Thursday, May 31, 2012

Frame of Mind

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

Riker's rehearsing "Frame of Mind", Doctor Crusher's play about insanity, with doctors tormenting patients as treatments. With a name like Crusher, the scary is built right in!

Tilonus IV's government has collapsed into anarchy, and resorting to torture of the Federation research team for technological information. Worf briefs Riker on his undercover role in the rescue mission. The Klingon accidentally nicks Will's temple with the bartering knife.

Bowing to the audience after the play performance, Riker finds himself in Ward 47 of the Tilonus Institute For Mental Disorders, suffering from the delusion that he belongs on a starship.

He's surrounded by crazy Tilonians with vaguely barn-owl faces. David Bowie's Goblin King does not make an appearance, but he might not be out of place in this nuthatch.

The burly orderly Mavek gleefully tells amnesiac Riker that he was brought in for a brutal stabbing murder. When Riker attacks the guard in rage, he is sedated with the biggest needle ever used by horse doctors...

And wakes from a nightmare back on Enterprise.  He performs the play again for the first time, but now he sees Tilonians who are not there, and the set itself encloses him with chiaroscuro menace.

After Crusher's exam shows nothing is wrong, Data praises Riker's vivid portrayal of dementia.

Will's reality keeps breaking, flipping between the ship and the institute. Whenever Crusher heals the cut on his head, the wound re-opens. Tormented by delusions, Will desperately seizes a phaser and turns it on himself. Or is he holding a knife?

"Frame of Mind" is where I first noticed that writer Brannon Braga could be counted on for what 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' might indelicately refer to as "a mental mind-fuck". I usually go in for the laughs myself, and there aren't any easy ones here. It's creepy as can be, a totally disturbing spiral of confusion, chaos and fear. It's not especially violent, because it's trying to give us all the chills instead. And succeeding. Special effects are minimal but outstanding. Everybody puts in a twisted showing as not-quite-themselves, while Jonathan Frakes is captivating. Hold your loved ones close and remember it's all in your head...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Storyteller

*** (3 stars out of 5)
Sisko and Kira mediate a border dispute between the Bajoran villages of Paqu and Navot. Young Paqu mayor Varis Sul wants to stick to the letter of an old treaty granting her village unreasonable concessions. Pie-scarfing (man after my own heart) Woban of Navot is not so keen on that, as you might imagine. For all those who complained about talky negotiations in The Phantom Menace, at least it had an exploding ship and two laser battles by this point.

O'Brien and Bashir make the two hour trip to Bajor by runabout in uncomfortable silence and equally uncomfortable conversation. O'Brien finds Bashir nearly as annoying as Dax does. (Although clearly not annoying enough to use the warp engines. Even at a measly Warp One this trip could be four times faster. Are there posted limits? Bajoran speed traps?) They arrive at a third village. A dying holy man, The Sirah, is too ill to defend the villagers against the wind and storm of the Dal'Rok. When Sirah dies, the unprepared O'Brien must lead the village in a light show of unity to dispel the big, bad gasbag. The one in the sky, I mean.

Nog would rather drop things on people from the Promenade overlook than play baseball with Jake.  And both boys would rather make time with Varis Sul. Only the Prophets know why: she's quite a piece of work. She could learn a thing or two about dignified leadership (if not sensible dress) from Padme Amidala. Nog badgers Jake and Sul into swiping Odo's bucket for a prank. He fills it with oatmeal and "accidentally" spills "Odo" on Jake. Har dee frakkin' har. Can somebody get these kids a violent videogame?!

O'Brien doesn't know how to defeat the Dal'Rok, and doesn't need the free wives, nor a life of blessing babies. The Sirah's disgraced original apprentice agrees, and tries to solve the problem with stabbing. The Dal'Rok and the light show turn out to be creations of a Celestial Temple Orb Fragment.

Does every village on Bajor do this? Every year? You'd think there wouldn't be enough Orb chunks to go around. You'd also think people would get wise to the catharsis. "Oh, Dal'rok time again. I wonder if we'll drive it away like we've done every night this week?"

"The Storyteller" probably deserves better than 3 stars. Like much of this season it feels competent but not exactly engaging. Nog's advice to Sul to seek opportunity is more useful than Jake's advice to do whatever his father says. That's  probably why she kisses Nog at the end. She's the first Bajoran to kiss a Ferengi, but she's not the last.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Chase

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Picard's archeology professor Galen drops in for a surprise visit, with an ultra-rare naiskos from planet Kurl. Although this 12,000 year old ceramic Action Figure is a gift, it's also kind of a bribe. Galen wants Picard to join his quest. To seek out the dead and ancient civilizations. To grub about where no one has grubbed before!

Picard is very reluctant to give his mentor the boot. "I had a father, but he was like the father who understood me."

The Professor does not take Picard's decision well. "You're like some Roman centurion patrolling the provinces, maintaining a dull and bloated empire!" Hey, words hurt, man. Especially Meta ones. But let's wait for a couple more series before we start using the 'b' word!

When Galen shuttles away in a huff, he is killed by Yridian information dealers. Picard pursues the mystery to Indri VIII, an L-Class plant world. They reach it in time to see the biosphere totally eradicated. I've had a devil of a time pulling dandelions lately, but this is overkill.

Galen's notes include part of a puzzle made out of disparate but compatible DNA fragments from 19 different worlds. The puzzle is also a computer program: which makes it the work of intelligent life... 4 and a half billion years ago. Does Larry King have an alibi?

Gul Ocett of Cardassia and plant-assassin Captain Nu'Daq of the Klingons covet Galen's work, too. Is it a weapon? A power source? Picard points out that nobody will get anything unless they co-operate. It's a puzzle, not Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Picard names a destination, so Ocett's people attack and fly off... in the wrong direction. Way to lie, Captain! How's that First Duty working for you? Enterprise warps to the Vilmoran system, scrapes its dried up seabed for lichen, and finishes the puzzle-program. While a Scottish Romulan and a British Cardassian wave weapons, Dr. Crusher plays the finished holographic recording with her tricorder.

The ancient humanoid who appears declares her people were explorers in a lonely cosmos.  They never met anyone else, but their scientists put DNA seeds in primordial soup all across the galaxy.

That's one way to make new friends.

"You are a monument not to our greatness, but to our existence... There is something of us in each of you, and so, something of you in each other."

"The Chase" presented fans with a possible look at 'the Preservers' mentioned by Spock as ancient world seeders back in 'The Paradise Syndrome'. Writer Ronald Moore admits this was their intent, although nobody calls them by this name. Even with all the pointed ears, bumpy foreheads, and scaly necks there's just something human about humanoids. Obvious? Sure. What with the interbreeding. Yet it's heartwarming to hear we filthy monkeys have a lot in common.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Battle Lines

*** (3 stars out of 5)

The Bajoran spiritual leader Kai Opaka leaves her home world for the first time and visits Deep Space Nine. Wouldn't have been my first choice, but it is conveniently close. I wonder if Dr. Bashir is trying to be funny when he says she looks "preoccupied". (See, because Bajor was under military occupation all her life? Geddit? No, he probably wasn't joking.)

Speaking of Bashir, how is he packed and ready to tag along on the Kai's runabout trip through the wormhole before Sisko thinks of offering one? And shouldn't she be in a bullet-proof domed Kai-mobile?

