Monday, April 30, 2012

Man of The People

** (2 stars out of 5)

Deanna Troi, Super-Bitch!

If that sounds appealing, this is the episode for you. Otherwise, well, coin a phrase, WTF?

Ambassador Ves Alcar is a Lumerian. He sports a forehead tramp stamp, limited empathic powers, and a suitcase filled to the brim with Douche.

Ladies, should a Lumerian offer to touch your Pet Rock with his Pet Rock, I encourage you to punch his junk like he was a Ullian historian.  Anyone duped into his ceremony becomes a psychic dumping ground. While this dink stays serene and suave, his receptacles whore themselves up, then crumble away into decrepitude.

He's come aboard to trade up from his last model, who's just about ready for an oven in a gingerbread house.

Guess which empathic Counsellor naively indulges in a "funeral rite" for Alcar's dead "mother"?

On the prowl like she's a bike messenger with cat DNA, Troi treats her meek patient Ensign Janeway like crap, and jumps the bones of some young guy she bumps into in the lift.  Also, she claws Riker's face, and takes a stab at Alcar. Literally.

Picard and Crusher get wise to the chump. Picard waggles his finger and launches into a lecture. Why? Can't we just torpedo this vampire back to hell like on Devidia II last month?

Instead, even more magically than usual, Troi returns to normal somehow when Crusher temporarily kills her. Alcar Dorian Greys it up to Full Cryptkeeper and dies Walter Donovan-style from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Was this guy the only one with this ability? Where did the rock come from? How come the other Lumerians are oblivious? I can understand how Troi got fooled, she's not from there. But his next victim seemed like a clever lass. She's from his world. Wouldn't she say, hey, wait a minute, that's not a Solemn Reflection Stone, that's a Slutty Death-Conduit Rock! Screw you, Draculon!

"Man of The People" is easily the worst episode of the season. Your experience may vary: it's certainly not Marina Sirtis's acting, or the make-up effects. I've read that the script was a rush job, and I was definitely aiming the blame torpedo in that direction.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Realm of Fear

 *** (3 stars out of 5)

Guess what Reginald Barclay is scared of this week? Yup, transporters. You guessed it!

Reg has somehow managed to reach this point in his career without using them. He mostly clings to the safety of slidewalks, shuttles, and space elevators. He even hides if he sees Miles O'Brien coming so he won't have to think about transporters.

But with a great show of bravery and his therapists' Betazoid endorphin-stimulating neck tap (plexing, don't cha know), he beams to the rescue with the away team seeking some missing scientists or something.

On the beam back, however, Barclay spots a wormy grey shape, seemingly on the approach with a horrendous gaping maw. He feels it touch his arm, and although everything checks out, he starts to go a little squirrelly. Well, squirrellier.

Reg decides rather than go to Crusher or Troi he'll just dignose himself on 24th Century WebMD. He immediately concocts or imagines most of the symptoms of an obscure illness called 'transporter psychosis'.

Barclay asks La Forge whether he's ever experienced anything unusual in the transporter.

Thankfully, Geordi adds no fuel to the hypochondriac's fire by saying "Not unless you count the time I became an intangible spectre for two days and everyone thought I was dead. Why do you ask?"

But it's time for the worm to turn. In fact, all the worms have turned! Acting on a hunch, Barclay brings the slugs out of the beam and for some reason they were the missing scientists all along. I'm serious! That happened.

I've seen more logical science on Sabrina The Teenage Witch.

"Realm of Fear" is still quite good. That's because Dwight Shultz and Colm Meaney make everything better.

Next week: Barclay's fear of spiders. And then his fear of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark: The Musical.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Time's Arrow Part II

**** (4 stars out of 5)

1893 San Fransico is right where we left it last season-slash-yesterday, but with Mark Twain now playing the intrusive Mr. Furley for a 'Three's Company' of stranded Future Men.

Having duped apple-cheeked landlady Carmichael into letting them loaf around her boarding house rent-free, our penniless heroes posing as actors manage to snatch the magic snake from the Brain Cavity Creeps. Yes, that's a sentence.

