Thursday, February 27, 2014

By Special Request: Star Trek Open Thread

Have something you want to say about Star Trek, any of the series, the original movies, nu-Trek, the books, the cartoons, the... whatever?  Say it here.

Have a favorite series?  Episode?  Character?  Ship?
What about a least favorite?

ANYTHING Trek related you want, talk about it here.


  1. I've wanted to comment here for a long time, so why not start with this:

    Favorite Series: ENT (Archer's Enterprise)
    Favorite Episode: Unification 1&2 (TNG), Babel One+United+The Aenar (ENT), and Eye of the Needle (VOY, first Star Trek Episode I ever watched, if I remember correctly) - what do all these Episodes have in common?
    Favorite Character: Commander Sela
    Favorite Ship: (including EU) Romulan Shrike class destroyer, (canon only) Romulan Warbird

    I guess by this point it is obvious that I'm a big Romulan fan. And I hate that Romulus was destroyed. Maybe it's because I'm German, but I see SO MUCH story potential in a Vulcans and Romulans going the path towards reunification. The "Nemesis" movie, with all its shortcomings, even gives a good introduction to a story going this way. And it perfectly fits with the overall Star Trek ideologie/optimism.

    Today's Star Trek hasn't managed to convince me that it is Star Trek yet. Star Trek doesn't work without a TV show. They were always the heart of the Star Trek franchise, like the movies are the heart of Star Wars.

    1. comment with fixed link

      For those who have never seen a ship of the Shrike class, here is a picture. (It appears in the game Star Trek: Armada.)

    2. Welcome here, please do comment whenever you want on whatever you want.

  2. Favorite Trek: DS9
    Some Top Episodes: TNG- Chain of Command 1+2, Most Toys, Frame of Mind
    DS9- Duet, Pale Moonlight, The Die is Cast
    Voy- The Thaw, Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy

    Why my favorite is my fav: Deep Space Nine has a few key differences that make it a superior experience for me:

    1. Continuity and consequences: Not only would past events be referred to, but they would also have implications and ripples down the line, usually in logical and dramatically satisfying ways. This leads into the next thing that makes it my personal favorite.

    2. Character development: More so than any other Star Trek series, there was a conscious effort to have the people involved grow and change over the course of the show's seven seasons. I love Patrick Stewart, and I love Picard. But after the rather shaky first season, his character was essentially the same for six years. Sisko was in a completely different place character wise at the end of the show than he was at the beginning. And that's more than can be said for Janeway, AKA "I am a good actor stuck in a role where my personality is different as the writers demand." On a more subjective note, I feel that the general quality of character writing and acting was the best on DS9. Even the weaker links of the cast (Jadiza Dax) generally could hold their ground against the middling characters on the other shows, and beat the pants off the disliked ones(Harry Kim, "Please die in a fire already" Neelix).

    3. A willingness to examine the precepts of its own universe: As stated in an another post, "its easy to be a saint in paradise." Freed from the rather strict precepts of Roddenberry, the writers were able to have a cast of characters who didn't have to always like each other or automatically get along. Shows didn't stop for five minute lectures on how awesome and enlightened human beings are. And it didn't pretend that being principled doesn't have genuine disadvantages, or that having the best rulebook on ethics makes everyone in a society angels.

    Some take this as a betrayal of the fundamentals of Star Trek, or a tossing away of its basic optimism. I'd argue taking a closer look at some of the edge cases doesn't mean the show is no longer optimistic. Taking a look at the events in the show itself, the act that ends a war that has slaughtered billions and would have killed millions more is ended with an act of mercy and empathy. Doctor Bashir starts as he most principled and ethical character in the show. He ends the show the same way, despite personal witness of some of the most troubling and dark events of the show. Seeing such things may have stripped him of his naivety, but never his morals.

    Another thing that I think is often overlooked is that DS9 is by far the best show at allowing the alien characters to have their own viewpoint and agency. In TNG or Voyager, aliens were often shown as "Humans plus something, or humans minus something." Deep Space Nine is the only Star Trek that allows the alien characters to hold themselves up as the standard for comparison. A great example of this can be found in this video link, where two aliens have a chat about root beer:

    In short, I think that by taking a critical look at just what how close to a utopia Star Trek really is strengthens the world building, not weaken it. And I think "Despite our mistakes and misteps, we generally manage to aim towards the right thing" is a stronger and more meaningful statement than "Human beings are so evolved we have no trouble doing the right thing."