Out for a spin, they visit an unknown moon and are shot down by its satellites. Opaka's spine breaks in the crash and she dies. Didn't I JUST say Kai-mobile? Or even a seatbelt?

Still, she gets better almost immediately.

Cellular biomechanisms (nanites, to those playing along at home) have granted her eternal life, more or less. The moon's prisoner populace see this as a curse. They suffer and die over and over but are always revived.  Yet somehow not killing each other hasn't come up.

Although the conflict between the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis may once have had a cause, it has been forgotten in the struggle for bloody, stab-happy vengeance. (You should have seen what happened to the Garth Ennis...)

It's a lackadaisical sort of war, so Angry Kira tries to get them to fight it more efficiently. (Great plan.) Opaka asks Kira to embrace the violence within herself and try to move beyond it.

The leaders Zlangco and Shel-la can't come to a truce. Sisko offers to jailbreak and resettle them. They can't even stop stabbing long enough to discuss this. Bashir learns resettlement is not an option: the microbes will fail if they leave. (Why isn't this an option again? Is unending hell preferable to oblivion?)

Opaka chooses to stay and grab Ennis ears until they see sense. Or they dice her into chunks and set the chunks on fire. Whichever.

"Your pagh and mine will cross again," Opaka declares to Sisko. That's a thing on Bajor. Although, maybe she said path.

 "Battle Lines" is awfully similar to the original series' "Day of the Dove", only without the sense of closure. And maybe that's not a bad thing: maybe we need to hear more often that violence is futile. That said, if a bunch of heathens took the Pope out for a joy ride in a dune buggy and came back without him, don't you think Catholics might be a little miffed? Oh, relax, I'm sure Deep Space Nine will be fine: Bajorans seem very reasonable. How many terrorist bombers could they possibly have?

Sunday, May 27, 2012


*** (3 stars out of 5)

One of a matched set of twinned Miradorn raider brothers is gunned down in a botched robbery. The thieves' thief and unintended killer was Croden from Rakhar, Gamma Quadrant. The surviving Miradorn, Ah-kel, has no goals anymore except deadly vengeance on Croden.

It seems very, very likely that Quark arranged the whole thing and probably gave Croden the gun. For some reason, Odo does not pursue this with any legal charges.

Even though Morn (the potato-shaped barstool accessory) confirms he saw Quark and Croden together.

Maybe Bajor's gun laws are ultra-lenient. For all I know, Ferengi phasers come free with a bowl of stew at Quark's. Still, Odo seems like the kind of guy who'd arrest Quark for littering if he could, so why does he let the 'conspiracy and abetting robbery/homicide' evidence slide by?

Imprisoned Croden names Odo "Changeling" and claims they are a harsh and judgmental people known to him. He has a trinket "from the colony of the changelings": a key that shapes itself to fit a lock. Bashir's analysis is that, like Odo, the key stone is somewhere between organic and inorganic. Might be a relative. Odo's desperate to find his people, but Croden's not exactly a good egg.

The Rakhari don't do trials, and they want Croden back. Odo immediately delivers him by runabout. (Remember how just last month they protected Tahna Los and explained asylum to Tosk? O.K., Tosk hadn't killed anybody, but as you'll recall- neither does the Federation. Handing him over for summary execution without moralizing is a little reminder that they do things differently here. And inconsistently.)

Croden relates how his government's security broke into his home at night and killed both his wives. He slit the cop's throats in return. A grisly tale, if true. He also claims changelings were too proud to maintain a humanoid shape on his world, and were persecuted because of it. Swell planet.

Instead of the gallows, Odo delivers Croden to the Chamra vortex, to the purported changeling colony. Unfortunately, the changeling stuff is all from legends. The key stone's origins are unknown, and the only thing on the asteroid is the only thing Croden cares about: his daughter Yareth in stasis.

Once it turns out the guy's a family man, (and Ah-kel conveniently blows himself to smithereens) Odo does a complete 180 and lets Croden go! He's killed at least three people and he's a professional liar. He belongs in rehab! Or just wandering free in the utterly honest touch telepath society of Vulcan. That should be fine.

"Vortex", as I mentioned, has a strange idea of justice. Still, the mystery of Odo's origins was intriguing. Also, this is the first time Morn is named, an anagram for that other bulky barfly from 'Cheers'. We learn that, like Cliff Clayvin, Morn's a motormouth: except he never talks onscreen.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


** (2 stars out of 5)

It's three o'clock in the morning and I'm hungry so let's eat. Well, sorry, BNL, we can't eat: the replicators are one of many systems off-lined tonight by the new head Stellar Cartographer, Nella Daren.

She's very much like Dr. Crusher, only her job is astronomically more tedious. (See what I did there?)

Speaking of Bev, she's got a new doctor in obstetrics, Beck. He's a particularly good man to have around if your termites are choking on their splinters.

Poor Nell DOES have a super-cool portable piano with the qualities of a fruit-roll up. Except stickiness and edibility, probably. She and the Captain have a jam session on 'Frere Jacques'.

Nell humble-brags to Crusher how she got muscle strain during her evening with Picard and his thousand-year old flute. Oh, my!

The duet continues in an "acoustically perfect" intersection of Jeffries Tube 25. While there's no regs against Captains and underlings 'loading the torpedo bay' together, Picard doesn't want things to get awkward. Too late!

They get more awkward when Riker wonders whether he's meant to give preferential treatment to the boss' lady friend. I'm dubious: Riker's been in charge of personnel for, like, SIX YEARS. Why is this even an issue, let alone a challenge?

If mild office romance and charming music aren't getting you hot, how about the firestorms of Bersallis III?  Will Picard's mademoiselle fall into a burning ring of fire? Will it burn, burn burn, this Ring of Fire?

"Lessons" is well-performed, but I just don't like it much. First, Jean-Luc belongs with Beverly, damn it! Second, and probably more relevantly, in what possible circumstances would the Captain really have to order the Map-maker into danger? Is this contrived situation going to happen ever again? Isn't that what mustard-shirts are for? Third, if your romance isn't strong enough to survive your careers for a single week, why should I care about it? Don't answer that, I'm not listening anyway.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Starship Mine

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Enterprise has pulled into the Remmler Array at Arkaria. The ship must be evacuated so it can be hosed down with deadly radiation to remove dangerous radiation. Yeah, you heard me. That's how bad ass Enterprise-D is. How do you like me now, barion particles!?

Commander "Hutch" Hutchinson of Arkaria Base is famously verbose. Picard suggests Data observe him to refine his small talk. But this is mostly a ruse to avoid talking to Hutch. Nobody wants to be stuck with the guy for very long, but once he and Data get into it they can't stop. Riker wonders how long two people can talk about nothing. 'Seinfeld' ran for 9 years, so I guess that's the answer.

Having avoided Hutch by leaping at the chance to go for a horsey ride, Picard is stuck on the ship fetching his saddle when the power goes down. A motley (some might call them diverse) collection of raiders steal some volatile trilithium resin out of the warp engine for a weapon.

The only man standing in their way is a crafty cop with no shoes: John McClane. I mean, Jean Picard. And he has shoes. Also Worf's bow and arrow. By the by, if you arrow a terrorist in the groin, as Picard does here, should it be called a Crotch-Bow?

Poor Hutch is gunned down by Arkarian malcontents and the senior staff is held hostage. Riker starts a brief fistfight so Bev can set off a hypersonic pulse from Geordi's VISOR, which knocks everyone out while Data runs for help. And Troi came along!