Data's head pops off in combat according to plan, just like so many dandelions in so many playgrounds.

Sam Clemens tags along to the 24th Century and gapes in awe and wonder at their magnificent star vessel, their blue servants, and Counselor Troi's instant tan.

"Young lady, I come from a time when men achieve power and wealth by standing on the backs of the poor, where prejudice and intolerance are commonplace and power is an end unto itself, and you're telling me that isn't how it is anymore?"

"That's right." Troi chirps.

Reminds me why I fell in love with this darn utopia all over again!

Geordi hot-glues Data's dead head onto his dead body and hey-presto, Data is just as alive as ever he was! But harbouring a 500 year old decoder ring message tapped into his brain with an iron filing by stranded Captain Picard. (The same Captain Picard who last episode didn't know Data's Type R Phase Discriminating Amplifier from a Type L now can tap more than a hundred binary characters into the right location of Data's noodle from memory. So... FOR THE WIN!)

All Devidians Destroyed Probably! (And these people didn't even want to attempt genocide on the Borg.) That'll teach those horrendous soul-sucking things to be so endangered... and huddled together in one cave!

Historically gut-shot Guinan is left in the tender care of 19th Century Earth medicine. Still, I assume she has a strong constitution, living unchanged for centuries and all. (cough Time Lord cough.)

"Time's Arrow Part II" remains a hoot. Bring it on, Season 6!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Time's Arrow Part I

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Is there a better teaser opening than that sight of Data's severed head? I can't think of one. I know, I know, I say that every teaser I see. Anyway, DATA'S SEVERED HEAD...!!!

...was found under the Starfleet Academy. Some cadets were playing hacky-sack with it for an hour before they called the Enterprise.  It's 500 years old, which isn't that bad when you consider that's the same age as most of Joan Rivers' head.

The only one who isn't disturbed by the spectre of Data's encroaching death is Data himself. He's actually gratified to discover he's as mortal as everyone else.

Personally, I think he's just enjoying the idea of carving his own tombstone with 'Here Lies Data' 2335-1893 just to mess with everybody.

San Francisco, 1893: Freaky-Deaky Soul-Sucking Demons from the Time Between Seconds are using a Snake to open Portals to Historical Plagues. This has so far failed to make the front page.

Data falls into the temporal Snake-Hole and wins a bow-tie in a poker game. Bow ties are cool.
Cocky Bellhop sidekick Jack helps the android fish-out-of-water make his first flops.

Data, consumate pooper of parties, becomes a crasher instead. Pompous Samuel Clemens is regaling hostess Madame Guinan with a story of man's insignificance, when in blunders the pasty time traveller. Data discovers Guinan is not a temporal anachronism, but merely an immortal. (Rumours persist that in the centuries to come she would go on to date Connor 'Highlander' MacLeod, and also star in 'Jumpin Jack Flash'.)

On the advice of THEIR Guinan, Picard and everybody who doesn't have a rubber tire for a forehead jumps down the Snake-Hole after their robot pal. Temporal Prime Directive, Shmemporal Shrime Shirshmective!

"Time's Arrow Part I" invents a great villain, never giving them a name or enough time to prove themselves. But that's one morbid scheme: harvesting the consciousness of the sick in past defenceless times? Dastardly! Will our heroes be able to stop them? Don't wait all summer... tune in tomorrow! Now go play hacky-sack with your robot head.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Inner Light

***** (5 stars out of 5)

What if Picard took a Quantum Leap, but stayed after kissing the girl?

Lived, in fact, a whole life in another man's shoes?

In less time than it takes to watch the episode, and slightly longer than reading this blog, the Captain's mind is filled with the lifetime experiences of Kamin the Ironweaver, husband, father, and flautist from Ressik on the planet Kataan.  Never mind how: a thousand years back these people died of a drought before they had space travel, yet they somehow had sophisticated brain scanning technology.  Picard even had to invent sunscreen here. And later, his spoken word version of 'Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)'. In his version, wearing sunscreen is mandatory.

