Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Ensigns of Command

*** (3 stars out of 5)
O'Brien, a gal in blue, and an elf are in a string quartet with Data. (No, it's not the opening line to a joke, the elf is probably a Vulcan in off-duty clothes.) I just found it interesting that O'Brien plays the cello. I like O'Brien, O.K.? I return you to your regularly scheduled meanderings.

Data attempts to warn Picard and Crusher that his violin performance is about to fall short because he lacks "soul".

"Telling us why you're going to fail before you make the attempt is never wise." Bev points out.

The Selia Star system is home to the Sheliak Corporate. The Sheliak are squishy, antisocial Rules Nazis who are about to settle on Tau Cygna V, home to an unauthorized batch of humans, their homes and stuff and junk, and plenty of deadly hyperonic radiation.

Sheliak consider humans lower life-forms and will exterminate the trespassers if they aren't out in four days. 'You can't pay the rent? You MUST pay the rent!' (Sheliak twirls mustache... which it pulled off somebody's face.)

Colony ship Artemis apparently got turned around. In 92 years they managed to adapt themselves to the harsh conditions and brought water to the desert. The current population is over 15,000, and the evacuation will take more than 2 weeks.

Data meets his biggest fan, Ard'rian "Ardy" McKenzie. She's a quirky robot-loving nerd. Everyone else here is apparently willing to die as illegal squatters.

Ardy has some Tim Burton-Class robots, like hideous metal storks with gas-can bodies. Or are they sculptures? Apart from a human murder spree, why would you build such a creepy thing?

Possibly because of a year working with Pulaski, Data's self-confidence (if any) is at an all-time low.

Ardy helps Data give an emotional speech using reverse psychology. "And when you die... you will die for land and for honour."

Leader Gosheven will still not yield. "I don't think our chances are as hopeless as he says and I'm willing to stake your lives on it."

Rather than accept people talking behind his back, Gosheven BLASTS Data with a cattle prod.
Overreact much, you crazy, bullying bastard!?

Same goes for the Sheliak Regional Director of Non-Human Resources. Looking a little like the Cylon Imperious Leader, he's not particularly patient with Picard's "gibber".

Despite the fact that I probably would have given up and let Gosheven and his sheeple discover what the inside of a Sheliak digestive tract looks like, Data is not a quitter. He uses one of his own neuroprocessors to build a smarter phaser that works in hyperonic radiation, and annihilates kilometres of squatter aqueduct in seconds.

"This is just a thing. Things can be replaced. Lives cannot."

Picard & Troi find the right loophole buried in the treaty: third party arbitrators. He names the Grisellas, who won't emerge from hibernation for six months. The Sheliak agree to give the humans three weeks to evacuate, instead of a shellacking.

Poor Ardy learns from a kiss what Data never hid from her: he has no feelings for her. "I have no feelings... of any kind."

"The Ensigns of Command" asks the question that Yar failed to get around to while drunk: how fully functional is a guy without feelings? And would you want to find out?

I guess he'd be more fun to kiss than one of those robot storks. YIKES.


*** (3 stars out of 5)

Is it brilliant?
Maybe not, but Dr. Crusher's back and that makes up for a multitude of faults. Also, over the summer, Geordi and Worf got promotions, and everybody but the peons got snazzy new jackets.

Ken Jenkins as Dr. Paul Stubbs makes the episode, of course, as the science-minded astrophysics wunderkind now past his prime and serving as an example to Wesley of a life lived for the single aim of scientific achievement. Who has two thumbs and doesn't give a crap about a personal life? SCIENCE!

Guinan compares Wes to Dr. Frank N. Stein. Apparently a scientist of her acquaintance?

I like certain aspects of the story, I dislike others. For one thing, I'm keen on the whole idea of nanites. Microscopic robots with medical applications, these particular particles escape Wesley's petri dishes, eat the ship's computer core like it was peanut brittle, and rapidly rebuild themselves toward intelligence and self-determination. Also, they're kind of jerks. But, if you're dwarfed by a cell wall, I guess short man's disease is inevitable.

On the downside, this is a grey, grey world. Science, it would seem, is cold and sterile. Wes in a grey suit in a grey lab with grey nanites. Stubbs in a grey suit working alone for decades with his grey Egg. His only relaxation involves imagining some tediously dull game from America called baseball. It sounds ghastly.

"Evolution" is appropriate to a show finding its writing stronger than ever, its handsome cast in more flattering uniforms, and new ideas still in growth.

'Star Trek' only gets better from here... then a little worse. But then better, mostly.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shades of Grey

* (1 reluctantly repeating star out of 5)
With season finale music of great portent, Riker gets an ouchie on a survey mission of Surata IV.

O'Brien's transporter detects unknown microbes but the biofilter also reports its own inability to remove them. (As the Daystrom Institute corporate product slogan said on the 2364 Biofilters: Useless in Every Way, but very Considerate.)

O'Brien teases Pulaski, pretending he's muddled about the transporter coordinates.
"Just kidding Doctor. I know how much you love the transporter."
"About as much as I love comical Transporter Chiefs," she retorts.
And about as much as I'll miss you, you joy-sucking harpy.

So with the most cursory tricorder exam, Pulaski beams Riker up anyway! Not into quarantine! Just trundle him around wherever you please, unknown infection coming through, might wanna hold your breath, O'Brien!

It just seems ludicrous to me after all the rigamarole she went through with styrolite and shuttles in 'Unnatural Selection'. I guess there comes a point when you just stop giving a crap about possibly killing a thousand people with some boring old disease.

It's neither virus nor bacteria, it's fused to Will's nerves, and it's spreading toward his brain.

While dying, Riker is jovial with the doctors. "My great-grandfather once got bit by a rattlesnake. After three days of intense pain- snake died."

Not that Pulaski doesn't know her craft, but wouldn't amputation have solved this when it was limited to the leg? Why did she let it spread to the spine?

She breaks out an Iron Maiden and stabs Riker's brain with electricity to keep it active. It's effectively creepy, but strange: this seems like awfully primitive tech. Dr. Crusher once told us that the 'brain has been mapped'. Pulaski must not have that map.