Commander-In-Thief Kelsey is not herself a terrorist, but hoping to sell the trilithium. Leaving aside who the buyer might be (although, actually, I have a pet theory), what does she need money for? Remember how humans now live harmoniously in a worry-free, shekel-free, story-free utopia? Is she planning on buying a summer home on misogynist planet Ferenginar?

"Starship Mine" sounds like the petulant screech of a four year old. My starship! Mine, mine, mine! It's hard to deny its energy- very solid action fun. Thank goodness Roddenberry is dead: he might have squashed it on principle for its un-evolved humans wasting each other for cash.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Nagus

***** (5 stars out of 5)
The leader of the Ferengi Alliance drops by: Grand Nagus Zek. He's a superannuated bundle of filthy habits, hedonistic appetites, and ear hair.

Unable to produce his homework essay on ethics, Nog tries to cast the blame on some Vulcans. Substitute teacher Miles O'Brien is dubious. "You're saying Vulcans stole your homework?"

Speaking of work, are things so bad for the Chief that he'd rather be a sub? Really?

Nog's home life as Toothpick Boy for the Nagus gets worse when Zek discovers Rom lets his kid attend Federation school at all. In the finest tradition of 21st Century America, spineless Rom forbids his son any further book learnin'.

In front of Ferenginar's finest, Zek declares he's ready to retire. "The fire dims. I'm just not as greedy as I used to be!" Bypassing his misbegotten son Krax, Zek names his successor... wait for it... QUARK.

Then Zek dies in mid-rant while plotting his first vacation in 85 years. There is no autopsy: Ferengi of high status are vacuum desiccated and the pieces are sold as collectibles. (Even in mint condition, they smell nothing like mint.)

Krax and Rom conspire to kill Quark with all the skill and cunning of BeBop & Rocksteady from the Ninja Turtles cartoon.

I love the scene where the gouge miner pleads for the Gamma Quadrant synthehol franchise while Quark as Brando sullenly pets his Gilvos lizard.

Rom is reaching for the button to blast narcissist Quark out an airlock when Zek shows up. G-g-ghost? Nope. Zek faked his death to test Krax.

There are no consequences to Rom's attempt to murder his brother. Apparently, being Rom is punishment enough.

"The Nagus" is ideally cast in the personage of Wallace Shawn. The king of the money-grubbing space goblins is exactly what devoted capitalists are itching to be... but loath to end up as.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Move Along Home

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Sisko is less than overjoyed to hear his son Jake has learned the facts of life the same way I did: from Nog the Ferengi boy. Speaking of first contact, Sisko is hoping to impress a Gamma Quadrant people called the Wadi.  The Wadi hope only to seek out new games and new casinos.

Rendered in English, their tattoos read: "Apply Prosthetic Forehead Here".

Assuming they're not pulling a fast one, the Wadi prize chopsticks and fruit juice above gemstones. Of course, they brought a lot of worthless gemstones, just as I often stuff my wallet with paper towels when I travel. Spinning the Dabo wheel for six hours, they win plenty of Quark's latinum. As soon as Sisko tires of this, he goes to bed and Quark starts cheating the Wadi.

They catch onto him and angrily unfurl a replicated game board for CHULA as punishment.

When they force the swindler to play it, Sisko, Dax, Kira, and Bashir simultaneously find themselves in a magic maze full of booby traps. For example, disgruntled Kira rams her hooters into a forcefield while failing at life-and-death hopscotch.

As the game drags on and on, Bashir finds the antidote to poison gas in a goblet of fire, but is taken off the board by the next threat. A gelatinous cube by any other name...

Kira and Sisko band together to rescue hobbled Dax from quakes in an all-too familiar cavern set. Falling into a crevice, all four of them reappear intact in Quark's casino.

"It's only a game," laugh the Wadi. (CHULA- soon to be a horrible movie from Milton Bradley.)

"Move Along Home" is a pretty good Quark story; wailing that he's learned his lesson when he thinks lives are at stake, but just as quickly deciding to franchise the game afterwards. The story falls short in other ways, but when you spin the Dabo Wheel sometimes you only get two pinch showing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Birthright Part II

**** (4 stars out of 5)
After the flashback, in which Ba'el the Kling-ette flashes back (and side-boob) Worf's dilemma continues on the galaxy's most relaxed prison world.

Uncharacteristically kind Romulan Commander Tokath kept a hundred Khitomerian Klingons alive for prisoner exchange. However, their families and government would rather they didn't exist. Tokath was going to let them go anyway, but to preserve their families' honour they stayed in hiding with their lenient captors. Worf's dad was never among them.

"There is no room in my heart for shame," Worf declares. It's not a popular Klingon opinion: the oldsters wish their kids would come to visit them... knife first. The youngsters are farmers, contented and/or bored. Peacenik Ba'el has no desire to visit the dangerous Klingon home world. Worf says Qo'noS is dangerous "no longer". Skewed perspective from the guy who nearly bought it there a year ago.

Romulan Jailer Tokath tells Worf he married a Klingon woman, and you can see Worf throwing up a little, in his mouth.

Worf teaches Klingon combat moves and stories to the ignorant youths. He is about to teach the mating bite to Ba'el- when he discovers she has pointed ears. She's Tokath's daughter.

Tokath asks Worf to stop pouring vinegar into his melting pot. Not bloody likely! Many Klingons move into the line of fire at Worf's half-hearted execution. Finally, Tokath's Klingon ladies stay his hand.

Several Klingon lads returned with Worf. They claim to be "crash survivors" from "planet Elaborate Lie".

"Birthright Part II" is fine Kling-sploitation fare, if that's what you're into. Mendak's identical cousin Tokath is a very compelling villain as far as I'm concerned, having abandoned massacres and warmongering for Ridged Forehead Jungle Fever. And yet... face to face with the man whose orders killed his parents, Worf merely spurns his daughter's advances and slightly disturbs his weekend? Does that sound like Worf to you? Or does it seem more likely he'd take a sick day, come back, and burn this hippy commune to the ground?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Birthright Part I

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

Crossover! Enterprise is docked at Deep Space Nine. Hope you bought both on DVD!

If I was Dr. Crusher, I wouldn't trust Quark's holosuite to bathe me in anything. Honestly, how could it be better than the holodeck on the D? From what I've seen, it would be like trading a day at the spa for an hour in a truck-stop toilet, complete with hidden cameras.

While we're discussing the failings of DS9 and it's sub-par technological miracles, there's Geordi at the Replimat. Obviously, he hates it, but how does Geordi know what 'liquid polymer' tastes like? Those evil space lobsters from 'Schisms' feed him some of Hagler's new blood?

Bashir is delighted to meet Data, and was using Crusher's sickbay without permission to analyze an unknown Gamma Quadrant device. Somehow, Sickbay is deserted. The entire medical staff must have jumped ship for those famed Ferengi holosuites.

Jaglom Shrek, sadly a descendant of Shrek and Fiona from the Pixar movies, approaches Worf in the Replimat. Normally if you see a talking rat in a restaurant, it's that OTHER Pixar movie. Anyway, he's the splendid James Cromwell, and he's got upsetting news for Worf: many Khitomer survivors including Daddy Mogh ended up on a Romulan prison planet. Like Worf I am suspicious: since Shrek claims it is both near DS9 and on the Romulan border. None of the maps I've seen of Star Trek space agree with that notion: they're on opposite ends of the Federation. Even in dialogue Earth is weeks away. I guess the Romulans have borders everywhere!