Romance and fatherhood ensue. It's like a more in-depth version of 'The Paradise Syndrome' only this Captain never grows giant bushy sideburns.

Reluctantly easing into a marriage he never made, the uncomfortably landlocked space explorer finds meaning in the people of a single doomed village.

"Seize the time, Meribor. Make now the most important time." he urges his child.

"The Inner Light" is strong, thoughtful, and bittersweet. Boy, if you hate 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' and you're only going to watch one, well, then you have my pity. But WATCH THIS ONE!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Next Phase

***** (5 stars out of 5)

Beaming to the aid of a stricken Romulan ship, Geordi and Ro are lost in the transporter with a radioactive Romulan gizmo. They are pronounced dead. (Is it Contract Renegotiation Season already?!)

Unseen, the duo awaken in the ship's corridors and discover they cannot be heard or felt, either. Although they are solid to each other. (Some heavy hand-holding action ensues..!)

Ro believes she and Geordi are dead spirits. The Bajorans call them borhyas. Geordi can't wrap his head around that. "Are you saying I'm some blind ghost with clothes?"

She tries to make peace with her life, while Geordi tries to figure out the science. 

Ro's a little worried what Riker would say at her funeral. (Ever since she "Ro'd his boat".) 

The Romulan Captain was also cloaked and phased in the inverter accident. And he's tangibly dismayed to be intangible!

The baddie chases Ro through walls all across deck 17, until she's struggling for her life in the middle of somebody's dinner date. Geordi body-checks her attacker through a bulkhead into airless space. Sucks to be that guy!

The pair of ersatz borhyas crash their own memorial party in Ten-Forward. Desperately overloading their new disruptor, they get noticed by Data and finally de-phased.

So how did they keep breathing, seeing, hearing, and walking on the floors? Immaterial!  Ba-dum-bum!

Geordi says they didn't eat for two days. For the first time on this my, I dunno, 25th viewing, I wondered about ghost poops. Did they do their business, and, if so, is it still cloaked and phased somewhere? That takes care of my heebies, but I still gots the jeebies.

 "The Next Phase" had mind-blowing visual effects & sound for the period, and Ro gets to run a lot and kick some Romulan bottom. Endowed with the super-powers of Kitty Pryde, Ro and Geordi could've gone into the super-hero biz as Cloak & Dagger! (Unless that name's already taken.)

And forget the military applications: just think what a phasing cloak can do for the expanding field of voyeurism!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I, Borg

**** (4 stars out of 5)

On a chilly little world in the Argolis Cluster, a single survivor from the crash of a Borg Scout Ship is found. Prudent Mr. Worf recommends killing it, while Bleeding Heart Crusher badgers Picard into bringing it aboard for band-aids and cookies.

While Bev is trying to treat a hurt teen boy, Picard plans to infect a drone.

Borg don't eat: they have built-in replicators and recharge from wall sockets. So, no cookies, either.

Guinan, like Picard, has very little sympathy for any Borg. She fakes a leg cramp to win at fencing. "You felt sorry for me. Look what it got you." she snarls.

Bev & Geordi begrudgingly analyze Third of Five, name him Hugh, start feeling sorry for him. La Forge urges Guinan to listen to Hugh for herself. It becomes clear that the aching loneliness in Guinan's heart is also there in Hugh's.

Outside of the all-consuming swarm, the single locust is kind of nice guy.

La Forge completes an unsolvable visual puzzle designed to confuse all the Borg into total shutdown. (A deadly Rubik's Cube, if you will.) But he instantly regrets it.

Picard tells Geordi to un-attach himself. To use the admirable detachment of a 20th Century scientist tormenting a lab animal. Wait, WHAT? Admirable? 20th Century? Since when?

Guinan is not sure anymore. "If you are going to use this person to destroy his race you should at least look him in the eye once before you do it."

Picard finally meets Hugh, and playing the role of Locutus to the hilt, has a change of heart. But the Captain makes a major gamble that a natural born Borg's INDIVIDUALITY might be infectious anyway.

