard is visited by Lursa and B'etor, who want him to choose their recently-discovered nephew. He points out the ways in which they have him over a barrel and they threaten the treaty between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Next day Picard proclaims that the lad is completely untested in all the traditional things Klingons respect, because he's too young to have been in battle, and besides it was Duras who was a candidate for leadership not anyone descended from him, so that claim ended when he died. This should have been obvious from the start because if leadership was hereditary there wouldn't be a need for arbiters or succession contests. Council members aren't convinced and go to stand with the Duras group, despite Gowron pointing out how illegal this all is. Worf meets Gowron secretly and offers Kurn's forces in exchange for his returned honour, revealing the true link between him and Kurn. Gowron doesn't think it's enough and asks Worf to get Picard -and therefore the Federation- to intervene on his behalf. Worf refuses and Gowron scoffs at him for being too human. Then Gowron's ship is fired on by another Klingon ship
The Enterprise sees the exchange of fire between the Klingon ships and Riker wants to go and provide aid to Gowron and Worf, but Picard refuses and orders the ship to fly away because they can't get dragged into a Klingon civil war. Worf goes to the tactical station on Gowron's ship, but they've been badly damaged, then Kurn and his military leaders arrive and beat back the ship of the Duras faction. Gowron insists he is installed as leader straight away and invites the Enterprise to send a delegation to the ceremony if they wish. Picard returns to do his final act and see Gowron succeed, this mostly involves putting a cloak on him. As Worf and Kurn proved themselves Gowron's first act is to restore their family honour. As official Klingon leader Gowron asks for official help against the Duras faction, but Picard still refuses to get involved because they might be dangerous traitors but it's definitely an internal, Klingon matter. Worf points out that if the Duras family succeed they're likely ally with the Romulans, so it's in the Federation's interest to support Gowron. Picard sticks to his non-interference policy and tells Worf that as an officer he must too. Worf resigns from Star Fleet and hands Picard his badge so he can go an fight alongside Gowron. Picard and Worf say goodbye. There's a shocking relevation at the Duras house!

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is very clear where his duty lies. He is not going to interfere in the internal politics and power struggles of an allied nation, that would be entirely against his ethics, and the responsibilities and regulations he must uphold as a Star Fleet Captain. Except that at the beginning of this series it was perfectly fine to do just that? When the previous Klingon leader asked him to officially get involved in the succession that wasn't interference, apparently it was just diplomacy or mediation, I guess. Then even when someone under Picard's command who had (several) personal problems with one of the leadership candidates actually murdered said candidate (albeit in a way that was perfectly legal in the Klingon system), that was still apparently fine and certainly in no way a Star Fleet officer getting involved in internal politics of an allied nation. Now though Picard speedily installing the guy that he very fairly and legally chose -in a way that was totally not-interfering- could be problematic and full of conflicts of interest, even though viewers could have quite reasonably supposed that this had already been done and dusted once Picard's choice was made. Plus when the current Klingon leader officially asks for help against a rival faction that are trying to topple him then his allies the Federation definitely cannot get involved at all because that isn't the sort of thing they do, ever. These lines in the sand seem faint and shifting to me.

