Friday, November 17, 2017

Episode Review – The Quickening (Deep Space Nine, Season 4)

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

Overview – Bashir and Dax find themselves on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant where the inhabitants are suffering from a deadly plague engineered by the Dominion. Bashir accepts the challenge of curing the disease, which he soon learns is much more difficult than he originally anticipated. As he races against the odds, he learns more about his own limitations than anything else.

Score: 8/10 – Bashir finally gets knocked down a few pegs in this episode (directed by Rene Auberjonois). No matter what he does, the people on this planet are dying and Bashir cannot seem to save them. This episode starts off with a lot of humor as the main characters deal with Quark’s attempt to include merchandising and advertising for his bar (I dare you to not think of the jingle for Quark’s when reading this). It is one of my favourite funny scenes in all of Star Trek, and it gives us a good laugh that we will sorely need, as the story quickly falls down a dark hole with little hope and relief until the end. Bashir, who is used to being able to do whatever he sets his mind to, gets a strong dose of reality when he comes across a disease that he cannot cure. Indeed, even in the solution he finds it is only a vaccine for the next generation and does not do anything for those already infected by the disease. It is a powerful and tragic tale that leaves us on a bit of a bittersweet ending. Alexander Siddig shines in this episode. With the exception of Dax and Kira (to a far lesser extent), Bashir is the show. Everyone else on the cast is either in the humorous opening scene or the somberly reflective closing scene.

Relevance – 2 points. Tal Shiar chairman Koval will question Julian about this incident in the seventh season. That scores a point here. The opening scene follows up on Quark’s desire to produce merchandising, something he brings up with Sisko in the final episode of the second season “The Jem’Hadar”. That’s enough for a second point.

Continuity – 3 points. No problems with any part of continuity. The plague is a devilish insight to the resources and resolve of the Dominion. The characters respond exactly as we would think they would. While Bashir arrogantly swoops in, thinking that he will save this people from doom, he learns his own limitations. Dax, meanwhile, offers realistic support, blending compassion and hope with realism and logic. Story wise, all goes as it should and tells us a heart-breaking tale of failure and bittersweet hope for the future.

Character Development – 2 points. Bashir gets all the attention, and as I mentioned earlier, it humbles the brilliant doctor like nothing else has to this point. He discovers his own arrogance and hubris when he discovers that the Dominion beat him with their genetically engineered plague. When the hope dies with the people he is desperate to save, he stubbornly moves forward. At this point, hopes of being the knight in shining armor are gone, and he just cannot give up until he has tried all he can. Since so much focus is on him, there is really little room for anyone else to receive development, and so be it. While it does not score a full 3 point in this section, it is a fantastic insight into the character of Doctor Bashir that, for me at least, takes one of the largest and most necessary steps into making this character more real. In doing so, it pushes Bashir farther towards the beloved character he would ultimately become.

Social Commentary – 3 points. I suppose this is Bashir’s version of the Kobayashi Maru scenario. No matter what Bashir does, he is unable to cure the people. Instead, he must settle for vaccinating the unborn and thereby saving the society in the long run. As he faces his own limitations, we learn that how we face our own weaknesses is often more important than the outcomes. Sometimes we have to strip away our pride and accept whatever meager positives we can muster. It is not a pleasant experience, but it is one that we all must face. After the trial is over, we regroup and move forward, taking what we have learned, and grow from the failures.

Cool Stuff – 2 points. A point is scored for the fun opening sequence. As I said before, it is one of the funniest Trek moments and is very necessary for the much darker tone of the following acts. I also scored a point for the insidious disease that the Dominion released upon the poor Teplan people. Meant to mirror the AIDS epidemic, the disease more than adequately conveys the despair found in these difficult to control diseases.

Rank – Captain (20 points). Such a somber and telling story. Auberjonois did a fantastic job of directing this episode, and Siddig shines brighter than he ever has up to this point as Doctor Bashir. The sadness at the situation of the Teplan people is authentic, and this is definitely not a “feel-good” episode. The bittersweet ending is a sad reminder of our own limitations, and that the good guys don’t always get the win that we think they should. Definitely give this episode a viewing. Bring some tissues.