His wishes respected for the first time, Hugh would have chosen to stay with Geordi, maybe get a nice spot next to the EPS socket in the apartment with Barash, Jeremy, and Timothy. But so as not to endanger his friends, he rejoins the collective.

"I do not want to forget that I am Hugh." he tells Picard. And even after rejoining, Third of Five surreptitiously glances at Geordi with his human eye.

 "I, Borg" is great. Just great. What a wonderful twist in the Borg narrative. Futile, of course. But that's what I love about these people.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Imaginary Friend

** (2 stars out of 5)

Troi is counselling Ensign Sutter's young daughter Clara, who has an imaginary friend named Isabella.

In the FGC-47 Nebula, yet another tiny Tinkerbell hops aboard, eavesdrops on Geordi and Data speaking fluent nerd for as long as it can stand, then listens in on Dr. Crusher matchmaking Nurse Ogawa until it rolls its non-existent eyes, and finally cruises through Clara Sutter's head and manifests as Isabella.

Turns out Isabella is a bossy-boots. She tries to get Clara into a mild amount of trouble, running in the halls, filling up on too much replicated juice, and taking down the Forehead of Security with tiny fists to the groin.

Sutter, worried about how much he has moved Clara around, thus depriving her of lengthy friendships, talks to Geordi. La Forge was also bounced around the fleet with either his exobiologist dad or his command officer mom. He mostly saw those tough transitions as adventures. Much like this conversation, nothing was resolved, but time was filled!

Now a nascent bad-ass hanging around in bars, Clara talks to Guinan, who relates the wonder of her imaginary childhood friend, a Tarkassian Razor Beast with spiny wings, a terrifying smile, and a furry belly to curl up on. Also irrelevant, but darn, can that Guinan spin a yarn!

Isabella gets Clara in trouble in the Children's Centre, by invisibly wrecking Alexander's clay chalice in ceramics class. Pottery! The skill of a warrior born! No wonder he's such a jerk to Clara today. Poor Alexander's probably bored silly most of the time.

Isabella, briefly left unattended in favor of a corporeal Klingon boy, has bypassed 'miffed' and settled on murderous fury toward Clara as a reasonable response.

While Troi makes a condescending closet search for the Isabella Monster, it blasts the counsellor in the heart. More of the plasma strand beings attack the ship from outside. They demand an end to nap-time and all the crayons they can eat!!!

Picard makes a plea to Isabella for understanding. He attempts to explain how the apparently unfair world of the parent is restrictive only for the child's protection. (You know, because Picard's a wizard at parenting.) Somehow, this is good enough for the plasma beings, who elect not to kill them after all. (What's with these bodiless light bulbs and all the rage?)

"Isabella" and Clara hope to see each other again one day. But you know they'll only lose touch, periodically poke each other on FriendFace, and occasionally chatter on Chitter.

 "Imaginary Friend" was credited to at least five people. Maybe that's a bad sign. Too Many Cooks Shift the Blame, and so forth. They also say 'never work with kids and animals', but the fact is, kid shows work just fine if you respect your characters and your audience. This one just isn't a great example.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Perfect Mate

** (2 stars out of 5)

The Kriosian Ambassador Briam looks like he should be giving Buck Rogers a stern talking-to for his latest unauthorized antics against the Draconians!

Also, Vash's Ferengi rival Sovak either changed his name or he has the now-standard identical cousin.

Up to no good and rescued from a shuttle they sabotaged themselves, two scheming Ferengi scheme something scheme-y.

Geordi forces one of them to meet the dolphins (sadly, this is not a mob euphemism like 'sleep with the fishes, see').

The other Ferengi tries to steal the Kriosian's valuable secret cargo: a leopard-spotted woman inside a golden egg.

Picard sputters briefly about the constitutional rights of the individual. Kamala claims she's not a slave, but a mutant empathic metamorph destined to bond for peace with Alrik of planet Valt.

(She's a mutant, all right! It's Professor X and Jean Grey in: The Tedious Xylophone Affair!)