Bashir is pleased to learn that Data has hair that he can grow voluntarily, as well as breathing and a pulse. All this shortly before Bashir nearly stops all these functions forever when his infernal device delivers Data a plasma shock. While shut down, Data sees his father as a young blacksmith.

What does it mean? Picard suggests Data not seek meaning in Klingon or Ferengi cultural symbolism, but in HIS OWN: his culture of one. "...No less valid than a culture of one billion."

Data is inspired to paint and sketch: the blacksmith, a hammer, smoke, and black birds.

Geordi zaps Data again to activate the dream circuits. Soong appears. Now Data's cat is in the Captain's Chair.

"It doesn't make sense," laughs Dream-Soong. "No man should know where his dreams come from."

Speaking of dreamy, as a former horny teenager and now a dirty old man, I find I add a star to any rating for a bathing scene, which is how Worf meets the young lady Klingon, Ba'el, in the jungle. Tee-hee!

"Birthright Part I" wrapped up the 'B' story too early, so Worf will have to carry Part II all on his own. He's stumbled across one of those "Open Plan" Romulan prisons. Sickeningly, the Romulans and Klingons here are pretty much PEACEFUL. He'll see about that...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Passenger

** (2 stars out of 5)

"Fate has granted me a gift... to be a healer." Dr. Bashir sounds off again like he's got a God Complex. Major Kira doesn't get the chance to slap him back to normal, because he gets brain-hijacked by a science ghost.

Obsessed with eternal life, dying Kobliad cuckoo-bird Rao Vantika evades his jailer Ty Kajada by imprinting his consciousness in Bashir, unknown to all.

Quark hits on Jadzia, while Starfleet Security Lt. George Primmin hits on Odo. Or butts heads with him, I forget which. The doors of Odo's office break conveniently, leaving them wide open while he and George discuss top-secret security. Also, it allows Kajada to flounce into frame for a dramatic pronouncement that Vantika is alive and wrecking havoc.

Hired by Quark, Vantika's mercenaries incude Sid Turtlepuss from Jim Henson's Dinosaurs. Vantika in Bashir's slooow taaalking bodyyy leads them in the theft of some delicious deuridium. (It's the Spreadable MacGuffin that's tasty on toast!)  Vantika's languorous speech is contagious: soon he's got Turtlepuss stretching out every sentence too, filling up time, reducing what should be a desperate, high-tension escape attempt into a lazy Sunday afternoon of casually shooting each other.

Beaming the armed and murderous madman into their Command Center instead of a cell, Sisko phasers him unconscious. Then in one of the most ludicrous solutions I've EVER seen (and believe me when I say I've seen some stupid damn sci-fi), Dax BEAMS BASHIR'S ENTIRE HEAD off his body and pops out the tampered cells. How does this work exactly? And more importantly, how does this work without Bashir's gifted blood spurting out of his gifted neck hole?

"The Passenger" manages to deliver a limited amount of tension, more between the security officers fighting over jurisdiction than the hidden killer on the loose. First let me say that I LOVE Bashir (arrogance included) but his Vantiko persona is, bluntly, unconvincing. Talk-ing slow-ly isn't much of a character trait, and we're given nothing else about him. Wouldn't a guy so desperate to live not want to waste his life Care-full-y Pron-OUNCE-ing EV-ry (oddly placed dramatic pause) WO0ORD? Or is it meant to be a symptom of brain damage? I guess if I'm willing to accept it from Daleks... never mind. BEAMS HIS ENTIRE HEAD OFF!!?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


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

Like Yar before him, the Captain dies senselessly. Unlike Yar, he gets better. While dead he finds himself in limbo with Q, who claims to be God. It's the best laugh Picard's had in years.

"Blasphemy. I oughtta cast you out or smite you or something."

"I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by YOU. The universe is not so badly designed."

Fresh from his break-up with Vash, it seems Q is looking for fun. And Q's idea of fun is tormenting Picard with his cocky misspent youth culminating in the loss of his organic heart in a knife fight.

Picard finds himself in 2327, reliving his own past: Ensign 'Johnny' tooling around the casino with Cortin Zweller and 'Marty' Batanides. His old buddies, pals, chums. Of course, Marty is a girl buddy...

Picard's charm quickly fails him with his overbooked love life.

Speaking of love, what are an Antican and a Selay doing in the same room not eating each other?

Rather than have Corey's back, Picard tries to be mature and diplomatic... or a stuck-up snitch if you'd prefer. He ruins his other friendship by falling into the sack with Marta. The story leaves it to us to ponder whether she got his 21-year-old experience or his 63-year-old stamina.

He wakes up with Q. Who needs a knife in your heart with a scare like that?!

"You have no guramba!" bellows the knifey bully Nausicaan. Worryingly, despite having seen the guramba in question most recently, Marta does not pipe up to correct him.

Picard returns to 2369 with his original heart, guramba presumed missing, and a dead-end job in science blue. He begs Q for a second chance to stand up for his friends, to take the risk, to put the right thing wrong. Even if it costs his life.

"Tapestry" proves they weren't just watching Quantum Leap, but also Pinky and the Brain. At least I assume that's where Cortin's Captain NARF got his start. That said, brilliantly done, loses nothing on multiple viewings. Top drawer. Seriously, maybe your guramba are in your top drawer.

Friday, May 18, 2012


**** (4 stars out of 5)

Bashir hits on Jadzia over Raktajinos (Klingon coffee). While fleeing from his pre-ganglionic fibre pick-up lines, she is unsuccessfully abducted by some thugs. Ulian-looking jackbooted thugs in a Tamarian ship, who for the sake of confusion turn out to be Klaestrons. Curzon Dax is accused of a murder committed 30 years ago on Klaestron IV. Ben won't allow it: on Klaestron they use the death penalty.

Odo blackmails Quark with building codes until the Ferengi volunteers his bar for the extradition hearing. (The station must really be a wreck, is Quark's the only halfway decent meeting hall?) The Bajoran Arbiter is the same age as Keiko's mom: she's 100. Doesn't mean she wants to reek of gin after a long day of legal wind bagging.

Sisko's filibuster intentionally opens a can of symbiotes. Is a Trill responsible for the acts of its antecedent selves? The answer is probably 'yes', but nobody can get answers out of Dax today. What's wrong? Caitian got your tongue?

Dax's jury of Peers is Sellin Peers, Minister of the Trillian Government. He's full of fun facts: hosts are willing, mid-20s adults, who blend their minds with the symbiote. After 93 hours, the host and symbiote can't survive without each other. He fails to explain how Trills could have been in the Federation for at least 30 years without anyone on Enterprise-D having heard of them. Nor does Peers mention at what point Trills got their spots instead of golden forehead arches. In fact, there's a lot I still need explained, but he's not sticking around. DS9 doesn't validate parking.

Odo's field trip turns up an affair between Curzon and the murdered General Tandro's wife, Enina. She shows up to brag about it and explode her indignant son's corrugated head.

Enina Tandro gets Dax off. So to speak.    