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, November 10, 2017

Episode Review - Carpenter Street (Enterprise, Season 3)

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

Overview – On Earth, Detroit, in the early 21st Century, a man is kidnapping and bringing people to an abandoned building under the orders of a mysterious unseen person. It turns out that a trio of Reptilian Xindi have traveled to the past to gather information from humans of different blood types to create a biological weapon. In the 22nd Century, Captain Archer is contacted by Daniels, who informs him of what the Xindi are up to. Archer and T’Pol travel back 150 years to find ans stop the Xindi team. As they race to stop the Xindi, they find themselves out of their element in our day.

Score: 9/10 – There have been many different Trek stories involving the characters going back to our time, and this was Enterprise’s turn. In the spirit of “Assignment: Earth”, “Future’s End”, and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”, the crew go back in time to save humanity. It made sense that Daniels insisted that Archer only be accompanied by T’Pol, and it helped T’Pol come to grips with the fact that her traditional Vulcan beliefs about time travel were inaccurate. There is the standard “fish-out-of-water” moments. I liked how T’Pol uses her tricorder to get money from an ATM machine, and Archer takes some time getting used to driving a vehicle. The action and pacing of the episode are great and the concept of creating a bio weapon based on human blood types is a different approach. Aside from the captain and first officer, we only see Tucker and hear Reed over the comm system. Everyone else is absent from this episode. While that is a shame, it does allow the story to be streamlined to fit as much present day Earth stuff into it. Leland Orser makes his fourth (and to date, final) appearance in Star Trek, and his character of Loomis is the right mix of loser and sleazebag. A great episode overall.  

Relevance – 2 points. Daniels is back, and this carries forward the temporal cold war story along, as well as T’Pol finally receiving evidence that time travel is possible. The Reptilians found in 2004 are used by Archer to convince Degra that something is not right with the Xindi’s plan.

Continuity - 3 points. Everything checks out here. With only three of our characters being shown, and just two of them go back in time, we only have those two to really look at. Archer and T’Pol are right on cue for how I would have expected them to act. They did very little to upset the timeline (except for maybe Loomis), so story continuity checks out. And everything is fine in the Star Trek universe, so that gets a point here as well.

Character Development – 2 points. With only T’Pol and Archer getting any real attention, and most of the rest of them not being seen, it does allow us to have some growth here. While these two seasoned officers are in unfamiliar territory in 21st Century Detroit, they are able to adapt much more quickly than others we have seen. As previously mentioned, T’Pol does get a chance to re-evaluate her views on time travel, which is big for her. Both of them are pushed to the limit, both in dealing with Loomis and the Xindi. This gives us a further glimpse into not only their psyche but in how the overarching crisis is affecting them.

Social Commentary – 2 points. The character of Loomis is very relatable, likely due to the episode being set in our own time. He is motivated by greed. He is willing to compromise his integrity to earn some good money. While he is not evil, per se, he is a bit of a jerk and clearly has no qualms about taking innocent people. His final fate is fitting as he gets carted off by the police. He represents a loser side of humanity. We all know someone like this, and sometimes we feel the temptation to be the same.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. A point for the idea of using human blood types as a basis for a bio weapon. I’m not sure if that has ever been done before (in fiction, of course). As good as this episode is, this is really the only cool thing to stand out.

Rank – Captain (19 points). This is a great episode for the third season. It is a rare episode of this season that can be enjoyed on its own without knowing much of what happened before. A good solid story that does a very good telling of the time-traveler “fish-out-of-water” scenario without getting too goofy or serious.

If you would like to check out my other episode reviews for Enterprise, simply click 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.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Top Ten Picard Speeches

Thirty years of TNG, and the debates about who the better captain was continue. Despite all of that, it is difficult to argue that while Kirk could drop kick with the best of them, Picard was most devastating with his words. There have been many great speeches that Jean-Luc delivered over the seven seasons and four feature films, and we all have our favourites. Some of them are motivational, some of them cut the soul deep, some are humorous, and some consist of him not saying much at all. One thing is certain, when Captain Jean-Luc Picard speaks, people listen. Here are my Top 10 Picard Speeches. Let me know if you think I over-looked any in the comment section.