That is to say, Kamala becomes 'the perfect mate' for whatever man happens to be nearby. Riker avoids her charms, barely, by ducking into the holodeck instead of into a cold shower. He and every other male around starts uncontrollably drooling and banging into walls.

Security is doing brilliantly today: first leaving the egg unattended in an unlocked room, then not once suggesting a force of Amazons should be in charge of Kamala?

Buzzkill Bev Crusher isn't very keen on this sort of thing. She uses offensively accurate words like "prostitution". So Picard blurts "Prime Directive!" like that makes everything O.K. Then he orders Data to chaperone Kamala, dragging her off a cluster of uncouth miners and a snarling Worf.

"I'm really quite dull," Picard claims to the woman, (who has totally got the hots for him, you understand). And later, "I'm just trying to be as dull as possible." Well played, sir. You and everyone else today.

The Ferengi fail to bribe Ambassador Briam into accidentally giving THEM the Leopard Print Barbie, and in their foolish struggle they smash him through a table.

So Picard is forced to hang out with the Magical Pretty Girl ALL BY HIMSELF, playing xylophones and gossiping about the goblin in the orange fright wig she's due to marry.

What could possibly happen next? And why should anyone care in the slightest?

This story seems like kind of a throwback. I mean, this seems like the sort of thing that would happen to Captain Kirk. In fact, didn't this happen to Captain Kirk? In 'Elan of Troyius', I mean.

 "The Perfect Mate" is well-performed puffery with nothing much to say about anything. Girls are pretty and pliant, boys are dumb and disgusting, now let's pretend it never happened and eat some pie.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cost of Living

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Planet Tessen III is threatened by an asteroid, and a particle beam from the deflector dish explodes it where even a torpedo would have failed. Score one for the oft-maligned deflector dish!

Then Tinkerbell took a dump on the ship or something. It's rather unclear.

Troi counsels Alexander and Worf to pick up their clothes and stop yelling because Mommy has a headache.

Speaking of mommies, Lwaxana Troi is about to marry Judge Campio of Kostolain. He's royal, well-bred, snooty-to-the-max, and they only just met online. Red Flag. RED FLAG!

Mama Lwaxana, rather than face how intolerable a relationship with dour future Megabyte Tony Jay would be, decides to run off with truant Alexander and play filthy hippies in a holodeck mud bath.

Worf and Deanna huff in exasperation, and put their hands on their hips, and stomp their feet. Oh, infants and oldsters, always conspiring to slack off!

The fairy dump from earlier turns out to be Nitrium Metal Parasites, eating important circuits and leaving great dollops of retro-mutagen ooze behind. Crewmen are told to watch their teenage turtles for signs of interest in pizza.

After the standard nerds drive out the B-story, Merry Widow Troi figures out a way to let her true self shine through.

She turns out for her wedding insouciantly (but culturally appropriately) in the buff.  Campio's protocol minister is scandalized, SCANDALIZED I SAY! and he flees with the groom. Hey, maybe he just wanted Campio for himself. Tell me you don't want to nibble those giant Kostolain earlobes. 

 "Cost of Living" is not the best written comedy story ever, but I do love Majel and it's always a pleasure to see Mrs. Troi. She gets to play the insanely overindulgent Party Grandma, and a moment or two of seemingly genuine loneliness tugs the heartstrings, too. Kudos!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The First Duty

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Ah, school days! Those space ivy-covered walls and hallowed plastic halls of Starfleet Academy. Join me there now, won't you?

Back in the day, Riker's Superintendent was Vulcan, he had everyone's files memorized. (But had an embolism trying to figure out how Riker had time for so many nocturnal conquests...)

Picard's Superintendent was a fully telepathic Betazoid, so he never had to ask what you'd done wrong. (That and Cadet Picard looked both guilty and dapper in his stolen wigs...)

Wesley's is Admiral Brand, and she has to ask. At length. In an inquiry. But this time the wrongdoing is a humdinger, see?

Wes' Nova Squadron were practicing near Saturn's Flight Range, and Cadet Josh Albert died.

