Thursday, June 30, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Cold Fire"

“Cold Fire” offers Kes a chance to play Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the force when the crew encounters a colony of Ocampa protected by another Caretaker. It is a poorly kept secret the discovery of a second Caretaker is in response to VOY’s lackluster ratings. It is meant to be an easy out for the ship to return to the Alpha Quadrant should the series not survive. But VOY limps along another five years, so Caretaker II never makes another appearance.

I have mixed emotions about “Cold Fire.” It is an entertaining episode overall. It explores Kes’ powers in greater detail. It introduces a good Villain in Tanis, a megalomaniacal Ocampa. The episode explores the negative impact Voyager has had on the Delta Quadrant in stark contrast to previous claims history cannot be rewritten because theie impact on the quadrant is now a necessary part of it development. But in spite of these good points, the episode does so many dumb things there is a counter balance to every high point.

When the episode begins, Tuvok is working with Kes to hone her mental abilities. He teaches her to reach out to the minds of the crew and read their thoughts, which she does. Geez, what a great invasion of privacy the security officer is encouraging Kes to do. Neither demonstrates any qualms about secretly invading people’s minds, either. Good to know how far took is willing to go in order to maintain safety.

Later in sickbay, the remains of the Caretaker, which they kept for some weird reason, begin to light up and shake. According to some Torres t is an indication another Caretaker is nearby. It leads them to a new array which serves as a home for a colony of Ocampa. These Ocampa are lead by Tanis, a fourteen year old Ocampa with extraordinary mental abilities and an extreme Ocampa supremacist attitude he relays to Kes every chance he gets. Naïve Kes takes shows no apprehension about it until she has to physically confront him in the climax.

Tanis is played wonderfully by Gary Graham, the actor who will go on to play Soval in ENT. Quite a few readers may be more interested in his regular contributions to the conservative website Big Hollywood.. Graham has played villainous characters before, but not quite like Tanis. He is over the top, but not hammy. He is exactly what you would expect from a villain who is tapping into a source of near unlimited power which makes him feel far above other ’minor” life forms.

Tanis is reluctant to cooperate with Voyager. Janeway’s reputation precedes her. Tanis tells her she is feared across the quadrant because of the Caretaker’s death, the continuing war with the Kazon, and their taking resources from planets without any permission or approval. The thing is, he is right. They have not only done all these things, but are secretly preparing a weapon to stun Caretaker II if it tries to overpower them like before. The issue is glossed over, however, because Tanis and Caretaker II are angry over the one thing the crew did not do--murdered Caretaker. He died of old age. So rather than explore the crew’s actions in fighting the Kazon or taking resources in the name of survival, the conflict in “Cold Fire” puts the crew squarely in the right because they are victims of a false accusation. It is a cop out.

The bonding of Kes and Tanis has its own issues. There is an amusing undertone of Kes as Luke Skywalker and Tanis as Obi Wan Kennobi in the beginning, but slowly morphing into Darth Vader as he helps her tap into the more sinister possibilities of using her powers. I am even willing to concede her naïve tolerance of Tanis’ contempt for humans is a result of her thrill of utilizing powers she has never before experienced. But there isa big flaw in the teaching progression. Why does Tanis teach her the telekinetic ability to move a tea cup and the ability to summon fire in the same lesson? Arguably, it is to tempt her with more, but she nearly cooks Tuvok’s head with it. Still, no one gets any negative vibes from Tanis. What does it take to get through to these people?

Caretaker II shows up in the form of Ben Savage’s little sister from Boy Meets World. We quickly degenerate from Star Wars to Carrie as she tortures the crew in revenge for allegedly murdering the other Caretaker. Janeway is able to use the weapon they have been developing to stop her, so even the fact they were secretly planning to violently subdue the Caretaker Ii if necessary turns out to be the right thing to do. Presumably, so id fighting the Kazon and stealing resources by default. See, Tanis? You could not be more wrong. Caretaker Ii and Tanis flee never to be seen again after being defeated by Janeway and Kes respectively. The Magic Reset Button is pressed, too, as Kes can no longer use telekinesis or summon fire.

In spite of its flaws, “Cold Fire” is one of the best episodes thus far. If for no other reason, it is because of the potential empowering of Kes and the prospect of Tanis as a more interesting recurring villain than Seska. Alas, the former is wasted and the latter never materializes. This is a serious problem with VOY. Every opportunity to make the show more interesting is dropped immediately in favor of technobabble and the absolute assurance federation philosophy is morally infallible. As a result, “Cold Fire” is about as good as it gets when the regular writing team attempts to further the series arc.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Jennifer Aniston

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Formspring Question #202--TV on DVD Edition

What TV series do you own on DVD? That must have cost quite a bit of scratch.
I have a lot of stuff from the video store even though my mother closed it down thirteen years ago. People do not know quite what to do with me these days, so I have gotten a lot of DVds as gifts. My collection is piecemeal.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Maneuvers"

Since there are many nitpicking Trekkies out there, a technical note is in order regarding episode sequence from here on out. There are two different episode lists floating about the internet. One is the original broadcast order. The other is the revised order for syndication and DVD. The latter is considered an improvement because it allegedly clarifies some continuity issues and puts more distance between episodes in which special effects shots were reused for budgetary reasons. Some episode titles have been changed for aesthetics or to better reflect content. I am going by the DVD order rather than original broadcast, so if things do not jibe with what you remember, nothing is wrong. I am going by the revised material.

“Maneuvers” features the return of the Kazon. Before you groan at the prospect, bear in mind they are now being manipulated by Seska through the leaderr of a relatively weak sect, Culloq, whom she has by the penis. Seska is plotting to unite the Kazon sects herself by stealing Federation technology and using it to create alliance. Culloq is being duped into helping her by thinking it is all his idea. He falls for this hook, line, and sinker because of that whole being dragged around by the penis thing.

There is much more slam bang action in “Maneuvers” than VOY has had thus far. It is the beginning of a noticeable trend to make the show less talky, which I welcome, but it will still be loaded down with preachy progressive ideology and inane techno babble, which I do not. One takes his blessings where he gets him, folks, lest they stop coming altogether.

Seska arranges for Voyager to follow a beacon signal using a code Harry identifies as one used from a star date after they were stranded in the Delta Quadrant. How he could know this is never clarified. This is a Kenneth Biller script, so just accept it. He is doing the best he can. You do not have to be Adm. Ackbar to know this is a trap. The Kazon make a daring raid on the ship and steal transporter technology before making a clean getaway.

It should not surprise you no one suspects Seska’s involvement until she contacts Voyager in order to taunt Chakotay. For the remainder of the episode, “Maneuvers” is largely a personal drama between the two. Chakotay secretly flees the ship in order to follow a warp drive trail Seska deliberately left behind. Her plan, as far as Culloq is concerned, is to capture him in order to get the command codes for Voyager. But she has a more personal vendetta running.

Credit where credit is due, “Maneuvers” covertly addresses the tensions between the Maquis and Starfleet crewmembers, something that has been ignored for quite a while. I say covertly because no one ever says that is the motivation for anyone’s actions. Chakotay goes AWOL because it does not think Seska is a Starfleet problem. She is a traitor to him personally. Janeway does not want to risk the ship in a rescue attempt, but is convinced to do so when Torres says his loss will destroy morale. What she actually means is the Maquis will rebel if she abandons their leader. Even the rescue operation is said to be a violation of Starfleet safety protocols. Yet there is very little overt acknowledgement the Starfleet way is being completely abandoned in favor of the Maquis way. Perhaps that is because the Maquis way works where Starfleet methods have failed. Did the ghost of Gene Roddenberry rattle his chains while biller was typing away?

In the end, Chakotay destroys the stolen transporter technology and gets rescued. Culloq’s attempt to create and alliance with other Kazon sects fails when Seska turns her attention from his penis to Chakotay’s. she extracts some of his DNA during interrogation and impregnates herself with it. Only in VOY science does that sort of thing work. She then taunts Chakotay with the news in front of the Voyager bridge crew. That is one cold woman.

“Maneuvers” has some serious plot holes. Chakotay ought to know Seska wants to captire him for the command codes. Either he is dumb for falling for it, or Janeway is dumb for not changing the command codes to make them useless after Chakotay went AWOL, or Seska is dumb for not anticipating the command codes would be changed. Take your pick. The final rescue attempt involves taken the heads of the Kazon sects hostage, but the terms of their release do not involve handing over Seska. That seems like an obvious demand to make, but future storylines require her to be free, so there you go. The whole DNA impregnation thing does not sound terribly plausible, either. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining effort that is indicative of a less talky future for the series. Kudos for that.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Kate Upton

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michele Bachmann's History v. Barack Obama's Geography

Michele Bachmann's claim John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father is far more defensible than Barack Obama's statement there are 57 states.