Riker's memories and dreams of events from the past two years (some of which he was not present for) are brought to vivid, tedious life as a horrible, half-assed, virtually unwatchable clip show. Which I fast-forwarded through because despite the evidence of this blog project I am not a glutton for punishment.

Kissing scenes don't drive the bugs out, but fight scenes do. Stupid problem, stupid solved!

And we never saw Dr. Pulaski again, Admiral. No, I'm pretty sure the airlocks were malfunctioning...

"Shades of Grey" is embarrassing. What most boggles my mind is when I look at TV shows made in the United Kingdom and they make 6 to 13 episodes per year. Why insist on 22 episodes during a writer's strike, America? If you know it's gonna be sub-par, why not, god-forbid: 21? Dragging down the quality of Season 2 and the series for all time, this has been 'Shades of Grey'. Avoid it like the plasma plague.

Peak Performance

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Wargames in the Braslota system, overseen by snooty Zakdorn strategist Sima Kolrami. The Zakdorn have a reputation for the last 9 millennium as the greatest strategists in the galaxy. Also, they have cheek pouches to store up their disdain for winter.

Riker will captain the 80 year old antique starship Hathaway. It will battle the Enterprise with harmless laser lights. Combat skills are not a high priority is this era, but with the Borg threat looming Picard agreed: they need practice.

Pulaski (hypocritically?) thinks Kolrami needs an attitude adjustment, and forces Data to take him on in the game Strategema. It's like Battleship, but with a milking machine instead of Nintendo Power Gloves. Kolrami wiped the floor with Riker in seconds.

Riker calls Worf away from assembling a tiny model ship with his powerful fists. They will be the underdogs, outflanked and outgunned- so what will they have left? "Guile," intones Worf. Will also recruits Wes, Geordi and a bevy of young ladies. Presumably for their skills and stuff.

"What's the Zakdornian word for mismatch?" Riker snarls.
"Challenge. We do not whine about the inequities of life," chirps Kolrami.

Wes improvises some antimatter for the Hathaway warp drive by pretending to 'dispose' of a school project in plasma physics under the impatient semi-watchfulness of security guard Glenn Morshower.

"It's gonna be fun," Riker grins. Kolrami finds Riker's joviality inappropriate. Picard believes it is a style which encourages loyalty.

Data's loss at Strategema and Pulaski's inability to shrug it off undermines Data's confidence catastrophically. He has never seen himself as fallible and feels he might give the Captain unsound advice. Troi and Pulaski can't persuade him back to his post.

But Picard has the right stuff. "It is possible to commit no mistakes, and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life."

Worf lies to the Enterprise sensors- has them distracted by a holographic Romulan warbird as the Hathway strikes from behind.

Unfortunately, Ferengi notice the battle and swoop in looking for an attack opportunity. Daimon Bractor of the Kreechta is convinced Hathaway must have value. He plans to shake it until gold falls out.

Data concocts a scheme: Enterprise will fake-torpedo Hathaway in the midst of a warp jump. It will look convincing, because the torpedoes will be real.

"I think I hate this plan." moans Geordi. But of course it works.

And in the Strategema rematch, Data plays not to win, but to standoff, until Kolrami storms off in a huff. Or a minute and a huff, whichever comes first.

"Peak Performance" overflows with action and fun, camaraderie and zeal. Why they didn't save this one for the season finale is beyond me. Up next: the worst thing TNG ever made.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Emissary

**** (4 stars out of 5)
I like this episode a lot, and it's not just Diedrich 'Batman' Bader at Tactical and Anne 'Lisa
Stemple' Ramsey at the Helm.

It is, of course, Suzie 'Dr. Selar' Plakson, back in prosthetic forehead as a love interest for Mr. Worf: Federation Special Emissary K'Ehleyr. It's spelt just like it sounds: a mess.

K'Ehleyr is fired out of a starbase in a coffin-size class 8 probe. For time constraints, you understand. And also to show us that she's bad ass!

Klingon ship T'Ong, launched 75 years ago with crew in cryosleep, is about to reach the Federation colonies in the Boratis system. In 2290 the Klingons were still on war footing with humans, you see. Pillage, pillage, pillage. Loot, loot, loot.

Klingon and human DNA is compatible "with a fair amount of help, rather like my parents" K'Ehleyr quips.

Troi is also mixed race, yet perhaps Troi had the best of both worlds, while K'Ehleyr thinks she may have gotten the worst. Her human mother's sense of humour and her father's rage can both get her into trouble. Still, it's not all bad. The outfits are cute and the head is great for cracking walnuts.

Six years ago, K and W had a thing, but it didn't work out.
"You don't have to act like a Klingon glacier. I don't bite. Well, that's not true. I DO bite."

K'Ehleyr thinks diplomacy with Klingons is hopeless. (Strange career choice to have made, then, wouldn't you say, hmm?) And her meeting with 'The Iceman' Worf frustrates her enough to smash a table. Troi suggests a little exercise, so K'ehleyr uses Worf's holodeck Calisthenics Program.

In this 'enriched' future, there must not be a holodeck privacy setting. That or Worf knows no one would dare use it without asking, or indeed, at all.

Picard orders Worf to relax, too. "I AM RELAXED.!"

The duo find themselves on a quasi-date: chopping up Ninja Turtles together. Then they make with the growly, achey-breaky, bleedy foreplay.

Over the commercial break, they fulfill their urges. K'Ehleyr thought it was only a romp, but Worf starts to take the marriage oath.

"We are mated," he explains.
"Yes, I know. I was there."

She wants to know that he cares human-style, while he wants to fulfill the demands of Klingon honour.

T'Ong goes on the attack. La Forge can tune the sensors to see through the antique cloaking device. But avoiding violence is the goal, so a little ruse is played out:

"Captain" Worf and "First Officer" K'Ehleyr don outfits for public consumption Klingon Kosplay and convince Captain K'Temoc to stand down and get the facts of the new age.

"As you are new to this century, I have tried to be patient." Worf orders the cryo-warrior to drop his shields.

"And if I refuse?" K'Temoc cowboy drawls.

"Then die in ignorance. I can waste no more time on you."