Charming Cadet Nick Locarno is in Fourth Year, and Second Year Wesley follows his lead. Third Years Jean Hajar & Sito Jaxa try, without success, to stop looking like someone put shit in their pants.

Picard, former wrestling and running star, thanks Our Favorite Martian Groundskeeper Boothby for helping him graduate... despite some problems. (Probably with the Superintendent's stolen wigs.)

Josh's dad returns a sweater his son borrowed from Wes for their ski trip to Calgary. Hee Hee! I'm extra tickled by this exchange, since I'm going to Calgary next week, but I'm not going to need a sweater at Comic Con! In fact, among hordes of excited, sweaty nerds I'd be better off in a nice, cool, metal bikini. Only then it would be everyone else who'd suffer.

The Vulcan Captain Satelk and Brand catch Wes in a lie: they have photo evidence that the ships were dangerously stunting! For shame!

Beverly and the crew still don't believe Wes would lie. Data and Geordi investigate. Team Dordi's analysis reveals Nova Squad was trying the plasma-igniting Kolvoord Starburst maneuver, banned 100 years ago when all five pilots fried like space bacon.

Boothby reminds Picard of the damage he did as a jock back in the twenties, and implies that Nova Squadron are this year's destructive heroes.

Picard breaks out a top drawer lecture for Cadet Crusher. "A lie of omission is still a lie... 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!"

Unless, like Riker last month, you figure you can stop your smizmar being neutered. I'm just saying. Everybody lies when the motive is sufficient. (Psst: including Picard. Unless he would genuinely murder a Ferengi to win Lwaxana Troi's heart... I guess I wouldn't put it past him.)

Still, Nick tries to call Picard the liar, hoping to squeak through on lack of evidence. Wes chooses truth over loyalty.

Nick takes full responsibility and is expelled. The other three are reprimanded and their year's credits are cancelled. Wes' honesty earns him his Captain's respect and very probably a lot of suspiciously odd-tasting meals delivered from Hajar and Sito's replicators.

"The First Duty" is really great. Wil Wheaton's performance is top-notch and Robert Duncan McNeill (as Locarno) earned himself a spot later as Nick's identical cousin Tom. You bet I loved it. Do I ever not like a Wesley tale? My first duty is to the truth, after all.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cause and Effect

**** **** **** **** (4 repeating stars out of 5)
If there's ever been a more shocking opening teaser in Star Trek I can't name it offhand, because this one starts 'Once upon a time, KA-BOOM!' The Enterprise just exploded, bitches!!! Hope you like 'Married With Children' because this time slot just opened up...

You've seen the premise since then. Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, or Source Code which, by a weird coincidence, I saw for the first time yesterday. It was diverting. But Brannon Braga did it first, nerd peeps! (Tell me I'm wrong. There's got to be SF stories like this, but I don't remember any earlier ones on TV. Scratch that, I just remembered Tom Baker & Lalla Ward fighting clear of a chronic hysteresis in seventies Doctor Who. Ten points to the Whovian who can tell me the episode...)

Time is continually resetting within The Tyhon Expanse, and the crew begins to develop very pronounced deja vu. Just as they are coming to terms with this feeling, they collide with an old-style starship that pops out of nowhere, and wotta revoltin' development- they explode once again!

And again! Eventually, acting solely on hunches, they figure out that they are trapped in time like a skipping record (that's like a skipping CD, kids, or a corrupted music file, never mind, I'm sure that never happens anymore). Geordi sends out a signal that only Data's subconscious mind might 'hear'. Much like I hear my subconscious mind right now telling me: 'eat a pizza, or you'll explode'. Which is self-fulfilling, actually. It must be a Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays...

Guided By Voices, Data makes different choices. Disaster is narrowly averted, and cheers ring out for the Captain of the other ship. (Because everybody knows his name.)

Captain Morgan Bateson of the Bozeman has been doing exactly the same thing every day for 80 years.

Sadly, I know how that feels.