Just sayin'.

Maybe when the media makes good on the threat to investigate her foster children, they will find out if either she or the president is smarter than a fifth grader.

UPDATE: Speaking of Bachmann's John Quincy Adams claim being defensible, American Power explains. Any Obama fans want to take a shot at naming our missing seven states as a retort?

UPDATE II: Mark Levin says George Stephanopolous should not be mocking Bachmann. I concur. The man has gone from advising a president to asking Elmo if he wants a play date with Katy Perry. There is one Rhodes Scholarship that was not wasted, huh?

Star Trek: Voyager--"Persistence of Vision"

“Persistence of Vision” is the first VOY script which Jeri Taylor writes without collaboration. Therefore, its theme is Janeway is Awesome. Get used to that. Taylor lives vicariously through Janeway on a regular basis from the now until the end of the fifth season. Her fascination with Janeway is not a detriment here, however. “Persistence of Vision” is one of the best episodes VOY has had in a while. The crew finally encounters an unusual alien menace who creates a surreal and frightening experience for them.

If I have any serious criticism for “Persistence of Vision,” it is that it shifts gears in the final two acts. While the first three acts are completely focused on Janeway, the fourth, the fourth spreads out to the rest of the main cast and the fifth has Kes, all alone, saving the day. I cannot criticize the gear shifting too harshly, however. It offers a better insight into the characters than we have seen before. We also get the first real hints Kes possesses far more powers than previously believed.

Voyager is about to enter Bothe space. The Bothe are a xenophobic race that do not care for strange ships passing through. Janeway is under a load of stress balancing diplomacy with defensive measures to ensure they make it by the Bothe. The doctor orders her to spend some time with her holonovel to relax. This is the governess one in which she falls in which a widower falls in love with her. There is a disturbing undertone the children she is taking care of do not believe their mother is dead. That does not stop Janeway from putting the moves on their daddy. If women’s sexual fantasies really are akin to romance novels, then Janeway is essentially engaged in an adult film. If Chakotay took part in a holodeck program more in line with male sexual fantasies, reaction would be far different. Just saying.

Janeway begins seeing characters from the holonovel outside the holodeck. Over three acts, it appears she is going insane. Well, more insane than usual. She is not really the picture of mental stability at any point. By the fourth act, the entire crew is being affected. They see family members, for better or for worse, beckoning them. All accept for Torres, who imagines a romp in bed with Chakotay. Keep this scenario in mind. Towards the end of the season, Janeway will flirt with it, too, in another episode written by Taylor. Something tells me she has had a kidnapped by Native American braves and never rescued by cowboys fantasy at some point in her life. Maybe several points.

Once the crew give in to the visions, they are stuck in a catatonic state. Kes is the only one who has the power to resist, and she is the one who exposes the Bothe alien intruder who has been causing the hallucinations by overpowering him with her mind. She has no clue how she was able to do so. While Kes is the hero, Janeway steals her thunder. She was the first one to be attacked by the alien, but was the last one to go all catatonic. That means she resisted for hours while everyone else succumbed within minutes. Janeway is Awesome!

She is also inconsistent or willing to learn from her mistakes, depending on how generous you want to be. She decides to throw the Bothe in the brig with the specific rationale she will not allow him to attack other travelers again. Back in “Phage,” she refused to hold the Vidiians who stole Neelix’s lungs in the brig because she did not want to haul them along on the 75 year journey even though she knows they will steal the organs of any other travelers they encounter. Maybe she learned from the second encounter with the Vidiians not to play around, or she is just angry the Bothe messed with her personally this time, but now she has no qualms about dragging prisoners along for three-quarters of a century. Take your pick which you believe. I am inclined towards the latter.

I like “Persistence of Vision.’ While it is hard to describe why, it feels like an episode that could only occur on VOY. Perhaps because the situations feels peculiar enough to only have happened in the new and strange Delta Quadrant. Or maybe it is the bothe’s attitude. When Janeway asks his motivation, he says he did it because he could. Not to study them or for some survival or political ends. He did it for the old school daffy Duck reason--he just wanted to screw with them. Some fans consider that a lame excuse, but I think it is a refreshing change from the norm. As is "Persistence of Vision.”

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Anna Paquin

Monday, June 27, 2011

Formspring Question #201--Character Clarification Edition

Which one is Kes?
Jennifer Lien these days:

Formspring Question #200--Visions of the Future Edition

Why are you so critical of Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future? It is supposed to give people hope.
Because I have been asked to critique Star Trek from my point of view, and my point of view is Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy of human perfection through progressive and secular means is a crock. While I do not want to discourage anyone from thinking positive thoughts about the future, there has to be a dose of realism in every optimistic notion or else is is just sappy sentimentalism.

Star Trek is not the future of humanity. We are not going to one day cast aside all our differences to create a perfect world, then go out and explore space to find other enlightened species. We are certainly not going to reach that point following the path Roddenberry has laid out.

Here is the flaw in Roddenberry’s logic--he assumed changing th environment will force a change in people. His idea is that is people are comfortable with plenty of food, nice shelter, and reliable medical care all without paying for it directly or having any religious beliefs as a dividing factor, then all social problems will be eliminated. To which I sau poppycock. At the very least, all hat will do is create an artificial environment that will cause mass panic and/or barbarism as the slightest hint some of the creature comforts might fail at some point.

That is a best case scenario. Human nature is greedy and corrupt no matter what environment it is in. being comfortable does not stop that. Right now, even our poorest people live better than most wealthy people of past generations. We have scientific advancement up the wazoo that make life more convenient, as well as medical advancements that make people live longer, healthier lives. Yet we will still kill each other over reasons as petty as stealing a pair of basketball shoes or as complex as political or religious strife. As enlightened as the 20th century was, it was the bloodiest one-hundred years in history. There is no reason to think the 21st century will not be worse. Improving quality of life does not improve the heart of man.

We may have raised the quality of our lives, but we have also increased our ability to destroy ourselves. The former has not inhibited the latter in the slightest. The root of the problem is that technology and knowledge may expand exponentially, but wisdom starts over from the beginning for everyone. It is a trait one cannot inherit. Wisdom has to be learned for one’s self even if it is imparted as advice from someone who knows what is best. No amount of perfection in one’s environment, which is a fictional concept anyway, will encourage people to be perfect. Odds are, if any alien civilizations exist, they are not any different than we are in that regard, so I would not count on any aliens teaching us how to be perfect people, either. The future of humanity is going to be identical to the past of humanity because people are basically the same as they have always been no matter how well we live.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Parturition"

You had to figure Neelix’s jealousy towards tom’s friendship with kes would come to a head at some point. The idea of an entire episode being devoted to what was a running subplot is a surprise, particularly considering what a juvenile attitude both characters have been exhibiting. “Parturition” resolves their dispute in as trite and predictable a manner as possible, so at least there is consistency.

The trouble begins when tom is teaching Kes to pilot a shuttlecraft in a holodeck simulation. She slips at one part when the shuttlecraft is rocked and falls into his arms. She sits in his lap just a little too long. The ironic part is Neelix does not know about this. All he knows is the two of them were in the holodeck together. He knows this because he was spying around the corner. So he is a demented stalker.

The two come to blows in the mess hall after kes has the nerve to wave at Tom and smile. It is at this point, while still covered in pasta, they are ordered to report to Janeway for a mission. There is a nearby planet with a hostile atmosphere that may host edible planets. Tom is the best pilot to manage the atmosphere. Neelix is all about edible plant life. They are stuck together.

As you can most certainly predict, the shuttlecraft crashes. The two survive unhurt, but cannot be rescued until a convenient clear patch opens in the atmosphere for a beam out. They have to stick together in order to survive. The whole affair comes across poorly. The atmosphere is irritating to the skin, but it is explicitly stated it would take a week’s worth of exposure to be fatal. They will be able to beam out in a couple hours, so the worst they suffer are rashes. Neither of them were injured in the crash, so there is no ticking clock for emergency medical care. The drama is finding a cave, sealing themselves in, and then sniping at each other.

