Saturday, July 09, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Three

This season is the strongest so far (well, the second half is), so I'm getting right to it. Oh, and thank christ Beverly Crusher is back and Dr. Pulaski is long gone, never to return...

1. Evolution (my rating: 3 out of 5)
Surprisingly interesting; it pulls out a lot of the cliches of your standard science-scare story, but I like the plateau of understanding that's reached. One episode in, and Wesley's back to nearly killing everyone with his experiments... I have to hand it to Wil Wheaton and the producers and writers, though: after the first season, they really did tone down Wesley's arrogance. I don't have a problem with him from season two on.

2. The Ensigns of Command (1/5)
Boring. I found Data's proto-love story ineffective, but I did like some of the back and forth between Captain Picard and the Sheliak. I get the point--how do you convince someone when logic isn't enough--but the episode doesn't find the dramatic possibilities.

3. The Survivors (3/5)
I thought this was rather lovely and, ultimately, very sad. Rather unique. I don't have much to say about it, but I like it.

4. Who Watches the Watchers (4/5)
I admit, as this was starting, I was certain I wasn't going to like it, but it's a very effective episode that, interestingly enough, argues that religion is harmful to society, particularly when it begins to supplant ration and reason. Strong performances in the guest cast, most notably Ray Wise.

5. The Bonding (4/5)
The first episode of this show, chronologically, that has had me in tears. Granted, part of it is the story's theme of losing a loved one (Ellen was immediately in my mind), but Wesley confronting Picard with unresolved feelings over his father's death was very moving. Good to see an episode about how dangerous this job can be, even though it cheats a little by using the death of a character we've never seen before, and the effects only last for one episode before the character's grieving son is shuffled out of the way (the great weakness of Star Trek at this point is the lack of continuing storylines and the unwillingness--coming from the top levels, from what I've read--to continue developing things that are instead only the focus of a single episode). Worf is great in this episode.

6. Booby Trap (1/5)
Terrible. And Geordi carrying on a holodeck romance with a virtual version of an actual person is kind of creepy and sad... though oddly realistic. Let's face it, most of us would just be in that thing porking Marilyn Monroe all the time. Here, Geordi is basically falling in love with a personification of the Enterprise. A boy and his car.

7. The Enemy (2/5)
A hoary old premise done... so-so.

8. The Price (1/5)
This episode honestly just creeped me right the fuck out. Matt McCoy as Ral is just a creepy con man who practically bullies Deanna into sleeping with him repeatedly. Uncomfortable all around, though Frakes has some good moments.

9. The Vengeance Factor (1/5)
Dull; Riker's wolfishness is so over the top in this episode. Riker beds a girl, she cooks for him, and then he's forced to kill her... was dinner that bad?

10. The Defector (5/5)
Excellent, tense, and appropriately grim. This is a great exploration of the Federation's enemies, and the nobility of sacrifice. And the cruel twist stings, but never feels cheap. Excellent political science fiction.

11. The Hunted (3/5)
First Blood in space. It's an interesting allegory to returning Vietnam vets, who had been turned into weapons only to find it hard to assimilate into society. And it handles it better than the cop-out ending of First Blood. Some very good fight scenes, too, on a show that doesn't always handle action scenes well.

12. The High Ground (1/5)
Dreadful. Beverly Crusher kidnapped by the handsome terrorist leader whom she experiences Stockholm Syndrome with... it's practically a romance novel. The show raises a lot of questions about terrorism as an agent of change that it's not remotely prepared to examine thoughtfully. What's the point? The climax is particularly cheesy. One of the worst episodes of this show.

13. Deja Q (5/5)
Easily my favorite Q episode; it manages to be utterly hilarious while commenting on the nature of humanity, and John de Lancie outdoes himself. Perfection.

14. A Matter of Perspective (2/5)
I think an impartial judge might have thrown out that final bit of evidence that exonerates Riker. The first two-thirds are pretty tense, though.

15. Yesterday's Enterprise (5/5)
Masterful. I love that this episode just starts right up, throwing itself into its situation and just trusting the audience to catch up instead of spending too much time on explanations. It's nice to get into the story without too much infodump. An alternate reality story that really works on every level, and I really liked Captain Rachel Garrett. The romance between Castillo and Tasha Yar was nicely pulled off, and this episode hits the undo button on the dreadful "Skin of Evil" and gives Tasha a much more meaningful death (even if no one on the Enterprise will actually remember it).