"The Emissary" is a great drama, fair comedy, and wonderful romance. K'Ehleyr is a strong female character, and as far as I was concerned, decidedly crush-worthy. Phil Farrand, author of 'The Nitpickers Guide For Next Generation Trekkers' theorized that Selar & K'Ehleyr are cousins. Identical cousins. One a little bit Vulcan, one a little bit rock-and-roll.

Friday, January 27, 2012


*** (3 stars out of 5)
The Antedeans are Federation member hopefuls that few humans have seen. Their fish-like ambassadors self-induce a catatonic state because space travel scares them rigid.

No offence, but how did Antede III develop warp travel? That's a requirement for membership, isn't it?

'Can we join your club? Where do you hold your meetings? SPACE!?! Oh, no, it's too dark out there! Zzzzzzz....'

Anyway, everybody's welcome, so Betazed sends its new Ambassador: Lwaxana Troi.

Mrs. Troi still employs Mr. Homn as her valet "despite the outlandishly lustful thoughts he spews in my direction."

She makes Riker carry her luggage. "She knows what's on your mind and she lets you know what's
on hers."

Lwaxana is "in the phase". Not fading in and out like the Traveller, but horny as all the hells. The Betazoid woman in midlife quadruples her sex drive (or more). And it doesn't even require Cat DNA. She tricks Jean-Luc into a romantic dinner. The Captain manages an escape call to Data: "His anecdotes are the stuff of legend aboard this ship."

Mrs. Troi seems to not agree while Data rattles on about brown dwarf stars. "Deanna, darling, thank the Four Deities you're here."

Lwaxana is an advanced telepath, but her senses are clouded by her Husband Hunt with Picard as the quarry. He flees to 1941 to avoid her, in his Dixon Hill holoprogram.

Picard can't find the right goon to relax to the threats of. Neither Slade Bender, quick with a tommy gun, nor the pop-eyed Irishman who'd fit in on the throne of the Klingons, is to his taste today. He invites his holo-secretary Madeline to Rex's Bar instead. Rex testified against Jimmy Cuzzo and wants Dix to protect him. And if Madeline is on a husband hunt, 'Dix' isn't complaining.

Lwaxana announces to the bridge crew that she will marry Riker on Pacifica instead.

Suddenly 1941 looks like fun to 'Nails' from Chicago. 'Carlos' joins him. Ambassador Troi tracks them down and Rex the holographic bartender starts hitting on her the instant he hears she has 'big bucks'. She is aroused when she cannot read Rex's thoughts.

At the literal last minute, Ambassador Troi casually reveals the Antedeans are assassins, who've lined their robes with the nearly undetectable explosive ultritium. Nice try, Mick Fleetwood!

"Manhunt" is cute. Nothing to write Betazed about, but fun anyway. Majel Barrett can almost certainly do no wrong.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

STAR TREK V: The Final Frontier

*** (3 stars out of 5)
In a barren desert where nothing wholesome survives...

A rotten-toothed hole-billy is accosted by Vulcan Jesus.

Meanwhile, McCoy angrily watches Kirk free-climb a mountain. "I'm a nervous wreck. If I'm not careful, I'll end up talking to myself."

I thought Spock's gravity boots and last-second save of Kirk was cool. Sadly, on my big TV the effect looks pretty chintzy now.

It had to happen. Three boobs. On a felinod exotic dancer. Cat-stripper, for the layman.

Back in the 2270's, some hippie set up Nimbus III on the border between Klingon, Federation, and Romulan space and conned a bunch of settlers into moving there. Twenty years on, it's still a shite-bucket, and Sybok's Groovy Jonestown Super Buddies storm the capital Paradise City and take the consuls hostage.

"I think this new ship was put together by monkeys," says Mr. Scott, proving that I'll give more stars to a Trek that makes me laugh now and then.

Uhura puts the moves on Scotty, and brings him potato chip bags for dinner.

The Bones family recipe for whiskey and beans on a camping trip brings up a lot of... feelings.
"I've always known... I'll die alone," says Kirk soberly.
"Well, I'll call Valhalla and have them reserve a room for you," quips Bones.

Leave it to Spock to lighten the mood. "I believe we are required to engage in a ritual known as the sing-a-long." Which also starts a fight.

"Oh, I'm sorry Doctor. Were we having a good time?"

That Earth probe with the nudie pics on the side meets its last critic as Klingon rebel youth under Captain Klaa gun it down. They rush to Nimbus in the hopes of shootin' somethin' that fights back. Klaa seems to have bested Gannon and seized the Triforce as a necklace.

"If you ask me, and you haven't, I think this is a terrible idea." I love Bones.

Sybok leads 'The Galactic Army of Light' on a quest for Eden. Spock speaks of a revolutionary Vulcan scholar who sought emotional knowledge and was banished for seeking disciples.

Chekov plays Captain and bluffs Sybok. Meanwhile, sneaking in the back, here comes Kirk's strike team of crack commandos... I mean Uhura going commando while on crack.

A phaser and fist fight with the cast of Ishtar culminates in Kirk apparently killing the stripper. Drowned on a literal pool table! Sorry, Miss Kitty.

Spock gets the drop on Sybok but defies Kirk's order to shoot the fanatic. From the brig, Spock admits the revolutionary is his older half-brother.

With the greatest of ease, Sybok telepathically recruits Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and others. By 'sharing and releasing their pain' they become loyal to his cause. 'The greatest adventure of all time... the discovery of Sha Ka Ree.' Fabled source of life beyond the Great Barrier in the Center of the Galaxy. (Granted, Mr. Sean Connery is a force to be reckoned with. But the source of all life? Debatable.)

Scotty evades the religious kooks, concocts a plan, makes a jailbreak, and knocks himself out on a low hanging beam. FOR COMEDY!

I do so want me a pair of Mr. Spock's Anti-Gravity Rocket Boots. I would break both ankles within seconds, but I wouldn't care.

Sybok wants to end all fear and pain. (He could start with the drab sweaters. I thought we learned our lesson in Star Trek TMP?)

Kirk refuses to go to rehab. "I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain!"

