Friday, February 16, 2018

Episode Review - Good Shepherd (Voyager, Season 6)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – Janeway and the senior officers receive an efficiency report from Seven of Nine, and three Starfleet crewmen are brought to the Captain’s attention. Crewmen Billy Teffler, Mortimer Harren, and Tal Celes are all, for various reasons, under-achievers. Janeway realizes that none of them have ever been on an away mission. Recognizing that life aboard Voyager makes it difficult to simply reassign them to a more suitable ship or star base, Janeway decides to take them on a routine survey mission in the Delta Flyer. Partway into the mission, however, they encounter a strange life form that soon puts all four of them in danger. As Janeway tries to motivate and inspire this group of misfits, the crewmen find that they are capable of more than anyone, themselves included, could have expected.

Score: 7/10 – There have been many comparisons made between this episode and TNG’s “Lower Decks”. While there are some similarities, I find “Good Shepherd” to be a different take on the story of some junior officers. In this case, these are those who just don’t fit in. Teffler, Celes, and Harren seem to have more in common with Barclay than with Sito Jaxa and Nurse Ogawa. So while in “Lower Decks” we still get to see Starfleet’s finest, “Good Shepherd” gives us a glimpse at the life of the misfits. They are even more screwed up then the former Maquis that are the main focus in “Learning Curve”. The dilemma that Janeway and this trio of misfits encounters is only a backdrop for the Captain in dealing with these difficult crewmen. The efficiency review that sets up this story does give us a new glimpse into the workings of the senior officers, and the opening sequence that takes us from an external shot to the interior of the ship, working our way down into the bowels of the ship and ending with an external view again is quite the scene. Where I find this episode lacking is the knowledge that these characters had some potential to be further developed, but weren’t. This is a reflection of one of Voyager’s weaknesses and based on Voyager’s past history I had little confidence that we would ever see these three crewmen again. There were plenty of opportunities to develop some great secondary characters throughout the series, much like Deep Space Nine did. The misfits in this episode join the ranks of former Maquis, Equinox survivors, and token Starfleet officers that just do not get development enough to make us invest much in them.

Relevance – 1 point. A point is scored for the first episode of Crewman Tal Celes, who we will see again in “The Haunting of Deck 12” and have mentioned again in “Workforce”. Beyond that, there is nothing much more to this episode that makes it importa

Continuity – 3 points. Story continuity is a go here. Nothing contradictory. Universe continuity could have been an issue. Crewman Celes in Bajoran, and it seems that her first name is Tal and listed first, where in traditional Bajoran customs the family name is given first (such as Kira Nerys and Ro Laren). However, in the episode “Ensign Ro”, Ro mentions that some Bajorans switch their name order to better fit in to Starfleet. This is a plausible explanation for Tal’s name, so I can give it a bye here. Character continuity also works well. Janeway definitely combines a mothering instinct with command responsibilities as she takes these three under her wing. I also found the reactions of the senior officers to be in line with their efficient review results. Even Seven grudgingly gives herself a poor score based on Crewman Celes and her inadequate performance, and her annoyance is fitting.

Character Development – 1 point. With the focus being on the Misfit Trio, it is understandable that the main characters are given a passing treatment. Really, while this episode highlights the Trio, this is really a story about Janeway, who is dismayed at the fact that these crewmen fell through the cracks on her watch. She takes it upon herself to assure these three that there is a place on Voyager for them. This category would have scored higher if it seemed that the Trio would have been featured in the future.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Each of the misfits had a different issue when it comes to not fitting in. Celes was incompetent, Teffler was insecure, and Harren was full of himself. We will always find people like them, and sometimes we may be that person. In this episode, we see Janeway make a personal effort to reach out to each of them, and this is a choice we often have to face in our lives. How do we reach out to those on the outside of the team? How do we, if we are the one on the outside, dig deep within ourselves to overcome our perceived inadequacies?