Their fighting is broken up by the discovery a a baby lizard hatching in the back of the cave. Naturally, it is sick. Tom knows this because the lizard is shivering. Cold blooded reptiles do not shiver, but this is VOY where the science is even worse than the plotting. Barely. The lizard’s problem is it gets nutrients from the atmosphere. Because Tom and Neelix blocked off the cave, the lizard is starving to death. So they take it outside in spite of their nasty rashes. They save the lizard together and that bonds the two. Neelix admits he suffers from severe jealousy. Tom confesses if it were not for Neelix, he would jump Kes’ bones in a heartbeat. Somehow, the brutal honesty resolves the issue. Television logic. You have to love it.

The subplot is the lizard’s mother is part of a space faring race that attacks Voyager in order to protect its baby. I have a tough time accepting that a race technologically advanced enough for interstellar travel would have to dump its eggs on a planet in order to properly feed it. But even if they do, reptiles usually abandon their eggs once they are laid period, so coming back for the baby would be strange. So would not just communicating with Voyager about the planet serving as their nursery rather than going in guns blazing. It is dumb all around.

In spite of the negatives I have accentuated, there are some good character moments involving anyone not named Neelix or Tom. When those two knuckleheads show up in Janeway’s office covered in pasta and insisting they not be assigned a mission together, she is succinct in addressing their problem--’Solve it.” That is how a captain ought to handle petty issues among her crew rather than the micromanaging of everyone’s lives and ordering them to implement her solutions like Janeway normally does. I do not get to praise Janeway much, but credit where credit is due. On rare occasions, she acts like someone qualified to have her job.

Harry is another character who gets a moment to shine when he consoles Kes over the missing Neelix and Tom. Too often Harry is the focus of bad luck and/or abuse. Even when he is the focus of an episode, he rarely gets any development. His ability to connect emotionally with Kes here without any hint the would like to sleep with her raises him far above either Neelix or Tom. You have to wonder why Kes does not see that. Not saying she should fall for Harry, but that she ought to recognize what cads the other two are in comparison. Maybe she just likes immature, abusive men. Women appear to have a self-destructive need to reform those types of men.

Even though I find the conflict between Neelix and Tom petty and dumb, I have to recognize the rarity of main characters in a Trek series actually having a conflict that involves emotion. Normally, any conflict of this nature between characters has to be the result of alien influence interfering with the way enlightened 24th century humans handle their problems. Of course, the catalyst is still Neelix the unenlightened alien, so we do not get to journey too far passed the usual motif.

“Parturition” is not a particularly good episode. Plot wise, it is on par with a cartoon meant to teach children a lesson about jealousy. The whole baby lizard and its mother attacking the ship bit is trite and demonstrative of VOY’s shallow thinking in both plot and scientific accuracy. The only highlights are the all too brief moments with Janeway and Harry I described above. They sre not enough to elevate the episode to anything enjoyable.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Kelly Brook

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Formspring Question #199--The Root of All Evil Edition

If you could rid the world of one thing, what would it be?
Greed. Without it, a whole lot of misery would cease to exist.

Blogroll Spotlight #100

It is time for the weekly round up of favorite posts from my blogroll. These are not ranked, but in alphabetical order by blog title. If you would like a specific post listed next week, you may email it to me and I will include it.

Adrienne's Corner--Let's Make This Go Viral
American Power--Islam Inspires Rape
Blazing Cat Fur--Egyptian Muslims Torch Christian Homes on Rumors of Church Building
Bluegrass Pundit--Michelle Obama: "We Have Help from the Media."
Camp of the saints--Rule 5: Caterina Murino
Classic Liberal--A Line has Been Crossed
Daley Gator--Marxist Moron of the Day
Fausta's Blog--NJ Cuts Government Workers Union Benefits
Fishersville Mike--Blogroll Spotlight at 100
Gorge's Grouse--A Country Wedding: 1948
Jawa Report--Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Revolution in the West
Lazy Farmer--I Am Done with Spring Silage
Left Coast Rebel--The Obama Legacy
Maggie's notebook--DeMint: Republicans are Gone if Debt Ceiling Raised
Motor City Times--Obamas Reflexively Does Not Trust the Private Sector Economy
No Runny Eggs--The Economy the Dems Now Own
Other McCain--College Democrats Recruit Stupid, Ugly Losers
Pirate's Cove--If All You See..
Proof Positive--Hillary on Patriotic dissent
Randy's roundtable--More Proof Liberalism is a Mental Disorder
Say Anything--Now Begins the War on Fast food and Coffee Drive Thru
Sentry Journal--Thoughs on the "Palestinian" State and Right of Return
Soylent Green--Sonic Srendipity
Teresamerica--Rule 5: Brittany Snow
Troglopundit--Awesome Headlines of the Day
We the People--Tactical Tip: Step Knife Defense
WyBlob--NJEA Don't know Much About History
Zilla of the Resistance--ExaminerZilla

It is officially summer!

Star Trek: Voyager--"Twisted"

Oh, dear--a high concept episode written by Kenneth Biller. That cannot be good, and rest assured, it is not. I waver on whether the idea of a spatial anomaly altering the ship’s design, thereby trapping the crew in a maze, is a good idea in the first place, but I am certain the unintentionally funny manner in which the crew constantly gets lost wandering the corridor’s certainly is a bad idea. Speed up the camera and add “I’m a Believer,” and you have a lost episode of The Monkees.

That is not even the worst part of the story execution. I am confident the powers that be knew this script was not working well, so they added in a lot of personal conflict which comes across as juvenile, junior high level sniping jealousy over a girl and being passed over for a promotion. when you believe you have 63 minutes to live, such bruised feelings really ought to be cast aside, particularly when one of the participants is a supposedly emotionless Vulcan.

The episode begins with a surprise party being thrown for Kes. Tom uses two weeks worth of replicator rations to make her a gift, so Neelix flips out. Before we can speculate whether he is going to smack her around, or just lock Kes in a closet as punishment, the ship gets pulled into a spatial distortion which twists it into a constantly changing maze. For the next 35 excruciating minutes, the main cast wanders through the corridors getting lost and sniping at each other.

No exaggeration. They literally do nothing but this until Torres gets a techno babble idea and finds her way to engineering to try it. It only makes things worse--big surprise, that--and the trapped crew resigns themselves to a painful death being contorted into oblivion. Too darn merciful for them, if you ask me.

Here is the dynamics of it. Everyone but Tuvok and Harry are at the partyy in the holodeck. Harry is itching to go to the party, but the spatial distortional engulfs the ship right then, so Tuvok cans the idea. Everyone in the holodeck, unaware of what is going on because communications are down, split up to go their separate ways. They spend two acts constantly getting lost before gathering back again in the holodeck, this time with Harry having found/lost his way there, too. Two acts is way too much time to establish the problem without going overboard, but there you go.

The second time they split up, they are still wandering about, but the emphasis is on angst. Neelix offers to go with Chakotay because of his famed tracking skills. You can literally see how thrilled Chakotay is. It is just an excuse so Neelix can get advice about jealousy from him. With fifty some odd minutes left to live, Chakotay reallt stops to counsel him over Kes and Tom. He manages to lose neelix when the famed tracker gets lost, but just to prove there is balance in the universe, he runs into Tuvok. The two of them clash over the course of action to take, then admit it is motivated by anger that Chakotay was chosen as first officer. It is good to know in the shadow of Death, they are thinking about the big issues. At least Janeway, who gets caught in the distortion itself, is unconscious for most of the episode.

With all options exhausted, they all brace themselves for the worst. The turns out to be…nothing. Janeway suddenly sits up and spouts a line of gibberish as the spatial distortion passes by,, and that is it. It was actually an intelligent life form studying them. It even left data about itself in the computer for them to study once it left. The only danger the crew was ever in was when Torres did something stupid and nearly blew the ship up.

Oh, yeah--the Janeway speaking in tongues bit is existentially hilarious. It reminds me of the day I learned way no one goes to the luncheon to annual welcome new students to Regent University hosted by the Divinity students. The Pentecostal Divinity students. The charismatic Pentecostal Divinity students. Try having a nice, quiet meal after everyone in the room just babbled incoherently, but in earnest, during the blessing.

“Twisted” is awful on all levels. There is never any real danger. The crew acts petty in their disputes and are otherwise made to look dumb by wandering about confused virtually the entire episode. Practically every point of drama, from the reactions yo being lost, to the personal conflicts, and Janeway finding that old time religion come are terribly absurd under the circumstances. Skip this one for the sake of you own sanity.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Leah Remini

She is a chubby Scientologist these days, but it was fun while it lasted.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Social Values Still Matter

The results of last week’s poll are in. A majority feel social values cannot be ignored when choosing a even as economic issues will be at the forefront of the 2012 election.