In fact, Sybok's mesmerism didn't work on Spock, and McCoy shrugs it off from... peer pressure?

Sybok is following the vision given him by God. "He waits for us on the other side."

The other side of a so-so gassy special effect. And apparently the sound and fury of The Great Barrier also cut Sybok's hair.

Heaven looks like Nevada, which I guess is fine for a Vulcan. Not my idea of Paradise, to be sure.
While everybody smiles beatifically at the view screen, the Klingons sneak up behind them.

The sky goes dark and the stone ribs of God's Creepy Steakhouse rise up with much menace. Superman's father Charlton Heston shows a couple of faces before settling on curly bearded sky father Qual Se Tu.

"What does God need with a starship?" asks Kirk.

"You don't ask the almighty for his I.D." suggests Bones.

God shoots lightning from his eyes at the blasphemers.

"I doubt any God who inflicts pain for his own pleasure." Bones decides.

"An eternity I've been imprisoned in this place." snarls God, before being gunned down by Spock in the Klingon ship.

Much of this film depends on Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok, and he's doing a fine job with the nonsense he's been given. Last seen strangling his God to save his half-brother: gotta give him props for that, right?

David Warner as skuzzy, smoking Federation Consul Talbot. I have and will always love him in everything ever. He'd shine in Dungeons and Dragons II and TRON 3. I mean it. TRON 3. Bring it.

Jerry Goldsmith's music is very good, too.

But the final word on STAR TREK V: The Final Frontier? I'll give you two: God. Awful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Up The Long Ladder

*** (3 stars out of 5)
Worf passes out at his station from the Klingon measles. To spare him humiliation, Pulaski tells Picard that Worf passed out from a ritual fast. Worf thanks Pulaski for her lies with a Klingon poison tea ceremony."Death is an experience best shared: like the tea."

Then he quotes poetry to her. One can only imagine:

'There once was a Klingon from Gault,
Who never admitted a fault.
For curing my measles
Here's a bag full of weasels
And also a chocolate malt.'

Admiral Moore called Picard in to discuss the sound effects from the video game 'Asteroids'. Which were for some reason used as distress beacon by the European Hegemony in the 22nd Century.

'You are too proud to call your greasy Yankee potatoes French fries? Then we are too proud to use the mouldy old S.O.S.! Hoh hoh honh!'

S.S. Mariposa launched in the 'chaos' of the 22nd Century. They carried an insane mix of cargo and followed the Neo-Trancendentalist philosophy of a return to nature. Including the 'gentle tutelage' of nature's deadly, deadly radiation. So today Enterprise evacuates 223 Bringloidi colonists with all their flocks, cocks, and stinky socks.

With a smile and a wink, here comes wee Danilo Odell from Stock Comedy Mick central casting! Oh, what a clever new idea- a drunk Irishman!

Odell's fiery daughter Brenna catches Riker's eye. And penis.

The severe wool shortage on Bringloid left Brenna with a tiny, tiny, sweater poor woman.

Enterprise douses the refugee cooking fires with forcefields, and automatically cleans up the hay and faeces, too. But apparently it doesn't wash Miss Odell, leaving that task... to Riker.

The First Officer grins. 'I feel it's my responsibility to show you all the amenities.' With my penis.

The Tech-heads settled one system over on planet Mariposa, but only 5 of them survived the landing. Ever since, they've been a population of clones. Prime Minister Granger needs help: 300 years of cloning causes replicative fading. 15 generations is about the most you can get out of it, apparently. This long-stifled society now finds sexual reproduction repugnant. So they bat their eyes and wet their lips: hey, Starfleet, got any spare DNA for me?

Picard and Riker believe no one in the crew does. Therefore, the buggers steal some.

Geordi can see a lie in humans. Useful at a poker game, useful with lying clones. The clones lied about Riker and Pulaski's whereabouts because they were helping themselves to some delicious stomach cells. Riker destroys the incubating clones. He can't hear Granger calling him a murderer because his phaser is too loud.

Picard conducts a shotgun wedding of cultures: the carnal Bringloidi and the flaccid- uh, placid Mariposans.

Pulaski virtually insists on non-monogamy... for a broader genetic base, natch! Apart from the wagging tongues and higher video sales, what is the point of polygamy here? They would be open to immigration, right? Big, empty developed world for that expanding Federation of yours? Let the poor virgins make that choice for themselves, Pulaski. Just because you had three husbands doesn't make it right for everybody.

"Up The Long Ladder" is just what Picard said: bowing to the absurd. It's silly, but who cares?

Samaritan Snare

** (2 stars out of 5)
Finally! An episode that dares to ask: what if we were attacked by Special Needs Klingons?

Take a slow shuttle to scenic Starbase 515. Wes has exams to take! Picard's heart surgery proves he has one! Pulaski blackmailed Picard into getting the old ticker a badly needed tune-up.

Wes needs those exams badly, too: he calls their shuttle 'Shuttle #2', but it has '01' on the side.

While the Captain's away, Enterprise meets a shipload of overweight, balding stumblebums who can almost string sentences together.

"Do you need help?" Riker asks of the truculent aliens.
"We are Pakleds," the man answers. This turns out to be a 'yes'.

"We look for things" is their motto. "Things to make us go." And there's a good chance they mean diuretics.

Worf doesn't trust the Pakleds borrowing their Chief Engineer, and as usual, Worf is right. Riker ignores him. La Forge beams over. Too late, Troi rushes in and says the Pakleds are up to no good. Riker ignores her. The head goomba decides they need Geordi to make their ship full of stolen parts go. He snatches Geordi's phaser and shoots him repeatedly.

I'm starting to see why Picard was reluctant to take a day off.

After all the awkwardness, Wes and Picard end up having a real conversation. "Where women are concerned, I am in complete control," Wes declares.

"Really? I always had to work at that." Picard relates a tale of his cocky youth before the Klingons joined the Federation. Back when a head of cabbage cost a nickel. He was on leave at Starbase Earhart and picked a fight with three Nausicaans. When he was stabbed through the heart he seems to have learned a little something about discipline.

He encourages Wes to read more. "Open your mind to the past: art, history, philosophy- and all this may mean something."