Cool Stuff – 2 points. I scored a point for the creature/alien that possessed Teffler on the away mission. Of course it was the hypochondriac that had the alien crawling around under his skin. I also scored a point for the introductory sequence that followed the various crewmembers from one part of the ship to another.

Rank – Captain (17 points). While I enjoyed “Lower Decks” more as a story that helps us get a glimpse into the lives of lower ranked officers on a starship, I do acknowledge that there is a certain charm to this episode. My only real complaint is that without anything else for these three misfit crewmen to do after this episode, we really have little reason to invest ourselves in them. Contrast to Sito Jaxa in “Lower Decks”, we had every reason to buy into her character because of her back story. Not that “Lower Decks” built their junior officers much more either, but I think this was an opportunity wasted here. Still, overall a good episode.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Voyager, click on the link here.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Discovery Episode Reviews, or Why I Have Been Largely Silent on Discussing Discovery

Hello friends. I thought I would take a moment and address the episode reviews, or should I say lack of, for the newest incarnation of our beloved franchise, Discovery. This article is going to be part explanation, and part getting something off of my chest that has been building over the last few weeks, so bear with me.

In the last few months we fans have finally received what we have been asking for, and that is new Trek on TV. As I have written a lot of episode reviews of all the different series (I am quickly zeroing in on my 100th episode review), there are some who are wondering why I have yet to do an official review for anything from Discovery's first season. Incidentally, I will refer to Discovery from here on as DIS as it follows the short-hand I have used for the other series. I am fine with DSC and DISC, but find STD to normally be used as a derogatory abbreviation that often implies a distaste and even hatred for the new show.

Discovery episode reviews are coming, just not soon.

I have a few reasons for holding off on my reviews for DIS. One is logistics. One of my scoring criteria is for the reviews is how relevant the episode is with respect to other episodes. For example, there are several stand-alone episodes that if you miss will not leave the viewer feeling confused about things later on. This includes relevance between the different series. Seeing Mirror Tuvok in a DS9 episode, for example, connects the two different series. With DIS it is far too early for me to include its relevance with other series. Some things may not be so obvious now, but will become very relevant later on. I already have to go back and update preexisting reviews to accommodate DIS plot lines, so I figured to save myself some time and wait until either the season or a few seasons are done. With all of the other series I have the benefit of hindsight in looking at the whole big picture, and I just don't have that with DIS at this time. I truly want to do my reviews justice by not rushing through them until I can also look at DIS with the big picture in mind. There are a lot of fan theories out there (the Ash Tyler-Voq connection being one of my favourites) and I don't want to get caught up in those in my reviews. I also respect that the producers have stated that there will be explanations as to why certain elements of canon have appeared to have been ignored. Continuity is another category that I have in my reviews, and if they can produce a good explanation later on as to why the Klingons look so different, why there are holodecks in TOS era that were only first seen in TNG, and why nobody else has ever heard of a spore drive, then I want to give them that chance without having to rewrite that section of my reviews.

Second reason is that there is already a plethora of episode reviews out there, and many of them I have enjoyed. Writing the reviews for me is a labour of love, but it is not my career choice. In addition to this blog I have a full-time job (teacher) and a full-time family. While there are others who may have a similar situation as myself, I frankly don't have the time or energy to be the "first on the scene" with my reviews. Since there are so many reviews out there already, I am content to let those voices be heard. 

Finally, I would like to address incorrect reasons as to why I have not written reviews on DIS. It has nothing to do with my opinion of the show. I am not intentionally ignoring Discovery because I do not like it, nor do I consider it to be "not true Trek". I will be honest, Discovery is something I am struggling with. This show is nothing like what has come before (much like DS9 was, which is my favourite of the series). There have been elements of it which I have been disappointed with. Let me reveal my cards here and now. I am not a fan of the look of the new Klingons, their ships, and their weapons. I wish they had kept more of it the same. I also am disappointed that this show has used profanity and nudity at levels that I do not like. For me (and I emphasize, this is for me only), those elements were things that I was happy were usually not included in Star Trek and felt that they are out of place. I think the level of violence has been ramped up a bit outside my preferences as well. For me, I wish that the tone was lighter.