10. Ensigns of Command – “Pursuant to Paragraph 1 290, I hereby formally request third party arbitration of our dispute… Furthermore, pursuant to Sub-section D-31 I name the Grizzelas to arbitrate…Unfortunately, they are currently in their hibernation cycle. However, they will awaken in six months, at which time we can get this matter settled. Now, do you want to wait? Or give me my three weeks?”

When the Enterprise is ordered to deal with the Sheliak, a particularily arrogant and troublesome species, Picard gets cut off in mid-sentence several times. As his frustration levels increase he is trying to get every possible advantage to help him save the lives of fifteen thousand colonists. Finally, he comes across an article in the treaty that the Sheliak have with the Federation. The Sheliak, ever bound by their rules and protocols, are bested at their own game by Picard, who wastes no energy in masking his satisfaction. In today’s terms, Picard owns the Sheliak in a big way. When he is the one that cuts them off mid-sentence, we all applaud.  

9. Yesterday’s Enterprise – Attention all hands. As you know, we could outrun the Klingon vessels. But we must protect the Enterprise C until she enters the temporal rift. And we must succeed! Let’s make sure that history never forgets…the name…Enterprise”

How would Picard handle a no-win scenario? Probably something like this. I have heard the end of this quoted often in pop culture, and for good reason. It is iconic, direct, and forceful. Who among us would not gladly follow Picard to our certain doom against insurmountable odds when he gives us this final order. It doesn’t matter that this is an alternate timeline, for no matter what universe you are in, Picard emotes strength when he speaks.

8. All Good Things – “I know you have your doubts about me…about each other…about the ship. All I can say is that although we have only been together for a short time, I know that you are the finest crew in the fleet and I would trust each of you with my life. So, I am asking you for a leap of faith…and to trust me”

In the series finale, Picard finds himself leaping through time between the perceived past, present, and future. In the past, he chooses not to reveal what he knows and has to appeal to them in taking the ship into danger. He motivates them with an appeal to faith, which further shows how great a leader Picard is. It is quite the speech given to a crew on their first (and potentially last) mission, and is fitting for the ending of a series that is one of the most enduring shows of all time.

Sorry, I couldn't find a video of this speech

7. Skin of Evil – “You say you are true evil? I will tell you what true evil is. It is to submit to you. It is when we surrender our freedom, our dignity, instead of defying you.”

Picard has just lost his trusted security chief, Tasha Yar, to the literal embodiment of evil. His away team and crew have been terrorized by the entity known as Armus. So, in order to defeat Armus and secure the safety of the remaining crew on the planet, Picard goes head-to-head with the living oil slick. In order to do so, he must enrage the creature. Not the safest course of action, but Picard is up to the task. As Armus brags about how bad he is, Picard calmly begins to taunt him. The beginning of the end is when he tells Armus what true evil really is, which is submitting to him. We each have our own moments when we face our own Armus, and Picard’s talk here is perfect for motivating us to make our stand as bravely as we can.

6. The Offspring – “There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders. You acknowledge their sentience, but ignore their personal liberties and freedom. Order a man to turn his child over to the state? Not while I’m his captain.”

Data has created an offspring. A Starfleet admiral wants the new android to come with him so Starfleet can oversee its training. Data rightfully objects and the admiral orders Data to comply. Picard has been strongly advocating for the rights of Data and Lal the entire episode, and when the admiral gives the order, Picard quietly instructs Data to stand his ground. Showing how awesome he can be, Picard calmly and measuredly states that good men cannot blindly follow orders that circumvent the rights of sentient beings. It is a great quote delivered calmly, where others (myself included), would have shouted. 

5. First Contact (movie) – “I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already. Too many retreats. They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again! The line must be drawn here…THIS far, NO further! And I will make the pay for what they’ve done.”

First Contact is arguably the strongest of the TNG movies. One of the many reasons for this is in a powerful scene with Lily Sloan. While she is trying to convince him to destroy the ship to stop the Borg, he loses his temper and smashes a display case with models of all the ships named Enterprise in it. He then delivers a dark and ominous soliloquy about how the Borg have advanced every time the Federation has compromised. He steadily builds how he will no longer fall back in his goal to destroy the Borg threat, once and for all. Picard delivers it with a strength that, even though we know he is wrong, we cannot help but feel inspired to go along. Thankfully Lily is not as easily swayed, and convinces Picard to change his mind, but you cannot deny the power in this speech. It became iconic in Trek lore, to the point where Quark gives the Ferengi version of it in the final season of DS9.