"Dax" is the title, you'll notice. Dax. Less than 10 episodes in, and it's named for the character. Not 'The Trial of Dax' or 'What's Up, Dax?' just Dax. Seems terribly unimaginative. Me, I had a T-Shirt with a picture of Jadzia captioned 'Dax Unlimited'.  That's right, I'm awesome. And I think ducks are inherently amusing. Oh, I'm just joshing. The excellent D.C. Fontana was one of the writers, after all. But would it have been better if the pilot was called 'Sisko'? I think not.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Face of the Enemy

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Don't you just hate it when you get kidnapped on vacation and dressed up as a Romulan? Counselor Troi does. You'd think after La Forge's abduction in 'The Mind's Eye' that Enterprise crew would only take leave in pairs and make Worf be the other half of that pair...

Romulan Subcommander N'Vek is a sneaky peeky spy from Spock's underground. He's kidnapped Troi and had RuPaul make her over as Major Rakal of the Tal Shiar. (Which is Romulan Intelligence, named for all the neck breaking, one presumes.) N'Vek's smuggling Vice-Proconsul M'Ret into the Federation. Their Veep defecting should be a major blow to the government. Provided the average citizen even knows he's gone. (Personally, I think they'll just kidnap and surgically alter some poor random alien to take his place... they're pretty good at that.)

The commander of warbird Khazara is Toreth, identical cousin of Taris, who we met four years ago. Carolyn Seymour is once more sublime in the antagonistic role. The best part is she's probably perfectly nice: without a jack-booted thug like "Rakal" all up in her Romulan grill.

Human Ensign DeSeve is a another perfectly nice traitorous dog who defected to the Romulans, and because the Federation is what it is he can easily defect back. He just can't bear to part with his horrific haircut. He brings a message from Cowboy Spock to get Picard into the Kaleb Sector for a meet and greet with the Runaway Veep.

The defection is supposed to include an alien middleman. This Corvallen guy came first in the Benjamin J. Grimm look-a-like contest at Comic Con, but was confused since he didn't enter. It's Corvallen Time!

When Troi senses the mercenaries are lying, N'Vek blows all 18 of them to space dust.

Toreth deplores the loss. But Troi can't show any similar weakness. It's great that Troi's natural compassion has to take a back seat today: to being a towering bad-ass. Which she manages quite well.

"Face of the Enemy" lives up to the potential of the Romulans with ghoulish glee. We rarely see their world and this is a great example. It's also a fine showcase for Troi, proving her butch bravery once and for all. In her position I would have been wetting my quilted grey culottes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


*** (3 stars out of 5)

Oh, you thought when Q showed up to mentor Amanda Rogers that he had probably dropped Vash into a star somewhere? Well, what a pleasant surprise!

 He only dropped her on the bleakest space station in creation, crummy old Deep Space Nine.

Our story opens with Dr. Bashir, regaling a gullible date with a self-aggrandizing tale of his medical exams and how he came in a glorious second in his class.

Vash has spent two years gathering trinkets in the Gamma Quadrant. She stores them with the Bajoran version of the Gringott's Goblins in the Assay Office. The shady archeologist broke up with Q and is trying to stay broken up. She rubs one out on Quark's ears to get him to agree to provide an auction venue at a mere 22% of the proceeds. Also, ick.

Q fights Sisko in a boxing match. When the Commander knocks him on his butt, the entity mocks him for being so easy to provoke.

Vengeful and petty, Q gives Vash a taste of the Gamma Quadrant diseases he could have let her die of.  Based on her behavior with Quark, I'm going to assume the majority of these were sexually transmitted. Honestly! Who knows what ears she's been browsing around in?

The station is losing power and being dragged toward the wormhole. "Picard and his lackeys would have solved all this technobabble hours ago." Q taunts. He disrupts the Auction, pointing out: "It's very unlikely any of you will survive to enjoy your purchases."

Q offers a MILLION gold-pressed latinum bars for Vash's Faberge egg, which hatches into a Faberge butterfly and flies off into space without going Full Mothra on them. Q leaves Vash to work off his tab with Quark.

"Q-Less" should be a reference to the movie 'Clueless', as a fluffy comedy where vapid, materialistic characters hang out in a mall, except it came out two years too early. Figuring out what's caused the power drain in the runabout, and then on DS9 should be as simple as doing a bag check, but treating Vash like a common shoplifter doesn't cross anyone's mind.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


** (2 stars out of 5)

Delivering supplies to Communication Relay Station 47 near the Klingon Border, Enterprise finds it empty except for an adorable doggie. And a suspicious meat stain.

Haliian Lt. Aquiel Uhnari and Lt. Keith Rocha are missing.

Geordi listens to Uhnari's logs and ogles her pictures.  Her video letters home reference a belligerent Klingon commander who harassed them every few days. Red Commander HehRing was his name, I believe.

Klingon Governor Toe-rag proves his people didn't kill Aquiel by returning her.  Aquiel reports that Keith attacked her without warning, but has a memory loss regarding her convenient escape.

Geordi is once again caught stalking someone and briefly earns her ire. What's so wrong about reading a dead woman's porn...uh, I mean, gothic novels? Hopefully it was a Dark Shadows novelization, or something with Sookie Stackhouse.

What with Worf finding Uhnari's phaser was set to kill and all, Riker urges Geordi not to get close to her. Rather than heed a sensible warning against a possible black widow killer, Geordi accuses Riker of being too judgmental.

Also, turns out she deleted a letter of Keith's recommending she be fired for insubordination. So Geordi makes out with her.

She breaks out the sex crystals. "My people are partially telepathic..." breathes Aquiel. "We use the Canar for a stronger emotional link during love." She delivers this in a tone of sublime disinterest, making it difficult to imagine she loves or even likes Geordi.

But once she takes his VISOR off... he's looking helpless enough to eat!

Beverly has learned the stain was from an Odo-like shapeshifter called a coalescent organism. Also known as the thing from the movie 'The Thing'. Could Aquiel be a ravenous monster?

"Aquiel": the thriller that ain't too thrilling. The romance is weak sauce and the murder mystery is just enough of a mystery I don't want to spoil it in case you want to get surprised and/or bored by it yourself someday. Puppy's cute, though.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Captive Pursuit

**** (4 stars out of 5)

The girls who run Quark's Dabo tables have a clause in their contracts, hidden in the "Ferengi Print". It requires them to provide their boss with sexual favours. When Miss Sarda complains to Sisko, he assures her he's going to get that changed. There's only one boss on DS9!

The first visitor from the Gamma Quadrant drops by, a twitchy crocodile man with invisibility powers. Taken under genial O'Brien's wing, the guy is not terribly forthcoming on his background. When asked about his species, his name, and his purpose in life, his only answer is 'I am Tosk'. (They got him off a shelf at Ikea.)

He's got nutrients built in, sleeps only 17 minutes a day, and claims to have no vices for Quark to exploit. Tosk claims: "I live the greatest adventure one could ever desire."

Namely: being hunted for sport by Gerrit Graham and his fellow lizard men. Who WOULDN'T?!

Even when humans engaged in blood sports against lower species, they did not hunt sentients. (Well, except the crazy rich ones with private islands.) Sisko has no tolerance for the abuse of any life form.  To be a Tosk is meant to be an honour, and the hunter claims Tosk are only intelligent because the hunters bred it into them.

O'Brien complains about it to the sympathetic giant ears of his 'barkeep' Quark, and hits on an semi-satisfactory solution: he breaks Tosk out to die like a dog... with honour!