16. The Offspring (5/5)
A nice reprise of "The Measure of a Man," this time with Data creating his own daughter and experiencing parenthood. Hallie Todd is fine as Lal, and the story is quite moving. Once again, we see Starfleet is keen on enslaving androids, as they demand Lal be removed from the Enterprise for study. Patrick Stewart is excellent in his assertion of "To order a man to hand over his child to the state... not while I'm captain." Unashamedly sentimental, but who cares? It works.

17. Sins of the Father (5/5)
Episodes like this make the Klingon culture truly fascinating for me. It's interesting how they were basically portrayed as the Federation's Soviet counterpart in the 1960s, but on TNG became the remnants of a Viking-like culture. I love Tony Todd on this episode (I love Tony Todd in everything), and the down ending comes from a mature viewpoint.

18. Allegiance (2/5)
Insubstantial and predictable, but occasionally interesting.

19. Captain's Holiday (3/5)
Cute, but at times irritating, take on Romancing the Stone. I remember seeing this when it was originally on and my Mom loving it. This is kind of the episode everyone's Mom dug, because it turned Picard into a romantic action hero. Vash is the kind of cliched character I just never like.

20. Tin Man (2/5)
An interesting premise muddied by fatal miscasting.

21. Hollow Pursuits (5/5)
Tremendous. It's nice to get a sense of how our main characters might appear to a Starfleet officer who isn't as perfect and capable as they're usually portrayed. Dwight Schultz is perfectly sympathetic as Reg Barclay, giving him just the right amount of pathos to stop him from being a total buffoon. This episode also raises an important point: how much is Deanna Troi really helping people be at ease when she counsels them in those sexy little bunny suits? Having gone through several years of social anxiety and agoraphobia, this episode is especially refreshing to me now, watching Barclay attempt to work out his feelings dealing with a smug Geordi, an arrogant Wesley, and a particularly imperious Riker. I want to note, too, that the humor is self-deprecating and universal, as opposed to the Pakleds back in "Samaritan Snare," which really feels like a dig at the fans. One of my favorite episodes.

22. The Most Toys (4/5)
I actually expected to hate this episode, but I really enjoyed it. One of Brent Spiner's best performances as Data, especially in the end. The episode tries to play for murkiness--did Data really intend to kill Fajo?--but I think it's clear that Data was going to do it. Saul Rubinek is fantastic as Fajo, giving a performance that's not as mannered as the acting on this show can sometimes be. He could have easily been a fool, but there's a very dark edge to him that makes him dangerous.

This was the episode David Rappaport was filming when he attempted to kill himself (later, he would succeed--the loss of a favorite actor of mine). I would dearly love to see the footage he shot. Not to take away from Rubinek's performance, though, which I really liked.

23. Sarek (5/5)
An Alzheimer's allegory that is made more powerful by showing it through Ambassador Sarek. It's sad to see a character of great dignity begin to deteriorate through something he has no treatment for; doubly so for a Vulcan who has spent his life repressing his emotions and who comes dangerously close to losing control over them. Wonderful dialogue, and Mark Lenard and Patrick Stewart are excellent. "A mind meld can be a terrible intimacy." Excellent.

24. Menage a Troi (4/5)
I always love Lwaxana Troi. Inconsequential, I guess, but very funny and played completely for laughs.

25. Transfigurations (3/5)
Somewhat of a predictable outcome, but I enjoyed the emergence aspect. The episode plays a little too much like the crew is present at the birth of Christ. But it does remember that the Enterprise is devoted to exploration.

26. The Best of Both Worlds (5/5)
The best episode up to this point. The Borg are even scarier in their second appearance, and the cinematic scope lends so much to the proceedings. I like how the conflict with the Borg plays out as a sort of extension of Riker's crisis of confidence and his feelings for Captain Picard as a great mentor. And what a powerful cliffhanger! Astounding.

With that cliffhanger, you have to jump on the fourth season right away. I notice some more of my favorites this season, including my all time favorite TNG episode.