4. Ménage a Troi – “My love is a fever, longing still for that which longer nurseth the disease, in faith I do not love thee with mine eyes for the in thee a thousand errors see; but ‘tis my heart that loves what they despise, who in despite of view, are pleased to dote. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (and then much more fun).

I always have a soft spot in my heart for when the speeches are humorous in their delivery. In this fun episode, Lwaxana, Deanna, and Riker are captured by a Ferengi named Togg, who has fallen in love with Lwaxana. Riker and Deanna are returned to the Enterprise when the Ferengi ship is located after Lwaxana agrees to remain with Togg. She has a few tricks up her sleeve, still, and she plays it when Picard addresses her on the view screen. She insinuates that Picard is a former lover who is insanely jealous. At first, Picard stumbles along, unconvincingly stammering out his love for her. After a few moments, however, he seems to find just the hook he needs to pull off the con, and embraces his inner Shakespeare. He launches into a finely dramatic, aggressive, and thoroughly entertaining monologue about his love for the lovely Lwaxana, ending with a delectable bluff that rivals Kirk’s in “The Corbomite Maneuver”. His deadpan countdown, interjected with flourishing literary quotes, made me marvel at how the rest of the crew didn’t applaud when he was done. It worked, and Togg beamed Lwaxana back into Picard’s arms. 

3. The Drumhead – “With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured…the first thought forbidden…the first freedom denied – chains us all irrevocably” (Picard, quoting Judge Aaron Satie)

In a great episode called “The Drumhead”, Picard watches as Admiral Nora Satie goes on a bit of a witch hunt to find traitors on the Enterprise. She eventually trains her sights on Picard and calls him to testify on her tribunal. As she questions his loyalty, our good Captain gives an inspirational speech about the importance of protecting people’s freedoms of speech and thought that he had learned from the admiral’s father. His words are so simple and calmly delivered, yet they evoke a rage within the Admiral that exposes her insanity and true motivations, instantly destroying her credibility. What I love about this speech is that it shows how keeping your cool can be more powerful than trying to out shout your opponents.

2. Measure of a Man – “You see he’s met two of your three criteria for sentience; so what if he meets the third, consciousness, in even the smallest degree? What is he then? I don’t know, do you?

This scene from a great second season episode has Picard trying to defend Data’s rights as a sentient life form. Riker, who was forced to act as counsel to go against Data’s wishes, has just delivered a powerful argument that greatly put Data’s future in jeopardy. Picard must now deliver something even more powerful. He begins by dissecting the irrelevance in Riker’s excellent arguments, and then calls Bruce Maddox to the stand as a hostile witness. Picard then expertly breaking down the misconceptions that Maddox, and others like him, have towards Data and other forms of artificially intelligent life forms. By the time he is done, he delivers one of the most devastating courtroom summations in Star Trek history. In just a few short minutes, he lays out the foundation for what will become essential law making that will protect the rights of any like Data. This will go on to not only affect Data in the future, but it will also extend into Star Trek: Voyager with the EMH. It is powerful, moving, and timeless. 

1. The First Duty – The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth, or historical truth, or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based, and if you can’t find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don’t deserve to wear that uniform.”

A lot of these quotes seem to involve Picard giving someone else a real tongue lashing on an important topic. In this case, in what I believe is the best of the best, Picard target is none other than his protégé, Wesley Crusher. In the episode “The First Duty”, Wesley is involved in a shuttle accident that killed a member of his squadron. He, along with the other students, colluded to cover up the truth to avoid any negative consequences. When Picard learns the truth, he confronts Wesley. He begins with recounting how impressed he has been with the young man until this moment, then delivers a passionate speech on the importance of the first duty of every Starfleet officer being the truth. With a final ultimatum of come forward with the truth or he will, Picard dismisses Cadet Crusher with forceful vocal authority. This is one of the most defining moments in not Wesley’s but Picard’s development, and it is perfectly executed by Patrick Stewart. 