"Captive Pursuit" is not much of a first contact: they didn't even get their name. "Yee-haw! Them Alligator Boys Was Green-Neck Space-Billys!" I suppose. And what did Sisko mean when he said they'd never seen ships like these? Tosk is driving what looks a lot like a repainted Vulcan ship and the hunters are in a Zalkonian vessel. Still, we'll look back on this as the nicest genetically engineered Gamma Quadrant reptilian species. And how we'll laugh! (At something else.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ship In A Bottle

**** (4 stars out of 5)

While you're getting used to all the new faces over on Deep Space Nine, it's old home week around here. Data and Geordi are playing Sherlock Holmes when the holodeck goes wonky.

If that wasn't familiar enough, here comes Reg Barclay to fix it... and Moriarty from memory storage! Yay! Only he's mad as hell. Boo!

The holo-villain has experienced the passage of years in a frightened, disembodied limbo, and he demands a more concerted effort to free him from the shackles of his holographic form. But, he asks the impossible: holodeck matter can only remain cohesive within the holodeck grid.

So if you're sick of tech talk, here's Countess Regina Bartholomew. No relation to Reg Barclay... I think. But she's probably related to Doctor Westphalen from seaQuest DSV. The Countess is the simulated love of Moriarty's simulated life, and James has given her the gift that keeps on giving: consciousness.

Making SENTIENT BEINGS is still just a matter of a verbal request to the computer. It doesn't even need a password, for crap's sake. Now they have a self-directed steampunk duo that both want to hop from a Victorian fiction to the amazing realities of the 24th century.

And they've taken Picard, Data, & Barclay hostage, with two planets close to colliding outside.

"Ship In A Bottle" is a whimsical techno-mystery; a pre-Inception Russian nesting doll concept. That butler from The Nanny is delightful as ever, and I already mentioned how I can't get enough of Lt. Barclay.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


**** (4 stars out of 5)

O'Brien is hopping around like a Rectene Monopod trying to fix every broken thing. Airlocks, maps, lights, and that always reliable coffeemaker: the replicators.

Not so reliable today.

Jadzia Dax doesn't seem to know who she is yet. Last episode: steamed veggies and celibacy, today: pudding and flirtation. Dax has the best excuse for character tweaks- she's probably still integrating her Trill symbiont.

Quark is much less dour, too, and I bet his excuse is also a good one- Bajorans are probably better customers when they aren't under martial law.

Impatient for his own eats, Quark steals from the fixed replicators on the command level.  Which, unfortunately, were full of plague.

O'Brien and Dax have contracted a virus that re-routes their brains, producing more gibberish per minute than a Star Trek review blog.

Odo and Quark's antagonistic relationship is off and running nicely. As Odo proves while disparaging Quark's brother:
"You said Rom fixed your replicators."
"Rom's an idiot. He couldn't fix a straw if it was bent."

The aphasia plague is getting past the replicator bio-filters, but soon it doesn't matter because it mutated and got airborne.

As the crew drop like flies, Odo and Quark are left to run Operations. They manage to foil a panicked space trucker who breaks quarantine and starts a launch pad fire with a botched take-off.

Kira finds the culprit, a device built by a genius Bajoran and meant to be used 18 years ago on the Cardassians as the station was being built. Who has since passed on.

Kira kidnaps the dead guy's lab assistant, Surmak Ren (named for the cartoon chihuahua) and forces him to invent a cure.  By breathing the plague into his face. Nice one! SPACE MADNESS!

"Babel" is like 'Journey To Babel' except it's got no journey. The strength and weakness of station DS9 it that it's stationary. Nobody likes anybody, but they're not going anywhere so they're gonna have to live with it. (This is also an uncomfortable episode title for a program that needs to prove it isn't Babel-on-Five.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Man Alone

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Difficult as it might be to imagine, a Bajoran once murdered a Cardassian, so Odo sent him to prison. Now he's back, from outer space. He's called Ibudan.

Mischievous Nog and Jake release Garanian Bolites in the Replimat, which make Bajorans itchy and change colours. This may actually be the Bajorans' own fault: apparently there is nothing on Bajoran television.

Odo would have no one to watch it with: the Constable has never 'coupled' because he eschews compromise. Also, he sleeps in a pail and that was his only alibi when Ibudan was stabbed dead during a massage in Quark's holosuite.

(A holosuite is, I guess, a holodeck with a lock. Today the massage did not include a happy ending.)

Ben misses Guy Love with Curzon Dax, but he won't stand in Julian's way if he wants to romance Jadzia Dax. It's especially easy to say this since Jadzia wants nothing to do with the guy.

Bored Keiko O'Brien becomes a schoolmarm just because. A degree in botany is the same as a teaching certificate, right? Over the misogynist, culturally insular attitudes of Nog's father Rom the Pit Boss, Keiko even gets Nog into her school. This is a coup somehow.

Convicted in the court of wild speculation, Odo is chased by angry brick-tossers. (I choose to believe the brown cucumber-headed guy isn't there for the racist mob, he just thinks he's lining up for drinks.)

Dr. Bashir acquires DNA evidence and immediately starts growing it as though that made more sense than simply scanning it for clues. Congratulations: It's Floor Scrapings! And another Ibudan is born.

Spoliers: the victim did it. He was framing the Constable. As Odo puts it: "Killing your own clone is still murder."

New clone of Ibudan starts a new life while original Ibudan returns to original jail. (Is Doctor Bashir planning to put "Clobudan" through college? And if not, why did he grow him in the first place? Seems like a jerk move, Bashir.)

"A Man Alone" adds a few more problems to this little dystopia: racism, shoddy education, and the knee-jerk formation of lynch mobs. As a sidebar, Ibudan's logs mention he's been to Alderaan. So it could always be worse.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Past Prologue

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Build a better wormhole, and the quadrant will beat a path to your door.

The only Cardassian left on the station, a tailor and suspected spy named Garak, makes genial contact with Julian Bashir and feels him up while he's sounding him out. I'm not saying Garak is gay, but that shirt is definitely bi-curious.

Speaking of, Major Kira has found time for a buzz-cut. And for her old chum to drop by: Bajoran terrorist Tahna Los. Tahna is from a particularly enthusiastic group who still kill Cardassians and any Bajoran who might have waved hello to a Cardassian.

Kira doesn't think Sisko is granting Tahna asylum fast enough, so she reports him to the Principal, I mean, Spock's wife. I mean Admiral Rollman. (Mrs. Spock.)

Tahna doesn't approve of kindly Uncle Federation moving in, he wants Bajor for Bajorans.

Lursa and B'Etor want Bajor for Lursa and B'Etor. I assume. Anyway, they're putting the fun in fundraising. And their Kloobies on display with Power Girl's classic Boob Windows. Fashionista Garak compliments their outfits, kind of amusing from a man who got his shirt from Marvel Comics' Flint "Sandman" Marko.

The Duras sisters sell Tahna a bomb. Kira stops him collapsing the wormhole entrance with it. You heard right: this dink wanted to destroy the Pearly Gate so everyone would leave Bajor alone. I myself have a plan to stop telemarketer calls by shooting God in the face with a bazooka. It's a plan with no flaws.

"Past Prologue" begins to illuminate the new seedy underbelly of the Federation. Those dramatic elements missing from Utopia are sneaking in. Nationalistic pride. Money problems. Creepy tailors cupping your inseam when, frankly, a replicator could just GIVE you a nice pair of slacks. Instantly!