"Cause and Effect" is super-cooled and retro-fueled. Impossibly, it's so well done it lends itself to REPEAT VIEWINGS even though, essentially, each time is like watching it FOUR TIMES. So unlike other TNG episodes, I've seen it FOUR thousand times. It still rocks.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Outcast

*** (3 stars out of 5)
The J'naii, an androgynous race, have lost their probes. And before you suggest checking down the front of their pants, don't bother.

That's what Will Riker's here for!

J'naii, rather than calling each other 'it', use a neutral personal pronoun that probably doesn't translate. But since the pilot Soren doesn't say what that is, I'm going to assume it's 'Smizmar' from here on in.

"Commander, tell me about your sexual organs," Soren asks Riker, and smizmar couldn't sound less interested.

Which is good, because Riker doesn't get around to his description. I'll leave it to your fertile imaginations and the sweet, nourishing Internet.

Soren does describe J'naii genitals, obliquely. Since the J'naii parents inseminate a fibrous husk to create a child (after a pleasurable ritual) it stands to reason that they... stand to attention. So to speak.

The idea of human gender is offensive to the J'naii, who apparently evolved out of dual sexes.

Worf thinks women are weak (or he's just having a bad spine day) and is bothered by the strangeness of the J'naii.

Geordi has grown an awesome goatee! It proves his maleness, just in case Riker gets any funny ideas.

Some poor smizmar bastards are born with gender urges, and if they get noticed they are shamed, beaten up, and if they're 'lucky', they're forced back to 'normal'. It is dangerous to be different on this world.

Soren thinks of herself as a she, having lived a terrified life of pretence and lies. Riker makes no attempt to dissuade Soren's interest in him, even though (despite smizmar's inclinations) it's very unlikely to be anything other than a dingus down there. Will seems very open-minded this evening!

"We have many varieties of plant life," offers Soren. "Perhaps you would like to inspect some of them?"

Whatever Riker discovers in Soren's garden, it's good times.

He tells Troi about it, and she assures him she is still his friend. And they kiss. You know. Like friends do.

Soren's mentor Krite has the smizmar arrested and put on trial. Riker publicly declares he was at fault, the sole instigator, and that nothing happened. Even the photographic evidence he brought in was faked! Soren does not want this lie to stand: and Soren's plea for compassion and tolerance is a good one:

"What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?"

The powers that be are not dissuaded. Let's see you behave deviantly in jail, missy!

Riker and Worf make a covert rescue attempt despite the Prime Directive. Yes, it's hard to believe, but Worf would break the PD just for the chance to sneak through hedges dressed in black and beat up J'Naiis. Unheard of!

But Soren has already been rendered normal. Victory for the moral majority!

"The Outcast" is quite a tragedy, and despite my flippancy, it was a tad eye-opening when I was a lad. When it comes to the brittle cruelty of short-haired career women, trust Jeri Taylor. Of course, the J'naii aren't women. Not if they can help it.

Monday, April 2, 2012


*** (3 stars out of 5)
Seven of his vertebrae broken and his spinal cord crushed by a falling cargo container, Mr. Worf is paralysed. (Ensign Ro secretly begins to wonder if she'll look good in security gold...)

Neuro-specialist Dr. Toby Russell from the Adelmen Neurological Institute kisses Crusher's butt about her recent Cybernetic Regeneration paper, but she has no interest in meeting a patient or listening to his FEELINGS.

It's true. Toby is a girl's name.

Klingon medicine is no help: cripples just have their friends help them. Help them onto a knife! This Hegh'bat Ceremony is the only option Worf can see.

Klingons have 23 ribs, two livers, an eight-chambered heart, and even a little extra brain in the butt. Not a PAIN in the, a BRAIN in the.

The safest, most advanced treatment is artificial implants that will eventually get Worf 60% mobile. He refuses. (He's probably using that butt-brain.)

Russell wants to use her unproven genetronic replicator to grow Worf a new spinal column. It's just like growing fur on a Chia Pet, only with a spine! Crusher doesn't want to risk it, but it's slightly less guaranteed fatal than the Hegh'bat.