Klingon Warrior
Guinan's Hat: Green
I swear Worf's life is such a soap opera. I don't get how Michael Dorn can claim Worf hasn't been properly explored (though I understand why he says it). Worf's got more backstory than all the human characters. His conversation with Guinan strikes me was really important and the first time we've seen Worf confronted with some of the half-truths he tells about (and probably to) himself. For all that Worf is always distancing and differentiating himself from humans, he has never seemed very comfortable or easy with other Klingons and as previous episodes have shown Klingons don't always behave the same way Worf does.
Guinan talks to Worf while beating him at target practice in holodeck (Worf doesn't comment about her beating him, he realises she's better and as she says she's been doing it since before he was born). She mentions her bet with Picard about getting Worf to laugh, says she has seen him laugh and it's nice. He grumpily claims Klingons don't laugh. She calls him on this, points out that Klingons do laugh, so it isn't a Klingon thing, and asks what it says about him. He responds that perhaps he doesn't feel like other Klingons. This is Worf kind of admitting, for the first time I think, that he's been using his Klingon identity as a cover for a lot of things that are specific to him as an individual. Guinan mentions Alexander (though not by name) and Worf says that he's a child and part-human and he's having trouble adjusting on Earth. Guinan  points out that Alexander is now living a life much like Worf's upbringing, but does it subtly and Worf acknowledges that it will be difficult (because if there's one thing he knows it's being a Klingon raised amongst and by humans). Guinan says that at some point Alexander will want to know what it's like to be a Klingon and that Worf himself is just learning. It's a really strong character scene.

Klingon Differences
We get to see bits and pieces of Klingon culture in the series and the three episodes that lead up to this all show a lot about the Klingon political situation and the associated power structures and traditions. This doesn't all make sense, though I suppose the implication is that the events we are witnessing are unprecedented or at least very unusual.
While families and dynasties are obviously very important in Klingon culture it seems that the succession of the Klingon leader is not a hereditary thing. Nor is it done through any kind of election. Rather it seems that candidates come from important families with ties to the High Council, so it's a kind of oligarchy really. The role of the arbiter -whose usual status in Klingon society we don't see- in choosing the next ruler seems to mostly involve talking when Picard does it, though I wouldn't be surprised that in more normal circumstances there was more physical contests too. Since Picard was chosen by the previous ruler it may be that this creates a kind of official succession culture, but clearly political forces and factions must be weighed and the ruler has to have the support of the High Council to get much done. This suggests to me that the High Council is a kind of cross between a privy council and a parliamentary system, though outside of the context of democracy.
It turns out women can't be on the High Council, and perhaps can't be the heads of families/houses.
This is sexism pure and simple. Although the house of Duras is politically strong, even after Duras himself died, it seems massively inconvenient that Lursa and B'Etor can't officially run anything. They're both are savvy at politics and tactics as well as commanding much loyalty. The fact that they have to rely on their brother's previously unacknowledged son (who is untested in battle and pretty petulant) as a kind of puppet shows how daft this system is. If they didn't have to plot to gain power maybe they wouldn't have allied themselves more with the Romulans. Also are there really no suitable males from cadet branches of the house? Or do Klingon houses require fairly narrow relationships or direct lineages?
Presumably Duras never recognised his son while he was alive because the lad was illegitimate, which must be something shameful in this culture. We learn from previous episodes about Worf's lovelife that mating (all sex, or just when conception could happen? Actually that's TMI) and marriage are supposed to go hand in hand in Klingon society. This suggests a society with strong taboos on sex and procreation outside of marriage, which fits with the sexism. So if the lad is illegitimate how could they possibly think that it would be appropriate for him to take his father's place in the succession contest? We've already seen that succession to the leadership of the Empire isn't based on heredity, so why would this ever have worked? I guess Lursa and B'Etor - and their Romulan allies- were relying on their political and military strength to win through despite how unlikely their claim is on paper. Trying to bully Picard with threats against the alliance between the Empire and the Federation fits well with a forceful strategy. Though if it is legally such a weak claim then surely Picard and Gowron would have pointed this out straight away instead of getting nervous and going away to think about it.
Gowron: buggiest eyes in the Empire
For a proud warrior race who seem to mostly follow a might = right philosophy the Klingons sure have a lot of laws in this area. I mean we have seen that murder is considered a perfectly acceptable means of gaining advancement, in the military/on ships at least. It's also fine when dealing with personal issues and family feuds; no Klingon batted an eye about Worf killing Duras to revenge the death of his mate (I do not really like this term, but it is the one used in context), even though Worf's status in society was low as could be. It seems that it is intriguing and assassination -as opposed to open fighting- that is disapproved of. Throughout every episode featuring Duras this has been the fear of 'right-thinking' Klingons, not that the family is powerful but that they are sneaky. Also the Romulan connection, which could be seen as a betrayal of Klingons as a whole. In fact I could see this being the reason that the leadership succession seems to work so differently to other parts of society, because it isn;t just between families, it affects the whole Empire. Of course Worf and his brother are sneaky too; Kurn's true parentage is concealed and he and Worf quietly plan to build support for Gowron in order to get what they want. This seems like a system where politicking does happen and is likely needed, but also where is it looked down on or seen as taboo, so things have to be even more hidden than they would be in a society where intrigues were expected.