Well, maybe not quite this "light".

Having said that, let me make something perfectly clear (and this is the "getting things off of my chest" portion truly begins). These are my thoughts and opinions. These are my disappointments. I am glad that there are many fans that are OK and even happy with those changes. I do not think we need the cardboard sets from TOS or that everything has to be exactly the way it was from an aesthetics point of view. I am even OK if the Klingons looked like TNG era and not TOS. I love many other things about the new show. I love the character of Saru. He is unique and refreshing. I enjoy the fact that Lorca breaks the mold of traditional starship captains. I love the darker, edgier Harry Mudd. Michael Burnham's character intrigues me as well. Sure, there are things I would have changed, but that is true of every series within the franchise. I find many episodes in TNG and TOS to be slow and cumbersome. I hated Bashir in the first two seasons of DS9, and found Avery Brooks to be a poor actor at times early on in the series. With Voyager I thought that the Doctor was going to be a horrible character, and I grimaced at the "gel scene" with T'Pol and Tucker in the pilot episode of Enterprise. With each of those disappointments in the other series, I stuck with it and grew to love the series. TOS and TNG ended up having great episodes. Bashir grew on me and Avery's acting improved as he became more familiar with his character. The Doctor became my favourite Voyager crew member, and the envelope that Enterprise pushed with the gel scene was not pushed much beyond that throughout the series.

Not all Trek was good

My point is, with the disappointments I have had with Discovery, I know that many people do not share them. Some think it's about time for the F-word to be used in Star Trek, and the darker tone is just an indication of the darker society we now live in. That's perfectly acceptable. What I love about Discovery is that it is attracting a new group of fans to all the shows I grew up watching. I get that shows evolve, and that it is OK for me to not be blissfully enamored with every generation's Star Trek series. As much as fans have been responsible for the success of Star Trek, we often make the mistake of feeling entitled to define what is Star Trek for everyone. On the social media circuits I hear over and over "This is not Star Trek" in variations too numerous to track. As always, those who have disliked something make their voices loud and clear. I feel that we collectively need to be reminded that Star Trek does not belong to us fans and us fans alone. As much as we would love to have a say in every step of development, we have to understand that right now the people that are allowed the privilege of deciding what is and isn't Star Trek are either the Powers That Be that work for Paramount (the current movie series) and that work for CBS (Discovery and any future television series). As the franchise grows more fans will find themselves not liking more aspects of the growth. This does not mean that Star Trek is dying, but that it is evolving. Some of the changes will be for the better, some will not, but there will be change.

Some changes are good, some not. You decide for yourself.

A concept tossed around a lot these days, and I am just as guilty of it as any, is the concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination, or IDIC. It is not a perfect concept, but it does bear some weight in these discussions. A significant portion of the fan base need to take a good look at what IDIC is about and decide where they will stand on it. For those, like myself, who find disappointments and faults with DIS, we need to respect that many of our fellow fans are enjoying the changes. Just because we think Klingons should look like some sort of space Mongol for continuity or canon sake does not make those who embrace the new look as anything less than a true fan. Perhaps we need to check our egos at the door more. Perhaps when in out Facebook group we find a thread on how great Discovery is, we need to stop spamming the comment sections as if we are members of the Order of the Bat'leth whose honor has just been challenged. On the flip side, if a person, like me, who enjoys Discovery is tired of the negativity being shown towards the show, perhaps we too should just keep scrolling past the negative posts. We, too, need to more fully embrace IDIC by accepting that not everyone is going to love the show. If someone says that they are disappointed with the use of stronger profanity than Trek has ever seen, can't we just let them have their voice without flooding them with even more vulgar comments? Some of our fellow fans are heart-broken that their own individual interpretation of what Trek is to them is not being followed with the new show. Maybe they are like me and are waiting to see the whole story unfold, but have some reservations. I have talked to fans who, with every incarnation of this franchise, just could not buy into what was being sold. Do we have to berate them for having an opinion that is not shared by the rest of us? Why are we so offended about people being offended? Why are we disappointed when others are disappointed?