I'm sure he's right, except possibly for the Pakleds. Laughing behind their stolen Romulan shields, they will kill La Forge if Riker doesn't hand over more weapons. Instead, Riker & Geordi trick them into believing a harmless hydrogen light show is a Crimson Forcefield. Remembering that Pakleds are very stupid, can this really be called a victory?

And I'm not sure the medicine makes much sense either. It looks cool, though.
"We'll need sharper focus on the thoracic polychromatics." Doctor, are you actually giving an order to 'shine the multi-coloured chest light'? With a straight face?

Well, light shows for everyone and the day is saved. And we draw closer every post to episodes that are blessedly Pulaski-free.

Exactly how did Pakleds outsmart Romulans and live? Romulans are hardly good samaritans.

I thought "Samaritan Snare" was better. I was not smart. I need to go.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Q Who

***** (5 stars out of 5)
Ensign Sonya Gomez is excited to be on the Enterprise. She is courteous to food dispensers, and when spilling hot chocolate on the Captain. I like this actress and I'm sure it isn't just because her credits include "Triple-Breasted Whore of Mars".

Q encountered Guinan two centuries ago by another name, calls her a troublesome imp. Guinan gets 'the shining' where Q is concerned. But if she were a Highlander immortal she'd have a sword, and if she were a Time Lord she'd have a TARDIS. Just one of life's mysteries. (Probably not a leprechaun.)

Q has been kicked out of the Continuum, and wants to join the crew. Picard is dubious. They really don't need an insane all-powerful janitor. They're not 'Scrubs'.

"You may not trust me, but you need me. You're not prepared for what awaits you... Terrors to freeze your soul."

Q wants to prove it, so he snaps his fingers. Hurls them 7,000 light years into the unknown. Guinan's people have been here before, and her advice is simple.

"If I were you, I'd start back now."

System J-25 is just empty roads and pock marks where cities should be. And a starship shaped like a cube. Guinan's people met them a century ago: they are called the Borg. They swarmed across her civilization and left nearly nothing behind.

Robot Zombie #1 is downed by Worf. Troi senses no single leader, a group consciousness. The Borg cut a chunk out of the saucer section: a sample that incidentally has 18 people inside.

Guinan knows the Borg have been a threat for thousands of centuries, a fusion of organic life and technology. Focused locusts.

The Borg don't especially care if an away team noses around their ship. Riker encounters infants fitted with implants. It's the logical progression of 'Toddlers In Tiaras', and just as unsettling.

The cube heals itself, adapts to torpedo fire, and gives chase.

"If we all die here... you won't be able to gloat." Picard admits he needs Q to save them.

Buttered up, the entity snaps them home again with a parting taunt. "It's not safe out here. It's wondrous-- with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross... But it's not for the timid."

"Q Who" brings us ghoulish new villains to fuel the nightmares, and as Picard puts it: 'a kick in our complacency'.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pen Pals

*** (3 stars out of 5)

It's the first Federation exploration of the Selcundi Drema Sector (or Quadrant, if you prefer, which I DON'T. I prefer a quadrant to be one fourth of something. Like the galaxy. Or, even better, a pie.)

Picard's not much for small animals, but he loves to ride a horse.

Troi's people are not famously great riders, as they 'get too caught up in the shifting passions of the beast'.

"I would have thought the shifting passions of this beast would be far more terrifying." says Picard (of people).

Terrifying is the word of the day: the planets around here are falling to pieces. Riker puts Wes in charge of this investigation, and orders him to lead his first team. Possibly to pad out the story.

Ensign Davies enjoys disintegrating rocks and second guessing Wes. Rather than do five hours of work during a two month survey, Davies deftly weasels out of it. You think he'd do it out of boredom alone. But with a confidence boost from Riker, Wes makes it an order and Davies complies. Thrills galore in interpersonal dynamics! Whee!

Data happens across a little space girl with the equivalent of a ham radio set and breaks the Prime Directive to reassure her while her planet falls to ruin. Data petitions Picard to help save Drema IV. Little Sarjenka is sad and asks for help. So, against the rules, they do.

Dilithium is doing hinkey things to rocks, and a spate of technobabble is the answer!

"Right, sir. I'll just be standing over here dozing off," says O'Brien, expressing his opinion on Data's unlawful beam-down to warn Sarjenka. Data beams the glittery orange glam rock kid back, too, for a wildly unauthorized field trip.

Trying to minimize the cultural contamination, Picard has Pulaski erase Sarjenka's memory of these events. Which Data also subverts by giving her an inexplicable Elanian singer stone.
(I hope it's worth it if her people burn her as a witch.)

"Remembrance and regrets. They, too, are a part of friendship," muses Picard.

"Pen Pals" puts a lot of emphasis on how the Prime Directive ties these people's hands for simply wanting to be decent. Also, no offence, but saving this world could've been done without anyone seeing them at all. How is it breaking the directive if they never know you were there?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Icarus Factor

*** (3 stars out of 5)

They named a Starbase for Scotty. At least, that's what I take away from 'Starbase Montgomery' and its engineering specialists.

Riker's up for promotion: Captain of the Aries on a secret mission in uncharted space.
And he faces an unwelcome surprise: after 15 years apart, his father returns.

"You choose your enemies, and you choose your friends, but family? That's in the stars," muses O'Brien.

Riker looks as though he wishes his family was literally ejected into a star. Particularly when Riker Sr gets chummy with Pulaski.

Am I overflowing with Not Surprised to learn that Pulaski has been divorced three times?

Wes notices Worf is surlier than usual, and badgers Geordi and Data into helping him figure out why. When the android is rebuffed by Worf's shout of "BEGONE!" Data admits- "He seems quite sincere in his desire for solitude."

Kyle Riker comes across as a glory hog and a glad-hander. Troi reads false humility in him, and competitiveness, along with the ick factor when he hits on her. It seems Kyle abandoned Will when he was 15.

12 years ago, Pulaski healed Kyle when he was badly injured in a Tholian attack. And whatever love they shared is best imagined only with a ready supply of brain bleach.