Social values important 66%
Economics only 34%

Pro-choice, pro gay-marriage Republicans will get no traction in 2012 regardless of economic acumen. Note to Rudy Giuliani--do not bother.

If you have not already surmised, I usually cast a vote these weekly polls, too. I play sporting and vote only once, and I also avoid polls in which the outcomes matter like the Star Trek: Voyager v. Babylon 5 review poll which made me question American cultural rot and democracy as we know it, but I do vote in the political polls. Except for this week. While I came up with the question regarding the importance of social issues in choosing a 2012 nominee, I have not come up with a good answer.

In my young idealistic days, I thought social issues mattered because I thought political leaders ought to set the cultural tone. I am not that dumb anymore, nor have I been for a long time. These days I recognize politicians are a reflection of the culture that put them into power, not the other way around. I not only have no faith in a politician to guide our country’s moral direction, I am not so sure he should. I am now a bottom up, not top down believer in where true change comes.

So what is the value of gauging a candidate’s position on social issues? It is a litmus test more than anything else. I want to know a candidate’s position on abortion even though I know abortion will be the law off the land for the duration. But I want to know because the rationale behind his belief speaks volumes. I think Bush 43’s sincere Christian beliefs convinced him to be pro-life. I think his father switched from pro-choice to pro-life in order to score points with southern and heartland conservatives wary of his New England blue blood. Barack Obama’s attitude that a baby is a burden speaks volumes about his character. You can tell what these mean and women are all about when you honestly look at why they believe as they do.

This time around, I am very much in the Anybody But Obama school of thought. I am even more adamant about it now than with John McCain in 2008. Back then, Sarah Palin allowed me some warm fuzzies in casting my ballot. The GOP has the best chance of winning the White House they have ever had in my 18 years of seriously following presidential elections. That is, assuming they do not blow like in 1996 when they handed the nomination to a candidate solely because it was ’his turn.” If they do not field a social conservative with fiscal responsibility, it will be time for true conservatives to jump ship for a third party.

This week’s poll is back to the less serious. I still want to know how many VOY fans there are out there. You guys and gals are awfully quiet compared to the detractors even though, according to poll results, there are a lot of you. So we are only the dedicated fans will care to answer. Was the character kes a waste of space or waste of potential?

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around #104

It is time once again to round up all the bloggers gracious enough to link to me this week.

Teresamerica links to Scarlett Johansson.
The Other McCain links to Scarlett Johansson.
Sentry Journal links to A New Poll is Up on Economics and Social Values.
Proof Positive links to Eliza Dushku, Kristin Chenoweth, Kaley Cuoco, and Scarlett Johansson.
Say Anything links to Eliza Dushku, Kristin Chenoweth, Kaley Cuoco, and Scarlett Johansson.
Classic Liberal links to Sophie Monk, Eliza Dushku, Kaley Cuoco, Natalie Portman, Aimee Teegarden, kristin Chenoweth, and Scarlett Johansson. outside of the babes, Classic Liberal links to Feminism in the Final Frontier
Pirate's Cove links to FMJRA #103, Blogroll Spotlight #99, and Rebecca Romijin.
Fishersville Mike links commemorates Blogroll Spotlight #100.
Motor city Times links to Donald Trump's Faux Presidential Run Nets Him $160 Million.

A new record of 24 links. Thanks to all!

A sincere thank you to all who linked this week. If you linked to me in the last week, but I do not have you here, you unfortunately fell through the cracks of Technorati, Google Blog Search, and Sitemeter. Please drop me a note in the comments and I will update with your link.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Non Sequitur"

“Non Sequitur,” Latin for “it does not follow,” is the second in a long line of hard Luck Harry episodes. You would think it would be difficult to find so many ways to put the poor guy through the ringer considering he “died” in the first one, but the powers that be manage to to perfect their sadism in some astoundingly creative ways. Not necessarily good ways, but creative.

Harry awakens one morning to find himself back on Earth. He soon discovers that he is not in the past, but that someone else took his place on Voyager before it got lost in the Badlands. Now he is a promising engineer who is responsible for designing a new shuttlecraft. He is also engaging to Libby, the chick he was pining for about three minutes there in the first episode. He has everything he could possibly want out of life, including the knowledge of what would have happened to him had his request to be assigned to Voyager been granted. Yet, he panics and wants nothing more than to get back to his reality.

The interesting part about ’Non Sequitur” is that nothing is explained until the last act. We are not given any clues that there is anything sinister afoot. Harry has an idyllic life, which includes the astrong hin the got laid. How often does that happen for him? But seriously, he has a top notch job and can marry his true love, yet he is not happy. He is convinced he is either stuck in a simulation or has somehow altered the time stream. Whichever the case, he is not going to stand for it.

Quite by accident, he discovers tom missed the trip to the Badlands, too, because he was arrested by Odo after punching out Quark during the DS9 layover. Conveniently, tom not being on Voyager is the only other change to the timeline. Tom is a pool hall hustler who, in spite of having his parole revoked for his DS9, was not sent back to prison in New Zealand. Figure that one out. Harry asks for his help, but since they did not become friends until after Voyager was lost, tom does not budge.

Harry, however, comes under suspicion of being a spy with the combination of his use of Voyager access codes, crazy talk of altering reality, and communicating with maquis Tom. Harry is given an ankle monitor to track his whereabouts until the mess can be sorted out.

It is only at this point is the situation clarified. The café owner across the street from Harry reveals he is an alien. His species lives within cracks in the time stream. Harry fell through one and wound up here. The odd part is that, according to the alien, they cannot send him back because one can wind up anytime, anywhere, by traveling through a rift. He explicitly tells Harry another trip could send him to the primordial ooze of any planet, or a billion years into the future of any planet. So how the heck was Harry lucky enough to land in his own life and better off for it? Better yet, how does it send him back to Voyager when he recreates the circumstances of falling through the crack? Jusu lucky, I guess. Twice.

The kicker is Harry’s insists he has to go back becauseTom has a bad life in this new reality and it is not fair for the guy who replaced him on Voyager to be stranded in the Delta Quadrant in his place. Reasonable arguments, I suppose, but really flimsy. Most anyone would choose to live on with the good life rather than give it up for two people who are strangers. It would be more believable if the stakes were higher. As it is, Harry just comes across as a masochist who cannot stand to be happy.

Starfleet Security catches up to arrest him, but he is saved by Tom, who has decided that he would rather have the life Harry says he does in reality than being the worthless hood he is now. They steal the prototype shuttle to recreate the accident. Extraordinarily enough, in a universe of infinite possibilities, Harry lands right where he wants to be--stranded in the Delta Quadrant no where near Libby. Congratulations, buddy.

It may just be me, but Starfleet struck me as being particularly fascist here. San Francisco of the future is so clean and sterile. That in and of itself is not so bad, but no one thinks twice about Harry walking around with an ankle monitor conspicuously on, nor do they seem flustered when he is chased through the streets by security forces with drawn phasers. It is like they see that sort of thing all the time. I get the impression, existential I am sure, that Starfleet regularly enforces rigid order in such an extreme way.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with “Non Sequitur,” but it is not very memorable, either. It should have had moe of an emotional impact. Had Harry been happy with his new life, but felt overwhelming circumstances forced him to giveit all up, that might have made for a much better episode. As it is, he never even entertains the idea of staying, so we do not feel any sympathy her him. In fact, he comes across as crazy for wanting to go back to Voyager and its circumstances. As I said above, it is understandable he wants to be fair to others whose lives have been altered, but his decision is not reached with the emotional impact with which one would hope.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Mila Kunis

Friday, June 24, 2011

Formspring Question #198--I'm a Sowell Man Edition

I am a Scandinavian coming to the Us for a doctor program. That already tells you I likely have very different political views from you. And indeed, in the Scandinavian context I fall into a moderate position between social-democrats and liberals (in the classic sense), believing in a moderate welfare state as well as the importance of personal liberties. This likely puts me on the, uh, "very liberal"-spectrum in the US. Now, I wonder if you could recommend some reading from a conservative, American point of view that in your opinion is both balanced and thoughtful? I am genuinely interested in that point of view, but I do find that the debate in the US is so polarized that it's hard to find something like that. Fox News, etc, is just exhausting and confusing to me. Based on your writing, you seem like you might know some interesting sources. And my apologies for this sequence of posts, the system confuses me! All best, Heidi
You cannot go wrong with Thomas Sowell. He is an economist and social critic who approaches subjects like the academic he is. I highly recommend starting with his book Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the economy. In it, Sowell lays out conservative economic principles in plain language. You do not have to be a student of economics to appreciate what he has to say.