Why, WHY, this again?!?

So for the time being I am holding off on Discovery. I can't wait to see the big picture unfold, and when I do start the episode reviews of this polarizing show, I will do my best to keep my own disappointments in check and be fair. I am still hopeful that DIS will worm its way more fully into my heart, but if it doesn't, then that's OK. There is no rule that states one must rank the current product at the top of their list in order to be a fan.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Star Trek: Discovery (Season 1)

OK, I have stated in the past that I was going to hold off on doing episode reviews of DIS episodes until more of it had rolled out. I also didn't want to get caught up in the whole week-by-week breakdown of the show, as I only do this blog in my spare time and I just can't keep that kind of commitment. However, now that Season 1 is in the bag, I can give you a look back at the season as a whole, in a little piece I am going to call "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". Each section is not limited in the amount of points that I can make, and some points might fit in more than one category. So, without any further ado, here we go.

The Good
  • Special Effects! - Gotta admit that the effects of the show are great. I know this gives some fans a lot to complain about, but it adds to some great aesthetics. Things look sleeker and more modern, which is what is necessary for the franchise to continue to boldly going forward. While I appreciate how some fan shows are paying attention to details that keep the same look as the original series (hats off to you, Star Trek: Continues), I just don't think that the show would be successful if everything looked like it did in the 60s. 

  • Interesting characters - While not every character has endeared themselves to me, I do like many of the ones that they brought into the universe. Personally, Saru is my favourite. I have seen a lot of great growth as he went from timid science officer to capable first officer to decisive Acting Captain. I also enjoyed the characters of Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber (more on them in a moment). Lorca is most assuredly a different type of captain, Tilly is the heart and soul of the show, and Ash Tyler gives us one of the most complex characters ever. Of course, there is Michael Burnham (played by star Sonequa Martin-Green). A first for a Trek series, focusing on not the captain but on a crew member. Burnham is likely one of the most complex characters that we have ever seen. Definitely divides the fan base, but I see a lot of promise being delivered. It also looks as if we will see Georgiou again, and that should be interesting. We also have some well developed recurring characters is Sarek, Mudd, and Cornwell that look like they could add some spice to the future of the show. While not every character is a home run, it definitely makes things interesting.

  • One of the Best Relationships is Trek - Paul Stamets, the first main character that is openly gay on Star Trek, is involved in one of the most real and lovely relationships we have seen in Star Trek. His love, Doctor Hugh Culber, is a perfect yin to Stamet's yang. I have noticed that some shows include a same-sex couple and make such a big deal about it that it comes across as forced and phony. This is not the case here. Their relationship, as tragic as it becomes, is so simple and yet sincere. The fact that there is no big deal made out of the fact that they are gay just adds to the power of this duo. Sadly, with death of Culber, this relationship is looking like it's done, but it gave us some great touching moments while it lasted. Here's hoping that Paul will find love again.

  • Hat Tips to the Past - Some have argued that Discovery spits in the face of the past. I disagree. They have paid great homages to the past. Noticed the list of "Great Captains" that Saru asked for in "Choose Your Pain"? Johnathan Archer is a throwback to Enterprise, Robert April to the Animated series, and Christopher Pike and Matt Decker to the Original series. Did you notice the Gorn skeleton and in Lorca's ready room? All cool little nods to what has come before. Plus, there are the familiar characters with new faces (Sarek and Mudd) that give us more to love. And, of course, the last scene of seeing the USS Discovery nose-to-nose with the USS Enterprise was a great way to end the season.