    1. Nathaniel, I like you. Are you new here, are do you just seldom post, or have I just forgotten who you are? In any case, I should like to be friends.

    2. First time I've ever posted here. And thank you.

    3. Welcome here. While we obviously disagree on stuff, I hope that you'll stick around.

  3. It's been stated in various ways for at least 2.5 thousand years that the truly interesting moral questions are when one is forced to choose between right and right or wrong and wrong. I tend to agree with that. Choosing between right and wrong is an easy choice. You do the right thing. There's no special calculus or evolved manner of thinking needed, if you've got a choice between right and wrong you do the right thing.

    Obviously not everyone acts that way, some people put morality on hold in order to work their own schemes but we rightly look down on these actions and, in the more extreme cases, correctly call them evil.

    When there are no right things, only a pile of wrong (e.g. TOS: City on the Edge of Forever) or there are mutually exclusive right things (e.g. TNG Sins of the Father) or both at once (e.g. Aeschylus: The Oresteia), then it's a much more interesting question to see how one goes about things.

    Now I've never been a big fan of tragedy as a genre, I'm sure it surprises no one that my favorite is one with a happy ending (Sophocles: The Philoctetes), so I tend to prefer Star Trek episodes that aren't moral Kobayashi Marus and instead stories about people facing things that are new to them. The original show was supposed to be about explorers, "Where no [human] has gone before." (When they tried to make it less sexist, they ended up making it more racist because the various alien species were generally presented as races. Oops.)

    But if we must have the show be about moral choices, I definitely prefer the impossible moral choices of the TOS and TNG to the completely possible but studiously avoided ones we see more of in DS9. (Though some of the supposedly no-right-option choices in the earlier shows were in fact people failing to see an obvious third option.)

    I also preferred the differing views of institutions. Institutions are nothing but groups of people, and there's a fundamental question about what happens when people get together.

    Can we, together, be better than we are apart or do we, in coming together invariably lose our way and become an immoral machine that does things so horrible none of us would do them on our own?

    It's the libertarian question. Is a government, a group of people, inherently worse than individual people?

    [character limit]

    1. In the earlier shows the answer was that good government is possible and together we can be better than we are apart as symbolized by the Federation. People were the same, in spite of the BS Picard might spew to Lily Sloane in First Contact, but people had come together to create something better than themselves, an organization that brought out the best and suppressed the worst in its members.

      For quite some time even Deep Space Nine kept this up. The shows were about how these still-like-us people from this better-than-our culture interacted with the rest of the universe. Deep Space Nine was permanently stationed on a part of the fringe, TOS and TNG were (almost) always exploring places the Federation hadn't been.

      And the answer to how the interactions happened was sometimes well and sometimes spectacularly badly. There's an episode of The Original Series where the Enterprise is going to study the plants on a world where Kirk made a friend 13 years ago. What could possibly go wrong? Well by the end Kirk's friend's soul is crushed and he's turned into a leader of hate while Kirk sees himself as the Devil from the Garden of Eden (I know the Devil isn't in that story; Kirk doesn't) times one hundred. Situation seriously fucked up.

      But as Deep Space Nine went on it stopped being so much that things were worse at the outskirts and started being it was rotten to the core. It took us to where we had hardly ever been before: Earth. Where everything was so fucked up one jerk could collapse everything. Even the Changelings called bullshit on the idea the Federation was ... anything worthy of praise.

      And then we get to season 6 and the introduction of Section 31, which started with (writer) "Why is Earth a paradise in the twenty-fourth century? Well, maybe it's because there's someone watching over it and doing the nasty stuff that no one wants to talk about." ok, only a "maybe" that's not so bad. Maybe means maybe not.

      And the producer, "does it really throw into question 'on a fundamental level...the principaled[sic] Federation we have known...'? Not yet it doesn't" Ok, that sounds ominous.