Some More Wonderful Pictures from John

I've been sitting on these for far too long and meaning to share them. Most of these are from Scarborough.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Swamp Ass

Sun Bear

He's just cute.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season Two

Although hampered by the WGA strike in 1988, the second season does a much better job of finding the characters and dynamics than the first season. It especially takes Worf and Troi and makes them much more interesting; Troi still doesn't do much for me as a character, but she no longer feels boring and extraneous. Also, good job on toning Wesley Crusher way the hell down. I didn't find him nearly as smug or insufferable this time around. He's much less Gene Roddenberry's Mary Sue this season...

1. The Child (my rating: 2 out of 5)
Interesting premise, but what the hell was that all about? This is based on the one script I've read from the Star Trek: Phase II concept, but it seems... dumber here. Also, I don't care for Dr. Pulaski at all (her racist attitude towards Data seems like her only initial defining trait), and once he's chief engineer, Geordi La Forge begins his slide from interesting character to pompous ass. I like the scenes between Wesley and Guinan, though. Guinan is the character that redeems Whoopi Goldberg. Frakes is good in this episode, too--and the beard gives him more substance, too.

2. Where Silence Has Lease (3/5)
The "hole in space" episode that every science fiction show does, but here it's done in a nice, compelling way that doesn't feel cliche to me. I like the conversation between Picard and Data about death and the afterlife. So Picard's an agnostic, then. I like that; it shows curiosity without unquestioning faith.

3. Elementary, Dear Data (5/5)
The first time this show has really, truly knocked it out of the park. I enjoyed the characters and the situation in this episode so much that I didn't even question just how the holodeck is supposed to have created true sapience. And I didn't hate the holodeck, even though I usually do. I love Brent Spiner in this episode, and Daniel Davis as Moriarty is fantastic; he's a villain, but a very thoughtful one, and I love that the crisis ends not with trickery or action, but with understanding and reason and people acting intelligently and making rational arguments. It's the first episode, I think, that makes the holodeck less of a gimmick and an actual engine for a science fiction story about the nature of reality, and whether or not intelligence constitutes life. This is what Star Trek is when it's at its best.

4. The Outrageous Okona (1/5)
And after TNG's best episode so far comes an absolute train wreck of an episode. Billy Campbell has the potential to be interesting as the title character, but we're constantly being told what a rogue he is, what a charming cad, that you just have to laugh at it. Show, don't tell, especially when telling sounds like you're reading straight out of the character description of some awful fan fiction story. Ooh, so flamboyant. And Data--learning comedy from Joe Piscopo? No wonder you don't understand humor. Teri Hatcher has a small role, just to round out the awfulness of the guest stars. This is the pits.

5. Loud as a Whisper (4/5)
I love Howie Seago's performance as Riva, a deaf telepath trying to mediate peace negotiations. It's a very interesting, sensitive episode about deafness, unaccompanied by the usual preachiness that mars a lot of first season episodes. The scene where Picard tries to impress on Riva "You are not alone! We are in this together now!" is powerful.

6. The Schizoid Man (2/5)
Some good stuff in here, though I'm already getting tired of having Data turn into other people. For some reason, I always love seeing W. Morgan Sheppard in science fiction. Suzie Plakson as the Vulcan officer Selar is fantastic; she does an excellent job as an actual Vulcan (something a number of actors seem to struggle with). I'd have loved to see her on more episodes, but I guess we wouldn't have had her as K'Ehleyr if we had.

7. Unnatural Selection (1/5)
A riff on the original series episode "The Deadly Years," which was itself a boring, silly episode. It's like they're trying to introduce Dr. Pulaski all over again. Frankly, it still isn't taking. Also, as I said in the previous season, I hate watching actors in that ridiculous old-age makeup, trying to lower their voices and pretend they're old. It's an indignity to the audience. Also, they're trying too hard to turn Dr. Pulaski into Dr. McCoy.

8. A Matter of Honor (4/5)
Great premise, and a great episode for Jonathan Frakes. Watching Riker among the Klingons is fantastic, and Brian Thompson (I always like him) is really good as Klag. I like the Klingons and I like seeing their culture and service style explored. Also, I dig the Benzites. Do we ever see more of them? I just think they're neat.