The Bad

  • New Klingons - There is an old saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". I get that we can have updates to the look of Klingons, but do we have to go so far away from what has been established? Yes, the look of the Federation's favourite foes-turned-allies changed a lot from the Original series to the movies and TNG, but at the time it was understood that it was due to progress and increased budgets over 20 years. Enterprise even gave us a plausible explanation for the difference in the look. And yet, once again, the look of the Klingons underwent a major change that, in my own humble opinion, was unnecessary. I could have bought that T'Kumva's group were on a generational ship that was far away when the Augment virus hit, but they then took the look to all Klingons in the established universe, and I just really do not like the look. The look of the Klingons has become as iconic as the Vulcans, so I really don't get why they have to go such a drastic route as they did. 

  • Failed Hat Tip - Even though I mentioned that the hat tips were a good part of the season, there was one that just seemed a bit pointless. Lorca had a pet tribble. Cool, a tribble! But, why? Tribbles have become a bit of an inside joke among fans, and given what we learned about Lorca it made little sense that he would have one. If it had served a plot device, such as exposing Tyler as a Klingon, that would have been better. Plus, if he had a bowl of fortune cookies on his desk all the time, what would have stopped the little furball from snacking on them and becoming a ready room full of tribbles? I like nods to the past, but I prefer it if they actually mean something and are not on the superfluous side. 

  • It's Been a Long Road - One of the biggest complaints about Discovery was that for many fans it just didn't feel like Star Trek. Starfleet officers were not acting like we had come to expect. Yes, it was war time, and that led to more grit. Yes, we saw some very un-Starfleet actions by officers in the past (Sisko and Janeway have both made some questionable choices in the past). Yet it seemed that it took a while before I myself could say "Now this feels like the Star Trek I knew and loved". I felt a little bit of it in the pilot episode, and then when Burnham mutinied and tried to take control, it went out the window. It wasn't until "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" did I start to feel it again, and then it took me until the last two episodes where I could see the Trek moments of humanity bettering themselves really take shape. There may have been other examples of this in other episodes, but they were overshadowed by the desperation and darkness that dominated this season.

  • Who Are You Guys? - This is not so much as "bad", but it is something I really hope gets explored and developed moving forward. I get that in this new current format of story-telling on TV that the ability to develop characters becomes limited. In Discovery, the focus was on Burnham, Lorca, Saru, Stamets, Tyler, and Tilly. Other recurring characters, such as Sarek, Mudd, Cornwell, Huber, and Gerogiou, were given their moments. Then, there was the rest of the bridge crew. They showed a lot of diversity, (as well as a lot of looking at each other on the bridge) and yet we had very little knowledge of them. Airiam, Demeter, Owosekum, and Rhys all appeared in most of the episodes, and yet very little information about them was provided. I get that they had to tell a story and that these characters were largely in the background, but I wish that we could have learned a bit more about them. Hopefully, some if not all of these characters will be given some more attention in future seasons.

The Ugly

  • Unleash the Trolls - Without a doubt, the ugliest thing that DIS has brought out are the small yet vocal cadre of fans that have taken it upon themselves to sully the name "Trekkie". There are two groups in this. First, there are those that have decided that DIS is utter garbage, but instead of turning the channel or popping in a DVD and watching something they enjoy, they take it upon themselves to ensure that everybody knows about it, and that they insist that people who do enjoy it are not "true fans". Second, there are those that love the show, but as soon as someone expresses an opinion or thought that is a criticism of the show, they turn into ravenous foul-mouthed lunatics who will spam said offenders with venom and vitriol. I get  that Star Trek is a passion for many people, but come on guys, do we have to be so negative that we create a toxic environment for everyone? I have seen a lot of fan groups on social media that have been overtaken by this type of trollish behavior, and it really doesn't put Trekkies in a positive light. 