The End
In the Duras family home the Romulans hear that the Enterprise has left and Picard won't help Gowron. Duras' bratty son says Picard is a coward, but the mysterious woman from earlier says that he shouldn't underestimate humans as they have a way of showing up when least expected. She steps out of the shadows and... it's Tasha Yar!... With Romulan clothes and haircut. WTF?

To be continued...

I assume she's the Tasha Yar from alt-timeline introduced in Yesterday's Enterprise? Somehow she survived the destruction of the Enterprise-C, though since that meant going back in time I would expect her to look older. Well, I guess I'll find out.

20 July 2016


Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Everything has gotten rather delayed recently as I'm going through a period of low energy and finding it difficult to get things done.

When normal service (whatever that looks like) resumes I will finish series 4 of TNG (which if you're in the UK is now available on Netflix with all the other Trek series, meaning I can return the DVDs borrowed). I also have a load of books I definitely intend to blog about, but later when I can face doing things again.

6 July 2016

In Theory

Episode: s4, ep 25

This episode explores some interesting things about Data, even if on a personal level I felt uncomfortable about it. The B-plot doesn't make much sense, has nothing to do with the A-plot and feels like it should be in series 2.

What Happens
The Enterprise is going into a dark matter nebula and Data is altering a weapon for an experiment alongside a lady called Jenna who is missing her ex, or more accurately missing being in a relationship. Data again lists her reasons for breaking up with her ex, which mostly seem to be about not paying attention, and sloppy eating. Then the Enterprise shoots the modified torpedo into the nebula, cos I guess that nebula had it coming or something.
Jenna is in a woodwind band with Data and Keiko, they're playing in 10 Forward (never short of entertainment on board it seems). Afterward she's wistful seeing Miles congratulate Keiko and worries about her own performance, but Data assures her that the audience wouldn't notice. Keiko and Miles tell funny couple stories, like how Keiko has to pick up his socks. Jenna tells funny stories about stuff Data has said and acts kinda coupley with him. Data doesn't understand why anything is funny. Later Jenna tells Data he's the perfect man and kinder than other men, he points out he has no feelings. She kisses him. I am weirded out. Meanwhile people are excited about lifeforms or something in that nebula they shot. Something falls off a table in sickbay. Data's cat gets out, even though it shouldn't be able to. These significant events are really boring.
Data asks Guinan's advice about the kiss and what to do next, she says he should work it out himself. Then he gets advice from most of the senior crew, it is mixed. Weighing advice and info very carefully Data goes to Jenna with flowers. He tells her about his decision-making process, mentions how messy her quarters are and then while he's tidying he suggests they try a relationship. Turns out he has written a programme for relationships, with a subroutine just for her. She finds this romantic and they kiss. Everything in Picard's office has been stacked under the desk, he calls in Worf to investigate and jokingly suggests a poltergeist. Data's girlfriend brings an ornament over because his quarters are dull, it turns out Data doesn't understand idioms in this episode. She has trouble communicating with him because he's being super-literal, but she explains how she is feeling and is happy that he is trying.
Welcome to the B-plot