Some of my readers might object, but I would suggest sticking with more academic type writings on conservatism and avoid the mass appeal conservative writers like Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Dick Morris, or even Mark Levin. Their books tend to preach to the choir. I would call them for entertainment purposes only. Americans are notorious for reading such things and considering themselves intellectuals for doing so.

If and when you do want to move beyond less colorful readings on conservatism into more red meat, then I would try Rush Limbaugh--no matter what negatives you may have heard about him--and Mark Levin.

Formspring Question #197--Buffy is a Bust Edition

It's would be some time before you get around to it, but any chance Buffy will be a possible show for you to review?
No. I am not a fan of Joss Whedon.

Formspring Question #196--DuPont Redux Edition

Hey, what's wrong with Pete DuPont? I thought he was the best candidate in the '88 primary. His contributions to the WSJ are outstanding.
Nothing is wrong with Pete DuPont. I said he was a bored rich guy who ego demanded his legacy be a stint in the White House, not the governor’s mansion. That fit’s the description of every governor of every state since the country was founded.

I cannot remember who said it now--Charles Krauthammer, maybe?--but every governor hums “Hail to the Chief” when shaving in the morning. Presumably even Nikki Haley.

Formspring Question #195--Feline Avatar Edition

What's with the kitten avatar (not that we're complaining, kittens are cute)?
Someone posted it as a regular sized photo on Tumblr a few days ago. I liked it, so I shrunk it down to use as my avatar. Upon further reflection, it is a bit hipater for my taste, but I am going to keep it until something else strikes my fancy.

It is not a secret I am a cat person, right?

Formspring Question #194--Heeding Hayden Panettiere Edition

Hayden Panettiere

Formspring Question #193--Ocampa-lishments Edition

I thought Kes was deadweight on VOY...your thoughts regarding the character?
The only reason one might think Kes was dead weight is because she was terribly underutilized. Not that she was the only one in that boat. None of the characters were particularly well developed at any point. Even the Maquis v. Starfleet friction that was supposed to be the catalyst for the main drama was jettisoned shortly after being introduced. So complaining Kes is deadweight is like complaining one corpse is more motionless than another.

Nevertheless, I thought she had fascinating potential. It was hinted early on she possessed incredible powers that she did not know how to use. This promised gradual discovery of new abilities as the show progressed. As far as unique Delta Quadrant elements went, she was it. Were you fascinated by Kazon street gangs, the Vidiian scavenging leper colony, or horny paramecium? I was not. Kes was all we got.

But they never did anything with her. She became the doctor’s assistant, and that is pretty much it. The only thing fans really remember about her is how incredibly unbelievable it is she was in love with a toady, emotionally disturbed jerk like Neelix.

Then they dumped her from the show for the most shallow of reasons. Garrett Wang was going to be fired because, as a character, there was not much for Harry to do. But People named him one of the fifty most beautiful people in the world, so they kept him on for the good publicity. She was essentially replaced by Seven, whose character arc consisted of wearing a skin tight cat suit and learning a tacked on lesson about being human in every episode whether she was prominent in it or not.

When it comes down to it, I defend Kes as a good character because she was done very poorly considering g her potential. To add insult to injury, she was replaced by a shallow character who was added solely for her sex appeal. It is insulting the powers that be at VOY thought I would prefer such things over making Kes a complex, unique character.

Formspring Question #192--Sanctum Santorum Edition

Do you equate homosexuality with bestiality and necrophilia as GOP 2012 Presidential contender Rick Santorum does?
In terms of them all being sins or crimes against nature, yes. In terms of a sequence of condoning each, such as if we culturally approve of homosexuality, the next step is to approve bestiality and then necrophilia, no. I think that is an exaggeration.

The more likely progression is that, as homosexuality becomes more accepted, the door will be opened for pedophilia to gain acceptance. If Rick Santorum were wise, this would be the sequence he warns about. Because quite frankly, it is going to happen eventually. The International Lesbian and Gay Association was affiliated with NAMBLA until their protected status by the United Nations was threatened in 1993. Current united States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the ACLU have defended the rights of NAMBLA in court. Do not be surprised if efforts are made to mainstream pedophilia in the not too distant future.

It scares the heck out of me how much are morals can degenerate. It scares me more still that we are ready, willing, and able to hit rock bottom if they opportunity presents itself.

Formspring Question #191--To Soothe the Savage Beast Edition

What kind of music does a cyclops listen to?
Soft rock, older country, and Motown are my favorite genres. Specifically, I listen to a lot of Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Simon & Garfunkal James Taylor, and Nanci Griffith. I grew up in the ’80’s, so I have a nostalgia for the most popular music from the era, sans punk. I never could get into that.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Elogium"

If you want to know everything that is wrong with VOY in one episode viewing, you could do far worse than “Elogium.” it has it all; bad writing, poor character development, dumb plot, techno babble solution, and the Magic Reset Button, all wrapped in newspaper and rubber bands, thrown under the tee when by your drunken father who just showed up for Christmas after being gone for five years. Oh, dear.

Before I rip into “Elogium,” let me mention that I do like Kes. She is far more than young eye candy like ENT’s T’Pol. Admittedly, her character arc was infinitely predictable from the beginning. She only had a life span of nine years. Two were already gone, leaving her with seven years of life left. Seven years being the general target for which modern trek series aimed, it was clear Kes’ undefined mental powers were going to be the catalyst for sending Voyager home, probably in a dying act in the final episode. But aside from telegraphing her ultimate fate, the character had lots of promise.

Promise that rarely got fulfilled. While some kes-centric episodes are my favorites of the series. But she is so often wasted on such silly stories like “Elogium.” the powers that be never fully realized Kes’ potential as a character before deciding to fire her instead of Garrett Wang at the beginning of the fourth season in order to make room for Jeri Ryan. I will have more to say about that near the end of August. For now, let us examine ‘Elogium.”

We cannot get passed the opening credits before the first problem is evident. The script is written by Kenneth Biller and Jeri Taylor. The story does not have a Janeway is Awesome theme, so it is almost certain Taylor sat around bored, contributing a scene or two while Biller came up with most everything. It definitely has all the trappings of a Biller episode, though I am convinced he consulted with the scientifically illiterate Brannon Braga on some of the finer technical points. Those have his name written on them.

The ship encounters a swarm of space faring paramecium that decide they want to mate. The paramecium emit some kind of pheromone while doing the deed that forces Kes into an early fertility cycle. She has to mate now, or she will never conceive a child. Neelix is put on the spot.

Look at the technical aspects of Kes’ situation. The Ocampa can only mate once in their lives. They can only have one child in their lives. That means even under the best of circumstances, the Ocampa is cut in half every generation. That is under the most ideal circumstances of an equal ratio of boys to girls. There are bound to be instances of infertility, Ocampa dying before having a child, infant mortality, declarations of celibacy, decisions to not be a parent, and maybe even homosexuality. The Ocampa ought to be extinct by now. You would also think a show like VOY would have a science adviser who would catch such a mistake before filming. you do not even need a science adviser. Just apply elementary school math.

Trying to ignore the scientific inaccuracy by focusing on the personal angst of Kes and Neelix as they decide whether to have a child does not work well, either. You should already have guess the big problem is Neelix. What does Kes see in that toad? He is not only a complete jerk, but he is written to be deliberately worse here. In the beginning, Kes is paling around with Tom.. Tom is acting as far from a wolf in sheep’s clothing as he ever will , but Neelix suffers insane jealousy that leaves one wondering how far he is from slapping Kes around. At the very least, he shows signs of an abuser’s habit of isolating the woman he likes to abuse so she has no one but him to rely upon. The only thing left is for kes to be motivated to have a baby to “fix” their relationship.

Thankfully, that is not the way it goes, but the two eventually find themselves heading in opposite directions. Neelix warms up to the idea of being a father after seeking guidance from Tuvok, while Kes goes the modern feminist route in deciding having a child would keep her from accomplishing the things she wants in life. She reaches her conclusion after seeking consult with the Doctor. It is interesting the two decide to speak to an emotionless Vulcan and a hologram about such an emotionally charged issue. Do their choice of confidants inspire faith in their decision making ability?