Picard assures Crusher that they have to let Crazy try. "Beverly, he can't make the journey you're asking of him... A Klingon may not be good at accepting defeat but he knows all about taking risks."

Riker reminds Worf of Aster, Yar, and others. Fighting for life to the very end. "I may have to respect your beliefs, but I don't have to like them," Will barks.

Also, he looked up Hegh'bat and reminds Worf: the most correct version of the ritual has the eldest son bring the knife, then wait for his daddy to stab his own heart and wipe the blood on the kid's sleeve. Worse still, it is typically performed at peak hours in the middle of a Klingon Chuck E. Cheese.

Worf opts for the crazy Russell risk. If he dies, he wants Troi to raise Alexander.

They can keep his severed brain on life support for 3 hours, 26 minutes! He dies anyway.

Long after the exhausted doctors call it quits, Worf's back-up Klingon synapses bring him back to life. Suck on that, Secret Vulcan Eyelids!

Bev lectures Toby and calls her down for her bad medicine, but I suspect Russell can't hear her over the sound of a dead man walking and all the awards and grant credits she'll be rolling in.

Worf's back on his gnarled (presumably ordinary) Klingon feet once more. And nobody had to kill nobody!

Who gets to keep the old spine? It might make a hearty soup if Worf doesn't want it...

"Ethics" is not a bad little tale. Am I a spoilsport if I point out that Worf's blood isn't Pepto-Pink like Gorkon's?

And if he puts it under his pillow, somebody's gonna get a visit from the Spine Fairy!

Power Play

*** (3 stars out of 5)
A distress call from within the electric whirlwinds of a moon of Mab-Bu VI matches the signal of the USS Essex under Captain Bryce Shumar which disappeared around here two centuries ago. Could it be...


A shuttle with SEATBELTS? What an innovation! Next they'll invent cup holders, GPS, and eight-track cassettes.

Despite the belts, Riker breaks his arm in the inevitable crash. He's a lot more blasé than I would be: "Yeah, pretty sure that's broken." (Poor Marina Sirtis was the one in real pain: she broke her tailbone on this set, which came to be known as Planet Hell.)

O'Brien makes the risky beam-down with pattern enhancers to help rescue the away team. He refrains from any commentary about exactly how often shuttles crash.

Struck by lightning and possessed by little 'Ian Andrew Troi'-style energy beings, Deanna, Data and Miles turn on their lies and charms to direct the ship to the south pole. When they sense the slightest hesitation, they launch an ill-prepared mutiny.

Worf and Babylon Five's licensed commercial telepath Lyta Alexander fail to stop the energy-based goons in a phaser fight. Hostages in Ten-Forward!

Troi's hosting the ghost of Bryce Shumar. Data and Miles, his underlings. They are desperate to escape the torture of the storm and rest in peace. The sneering specters behind friendly faces frighten Keiko and her baby daughter Molly. Villain Troi gets to chew some scenery.

La Forge and Ro creep into the service ducts. They deliver a painful plasma shock meant to drive the anionic energy beings out of the possessed trio. It misses Steve/Data, who seizes Picard by the throat until his ghost pals climb back aboard Troi and Miles. If only Venkman and Spengler were here. (They ain't afraid a' no ghosts.)

Turns out the 'ghosts' are really disembodied condemned prisoners, trapped here 500 years ago by the world of Ux-Mal. They attempted escape on the Essex back in the 2160's and only destroyed it. It was a foregone conclusion: the Daedalus-class starship was made of three toothpicks, three rattling cylinders, and a tennis ball. Seriously, it's a wonder any of them got into space. (Plus they melt if their wings get too near the sun.)

Hostages Picard, Keiko, and Worf are willing to die rather than allow the escape, so the prisoners grudgingly return to their cell in the storm cage. Shaking their anionic non-existent fists.

"Power Play" is tense action fun. No attempt at any deeper meaning, just a hostage crisis with SF trappings. Standard fare, yet well played. Really good phaser fight. Any resemblance to Star Trek V and/or 'The Lights of Zetar' is purely coincidental.