The Enterprise goes to where there should be a planet, except that there isn't a planet, but then a planet appears, I think? It's really not important. The Computer reports decompression in the observation lounge, but then everything is fine except that all the furniture is stacked on one side. Data finds an anomaly in one of the windows. Data visits his girlfriend, acts super cheesy, changes the timbre of his voice to give her compliments and is basically trying too hard and it's really cringy. She's confused. Then he suggests she has a problem and shouts at her because he believes quarreling is supposed to strengthen a relationship. It's very forced and she doesn't like it. She asks him to kiss her then asks what he's thinking, she's only one in a list of things.
Later Data's console goes all weird, an Engineer is injured by weirdness, then Geordi hears a scream and finds a woman partially phased into the floor in a corridor. Data describes little anomalies in the nebula that phase parts of the ship out of regular space and cause damage. The ship is too big to manoeuver through this, so Worf suggests using a shuttle linked to the Enterprise to navigate. Riker and Picard disagree over who should fly the shuttle, Picard pulls rank so he gets to do it. Picard flies the shuttle and describes his route, then shuttle is damaged and the link broken so Picard keeps describing his route through the anomalies. The Enterprise is flown manually, but being much bigger it sustains some more damage. Picard loses control of the shuttle for some reason and zooms away, O'Brien has trouble locking onto him. The shuttle explodes, but O'Brien did manage to get Picard. Riker suggests they just fly out of the nebula, as apparently that is an option now. It's a really lacklustre B-plot and at this point the show can do much better.
Data makes a romantic meal. Jenna is uncomfortable, clearly about to break up with him. She realises she's blindly made the same mistake and rebounded from an emotionally distant man to someone who doesn't have emotions. She thought kindness and attentiveness would be enough, but she needs an emotional connection he can't provide. Data agrees this is reasonable and that he tried to do something he isn't capable of. They aren't a couple anymore.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard has heard that Data is asking everyone for relationship advice, it is well-established that Picard hates such conversations. When Data approaches him Picard says he'll be happy to give advice on understanding women as soon as he has any, then hightails into his office. I don't blame him. Plus as a lifelong bachelor who seems to be married to his work I don't feel he's the best person to ask.
Picard insists on flying the shuttle that will guide the Enterprise, there's no real reason why. Picard seems insistent that he is their best chance, because apparently he's suddenly a hotshot pilot? Unless he's fed up of Riker throwing himself into danger and wants to protect him, except that doesn't really seem to be a reason why Picard should throw himself into danger instead. Also, don't they have pilots on this big starship? Surely there's someone who's trained for this kind of work. I mean they have a fiction expert and a botanist, but I'm supposed to believe they don't have anyone who specialises in flying shuttles?

Riker: lover, adventurer, middle-management
Riker's advice to Data is to go for it because Jenna is beautiful and crazy about him. Data points out he can't reciprocate her feelings, Riker mentions there's always a risk in these things and Data points out that there's no risk to him. Riker leerily tells Data there are rewards to a good relationship (he clearly means sex), apparently not getting the Data won't really benefit from that, what with not feeling things.
Assumes he'll fly the shuttle and gets angry when Picard stops him. Riker insists that he has to protect Picard. From Riker's side the argument is about who gets to throw himself into danger to protect the other. If this is posturing it's really odd.