That complained about, Andrew "Garak" Robinson is FREAKING BRILLIANT. The man can do no wrong. By which I mean everything Garak does and says seems wrong by way of subtext. Garak oozes charm, and when Odo's around he can charm ooze.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


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

Hey, remember three years ago when the Borg used Locutus to lay waste to the Starfleet?  It was a more personal tragedy for Commander Benjamin Sisko of starship Saratoga, since his wife Jennifer was one of the thousands who died. Ben and his son Jake barely got out alive thanks to some amazingly good escape pod special effects.

In the wake of the Cardassian withdrawal from ravaged planet Bajor, Sisko is brought in to manage their recovery efforts, help them join the Federation, and incidentally run an abandoned Cardassian mining station with a rag-tag crew.

The ragged-iest of all is our old chum Miles O'Brien as Chief of Operations. It sounds like a promotion, but would YOU want to live on this death trap/bus station/cow pie? Second-In-Command Major Kira Nerys of the Bajoran Militia has a chip on her shoulder pads. Maybe she's mad that she's not Ensign Ro. Shapeshifting Constable Odo keeps order in the shops on the Promenade: a gruff mall security guard who might be hiding in your milkshake. Devious Ferengi like Nog and his uncle Quark take charge of the recreational activities with their advanced degrees in the Thieving Arts.

Sisko plays the "Nog Goes Directly To Jail" card, forcing bartender Quark to become a community leader.
"This Bajoran Provisional Government is far too provisional for my taste." Quark snarls. "And when governments fall, people like me are lined up and shot."

While they DO love to shoot people, far more important to the Bajorans is their Space Pope, Kai Opaka. She grabs ears and speaks pronouncements about stuff and junk. Particularly concerning the visions offered by THE ORB, a Tear from the Prophets of the Celestial Temple. If you find it difficult to keep a straight face in church, you may wish to avoid Bajor: The Pious Powder Keg of the Alpha Quadrant.

Along comes their eager young doctor, Julian Bashir, specializing in foot-in-mouth disease. He's panting after their Trill science officer, Jadzia, hosting aged symbiont Dax. Dax's previous host, Curzon, was Sisko's "Old Man". A friend and mentor, now with extra spots and boobies!

Dukat, former Prefect of Bajor, is their nosy neighbour.  Odo sneaks aboard his ship disguised as a complimentary gift bag.

Sisko and Dax check out the sights in a shuttlecraft RV called a runabout. They soon fall down the mouth of a stable wormhole leading to the Gamma Quadrant, 70,000 light years from Bajor. On the way back, it gets weirder: it's Class M inside. And inhabited.

It's First Contact- with beings that have no concept of 'First'. Or 'Contact'.

Ben tries to explain the human experience of time, and the non-corporeal "Prophets" take the forms of the people in his life to explain that by dwelling on death he is not being linear.

"We are constantly searching, not just for answers to our questions, but for new questions." Ben pontificates. "I am here not to conquer you with weapons... but to co-exist and to learn."

On Kira's paranoid but soon justified orders, O'Brien does the impossible and moves Deep Space 9 out to the Celestial Temp-hole using only thrusters and amplified inertial dampers. Ladies and Gentlemen, our new Scotty. Sorry, I meant Irishy.

"Emissary" reminds me of that heady halcyon era of 1993 when there were TWO STAR TREKS ON TV AT ONCE! These days they can't even muster up a cartoon. Why not, Paramount? You KNOW it's a cash cow. Ka-ching! Moo! Ka-ching! Moo!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chain of Command, Part II

**** (4 lights out of 5)

In the immortal words of the man they call Jayne: "It's the chain I go get and beat you with 'til ya understand who's in ruttin' command here."

War has ruined the economy of planet Cardassia Prime, poverty has destroyed their cultural treasures, and their populace dwells in misery. I mention this because that's their excuse for being such Cardassholes.

Truth serum having failed, Picard is stripped, starved, and tortured in violation of the treaty.

Jellico rushes to the rescue, oh wait. No. That's what disavowed means.

For some unfathomable reason, it's Take Your Daughter To Work Day for torturer Gul Madred. He has always taught his child that "Enemies deserve their fates."

Picard believes that "When children learn to devalue others, they can devalue anyone. Even their parents."

Me, I can't value David Warner enough. He scares the Taspar Eggs out of me.

"What did peace and spirituality get us? People starved by the millions. Bodies went unburied. Disease was rampant. The suffering was unimaginable."

Madred tells his captive that Worf was killed and Crusher is next up for torments if Picard won't co-operate. And since Jean-Luc knows nothing of the battle plans Jellico is cooking up, it's only a battle of a sadistic will: Madred demands Picard see 5 lights when there are really only 4.

Jellico thinks Riker is insubordinate, Riker thinks Jellico's a joyless control freak. Both are right. But either way, Geordi and Will set magnetic mines in a nebula that adhere to the Cardassian fleet. Jellico forces their surrender, and the immediate return of Picard. So, Jellico's big accomplishment was getting things back to the status quo.  Except for the once again shattered body and spirit of Picard.

"Chain of Command, Part II" came out before 24 made torture humdrum and prime-time. I was REALLY not prepared for this: it was upsetting. It's a great piece of acting from hero and villain. I never get enough of the fierce strength of Mr. David Warner, good guy or bad guy. TRON 3 requires his brilliance!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chain of Command, Part I

*** (3 stars out of 5)

A horrible transporter accident turns Captain Picard into that corporate sleaze-ball from Detroit's Omni Consumer Products, Ronny Cox.

I'm just funnin'. Obviously, it's lotsa laughs around here with Enterprise's new Captain Jellico.

In her first appearance, Vice-Admiral Alynna Nechayev forever endears herself by reassigning Picard and forcing Edward Jellico down everyone's gob.

If Picard was seeming too personable and kindly lately, Jellico is all business, a no-nonsense go-getter who changes things around to suit himself.

"Get it done." is his catch-phrase. He's switching the ship's focus from research to military preparedness. He's transferred a third of the engineering staff to security. Does this seem sensible? I shudder to think of Barclay toting a phaser rifle...

Ed tosses away Picard's fish and dusty old books. He even insists Troi wear a standard uniform, which many (including myself) consider his most heinous crime.

Jellico's assessment of Cardassian psyches is that they are like timber wolves, establishing dominance and bold in larger numbers. Possibly with less urinating on trees, I can't be sure. Also, they have better outfits these days. They're about to get their own show, so they darn well better stop wearing armour made from old brown car mats.

Metagenic toxins destroy everything with DNA in an entire biosphere. They were outlawed years ago and even the Romulans abide by this law. The Cardassians, however, may be creating a metagenic weapon on Celtris III. Bev, Worf, and Jean-Luc are assigned to covertly locate and destroy it.

I get that this story can't happen if Starfleet is reasonable, but missions like this are meant for expendable heroes. The mustard shirts of Sealoid Team Six, for example. Not the flagship's Captain and one of the most qualified physicians alive. Still, if you want to risk their lives on spelunking and looking bad-ass, this is how it's done.

Possibly predictably, Picard is captured and dragged before David Warner in chains.

"Chain of Command, Part I" is the harbinger of a new direction in Star Trek, and at the time I thought  it was an ill wind. They were throwing away the utopia I was enamoured of in favour of conflict and suffering. Who would send Jellico into delicate negotiations? He's blunt, combative, and compares his foes to animals. No wonder they're perched on the brink of war.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Quality of Life

*** (3 stars out of 5)
Suddenly surrounded by beards, Dr. Crusher tries to make poker more interesting with a wager to get Will, Geordi, and Worf to shave... or she'll go brunette if she loses.