And, in case you didn't have enough Picard, here's one more video.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Episode Review - Threshold (Voyager, Season 2)

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

Overview – Tom Paris attempts to prove himself by breaking the Warp 10 barrier. Upon achieving this noteworthy accomplishment, he starts to undergo some drastic physiological changes. As Paris descends into a new being, Voyager is at risk of losing its valuable helmsman.

Score: 2/10 – OK, this episode can easily be looked at using “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” treatment. The Good: there are actually a few good scenes. When Paris explains to the captain why he wants to achieve this, he gives some real depth to the character. There was the moment when the Doctor is asked to wake up Paris, who is asleep in sickbay, and he leans over Tom’s ear and yells “Wake up Lieutenant!”. That was funny. The Bad: this story made little sense. I think they were trying to say something more than they did, but as the story unfolded, it became more and more confusing. When Tom starts to “evolve” into a giant salamander, things become a bit muddled. When he kidnaps Janeway, well, that just throws us into the Bizarro World at Warp 9.95. There is no explanation as to why Tom evolved into a large slimy salamander, which is more like a few steps down the evolutionary ladder. The Ugly: a salamander/lizard? Really? And Tom kidnaps Janeway to mate with her? Really, this is just goofy, plain and simple. The method of restoring Janeway and Paris to their human forms just seemed like a slapping together of ideas with some science terms thrown in just to end the episode.

Relevance – 1 point. OK, this episode does score a point here. Crewman Jonas, played by Raphael Sbarge, makes his second communication to the Kazon Rettick as he attempts to feed information to Seska. This continues his story of being a traitor. Beyond that, this episode really doesn’t connect anywhere else.

Continuity – 0 points. I am deducting a point for character continuity. Janeway comes to Tom to tell her that she is wanting to pull him from the mission because the Doctor says that there is a 2% chance that an enzyme imbalance will kill him. I get that the good captain wants to look out for her crew, but I just don’t see her doing this to Tom if it means they can get home sooner. Starfleet captains are responsible for their entire crew, but they also know they have to send individuals on dangerous missions. If the chance was 20%, or even 10%, I can see her doing this, but not for a measly 2%. I get that this scene was written to give Tom a chance to express his reasons for wanting to make this flight, which is a great scene, but if I were to rewrite the scene, I would have Janeway inform Paris of the Doctor’s findings without initially telling him her recommendation, have Paris assume she is pulling him from the mission, he goes into his speech, and then Janeway reveals that she was letting him go on the mission all along. Universe continuity is also losing a point here. The idea of an infinite velocity is cool, but having it be Warp 10 is a bit odd. In the final episode of TNG, “All Good Things…” the future version of the Enterprise would travel at a speed of Warp 13, and it was not traveling at infinite velocity. I get what the writers were trying to do, but it was a bit of a stretch. Story continuity also takes a hit. Paris evolved (or de-evolved) into his lizard form over a period of days. When he took Janeway into Warp 10, it seemed as if she emerged on the other side in the same lizard form. Apparently they also had time to reproduce and give birth to (or hatch) fully capable offspring. It just was not consistent with what the story had previously established. No points here.

Character Development – 1 point. This is a much needed episode for Tom Paris, who had seriously been delegated to a supporting character for much of the first couple seasons. While it was refreshing to have something happen to Tom, this may not have been the best way to do it. There really isn’t much else that seems to impact the rest of the crew.  

Social Commentary – 2 points. I can relate to Tom Paris wanting to prove that he is more than just a bitter disappointment to his father. His desire to be something after his failures in life does carry some resonance with the viewer. It is dampened and sometimes even lost in the mumbo jumbo of the rest of the episode, so I am only giving it a gracious two points.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. So the Paris-lizard transformation looked cool. I mean, Tom spat out his whole tongue. What he ultimately became was a disappointment, but his journey to that form was something cool about this episode. A pity point, perhaps.

Rank – Ensign (7 points). I get why this is a much despised episode by fans and critics alike. I will acknowledge that it is not 100% junk, however. Maybe 98%, but there a couple redeeming qualities. If you want to watch the worst of Trek, watch this episode. If you miss it, don’t sweat it. This is one you can skip by during a Voyager binge.

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.