It does not matter. The crew finally figures out how to get the critters to stop mating with the ship after realizing they need to act submissive to a rival giant paramecium that shows up. When the ship turns blue and does a barrel roll, the critters leave to go party with the other big kahuna. With them gone, Kes’ fertility cycle ends, so she cannot have a child, anyway. Whatever character development she and Neelix had is completely meaningless because they do not have to face the consequences of the decision. Just to have a happy ending, the Doctor, who admits several times he knows nothing about the biology of Ocampa pregnancy, says she will go through elogium again at the proper time since this time it was artificially induced.

There is nothing in “Elogium” worth watching. Even the strange mating rituals, such as the ceremonial massaging of Kes’ feet, wear their humor out quickly. The reset button at the end makes every bit of personal growth moot because neither Kes nor Neelix have to commit. They get let off the hook, so why should anyone care? The b-plot is bad as well. The ship can escape the paramecium swarm at any time by using the warp engines, but Janeway refuses because it will kill perhaps the entire swarm. So they just sit there and get--you know--until the idea to look like a poor mate dawns on Chakotay. They are paramecium, people. Fore up those engines!

Samantha Wildman makes her first appearance. She name drops DS9 and announces she is preggers. Her child will eventually become a big part of the series, particularly when Seven shows up, so there is that. It is still not enough reason to watch “Elogium.” nothing is.

Rating: * (out of 5)

Charisma Carpenter

Part of The Other McCain's Rule 5 Sunday.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Donald Trump's Faux Presidential Run Nets Him $160 Million

At least that is the way I read it. Donald Trump just re-upped with NBC for $160 million. The two parties were most certainly negotiating over a sum that large for quite some time overlapping trump’s flirtation with seeking the republican nomination for president. He was going through the motions solely as a bargaining tactic. NBC called his bluff and told him he would be replaced on The Celebrity Apprentice if he did not take the offer and instead sought the white House. He gave in millions richer than before.

Joe Scarborough tried the same tactic a few months ago shortly before his contract with MSNBC was up. You may recall he lightly hinted interest in running for office again. You can be assured his deal was not as sweet as trump’s, but the strategy of threatening to leave a media career for public office has a decent track record.

More specifically, long shot White House bids can net big bucks. Pat Buchanan, Al Gore, Mike Huckabee, Jesse Jackson, and Alan Keyes come immediately to mind. Sarah Palin has proven a run at the veep can be lucrative. Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain are banking--literally--on it for their future. As Trump has just shown, you do not even have to have any legitimacy to cash in, either. Anyone over the age of 35 whose fifteen minutes of fame have not yet been exhausted should take note.

Formspring Question #190--YouTube is Now TheyTube Edition

Why don't you make Youbetube music videos anymore? Your Doctor Who videos were cool.
Since Google bought YouTube, they have sanitized the site to make it more attractive for corporate advertising. They have been tough on enforcing copyrights, so much of my old stuff would be deleted by YouTube if I had not done it myself to avoid getting banned. I already have a permanent strike on my account from Sony two years ago. Three strikes and you are out.

I toyed with the idea of making web cam blogs for a while instead of music videos, but I like writing more than visuals. YouTube has also gone on the warpath against those users, too. I used to enjoy watching the often heated Christian v. atheist and conservative v. progressive debates, but you tube’s “civility rules” have been chipping away at them. Videos get flagged all the time solely because someone disagrees with the views expressed, but you tube will take the video down, then take its own sweet time to review it.

Do not even think about criticizing islam, either. The only reason Pat Condell gets away with it because the United Kingdom side of YouTube is more lenient with free speech. Imagine that. No only because the United States is supposed to be the land of the free, but also because the United Kingdom is legendary for appeasing Islam these days. Ask Geert Wilders or Michael Savage about that.

YouTube has made it clear they want to be a corporate sponsored internet version of America’s Funniest Home Videos. more power to them. I like funny cat videos as much as the next guy. I just have no interest in making them. Besides, Boo will not cooperate. There ias nothing left for me to creatively do with YouTube, so I do not even bother.

Formspring Question #189--Comely Lasses Who Rarely Get Passes Edition

Dare I ask what other homely women besides Kate Mulgrew you find attractive?
Do not oversell Kate Mulgrew, buddy. All I said was she had a classy way about her.

To answer your question, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tina Fey, and Neve Campbell tend to have the most nays to my yea. Nanci Griffith is pushing sixty, but she is still cute as a bug's ear.

At a point in the not so distant past, I would have put kirsten Dunst on the list, but thanks to her hard partying ways, I have finally caught up with the rest of the world. There is some serious Lohan-level mileage on that girl.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Projections"

I have made no secret I think Robert Picardo is the best actor on VOY. His portrayal of the doctor is the most colorful on the series. It is going to be a little while longer before he will gain the ability to travel beyond sickbay, so his role is disappointingly limited for now. It is always good when the powers that be can find a way to incorporate him into a story beyond tending to various crew ailments. It is better still when an episode centers on him fully. Such is “Projections.” an existential story in which the doctor examines who he is and what is his purpose.

The episode begins with the doctor mysteriously being activated to find he is the only one on board the ship. The crew have all escaped in life pods, but the doctor is unaware why. It turns out the computer is wrong in telling him no one else is on Voyager. Torres makes it to sickbay and explains there was a Kazon attack. She and Janeway stayed behind, but the rest of the crew ejected into the life pods. Unfortunately, they were all captured by the Kazon.

Torres jerry rigs a way for him to travel to the bridge in order to tend to the injured Janeway. Afterward, he is forced to go to the mess hall to answer a distress call from Neelix. In what is probably a more comical scene than is intended, Neelix is holding off a Kazon by throwing every pot, pan, and kitchen utensil at him. It reminds me of the Eddie izzard routine about the desperation of the Battle of Britain.

“Shoot them! Shoot them! What? We are out of ammunition? All right, throw the pots and pans at them! No more pots and pans? They are still coming? What else do we have? Ice cream? Well, throw the ice cream at them!”

The doctor successful tranquilizes the Kazon, but is injured in the scuffle. He is not programmed to feel pain or bleed, so he knows something is wrong. Back in sickbay, he stumbles across the truth--he is real, but everyone else is a hologram. Reginald Barclay makes his first trek appearance since TNG rode off into the sunset two years prior in order to explain things to the doctor. Barclay’s appearance is the first of several attempts in the second season to tie VOY back in to the Trek universe. It is not a good sign to have to do that at all, much less so soon with a show like VOY, but at least Barclay is entertaining. Q’s appearance a few episodes down the road I could do without. More on that later.

Barclay explains the Doctor is actually his creator, Louis Zimmerman. He is stuck in a holodeck simulation set to study the effects of long term isolation on Starfleet crews. Voyager does not exist--oh, if only--and he must destroy the ship in order to escape the malfunctioning simulation or further exposure to the radiation causing the malfunction will kill him. Batclay nearly convinces him of this, but Chakotay shows up to argue that the doctor was actually indulging in a holonovel when a radiation surge scrambled his program in with the holodeck’s system. If he destroys the simulation as Barclay suggests, he will disappear forever.

The only real flaw of “Prohections,” aside from some problems with logic, is the doctor does not have to do anything to save himself. He passes out under the pain of whichever radiation disorder he is actually suffering from before he can decide whether Barclay or Chakotay is telling him the truth. There is brief fake out before he is truly rescued by the crew, but that is it. The story is all about the Doctor’s struggle to decide what is real. In the end, it is decided for him without his lifting a finger. I would like to have seen him as proactive in the final moments as he was throughout the rest of the episode.

There are a few logical problems. Why does Janeway stop to make a log entry in the middle of a Kazon attack? How does the doctor’s holographic communicator work just like a real one? Why is Chakotay sent to convince the Doctor he is really a hlogram? Kes would be the more logical choice. That last point I can forgive, however, because it sets up Kes as his love interest in the damaged program. That is a revelation the two have a special relationship. One hat is less awkward than any Data, the most comparable character to the Doctor, has attempted before. I should excuse everything, really. Brannon Braga wrote “Projections.” Illogic comes with the territory in a Braga script.