9. The Measure of a Man (5/5)
Data is once again the vessel through which TNG meditates on the nature of life, intelligence, and sentience. And here they do it in a very dramatic way, with a hearing to determine whether Data is a legal citizen or Starfleet property. The earlier scenes, with Dr. Maddox declaring Data will be dismantled for research purposes, are tense and horrifying (as they should be). It's as if Data has no rights, and Dr. Maddox doesn't expect that he should. There's also something being said in this episode about slavery in a conversation between Guinan and Picard that brings the whole idea home. They pull this one off marvelously.

10. The Dauphin (3/5)
Wesley was bound to fall in love with a girl one day. Actually, it seems late for him, but whatever. It's a fairly inconsequential episode, but it's a sweet one. The scene in Ten Forward with Riker and Guinan teaching Wesley how to talk to women makes the whole episode.

11. Contagion (1/5)
Meh. Nice to see the Romulans do something interesting, but this one left me cold. Which is disappointing, since Steve Gerber was one of the writers. Derivative of the far better "The City on the Edge of Forever."

12. The Royale (2/5)
Some of the character interplay is fun--Data gets a chance to really go here--but it was just so dull. Maybe it's just not surreal enough. And how many times is TNG going to borrow from "A Piece of the Action"? And who were the aliens who created the place?

13. Time Squared (4/5)
This episode makes a very interesting and tense use of time travel as a concept, with a future Picard coming back only six hours in time as the Enterprise heads towards a possibly fatal encounter. By putting a clock on the whole thing, it raises the tension, and Patrick Stewart really outdoes himself here.

14. The Icarus Factor (1/5)
This episode really suffers from Gene Roddenberry's unwavering belief that the people in his imagined future are just this side of perfect. Riker runs into his estranged father and... no drama. Apparently people in the future can be touchy about the past, but don't actually harbor resentments, or something. Boring as hell. The only thing I liked was the subplot about Worf's Ascension anniversary and what his friends do for him.

15. Pen Pals (1/5)
Starts off interesting, becomes treacle. Prime Directive, blah blah blah. Colm Meany has a wonderful scene in the transporter room, though. He's one of the main reasons I'm looking forward to DS9.

16. Q Who (5/5)
I think this is the first time they get Q really, spectacularly right. And the introduction of the Borg is appropriately scary, dangerous, and alien. (And I still say representational of American fears of superior Japanese technology--they fly around the universe in giant microchips, for chrissakes.) A fantastic episode all around.

17. Samaritan Snare (2/5)
I like everything in this episode with Picard and Wesley, especially Picard telling him about the time he was stabbed after picking a fight as a young man. They've finally dropped the obvious thread where Wesley feels like Picard's real son, but it is nice to see the relationship between the two deepen in an organic way. And Wesley's not irritating here, either. They've fixed him. The Pakled stuff, though, is horrible, and an unsubtle dig at the impatience of Trek fans.

18. Up the Long Ladder (1/5)
I'm not even Irish and I'm insulted by this twee idiocy. So the Irish haven't advanced since 1788 then? Even in space? And Riker and Brenna have the unsexiest sexy banter, even for Star Trek. Yeah, baby, I'll help you wash your feet, alright. Gettin' hot, yet? There is some potentially interesting stuff in here about the rights one has over their own body and the ethics of cloning (and immigration) that doesn't come off. A shame, coming from the writer of the excellent "The Measure of a Man" episode.

19. Manhunt (4/5)
Slight, but a lot of fun. I just love Lwaxana Troi, and watching her go after Picard romantically is delightfully hilarious. His idea of inserting Data into their romantic dinner is a hysterical play on the running gag of Data talking too much. I don't know if it was on purpose, but the way the subplot with the Antedeans is dismissed in seconds by Lwaxana at the end reads as a funny commentary on one of the unfortunate tropes of this show, with plots being magically resolved by technobabble in the last few seconds.

20. The Emissary (4/5)
Suzie Plakson is marvelous as Worf's former lover K'Ehleyr; a nice subversion of the our expectations of a Klingon character. Their story feels organic and natural, not necessitated by a need for cheap drama. I also like the Klingon sleeper ship and how the crew is ultimately able to deal with it without killing them. Congratulations on really turning Worf into an interesting character. (How I wish Tasha Yar were still on this show, though, because in the first season I really expected them to get together.)