So now that Season 1 is in the bag, how do I feel about the series and season as a whole? Overall, I liked it. I think the good far outweighed the bad, and I think the first season has been strong. I will freely admit that I miss a more optimistic Star Trek, and the dark mood that DIS sets is not my favourite. I also accept that there are some fans who cannot get over the disappointment of their expectations not being met, and to them I would offer that they have a right to those feelings and a right to offer them up in a manner that is respectful without having disrespect thrown at them. I also accept that there are fans who love the show, that this is the best Trek for them yet. There are a lot of us that fall in between. I hope that in the future, the good gets better, the bad improves, and the ugly (which is what we fans have the most control over) goes away. The only complaint that I have at this point is that we have a long wait until Season 2. Until then, live long and prosper my friends.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Episode Review - The Siege of AR-558 (Deep Space Nine, Season 7)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – The Defiant is supplies to AR-558, a remote outpost on the front lines of the Dominion war which has a Dominion communication array. Sisko finds the garrison depleted in troops and morale. When the Jem’Hadar attack the colony, the Defiant is forced to retreat. Captain Sisko, Dax, Bashir, Nog, and Quark are left behind and join in the fight. As the terrors of war hit Sisko and his crew in full force, they must dig deep within themselves to find the strength and courage to overcome a superior force.

Score: 9/10 – No other episode of Star Trek has been able to accurately show the real horrors of war than this episode (and, for all its grit, I would put the first season of Discovery up as comparison and still make the same conclusion). We start out with a very light-hearted scene of Rom auditioning for a spot on Vic Fontaine’s show. As soon as we arrive at AR-558, we leave all joy behind. Sisko and those that stay behind with him soon discover the true horrors of war. We are taken along on a terrible and engaging trip through one of life’s worst experiences: the battlefield. The tone reminds me of the very serious and non-glamorous depictions of war, a “Saving Private Ryan” for Star Trek. We are introduced to some interesting Federation soldiers (tired leader Larkin, despondent Vargus, weary yet optimistic engineer Kellin, and embittered Reese), each of whom is dealing with the difficult conditions in different ways. These soldiers give us a quick and realistic introduction to the effects of war that quickly endears them to us. As all but Reese eventually perish in the battle, their deaths still strike strong chords with the audience. Then, of course, there is the fate of Ensign Nog. Tragedy hits our favorite Ferengi ensign loses his leg after a scouting mission. There is so much about this episode that works well here. Of particular note, Quark, of all people, shows some great growth as the voice of conscience and reason. He has one of the best lines of dialogue where he observes that humans are capable of savagery equal to that of the Klingons when their comforts are taken away. The action is as gritty as Star Trek had ever been at this point. The use of violence to demonstrate the devastation of war was practically perfectly executed but famed director Winrich Kolbe, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War. His experiences helped craft a story that left little to our imagination. I also love the music composed for the final battle. It was haunting and depressing, not the typical energetic and inspiring that often is used in some war movies. It perfectly complements the theme that war is not glorious. The acting is excellent, with special nods going to Avery Brooks, Armin Shimmerman, Aaron Eisenberg, and the guest stars. I also liked how that aside from Sisko, the main characters that are caught in this situation are the ones with the least battle experience. Worf and O’Brien are on the Defiant, while Odo and Kira are back on the station. A great way to examine the concept of war.

Relevance – 3 points. AR-558 in in the Chin’toka system, which was recently captured in the episode “Tear of the Prophets”. This episode shows us that this system is still hotly contested. I am also scoring a point for the ritual that is often seen of someone (in this case, as it often is, it is Captain Sisko) reading the posted casualty list. I like this touch that is woven throughout various episodes as it reminds us that the lives that are being lost mean something. Finally, with no surprise, the fact that Nog loses his leg is without doubt relevant to another popular episode, “It’s Only a Paper Moon”.

Continuity – 3 points. Story line, this works. I get how those that were left behind were chosen as such. I also will score a point for universe continuity. As far as character continuity, there are few things to mention. First off, some may question why seasoned fighters like Worf and O’Brien were not taken to the planet on the away mission. While storyline wise it makes sense to explore the effects of war through the lenses of those with the least battle experience, Sisko did not anticipate being left behind. It made sense to take those he did. How each one reacts to the battles makes sense. Ezri starts to form bonds with the soldiers, especially Kellin. Bashir using Vic’s music to help calm people fits. Nog as the eager soldier who learns the hard way also fits. In particular here we can look at Quark and Sisko. Sisko is trying to keep everything together and shows great ability as a wartime commander, while Quark shows loyalty to his nephew first and Tries his best to keep Nog safe, even to the point of taking a life. More on that in the next section.