“Projections” is one of those fun episodes in which the true nature of a character is explored by placing him in some sort of mind bending, hallucinatory situation. Joe Menosky writes these kids of stories best, but braga does all right because, as said above, his inability to draft logical stories can be disguised by the absurdity of it all. Picardo’s performance elevates the episode. If focused on any other character, “Projections” might have been a run of the mill, we have to have an episode centered on so-and-so this season installment. It does not quite merit four stars because of some minor issues and the fact the holodeck malfunctions yet again in a case of lazy plotting--but it is one of the better VOY episodes.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Kaley Cuoco

Thursday is Kaley Cuoco Day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Initiations"

Are you intrigued by the Kazon, folks? Neither am I. They have been labeled the premiere villains of the Delta Quadrant, but have so far done nothing but marvel at water filters and get jerked around by a Cardassian double agent. Well, one gave Kes a black eye. I guess that is something. The Kazon are going to be more prominent in the second season as the allegory between them and Los Angeles street gangs becomes more apparent. As said allegory becomes more apparent, the kazon are going to lose what little appeal they had as villains to the point they will virtually disappear from the series after the third season premiere. But we have to suffer through them quite a bit until then.

The episode begins with Chakotay alone in a shuttlecraft engaged in a ceremony to commemorate the death of his father. The ceremony involves a number of old looking sacred objects which he could only have replicated because he was beamed over from his Maquis ship with nothing but the clothes he was wearing. Picking nits, I know. But still. His ceremony is interrupted by an attack from a young Kazon pilot named Kar. Kar is played by DS9’s Aron Eisenberg, better known as Nog.

It is a short battle in which Chakotay damages Kar’s ship to the point it will explode, but beams Kar to his shuttlecraft before that happens. The two are then captured by a large Kazon vessel. It is bad news for both of them. Kar’s attack was an initiation to earn his name as a warrior--or colors, in the street gang vernacular. It was kill or be killed, and since he failed to kill Chakotay or die trying, he has to be killed by his fellow Kazon. They are going to kill Chakotay just for the heck of it.

Chakotay manages to escape by faking out the Kazon, as they have obviously never watched any Saturday matinee westerns. Yes, I do appreciate the juxtaposition of a Native American using cowboy ingenuity. He offers to take kar along in order to keep him alive. Kar agrees, but he continues to be a royal pain over his intentions to kill Chakotay anyway when and if they can fully escape. Chakotay ought to scalp the little prick. Literally no one would blame him.

Voyager has its first of many, many, many shuttlecraft destroyed, but Chakotay and Kar beam down safely to a nearby moon. While the action has been all about them thus far, their story shifts gears to an often tense cultural exchange wherein Chakotay attempts to find common ground with Kar. Bits do ring hollow. Chakotay tells Kar of the pride he takes in what his Federation uniform stands for. We know that is a crock. He is Maquuis because the federation abandoned his people to the Cardassians. That uniform does not mean diddly to him on any level of idealism. I do not believe the writers meant for the audience to think he is jerking kar around in order to stay alive until he can be rescued, but that is exactly what he is doing. The writers just plain forgot why Chakotay is maquis.

While the two converse, the action shifts to Voyager and the Kazons when they team up to search for their respective missing associates. Neelix negotiates the alliance, thereby giving him something important to do finally. Tom is left in command of the ship while Janeway leads an away team to the moon, thereby giving him the only major screen time he has had since his murder conviction was overturns nine episode ago. There is an inexplicable double cross by the Kazon before Kar decides to kill the leadr of their away team as a power play. It works. He earns his name, and we wonder what the heck it all means. But not for long, because it is difficult to care.

The leader he kills, razik, is played by the so nice, we almost named him twice Patrick Kilpatrick. A few years after "Initiations,” Eisenberg and Kilpatrick will team up again in DS9’s “The Siege of AR5558,” one of my favorite episodes of the series. Their relationship in “Initiations,’ that of a young wannabe both intrigued and frightened by a warrior battle scarred to the point of insanity, is repeated in the DS9 episode. I have no proof their interactions here had anything to do with Kilpatrick’s subsequent casting in DS9, but it seems likely.

As you can tell by my snaky comments, the episode is underwhelming. I have never been interested in the anthropology of street gang culture, turf battles, respective colors, and the like. It does not translate very well into a space faring villain, either. The kazon are not an empire. They are thugs who “rule” over territory that legitimate authorities control. Their status does not make them interesting. They are just brutal criminals. Very disappointing. More where that came from, too.

Mediocre, but watchable is my final verdict. There is a lot of Nog in Kar, so I give some props for that. Chakotay is finally given something to do other than stand around like a cardboard cut out of himself or get fooled by yet another double agent. I did not buy into his lovey dovey speech about the sheer wonderfulness of the Federation, but I do not buy into any of the kazon junk, either, so it balances out in the end. Typical VOY.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Mary Lousie Parker

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Formspring Question #188--Borg Economic Philosophy Edition

Are the Borg allegory for communism or capitalism taken to its most extreme?
I may get ripped for this, but they are both.

The Borg are a collective mind which robs the assimilated of individuality in service to the collective while otherwise supplying all needs. So there is communist ideology there. But the Borg also exist to do nothing but consume. Everything is a product to be used, every place strip mined without regard of value or usefulness for any other purpose, so the Borg are also unfettered capitalists, as well.

Weighing the evidence, I would say the more menacing aspect of Borg nature is their communist ways. They genuinely believe they are doing you a favor by robbing you of your identity because all your needs will be taken care of in return. You will never painful emotions. Never want for anything. Never be alone. Of course, you will also be expandable should the collective require your sacrifice. There are a lot of negatives there.

Truth be told, I have a tough time wrapping my mind around the negatives of capitalism. Free markets have lifted more people out of poverty than collectivism ever has ort will. I do not find consumerism evil. It is the desire for a bigger house, faster car, and cooler gadget that grows an economy. Call me naïve, but I do not buy into the Captain Planet assertion that companies purposefully destroy the environment in order to make a buck. Sure, I suppose capitalism has a habit of turning God’s country into real estate, but even my panic over the Kelo decision a few years ago has subsided. So it is difficult to visualize how the Botg as extreme capitalists is a scary as borg as perfect communists.

I have heard arguments the Borg are a comment on the destruction of social skills caused by over stimulation of electronics. That is a retroactive assumption. The borg were introduced in 1989 and were not well defined as an assimilating force of nature until 1990, which is well before the internet, cell phones, iPods, and such became such a “necessary” part of life. Nevertheless, I suppose the obsession with owning the latest gadget is a negative stereotype of consumerism.

Not that communist as a threat allegory was all that timely with the end of the Cold War in 1989-90 anymore than the race for buying the cooler gadget. Star Trek,’s reputation for timely social commentary has been greatly exaggerated.

Star Trek: Voyager--"The 37s"

“The 37s" serves as the second season premiere. It was intended to be the first part of a two part first season finale/second season premiere, but was held over by UPN as a cost cutting measure and then reduced to a single episode. I can see how its theme would have served better as a season finale, particularly considering the final act, and it does feel awkward as the starting point for the sophomore effort. Then again, much of the second season is awkward. Expect to see lots of reasons why the kazon were unpopular villains, loads of techno babble, and Kenneth Biller and Jeri Taylor cutting loose with enough mediocre writing talent to send Michael Piller packing for the sake of his career.

The first thing to note about “The 37s” is how much it feels like a TOS episode in concept. I am not so much referring to how early episodes of TNG emulated TOS with cheap sets, save for one glaring bit, and godlike aliens testing humanity’s worthiness. Voyager may be trying to save a few bucks, but the special effects are quite good and the alien menace--if you can even call it that--sets up a dilemma that the theme for which VOY cries out. But there are so many things which are illogical and/or underwhelming.

While cruising through space, the ship finds a 1957 Ford truck floating about. The discovery brings back memories of a flying Abraham Lincoln or a giant hand holding the original Enterprise still. But VOY cannot help but bring in the 24th century staple of the crew being unfamiliar with elements from Earth’s past which are not all that different from their contemporary stuff. In this case, they only have the vaguest impression what a truck is, what an engine is, what a key is, and what a radio is. The worst is Torres, who forever establishes her reputation as an idiot by not being able to identify the dried manure in the truck bed without her tricorder. There is a definite metaphor there for reviewing this show.

Fortunately, Torres is in good company when it comes to intelligence. While fiddling with the truck’s radio, Tom picks up an SOS the crew decides to follow to a planet with a turbulent atmosphere they cannot scan through to the surface. Look at this for a moment. They find a truck floating in space. There is no reasonable explanation for it being there. When searching the truck, they conveniently find a reason to go to a planet they cannot scan to find out what is on the surface. This scenario not only looks like a trap, it is the equivalent of a trout not questioning why there is a worm under the water with a hook sticking out of it. Like the trout, Janeway bites.