21. Peak Performance (3/5)
I enjoyed it intermittently. I liked the idea of Riker, Worf, Geordi and Wesley trying to put together the Hathaway in order to participate in a war games exercise. Even the stuff with the Ferengi works, though it fails to raise them above the status of mild irritant; I like how Picard and Riker manage to outsmart them. Data's crisis of confidence, though, is mannered and uninteresting. Also, I always like Roy Brocksmith.

22. Shades of Gray (1/5)
The series low point, as a clip show can only be. Clip shows are lazy. But, to the credit of the producers, no one has ever claimed this was anything more than a cost-cutting exercise that they pretty much had to make to get extra money for "Elementary, Dear Data" and "Q Who," which are very high quality episodes. It's also easy to overlook, which is nice. It's how the industry works, but that doesn't make it any more of an entertaining episode. At least it does no real damage to the show.

On to season 3 today, then. I've already seen about half the episodes here, and I like a lot of them, so I'm very excited. Season 2 really built on the first one and deepened the characters and set the dynamic, so I hope the build continues into some great storytelling. Well, I already know it does in a number of places, but still, I'm excited to see it all at once.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The One Thing I Don't Understand About the Casey Anthony Case

Well of course people are outraged that Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murder. For some people, the murder and abuse and neglect of a 2-year-old child is an immediately polarizing thing. and those people are upset that the girl's possible murderer is going free. I don't blame them; some corners of the media have been pushing the story so hard that it grabbed the attention of a lot of people. I get it.

What I don't get, though, are the sheer number of comments I've seen online so far this afternoon (23 and counting) that are basically in the vein of "Who cares?" or "This doesn't affect me" or "I'm not interested" or "I don't understand why people are so captivated and outraged by this."

Are we really at this point now? Where people take their opinions so seriously that they've got to rush online to comment about how they don't care about what other people are commenting about? I mean, wouldn't you just, like, ignore it instead? If you really didn't care, wouldn't you just keep on... not caring?

And I get that you don't care, I just wonder why I'm supposed to care that you don't care.

And yes, I recognize the irony inherent in my getting on the internet to state my opinion that people take their opinions too seriously. I understand that I'm basically doing what I'm accusing other people of, and I also understand that all blogs really are is people talking about their opinions.

But still... look, people are upset about the murder or manslaughter of a child. I don't think that's unreasonable. If you don't share in the anger, why bother even mentioning it?

Unless you're taking the extreme opposite position and arguing that it's okay for parents to murder their kids, what is it you're adding or countering?

UPDATE 5:51 PM: The one person I've seen so far who actually had something to contribute with his not caring about Casey Anthony.

UPDATE 9:53 PM: Jon Stewart tonight: "Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her daughter, as the American public stands by in shock and awe. In other news, millions of sick and dying American children and adults still don’t have healthcare, to the shock and awe of absolutely nobody."

Again, a real point to make instead of just "Eh, who cares?"

Health Report Update

I've had a lot of energy lately. I always think I'm too tired to get up and do something, but then I get up and I'm bursting with energy. Weird. This exercise stuff really works, I guess. [Emoticon to indicate that was a joke, even though I shouldn't have to.]

I never want this to go away.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation

We're moving through Star Trek: The Next Generation pretty quickly; Becca grew up on this show, and she's been excited as hell to watch it again. This is another show I haven't seen all of. It came on the year after I became a Trek fan, but I stopped watching it fairly early, a combination of a lot of less-than-stellar episodes up front, as well as my parents' divorce (the show aired on Saturday nights, so I wasn't always in a place where I could watch it).

What's interesting seeing it now is how much it feels like Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Series. I mean that in both good and bad ways (I actually like that movie quite a bit). You can see the seeds of the series in the movie--Decker is Riker, Ilia is Troi, and the show places an emphasis on exploration and scientific understanding rather than skiffy action. The viewpoint is a little more curious and mature... but also has a tendency to be stuck in the past. A lot of the episodes in the first season feel like they wouldn't have been out of place on the original series, because they seem so firmly rooted in a 1960s attitude towards science fiction which seems out of place given the landscape of SF literature at the time. It honestly almost seems quaint that in the era of cyberpunk Gene Roddenberry was still so interested in How the Past Saw Tomorrow.