Wes discovers Worf's beef (not like that). Today is the 10th anniversary of Worf's Rite of Ascension. His squeamish human friends devise the appropriate holodeck program: a gauntlet of painstik-weilding warriors to stab Worfy while he screams his feelings out. It's always fun to see John Tesh as the Stabbiest Little Klingon!

Will and Kyle suit up in the anbo-jytsu ring to blindly hit each other with sticks. Will discovers why he never won: his dad cheats. Also he tells Will he loves him. Aw.

Will turns the promotion down, perhaps sabotaging his own career for happiness. Perfectly valid choice, coincidentally less work for the casting director, uh, Starfleet personnel department.

So everyone who gets hit with sticks goes home happy.

"The Icarus Factor" really pulls out the space opera, but it's still a moving story. Humans with relatable faults are in short supply in this utopia. So although I dislike Kyle Riker and Kate Pulaski intensely, the adage is still true: nobody's perfect.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Time Squared

** (2 stars out of 5)

The theme of today's story is 'you can't make an omelet without stinking up the joint'.

Riker tells his friends how he learned to cook: his mother died and his father hated cooking. Great story. His scrambled eggs are a hit- with Worf only.

But the looks on Geordi and Pulaski's faces fall further south when they stumble across Enterprise Shuttlepod #5- and it hasn't launched yet. Also, it has an extra Picard aboard. Nobody remembers ordering one...

The Shuttle and the Picard are incompatible with the power systems and medicines of this Enterprise. The mystery shuttle logs show Enterprise blown to smithereens by a space vortex.
Can this be their destiny? And in a mere three hours?

Picard is upset that his doppelgänger would abandon his ship and crew for any reason. "Except for his features there is nothing about him that I find familiar."

Troi and Pulaski argue over whether the original Picard will crack up, or boil over. (See, I did the egg thing again, there.)

A hole in space appears (much more dynamic than Nagilum's hole for whatever that's worth). At least it's a pretty special effect to die inside. Like a tornado full of lightning! Troi thinks it might be alive? The Picards are both hit by lightning.

Now the 'Future' Picard is confused but making for the shuttle. FP believes he can sacrifice himself to the entity and save his ship. Past Picard believes there is another choice. PP therefore shoots FP dead!!! Whoa! What the H? Are stored phasers set on KILL? Why would Picard shoot to kill? It's out of character and so unnecessary that I choose to believe the impostor just reacted badly to a stun beam like he did to the stimulant.

In an absolutely GORGEOUS effects sequence that doesn't change the fact that nothing makes any sense, Picard takes the Enterprise into and through the tornado-being. O'Brien helpfully stood over Corpse Picard long enough to see him and his asynchronous conveyance vanish into the ether. Other than to serve the plot, why was O'Brien standing there? Seriously, once Pulaski leaves shaking her head, just steal the dead Captain's boots and run, man!
"A lot of questions, Number One. Damned few answers." Ain't that the truth.

Another dimension? Time travel? An illusion? It's just going down in the log as one big 'Huh?'.

"Time Squared" was meant to lead into a story that blamed the whole mess on a prank by Q. Take away that, and it's just a bizarre non-event. "Stardate: Tuesday. Received video of own death. Cause unknown. Motive unknown. Somehow we avoided it. Shrug. Set course for some other damn thing."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Royale

*** (3 stars out of 5)
A Klingon ship reported spotting some debris with Earth markings at the freezing ammonia tornado world of Theta VIII. Turns out it was NASA, and down on the surface is a casino called the Hotel Royale. But they had our heroes at "ammonia tornado".

Once Riker, Data, and Worf check in, they can't check out.

The Assistant Manager is Mr. Gorpley himself, Sam Anderson. He's trying to stop the bellhop going up against a mobster over a dame. The bellhop is, of course, killed. "Anybody with any sense is afraid of Mickey D."

A corpulent oil baron hits on a dopey showgirl. Data joins their blackjack game.
"What sort of bi'ness do you suppose he is getting down to?" Their plot line is, thankfully, not resolved.

Phasers don't work on any surface, the gamblers mostly ignore them, and the skeleton of astronaut Col. Stephen Richey is found in bed, 283 years deceased. (This skeleton is the last 'character' one might expect someone to obsess over and/or take on the filk-singing persona of its widow. Yet this happened. Trekkies sometimes frighten me.)

'Hotel Royale' is a terrible novel set in 1990's Las Vegas by Todd Matthews that aliens turned into a home for Richey, perhaps by way of apology for accidentally killing everybody else on the shuttle Charybdis. We never find out.

The novel was apparently so bad that the last 38 years of Richey's life were hellish. His only diary entry ends with: "I shall welcome death when it comes."

Exploiting the narrative, the trio become 'foreign investors' who buy the hotel for 12.5 million dollars. Data "repairs" the "improperly balanced" dice and throw after throw delivers the cash, finally allowing them (and us) to leave.

"The Royale" is cheesy. Writer Tracey Torme took his name off it over extensive re-writes. Charming cast and absurdity sometimes wins out over a mess, though. At least in my book. (Which is a terrible pulpy paperback, by the by.)


*** (3 stars out of 5)
Captain Donald Varley of the Yamato believed he had located Iconia. He was heading out for Iscandar when... oh, different Yamato. This one is not a cartoon and it explodes quite unexpectedly in the Romulan Neutral Zone.

Was the writer of this Howard the Duck's Steve Gerber? It surely was. Nice.

Geordi and Data confirm the Yamato died while making a dump. Don't make a dump with antimatter is the lesson here.

Varley wanted Picard to continue his quest. "Should this advanced technology fall into the hands of the Romulans we may as well dock our ships and defend ourselves with sticks."

Ancient texts called the Iconians 'demons of air and darkness' who could travel from world to world without starships. Woe betide the foes of Iconia, whose mighty hand doth stretch forth unto the very heavens... ancient texts do have a tendency to babylon and on...

The Enterprise starts to seriously malfunction. Replicator gives Picard a flower instead of his tea. La Forge rushes for the bridge, but the turbolift dashes around like mad, hurling him violently about. (Incidentally, his uniform doesn't just wick away sweat, it vanishes completely. Probably not an Arrakis stillsuit, but a good feature on a long jog.)