Does Not Compute
I am so weirded out by this relationship. It's a personal thing and I think it probably stems a bit from my issues, but every scene with Jenna and Data being together made me uncomfortable. Though I think the later scenes were probably supposed to be uncomfortable. In many ways Data's actions are admirable, he is aware that he could do harm to someone and he seeks advice to avoid this. He researches in order to find the best approach to his current situation, admittedly it's the same way he would approach any kind of query, but it's all he's got. I very much get the sense that Jenna is projecting onto Data (in fact I think a lot of the people who encounter Data for an episode do this). She badly wants a relationship with someone who is kind to her, and Data is so she hopes that it's enough. I know I've said here before that I think Data has greater capacity for feeling than he thinks he does, but I don't think that necessarily translates into romantic or sexual feeling. Or if it did, I'm not sure Data would realise, which comes to the same thing. Also (despite The Naked Now, which was clearly supposed to be people acting out of character) I always kind of figured Data for being asexual and aromantic, so it feels very strange for him to be sexualised, though I know that's just my interpretation. When Data's in the relationship he acts oddly and tries to behave in the way he thinks is appropriate. Lord knows what his sources are (more on that below). It's just not him and it doesn't feel right. Jenna notices it and though he's a good partner in many ways it's clear that the person he's being is not who she was initially attracted to. Plus it's demonstrated that his brain can process so much that he's not able to focus on one person the way a human would. Besides the fact that he has to think about how much pressure he can apply when kissing her, in order not to injure her (or maybe smush her head with his extra-human strength) has gotta be worry.

Blind Engineering
Geordi advises that it can be a bad idea to start a relationship with someone who has just come out of a relationship, unless they're definitely ready and you're definitely serious. Then Geordi remembers who he's talking to, advises that it's complicated and suggests Data talk to someone with advice-giving experience. This is actually far more sensible than I was expecting Geordi to be. His love life and romantic history isn't the best, but I guess when it's not his own issues he's more sensible and less whiny.

Klingon Warrior
Worf tells Data that Klingons don't pursue relationships, they conquer what they desire.Even if this is posturing, which I think it is, it's really, really gross. And Worf himself must know it's gross, because he then tells Data that as Jenna is under his command (apparently she's in Security) he will be very displeased if she's mistreated. So basically Worf's advice is that his people mistreat their partners, but that he will not stand for any mistreatment of a women he has responsibility for. It seems Klingons are super hypocritical and I can see why they have so many feuds going on. Also Worf's love life is another one that should not be imitated.
Picard calls for Worf to investigate the 'poltergeist'. Worf wants to go to red alert and put a guard outside; are Security short on things to do? Picard refuses and just wants to cautiously monitor things, which makes you wonder why he asked Worf to get involved at all. It's like Picard enjoys deflating his ideas.

It's Not Easy Being Troi
Troi's advice is the most sensible, which isn't a surprise as it's her job, Data should have stopped asking people after her. She tells Data to be very careful because there's a person's feelings at stake, and so he can't just treat it as an experiment or like his more casual relationships. In fairness this does seem to be one of Data's main concerns. He assures her that he has researched the subject extensively and found role models to emulate (given his later behaviour I think very little of these role models). Troi points out that emulation may not be enough and Jenna will learn to care for who he is. Data isn't sure that his programming will be adequate and Troi says that everyone has to become more than the sum of their parts.

Guinan's Hat: Purple
Data goes to see Guinan who is working on a new cocktail. She notices Data is distracted and he tells her about the kiss. Guinan is curious and asks Data what he thinks of Jenna, although he initially gives an employee evaluation report Guinan gets him to admit that he looks forward to seeing her. Guinan says the next move is his, but Data doesn't know what that should be. He asks for advice, but Guinan says it's best not to advise people on their first love affair. She's obviously doesn't want to push Data into anything.