Character Development – 3 points. Sisko is a primary focus in this episode, being forced to take command in a horrible situation. It is a great showcase of his leadership, and he has to make some tough situations. He shows a great balance of determination and compassion. A bit surprisingly, this is also a great showcase of Quark as a character. Armin Shimmerman loves Quark’s scenes in this episode as he gets to provide the Spock-like perspective of an outsider to humanity. In typical Quark fashion, he keeps himself as far from the fighting as possible, but when push comes to shove, he shows that he has some mettle of his own as he shoots down the Jem’Hadar soldier who attacks the infirmary where Nog is kept. Ezri and Julian also are given some insights, but really it is Quark and the captain that steal the scenes.

Social Commentary – 3 points. War is ugly. Too often in film and television the impact of war is glossed over in the names of maintaining patriotism and flag-waving. Here, we quickly realise that war is not glamorous. It is not fun. People die and are hurt, and that hurt is more than just physical. When this episode first aired, there was not a lot of attention given to PTSD, but since then this episode is just as relevant as we are seeing the lingering effects on the soldiers who see combat. When Nog loses his leg, we have more than just a lost limb. We have a loss of innocence and idealism that is tough to ignore. There is also an important message at the end, when Sisko again finds himself staring at the casualty list. He mentions that each name on the list, including the men and women he fought with on AR-558, were people with lives and loved ones, and for that reason they should not be forgotten. We must also remember those who died fighting for our freedom that we often take for granted. It’s not just soldiers, but police officers, fire fighters, and other first responders that often put themselves into horrible situations to help other people. It is important to recognize all of their sacrifices.

Cool Stuff – 3 points. While I do not want to negate the message about war that this episode makes, I do want to score a point for the battle at the end of the episode. It is riveting and well executed. In Star Trek we rarely get to see a battle between ground troops like this, and I would rank this as one of the top battles in all of Star Trek. I also am scoring a point for the music. As I mentioned earlier, the music during the final battle sets the proper tone this battle. It is grim yet beautiful. It walks a careful line between stirring emotion and providing a soundtrack for a bloody battle. Finally, I want to score a point for the “Houdinis”, a cloaked mine that the Dominion use against the Federation forces. It is an ingenious and deadly weapon. The scene where they are decloaked gives an eerie sense as to how precarious their situation was.

Rank – Admiral (24 points). Definitely not an episode that will leave you feeling all chipper and happy, but it is one that cannot be missed. I would find it hard to believe that there are many people who do not have this in their top 10 list. Not all episodes and stories need to have uplifting endings to be powerful, and this is a perfect example.

If you would like to read other reviews from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, please click the following link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Episode Review - Firstborn (Next Generation, Season 7)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – Worf is frustrated that his son, Alexander, shows little interest in becoming a warrior, to the point of jeopardizing his Rite of Ascension. As he struggles to accept his son’s choice, he decides to take Alexander to a Klingon outpost for the Kot’baval celebration, hoping that the culture and folklore can inspire them both. One evening at the festival, Worf and Alexander are ambushed by three would-be assassins. Father and son are rescued by K’mtar, who identifies himself as the gin’tak, or adviser, to the House of Mogh. K’mtar, who has a strong connection to young Alexander, offers help in influencing the youngster as well as track down the source of the assassination attempt. While the Enterprise and the crew try to locate the Duras sisters, believed to be responsible for hiring the would-be killers, Worf makes a startling discovery about K’mtar and what the future holds for himself and his son.