"Fate... protects fools, little childen, and ships named Enterprise." says Riker.

Sub-commander Taris' warbird Haakona (also with mechanical problems) shows up and tries to claim Iconia for the Empire.

Both ships are too screwed up from a computer virus written in ancient cuneiform to start shooting, but the threat is all too real.

In fact, the greatest threat in the whole story is ignorance: one of the guys in sickbay HAS NEVER HEARD OF SPLINTS! I say 'guy' because he cannot possibly be a medical doctor. Of any century. Pulaski has clearly snagged a dude in a blue shirt from the hall and he's pretending his degree in Medieval Tholian Astrophysics qualifies him to sound off.

The 200,000 year old Iconian command centre has a functioning gateway to step across light-years. And a bug zapper to damage Data with! Both would come in handy, but Picard destroys this archeological marvel to keep the peace.

Leave it to Geordi to fix the computers- by turning them off, and then back on again. FUTURE!

"Contagion" almost didn't get made because Gene Roddenberry felt the Enterprise computer was too advanced to ever fail. Thankfully, writer/programmer Beth Woods convinced him otherwise. It's a good adventure.

Carolyn Seymour is arch as all hell and brilliant as Tanis. She's exactly what a Romulan should be. I guarantee you SHE knows what a splint is. It's what you yank off a Klingon's broken leg and beat him to death with.

The Dauphin

** (2 stars out of 5)
Salia, 16-year-old hereditary head of state for planet Daled IV has lived in total isolation save for governess/bodyguard Anya. Enterprise is taking her home, and wouldn't you know it? She's kind of a nerd. Wesley's heart goes pitter-pat, and also what a terrible time for his pants to never quite be closed at the back.

Worf's roaring, clawing, description of Klingon women and the men who read love poetry to them is not the kind of wooing Wes has in mind. "Then go to her door. Beg like a human."

Riker and Guinan demonstrate flirting and quickly get caught up in the act. It brings a smile to my face to watch them forget the kid is even there.

Wes suavely takes Salia on a holodeck date and to Ten-Forward for chocolate. To Suavely Go... I'm not kidding. He's doing fine. At 16 I was a stiff, clumsy, addled goober around girls and anyone who'd tell you different is dead.

Speaking of disposing of evidence, Picard and Worf barely stop Anya from killing a mildly sick man on the off chance that he might be contagious to her young. Anya is not just an aged governess, but is a teddy bear, girl's best friend, and BEM. She's a shape-shifter.

Wes' first kiss with Salia is quickly followed by the discovery that she is as much an allasomorph as her protector.


"The Dauphin" is o.k. Inconsequential fluff. Despite the director's opinion, I think the monster suits hold up fine. And the shape-changing animation is top-notch!

Wes comes across as strangely close-minded and judgmental about Chameleon Lass. I'm not saying I'd choose differently in his place or at his age; there was dishonesty on her part. AND her job is a big impediment. But a nerdy girl who likes kissing doesn't beam in every day, man! And more importantly: Two Words.

Shape. Shifter.

Who would be so quick to dump a Royal who can list her measurements as: ANY?

The Measure Of A Man

***** (5 stars out of 5)
It's the first appearance of the ship's poker game. Riker wins by bluffing Data. Data wins the moral victory with his totally shady hat. But the stakes are about to get higher...

Picard runs into old chum Captain Phillipa Louvois of the Sector 23 JAG office. She prosecuted him in the Stargazer court-martial. He thinks she enjoys the adversarial process too much, she thinks he's a pompous ass. But a sexy ass. Oh myyy...

An Admiral-In-The-Box pops up and tells us, "Commander Bruce Maddox is here to work on your android."

Commander Maddox was the only one vocally opposed to Data's entry into the Academy on the grounds that "it" was not a sentient being. Now he's eager to dismantle Data to learn how to make MORE Soong-type androids. When it grows clear from a brief conversation that Maddox is extremely vague on the details, Data resists and is therefore transferred to Starbase 173 anyway.

Maddox thinks he's better than your kids!

"Lt. La Forge's eyes are far superior to human biological eyes, are they not? Then why are not all Starfleet officers required to have their eyes replaced with cybernetic implants?" If nothing else, Data asks great questions. But it's not enough.

Louvois seems to think that Data's only recourse is to resign. "The Enterprise computer is property. Is Data?"

Twenty-first century law seems to state that yes, he is. And nobody's ever updated it. 'Data is a toaster' unless this hearing can prove otherwise. As Louvois has no staff, Picard must defend and Riker must prosecute. (Will was up for it until he realized she didn't say procreate!)

Riker demonstrates that Data is inhumanly smart, strong, modular, and in a final indignity, shuts Data off on the witness stand.

"And now he's about to be ruled the property of Starfleet. That should increase his value," says Guinan facetiously. Her 'whole generations of disposable people' scene still moves me.

'"You're talking about slavery," gasps Picard.

"I think that's a little harsh."

"I don't think that's a little harsh. I think that's the truth."

Picard's final cross examination of Maddox is awesome. You know...'The truth for all time' speech. He says 'crucible' in it and everything!

"Our mission is to seek out new life... well, there it sits!" Eating my popcorn!

'Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to servitude and slavery?'

"The Measure Of A Man" is what this series can be when it really finds its voice. No flashy special effects except in the service of a riveting tale (about a guy with rivets). I enjoy the sight of Yar's tiny hologram bearing silent witness to Data's heart. Man, oh, man, I love 'The Measure of A Man'! But not in a gay way, you understand.

A Matter of Honor

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Riker agrees to an exchange program that makes him the first human to serve on a Klingon vessel. Better him than me.

A Benzite on this exchange is working on the Enterprise bridge. Mr. Mendon is from the same geostructure as Wes's friend Mordock, but as my wife put it, he's angling for a punch. Mendon follows most of his compliments with reminders that he is very much the cleverest fish out of water around here.

Riker's new boss is Captain Kargan of the Pagh, the Captain Lou Albano of Klingons. His second officer, Lt. Klag, requires a loyalty test which consists of Riker throwing Klag into heavy machinery.