Future Is Better?
This episode doesn't say good things about traditional, heterosexual relationships. I say this as a straight woman in a very happy, monogamous relationship; but seriously TV relationships so often look dreadful. I really, really hope that this is not how things still are in the future. In the first scene Data compares Jenna's feelings about her ex to Anne Boleyn's displeasure that Henry VIII spent time hunting instead of with her. Is that the best comparison he can find? One from over 800 years in the past, at a time when women had very little agency, and a marriage that ended when the husband had his wife executed? Apparently so, and this is likely Data's problem, his role models all seem to be terrible. He uses literary and cultural sources, I can't help but feel that most of them were ones played for drama rather than realism, which is often the problem with fictional relationships. Simplicity and happiness apparently aren't entertaining. Data's attentiveness is good, but he tries too hard and the cheesy things he says suggests he researched how to compliment women from 1970s movies, or Riker. When she raises concern about his behaviour he starts shouting at her and tells her she isn't his mother. They both know he hasn't got a mother. He explains that his sources show that lovers' quarrels are healthy (really, just shouting for no reason?) and that accusing her of being like his mother is the standard response to criticism. Are these sources exclusively cheesy sitcoms from the 20th century? This is not how Data would normally behave and the way he is changing himself shows that he really lacks the instincts for this and that it's probably not a good thing for him.
Of course Jenna's prospects on board must be pretty bad, I can't imagine dating within Star Fleet is particularly easy. She keeps telling Data that he's kinder to her than any other men, when literally all Data is doing is being polite in the same way that he is to everyone. I mean how bad are the men on this starship that friendly interest from a colleague is nicest behaviour that she encounters? Are the rest of them going around grunting and staring or something? I thought this was supposed to be the enlightened future. She must be projecting onto Data and presumably reacting to the recent disappointment of a failed relationship. At least she realises that she has to explain what she wants very literally, which highlights issues with usual human communications as she expects to use coded, unclear language. Data criticises Jenna for being messy, which feels out of line, I didn't think her quarters were that messy (which no doubt says something about me) and even if they were, well they're her quarters. I know he's an android and they're both in a pseudo-military organisation, but let her have her space as she likes it. While it's nice that he wants to help her tidy up and organise he seems to have no understanding that maybe this is how she chooses to live.
Miles and Keiko are shown as a happy, successful couple and it's in conversation with them that Jenna starts acting like Data is a match for her. Keiko recounts, with laughter, how after they got married she started picking up Miles' discarded socks. Then she realised that wasn't how she wanted to spend her life, so she left them on the floor until there was a massive pile. Miles still didn't get the hint that his socks were his responsibility, and so she got fed up and picked then up and now... wait for it, cos it's so funny... now, she still picks up his socks. Hahaha, isn't the domestic labour automatically expected of women so funny? Miles, instead of apologising or at least saying he'll try harder in future, simply finishes the story by condescendingly praising Keiko on her ability to pick up his socks, apparently missing that this was something she explicitly stated she didn't want to do at the beginning of the story, as well as something that requires no skill. It's the future, don't they have robots or something for boring domestic tasks? I mean it would have made more sense if Keiko had asked Miles to pick up his socks, or told him that she really didn't want a future of tidying up after him, instead of letting them pile up which clearly bothered her far more than him. Though I can understand the instinct that led her to that. Of course wouldn't have been as funny, open communication probably isn't. Except now he looks inconsiderate and she looks passive-aggressive. Welcome to TV's portrayal of marriage!

Staff Meetings: 1
Data explains that the weird stuff that's happening on board (ranging from something falling off a table and a cat getting out, to parts of the ship decompressing and someone being sucked into the floor) is caused by dark matter in the nebula. It means there are moving gaps in spacetime, which cause bits of the ship to phase out. It's lucky it hasn't been more dangerous. The Enterprise is too big to move around these anomalies, Worf suggests using a shuttle. What is not mentioned is whether them torpedoing the nebula at the start had anything to do with it, or indeed what that was actually about.

Death By Space Misadventure
Van Mayter, an Engineer, was checking for structural damage after a particularly bad anomaly. She presumably walked into a gap in spacetime which meant she briefly phased through the floor of a corridor. She had time to scream before death.

The End
Jenna explains to Data that their relationship isn't enough for her because he lacks emotion and she was repeating a pattern. He concludes that he is perhaps not as human as he would like. Jenna confirms they are no longer a couple, Data says he will delete the relevant programme. She leaves without eating. Data's cat climbs into his lap and Data pets it.
It's kind of sad, but almost certainly for the best. It was a really weird relationship and obviously more than Data knew how to handle.