We'll never know, since the particle fountain orbiting Tyrus VII is the story now. It's a mine in space! The latest thing, possibly. It seems unwieldy, impractical, and this one is subject to unwarranted explosions.

A common industrial servomechanism has been modified by the lovely and lumpy-foreheaded Dr. Farallon into 'Exocomps'. Their built-in replicators make whatever tools are needed, and also builds new circuit pathways to mimic learning.

Probably not coincidentally, Nammo from the cartoon Dirty Pair is a repair machine very much along the same lines: like an adorable metal football with feet.

It's getting pretty smart when it 'malfunctions' at exactly the right time to avoid an explosion. Farallon sighs and throws it in the garbage.

Data decides it is actually self-determining and therefore: Johnny Five Alive!

Trying to explain how the bots are new life and thus worth seeking out, Data claims to Crusher that he does not grow or reproduce. But we've seen him grow a beard and build a kid. That each was a horrific tragedy doesn't mean they didn't happen.

Farallon is pissed that Data wants to emancipate her metal minions. Even when it seems to pass Geordi's tests of self-preservation. They could take this show on the road: Farallon's Hover Toasters! They fly down Pipes! They fail to Explode!

Since we never see or hear from the Exocomps again, I have to assume that either Farallon fitted them with cute little bow ties and they got jobs in upper management, or they went on to a thrilling career as doorstops.

"The Quality of Life" is asking a good question: when our machines get smart enough to count as alive, are we going to notice if they still look like Nammo, Skeets or R2-D2? Or will they have to look like us? Also, would you make an action figure out of a robot that doesn't really do anything?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Fistful of Datas

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

It's true what they say. There's nothing so great as a holodeck episode. If anyone says that.

The nerds of Team Dordi spend their free time tinkering with Data's brain. Geordi hopes that in a crisis, Data could plug in and run the ship all by himself. Because the M-5 did a bang-up job a century back in 'The Ultimate Computer' and its high time somebody put a disembodied robot brain in charge of a starship once again.

As might be expected by anyone who's seen anything, it all goes awry, swapping the recreational library systems with bits of Data's mind.

This fills the replicators with cat food, trades Crusher's play for Data's cat-themed poetry, and (nothing to do with kitties) puts super-strong, super-fast copies of Data into the roles of the cowboys of Alexander's Ancient West program.  Speaking of kitties, Alexander and Mr. Barclay wrote the program for a little father-son bonding time, with 'Miss Kitty's House of Pleasure' as a game bonus level nobody's going to be playing during family viewing hours.

Sheriff Worf of Deadwood (minus all the HBO cussing) must rescue his hostage Deputy Sonny from the clutches of the Dastardly Data Gang with the help of "Durango", The Mysterious Rifle-Toting Stranger from Betazed.

Ruthless villain Frank Hollander could gun even a Klingon down before he twitches a whisker.
Worf must draw on his ingenuity to cobble together a Brainiac 5 Forcefield Belt from a communicator and a telegraph machine to survive the obligatory shoot-out.

"A Fistful of Datas", originally written as "The Good, The Bad, & The Klingon" is both a great new take on the 'holodeck breaks down' story and a quality SF rendering of western tropes.

A VR western, a bar fight, Cowboys and Aliens, wanted posters, dynamite, and an android using a spittoon. You don't get this stuff anywhere else! Unless you watch Red Dwarf's 'Gunfighters of the Apocalypse'. Which I kind of want to do right now. So long, part'ners... (Mike rides off into sunset on imaginary space horse.)

Friday, May 4, 2012


*** (3 stars out of 5)

Shore leave for Picard, Keiko, Ro, & Guinan ends in a bizarre change when beamed free of a space phenomenon. (If this seems like an odd group to hang out together, just remember they do shore leave alphabetically: Bajoran, Baldy, Bartender, Botanist. Before you ask, Bolian Barbers don't get vacations.)

Their bodies are transformed into preadolescence with their personalities unchanged. Like the last few minutes of 'The Counter-Clock Incident'. Or Muppet Babies.

Guinan skips her way through second childhood, while Ro gets a chance at one not huddled behind barbed wire. Miles and Molly O'Brien try to adjust to Keiko as their pre-teen wife and mother. Just like reality television, it's utterly unreal.

Spanky, Alfalfa, Mopey, Guinan Gal, and Worf Junior must save the day when Ferengi privateers overtake them (they had Klingon weapons, O.K.?) and send most of the adults into the vendarite mines of Ligos VII. I choose to believe the adult women toiled naked in honour of an unfinished Gene Roddenberry script, but that's neither here nor there.

Picard Lad throws a hissy fit to be allowed out of school lockdown and allowed to see Riker.  He lets the nickname Number One slip out in front of the pirates and covers with: "He's my number one Dad!"

Riker spews technobabble to the Ferengi like he was playing fizzbin. Lurin and his stooges are EASILY DEFEATED!

Ro takes a little extra time as a girl to draw pictures. Guinan encourages her.  "That's the wonderful thing about crayons. They can take you to more places than a starship."

"Rascals" should, by any sane standards, be a dreadful episode. It's not. I liked Muppet Babies, and I like Star Trek Babies, too. It's a big risk to pin your whole story on young performers, but it payed off nicely. So don't forget to jump on the bed sometimes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

True Q

*** (3 stars out of 5)

Here comes the first and only intern I ever heard of on a starship: honours science student Amanda Rogers.

She's kind of odd: she just wishes for puppies and they appear.  Did she wish for the internship too, just so she didn't have to sit through the Academy?

And do they really give honors in neurobiology to people who don't know how to hold a tricorder?

Amanda the Teenage Witch lost her parents when she was a baby, and sadly did not end up on a sitcom with an oddball pair of witch aunties.

Enterprise is on a relief mission (with free condescension) to the highly polluted world of Tagra IV. Everyone's got an inhaler here, and they dispose of the non-biodegradables by leaving them out in the acid rain. Two birds with one stone! (Also, those were the last two birds.)

Amanda wishes away the threat of a falling container headed for that hunky Commander Riker, and stops a warp core breach with her twitchy powers, too. So who should drop by but the Main Warlock himself, Q! He says her parents were Q posing as humans.

That explains it! That's why she used her tricorder backwards: when you're a Q you don't have to know things.

Q looks deep into her nose and sees her potential. She hurtles him across the room for his trouble.

Now a pair of all-powerful genies are loose and playing hide and seek in the warp core. "The universe could be your playground." says Q.

And Riker could be your Pride & Prejudice Mr. Darcy Action Figure, or at least he could be if you didn't have the moral sense to stop yourself.

The records show the Rogers were killed by a freak tornado that evaded the weather modification net, touched down only to kill them, and vanished. Does that count as suspicious circumstances? Is 'Act of Q' covered by any insurance companies?

Offered the option of staying a human if she can refrain from using her power, Amanda agrees. Inside of a minute, she reneges on the deal to save thousands of people from death by explosion and whisks away all the nasty pollution.

"True Q" asks: what would you do as Q?  I like to hope I wouldn't use people for my amusement, but like Amanda, I might choose to dispense with our planet's burgeoning Diaper Continent. Or like Superman in the oft-maligned Superman IV, I might utterly disarm Earth and bask in all the applause I would no doubt receive from people who never wanted all that pesky free will anyway...