1 and 2. Encounter at Farpoint (my rating: 3 out of 5)
My understanding is that Q is a late addition to the pilot when Paramount asked for a 2-hour movie instead of a premiere episode. Which is amazing to me, because Q and what he implicates about evolution and human potential is the most interesting part of the pilot. We meet the characters and get to know them, and it is nice that it all hinges on what's become a modern trope of Doctor Who--that some problems are caused because human beings are still too biocentric to understand the intentions of other lifeforms--but it's not particularly dramatic. The characters are hit or miss so far: Picard is severe, Riker is a tentative Kirk, and Deanna Troi is particularly uninteresting. And she remains that way for the rest of the season. Also, Wesley Crusher is very obviously played as Picard's son. Maybe the idea gets dropped, but the conclusion here is inescapable.

3. The Naked Now (2/5)
It seems to early to define the characters by how extremely out of character they become. Also, ripping off an episode of the original series does less to cement the connection between series and more to make it appear like the new show is already out of ideas. It's very Gene Roddenberry, too, that the intoxication makes the men do all sorts of things, but basically just puts the women at varying stages of horniness. This is the beginning of Wesley Crusher, Boy Genius. I have to admit, I'd figured the talk of Wesley's being irritating had to be exaggerated, but it sure isn't. He's already smarter than every trained professional adult, and he's obnoxious about it. I liked the character of Assistant Chief Engineer Shimuda; I would've like to have seen him stick around, except I'm sure he was probably fired for leaving a kid in charge of his station even before he was infected...

4. Code of Honor (1/5)
Tasha Yar kicks ass. I wish Denise Crosby had never left this show. Her character is great, far more interesting than Deanna Troi in every way; I'm sorry Crosby got impatient and took off. This episode, though... Planet of the African Stereotypes.

5. The Last Outpost (1/5)
The Ferengi are embarrassingly lame. They can't decide if this is the scary new villain, an anti-capitalist warning, or Arab traders masquerading as terrorists. (I know that sounds racist, but here the Ferengi are presented that way. If the Klingons are Russians, the Ferengi seem like Middle Easterners to me, right down to a stereotypical attitude on the place of women in the social sphere; it's more bad racial stereotyping as science fiction allegory.) And besides that, the episode is just really, really stupid.

6. Where No One Has Gone Before (3/5)
I like this episode because the Traveler is an interesting character and idea, and I like how it reinforces the idea that the human race has only ventured into a relatively small part of the galaxy. I hate it when science fiction series take space travel for granted; I like occasional reminders that it's also incredibly dangerous and the mere act of exploring the galaxy carries a myriad of risks. It does, though, make me question why improvements to the warp drive aren't being carried out on some kind of test ship, instead of on a starship with hundreds of families onboard. I do like the idea of the Enterprise as a traveling community in space, a city unto itself, but too often the show isn't sure what to do with it.

7. Lonely Among Us (1/5)
I barely even remember this one already.

8. Justice (1/5)
A self-righteous examination of the Prime Directive plot device and capital punishment that never once stops to ask what the hell Starfleet is doing interfering in a pre-warp society, anyway. Doesn't that violate the Prime Directive, too?

9. The Battle (1/5)
At least the Ferengi come off a bit better and more fully-realized in this one instead of just running around like gerbils on crack.

10. Hide and Q (2/5)
Q's return is refreshing, but this episode is so self-righteous. There's an interesting discussion between Riker and Q about why the Q Continuum is so interested in, even scared by, human potential. But it's just unrelentingly cruel to everyone.

11. Haven (3/5)
Lwaxana Troi is another character I always like. This is actually a nice episode about people in space, where the dire situation and its possible outcomes (and final outcome) are driven by human motives and the characters' feelings instead of the emergency-of-the-week. Deepening the relationship between Troi and Riker is especially effective.

12. The Big Goodbye (2/5)
I like the atmospheric noir at this attempt to place Picard as Bogey in a holodeck mystery, but the science of this episode is ridiculous. I basically accept the holodeck as magic, because the science of it is silly as hell. So, Wesley (of course, Wesley, Boy Genius) can turn off the malfunctioning holodeck, but he can't do it without everyone inside vanishing? How does that even work? The Matrix makes more sense than that. I could accept it if the outcome was that the interactive virtual reality experience being shut off so suddenly could, like, give someone a headache or make them momentarily blind or something, but vanishing completely? I would love to know how the hell that's supposed to work. It's not like the crew have been digitized and turned into program files or anything. This makes zero sense to me. (Adore Lawrence Tierny, though.)