Score: 7/10 – This was a nice episode and a change from the typical Klingon-centered shows. While there is still the ceremony and ritual we grew to expect from Klingons, there is a deeper familial struggle between the expectations of parent and the dreams of the son. Worf is never going to be given the “Father of the Year” award, but he does show some growth in that department here. There is a lot that works well in this story. We get to see the Duras sisters one last time before their fate is sealed in the upcoming feature film. We get a further look into Klingon myth and culture, including some Klingon opera. We have a hunt for the suspected assassins that shows some of the ingenuity of the crew (mostly Riker), we have time travel, and we even have a great scene with DS9’s favourite bartender, Quark. There are some funny scenes (Worf getting hit with a water balloon, for example) and some real tender moments. James Sloyan plays yet another character in the franchise (he has already been a Bajoran and a Romulan and will go on to make an appearance in Voyager), and he gives us something special in K’mtar/future Alexander. The idea that Alexander travels back in time to try to change his younger self is a new take on the time travel trope, and it is a bit of a surprise. We see some real depth to Alexander in this, and it reflects upon Worf as well. While the pacing gets a bit slow at times, the general flow is consistent. As Worf and the crew search for Lursa and B’Etor, we are introduced to a couple colorful characters that move the story along well enough. Although they are entertaining, they are really just token alien smugglers with otherwise little significance. So while this episode is not earth-shattering or a game-changer, it is pleasant to watch and gives us some interesting concepts to ponder.

Relevance -2 points. A point scored for using the death of K’Ehleyr as a means for Worf to verify the claim that K’mtar is the future version of Alexander. The way it was described was perfect and gives us the perspective of Alexander on an important part of Worf’s story. Another point is scored for the reference of the Duras sisters being on Deep Space Nine (from the episode “Past Prologue”). It was the events in this DS9 episode that led Riker to contacting Quark for information.

Continuity - 3 points. Character continuity is intact. Worf again stumbles around parenthood, trying to make his son into something Alexander simply does not want to be. In typical Worf fashion, he learns to accept his son for who he is. He is fiercely defensive of Alexander. Story continuity does work here as well. Universe continuity is also good. Of particular note is the Klingon culture that is explored in a bit more detail than before, highlighting the reverence for Khaless in story and song.

Character Development – 2 points. This is definitely and unsurprisingly a Worf episode, with very little attention given to other characters. Riker does show some ingenuity in his investigation and location of the Duras sisters (his detonation of some magnesite ore to reveal a cloaked Bird of Prey vessel is particularly impressive), but that is about it for character development of everyone else. Worf, meanwhile, is given another story that highlights his difficulties in being a single parent. He learns that his son does not have to be a Klingon warrior to make him proud. He starts to see the true potential in Alexander and allows him choose his own path of honor.

Social Commentary – 3 points. Ah, the delicate balance between allowing your child to find their own way and to influence to take the path you think that they are best suited for. Worf, as mentioned, wants his son to go one way, and has to accept the fact that his son will likely try to seek glory in his own way. As a parent, I understand how difficult that can be. There is also the concept of regret of one’s perceived failings. K’mtar goes back in time to try to persuade his younger self to choose the warrior’s path, hoping to prevent the assassination of his father in Worf’s future. When that he fails, he attempts to kill his younger self, perhaps in an attempt to take away the pain of his failure by preventing he, the older Alexander, from reaching his current situation. As much as Worf must accept that his son can choose his own destiny, Alexander/K’mtar must accept that his choices do not necessarily mean that he has failed his father. As Worf pointed out, by warning him of his fate, K’mtar may have set events in motion to prevent his future death.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. A point has to be scored for the fun and entertaining scene between Riker and Quark. We were still in the early stages of getting to know Quark at this point, and it was fun watching the banter between the two.

Rank – Captain (18 points). The final season of TNG may not have been the strongest of the seasons, but this episode does have some great moments. While it lacks lots of action, it does give us some nice drama. This is the last episode for which actor Brian Bonsal plays Alexander (the character returns in DS9, but much more mature and played by another actor). Definitely an interesting story that should be seen.

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