Here is the kicker. They cannot use the transporter because of the atmosphere. Ditto the shuttlecrafts. They have no clue where either will wind up if they do. So the solution is…land the entire ship. For no other excuse than it has not been done in the series thus far. If it is too dangerous to take a shuttlecraft down, thereby risking a pilot, why is it better to risk killing everyone? Is there not a Prime Directive issue here, too? The only thing they know about this planet is they have 400 year old trucks and use Morse code. That sounds like a pre-warp civilization. But Janeway mentally flips her Prime directive coin and decides to say screw it, as she does about fifty percent of the time.

On the planet, the away team finds an underground chamber with five people in suspended animation. After a minor debate, they decide to revive them, particularly once janeway identifies missing aviator Amelia Earhart among them. Chacotay advises only humans be present when the people are revived, so naturally Kes with her pointy ears is the one standing by to flip the switch. No shock value there.

Long story short: aliens known as the Briori abducted 300 people in 1937 to use as slave labor. The humans eventually revolted, so the defeated Brioni fled. For whatever reason, the five discovered in the chamber were never revived. The humans assumed they were dead and kept them there as part of a shrine. In the ensuing 400 years, they built a thriving civilization in which they invite the crew to live in.

Here is where that glaring budget busting move stands out. The leader of the settlement invites the crew to see their magnificent cities which everyone raves over before and after seeing them. But we do not get to see them at all. It is the equivalent of a character telling us how amusing it is to watch a bear juggling flaming torches while riding a unicycle just off screen is, but never showing it. Even Doctor Who in its cheapest days would offer up a matte painting. But the episode blew its budget on that pointless landing sequence, so that is what we are stuck with. It is a bad trade off.

Perhaps even more implausible is the decision with which the crew is faced. Do they stay or go/ surprisingly, janeway gives them the choice. She will not be so magnanimous in the future. It is no surprise all the 37s decide to stay, even though you suspect Earhart has unbearable urge to travel through space. The surprising point is that no one on Voyagerdecides to stay. Just last episode, four Maquis declared they would rather spend 75 years in the brig than serve Starfleet. At the very least, one would expect a few crewmembers to be intimidated by a journey that long. They are asking for one heck of a case of cabin fever. Yet they all stay. It is too hokey. At least a few should have stayed behind. Realistically, it is the last, best chance of experiencing a little piece of Earth while they are young enough to build a life for themselves.

So what we have is the crew conducting themselves in as dumb a manner as possible, the production staff making poor creative decisions in what to show and hide, and an implausible resolution. A fairly typical VOY episode. Even the theme of Janeway deeply admiring Earhart as an aviation pioneer is glossed over. I do not know id expanding to two episodes would have improved matters, but as it is, “The 37s” is underwhelming. A good idea, but handled in a far too lukewarm manner.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Denise Milani

Monday, June 20, 2011

Formspring Question #187--Trekking Passed Enterprise Edition

Is it too early to ask if you are going to review Enterprise?
No, it is not too early to ask, but I can assure you I am not going to cover ENT.. There are too many other, better shows to review. Reviewing VOY is a concession to readers who voted in favor of it. Otherwise, I would been done with Trek altogether. While I appear to have acquired a reputation as the Star Trek guy, I am only moderately fond of it. You do not have to read too many reviews to figure that out.

For as long as I keep doing these reviews, I am going to choose interesting ones to write about. But I am confident VOY is the last of the trek you will see here. Savor it, if tit is your thing.

Formspring Question #186--Feminism in the Final Frontier

Why do you think Janeway is not considered a feminist icon like Xena?
Because people do not like feminists. Even people like Trekkies, who generally pride themselves on being open and accepting, do not like feminists. Why else does love equal sex on every Trek series. Every woman in the canon under the age of fifty is either half naked or wearing a uniform that convinces you Starfleet has a strict no fat chicks policy.

Progressives go through all the motions, but they cannot hide their disdain. They have to have an outlet before they explode. Look at the type of women progressive philandering politicians go for. Anthony Weiner sent photos of his penis to a porn star. Bill Clinton carried on affairs with painted trailer park trash and a doe eyed 22 year old girl. Now look at their wives. Huma is a career woman at the state department, did not marry until she was 33, and is only now having a child at 34, which one can assume will be her only child as she follows the same feminist ideal as Hillary, also a career woman who married later than usual and has only one child. Progressive men marry these kind of women because they think they should, but they want to fool around with the exact opposite.

This is not to say Huma and Hillary are unlikable people. They may be a barrel of monkeys to be around. But I note two points. One, anyone who speaks highly of them speaks only of their career accomplishments. Two, the men who know them best want to have sex with anything but them. Just saying.

Specifically on Janeway, she is the ideal feminist. She is a childless old maid who speaks very little of the man she left behind. She leaves no indication ashe ever planned to marry him. She is completely a career woman, and a dominating one at that, particularly when it comes to bossing around men. She does not take the advice of any male around her even though she claims to value Tuvok’s moral guidance. No one ever questions her, because to do so would be to undermine her authority. That would universally undermind women as leaders of men. It all adds up to her being an unpleasant woman, often unqualified to do her job, but coddled in the name of political correctness. People see through these things even when they believe they are supposed to support them.

I have only the vaguest impression of Xena: Warrior Princess, so I cannot make a decent comparison. All i am aware of is a lesbian fanbase who read in a romantic relationship between the main characters. maybe manhating is her feminist appeal.

Star Trek: Voyager--"Learning Curve"

“Learning Curve” is the first season finale, although it was not originally intended to be such. Four episodes were held over for the second season. They included what was to be a season finale with a cliffhanger to be resolved in the second season premiere. The finale was condensed into one episode and lead off the second season. It had its own problems I will address tomorrow. For now, appreciate this sad combination; not since the 1988 writers strike reduced TNG’s second season to a clip show has a Trek season ended on such a poor note, but “Learning Curve” remains the highest rated season finale of VOY’s run. Lots of fans saw the massive failure and headed for the hills, never to return.

I am going to be as charitable as possible here. The idea behind “Learning Curve” is a decent one. Several Maquis crewmembers are growing increasingly insubordinate, so Janeway orders Tuvok to give them a crash course in what it means to be part of Starfleet. This being television, not only does it work, but Tuvok learns to bend the rules like a Maquis during a real crisis and saves the life of a Maquis in doing so, so everyone conveniently bonds. The episode is an effort to demonstrate how the Starfleet and Maquis crew are integrating. Considering how much the friction between the two groups will be all but ignored here after, at least we can look back on this for an explanation.

However, the friction between Tuvok and the Maquis is quite pedestrian. Tuvok plays the drill sergeant whipping into shape stereotypical military recruits. You have seen everything that happens here in Full Metal Jacket and An Officer and a Gentleman with far more flair. The problem is not the Maquis. They are, in fact, some of the most real characters the series ever features. Their de facto leader, for instance, joined the Maquis after his girlfriend was gang raped and murdered by Cardassians right after the Federation abandoned his colony. He sees no point in respecting Federation principles under the circumstances. Who could blame him?

The problem is Tuvok. I have nothing against Tim Russ as an actor, but he plays drill Instructor Tuvok so boringly dry, you have no problem seeing why he cannot get through to the Maquis. Indeed, they only begin listening to Tuvok on the basest level because Chacotay slaps one of them around until he acquiesces. Rather than building up took as an interesting character, he is demeaned by it. It is worse in hindsight when we learn later took is miffed he was passed over for First Officer in favor of Chakotay solely because Janeway did not think he could keep the Maquis in line like Chakotay could.

What really kills the episode is the B-atory of a bacteria infecting some of the buogel thingamabobs that help power the ship. If your are keeping count, they qualify as the third essential energy source the ship needs to operate. They are also the third that if fail, everyone dies. Yet the energy crisis is not so much they cannot run the holodeck, which happens three times--Janeway’s I can care for children without killing them fantasy, a training exercise for the Maquis, and tom’s pool hall. The worst part is the bacteria wafts through the ventilation system because of steam from Neelix’s cooking. So he nearly kills them all with his food without the crew ever taking a bite. This after a fairly solid Neelix-centric episode, too.

“Learning Curve” has VOY sputtering across the first season finish line on nothing but fumes. Ironic, considering fumes from Neelix’s cheese concoction nearly kills everyone on board when life support systems start failing with those biogel thingies falling over dead. As a regular episode, it is an average effort centered on a not so popular character. Hardly any main cast member gets more than a couple lines outside Tuvok. Only one of the Maquis characters will appear again, so building them up only to drop them later is strange. What you have is a filler episode which sticks out like a sore thumb because it became the season finale. One would expect more.

Rating; ** (out of 5)