Mendon notices an unclassified microbial colony on the hull of the Pagh, but as per his culture he would've said nothing until he had a complete analysis and resolution. (How far does this go? If a Benzite notices you're about to be eaten by a bear, does he tell you or does he wait until the problem solves itself?)

When Data reports the degrading metal (which, on close examination of the computer readouts would seem to be another disaster to lay at the feet of The Lovely Angels Kei & Yuri), Mendon suffers greatly from a perceived failure. But he redeems himself with the cure: a tunnelling neutrino beam. Or possibly a wonton burrito bean? Fish lips, you understand.

Riker eats and exchanges "witticisms" about bodily functions with the Klingons. Boobs, belching, and foreign food- the universal language.

The guy playing Klag (powerful Brian Thompson) is always cast as alien thugs. You could say he brings goon things to life. Truly, he's awesome.

Klag has turned his back on his disgraced father. "I will not see him." Riker seems overly shocked about this (considering what we are about to learn about him).

Riker's getting along fine until Kargan decides the damage from microbes is the Enterprise's fault. (Curse your antics, Dirty Pair!) Kargan gets paranoid and goes on the attack. Riker tricks Kargan with the transponder Worf gave him and seizes power.

Captain Riker manages to save face as well as the Klingon's ship. The man picks his battles well and gets himself backhanded right back onto the Enterprise.

"A Matter of Honor" shows us the heart of the new generation of Klingons. No longer fascists, rather anarchists. Less a space gestapo, more a space biker gang. But it's good to learn they are men of humor as well as men of honor. (Out of respect I use the Klingon/American spelling, rather than the Canadian.)

Unnatural Selection

** (2 stars out of 5)
The 26 crewmen of supply ship Lantree have died of old age after three days. This time the disease from 'The Deadly Years' is not to blame.

Instead, it's the aggressive pre-emptive strike of the immune systems of the genetically engineered freak children of Darwin Station. Sorry, that's a hurtful word. I mean genetically created freaks.

Pulaski discovers this by beaming up a child in suspended animation encased in styrolite. (I guess it's like Star Wars carbonite only it's derived from styrofoam?) The twelve year old is adult size, telepathic, and telekinetic. To prove he's safe, Pulaski decants the kid in a shuttle alone. Well, Data's there but she treats him like a tricorder, so I feel only slightly bad for her when she begins to crap out almost immediately.

Chief O'Brien points out that the bio-filter didn't stop the kid infecting Pulaski, but the transporter trace pattern could theoretically be used to restore her health. Just like I groused about in 'The Lorelei Signal' and 'Lonely Among Us'. One hitch: Pulaski rarely uses transporters.

Her last Captain, Taggert of the Repulse, has already erased her transporter trace pattern.

Looks like the telekinetic kids will be doomed to live in isolation when their doddering parents bite it.

Fortunately, Picard knows that saying "undo it" to O'Brien and Data is the same as a cure: and it is!

A live follicle cell on Kate's hairbrush plus some modification to the bio-filter bus regeneration matrix from the genie's fairy dust and Miclonian Protoculture flibbety flammed into the hokey ham...

Yay! We get... Pulaski... back.

Oh, well. Can't win 'em all.

Pulaski and the Darwin scientists are cured, then the Lantree is torpedoed for some reason.

Just to watch the pretty flames? Seriously, do we have to hold a viking funeral with a valuable marvel of warp technology? Can't you just vacuum it out and use it again?

"Unnatural Selection" bugs me, partly because we've seen it all before in The Original Series, partly because it's a little too easy to beat the disease (also that people can now be de-aged at any time with a simple trip to the transporter room is totally ignored), but mostly because I STILL have so blessed little empathy for Pulaski that I DON'T CARE whether she lives or dies.

If that makes me a bad person, why don't you cure me with the transporter? Oh, you forgot it had that setting. My bad.

The Schizoid Man

**** (4 stars out of 5)

"When I stroke the beard thusly... do I not appear more intellectual?"
Data briefly makes a change in facial hair for justice, but soon bigger changes are in the offing.

Ira Graves (the stupendous W. Morgan Sheppard) is arguably the finest mind in the Federation. His work in cybernetics either inspired Noonien Soong, or Graves claims it was so. Either way, the crotchety misogynist asks Data to call him Grampa.

Vulcan Dr. Selar (the incomparable Suzie Plakson) diagnoses the disagreeable Dr. Graves with deadly final stage Darnell's Disease. Perhaps he caught it from the Crab Shack in Camden County? No, I shouldn't joke, he's really about to die.

"Stories often have happy endings. It's life that throws you for a loop." Graves also notices how Grandchild Data isn't likely to pass beyond this vale of tears. Plus Graves seems to be pondering whether Data's brain might just be re-recordable...

Finally, Data is just slightly too trusting with his off-button once again.

Graves' assistant Kareen Briannon becomes the target of Data's affection very suddenly after Ira's death. Data also gives a disturbingly gushing eulogy for Graves before they consign his coffin to space.

Hopefully off the shipping lanes. Doesn't that seem like a hazard? Did they do this for Tasha last year? How many ships every year hit coffins and explode, anyway? I'm just saying there must be a less elaborate and potentially deadly way to explore the concept of irony.

Data's also scoping out the ladies' bottoms and whistling 'If I Only Had a Brain'. When Picard shows Kareen attention, Data's jealousy is loud enough for Troi to sense it.

Data claims to be fine, but Picard has La Forge examine him with a hula hoop made of lightning!
Then Troi gives him the once over with a pair of iPod shuffles stuck to his forehead.
Data has an unstable dominant personality destroying the Data they know. Who could it be?

"I wil create an android body for you, too. We can witness the end of time together." says Graves to Kareen through Data's teeth.

She is less than ecstatic. "I won't let you put me in a machine. I want to live my life."

Miss Briannon is the first hurt, with a broken hand, then soon La Forge, his fellow engineers, and Picard are clobbered. Finally, guilt compels "The Schizoid Man" to leave Data's body. His knowledge is stored in the main computer.

First Moriarty, now Graves. How much storage space do they have allotted for super-villains, anyway?

I hope we see more of that gorgeous Dr. Selar. Rrowr!