13. Datalore (4/5)
I have to admit, I don't always love Brent Spiner or Lt. Commander Data, but Spiner does a hell of a job here as both Data and his, well, evil twin, Lore. Doing the evil twin thing is as old as literature itself, but they have a lot of fun with it here.

14. Angel One (1/5)
Gene Roddenberry's viewpoint may have matured a bit, but not his attitude towards women in power. They all just need a good rogering to see sense, I guess.

15. 11001001 (2/5)
I'm already sick of dramatic holodeck malfunctions, but I like the idea of the Bynars. Why wouldn't they keep these guys around if they're such good engineers? Get them on the crew immediately to shore up Geordi La Warp Core Breach's work. That's part of the problem with Star Trek--for the sake of returning to point A when the drama's over, potentially useful developments that warrant expansion are just conveniently ignored.

16. Too Short a Season (1/5)
I hate hate HATE when young actors put on pounds of Ninja Turtle makeup and pretend to be old. It's just embarrassing and unseemly. They never get it right.

17. When the Bough Breaks (2/5)
About as exciting as ditch water.

18. Home Soil (2/5)
Basically a retread of "The Devil in the Dark" with General Gogol from the James Bond movies.

19. Coming of Age (3/5)
The first time Wesley was ever interesting. I find the whole process of the Starfleet Academy Entrance Exam fascinating, especially the psychological evaluation, giving everyone a sort of mini version of the Kobayashi Maru before they can even enter Starfleet. I'd still be very interested in seeing a TV series about Starfleet Academy (a movie would basically just use the same plot as SpaceCamp).

20. Heart of Glory (3/5)
I'm interested in the Klingons. It's interesting to see how even here the peace with the Klingons is still tentative at best.

21. The Arsenal of Freedom (1/5)
The whole point of this episode seems to be to really heat up the attraction between Dr. Crusher and Picard, but then it suddenly gets dropped. Always nice to see the late Vincent Schiavelli, though. And Geordi really gets a chance to shine. But it's being beaten over the head with an obvious message ("Weapons are bad and hurt people and stuff"). The first season is a little too preachy at times. Also, how can a civilization be destroyed by a weapon that can be shut off so easily?

22. Symbiosis (2/5)
This whole episode seems like it really wants to make a point about something, but then it just crumbles and becomes "Hey kids, stay off the drugs." And Picard is particularly self-righteous here. Star Trek II members Judson Scott and the late Merritt Butrick being in the episode is pretty neat, and they both play interesting characters, but halfway through someone drops the plot and simplifies the whole thing into pointlessness.

23. Skin of Evil (1/5)
I hate that Denise Crosby left the show, and doing it in such an ignoble way feels cheap and gimmicky. And her funeral scene, with the hologram, only makes sense if she's recorded her message that very morning. The crew's only been together a few months, guys. The rest of the episode is pointless.

24. We'll Always Have Paris (1/5)
As treacly and creaky as the romance between Picard and Michelle Phillips is, what bothered me more is the idea that a scientist can say he broke off a chunk of another dimension and that explanation can be accepted without a follow-up question or two.

25. Conspiracy (2/5)
Gross, and weirdly out of place. It feels more like a V episode than Star Trek. And then the idea of an invading race of aliens is totally dropped.

26. The Neutral Zone (3/5)
The Romulans are back. There, that, in one sentence, is pretty much the entire episode. I do like the other bits, with cryonically-frozen humans from the 1990s being found by the Enterprise (and I've never not liked Peter Mark Richman in something, even when it's as bad as Friday the 13th, Part VIII). But the reintroduction of the Romulans needs a better pay-off and a stronger enforcement. And we never do find out what's making all of those outposts disappear.

Not a home run by any means, but the larger focus on the ensemble makes things more bearable, actually, than the tedious third season of the original series.

Now on to the second. I remember not being crazy about that, too, but we'll see what happens over the next couple of days.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Song of the Week: "Love Really Hurts Without You"

In the 80s, I really dug Billy Ocean. My Dad had a couple of his albums on cassette, and we always liked to listen to them. But here I'm going back to 1976, and his first single from his first album. I actually never heard this song--as far as I can remember--until a few weeks ago, and it's probably going to be on my iPod a long time.