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.