      That was the start, by the end we get Odo correctly saying, "Interesting, isn't it? The Federation claims to abhor Section 31's tactics, but when they need the dirty work done, they look the other way. It's a tidy little arrangement, wouldn't you say?"

      He's right, it is the case that the Federation is the knowing beneficiary of Section 31's dirty work and the Federation does give out orders that no one is to hinder that dirty work when the dirty work in question is genocide. (Seriously, virus intended to kill off an entire species that is working: YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CURE IT.)

      Which means that we're no longer talking about falling down at the edges or rogue elements, we're talking rotten to the core. The Libertarians are right, individuals can be good, governments are evil. (Note that it was individuals acting against the will of the government who carried out your mercy and empathy.)

      That rubs me the wrong way. I think we can be better together when we work together.

      Everybody get together
      Try and love one another right now

    2. I haven't watched DS9 and didn't really expect Star Trek to take that turn.

      So basically the same thing happened to the Federation as to the Republic in Star Wars. Is making previously good political entities more evil a cultural trend of the 90s?

    3. Chris made the excellent point that a lot the things find dark and depressing about DS9 are often similar to Babylon 5. Whether you find that to be "inspired by" or "ripped off from..." could be a matter of perspective.

      I really do think people should watch a bunch DS9 to form an opinion.

      Not that I take my own advice so much... I haven't seen that much B5, but my opinion is basically, "Nice shades of grey, but too much mystical shit."

      Mystical stuff in scifi tends to piss me off, but religious stuff doesn't. There's a lot of religious and cultural stuff going in DS9 with regard to the Bajorans and the Prophets/wormhole aliens (but not just that... intra-Bajoran religio-political stuff, too...), and later with the Founders, that I deeply love. Then at the end it got a little too "mystical chosen ones and true evil and blah blah blah" and I hate it. (There aren't that many episodes in S7 I would recommend, for a number of reasons.)

    4. Is making previously good political entities more evil a cultural trend of the 90s?

      I am only tangentially involved in comics but I'm told a tendency toward darker edgier more evil was a trend in the Nineties. The set up was in the 80s, but it was in the 90s when it took hold.

      And I've gotten lost on an hour(s?) long walk of the internet where I looked at badly drawn anatomy that has convinced me the fact I'm not a rich artist isn't that I can't draw (I can't) but that I never applied to be a Comic book artist because apparently an ability to draw is not a necessary prerequisite.

      The thing about that is that while the 90's were a time of tearing down and upping the suck in fiction because of the (notably incorrect) belief that "Realistic" is the same as "So horrible you contemplate self harm after experiencing it" across mediums, it wasn't the same everywhere. The comics, for example, were doing it on an individual level not an institutional one.

      DS9 has Odo and Bashir emerge largely unscathed, it's the Federation, the gods, and the local command structure (Sisko) that take a beating. So where comics were bringing down individuals Star Trek and Star Wars were bringing down institutions. Movies were going in like six directions at once (though Comic Book movies did an interesting thing. They tended to get lighter and fluffier as their source material got darker and edgier.)

      For those who have a passing familiarity with comics, it seems ever page I find about the 90s opens with this quote: "1993 was the year Superman died and Venom got his own series. Just keep that in mind."

    5. And I do second Lonespark's advice to see for yourself. My reading of the show is not the only one there can be and because of inconsistencies every viewer has to decide on their own what is fundamentally a part of the show and what is, "The writers fucked up; we can and should throw this out."

      When you come across glaring inconsistencies (as you will in most fiction that goes on for an extended period) other than saying, "Fuck it I quit," your only real option is to decide what to hold on to and what to jettison, because if you keep everything the whole will become incoherent.

      If you make different choices than I do at those points you could end up seeing a completely different show.

    6. To summarize your concerns, you feel DS9 drifted from saying things may operate differently on the fringes from the ideal to proclaiming the entire core of the Federation is rotten.

      Going to the example of the military coup episode, there's a detail I think people sometimes forget: The coup failed. It failed because ultimately the people of the Federation would not tolerate dictatorship. Its even pointed out in the episode itself that even if the admiral had actually deposed the Presidency, every other Federation World would have immediately revolted. His plan was doomed from the start. And it was doomed because of what the Federation is, and the kind of people who inhabit it.

      As for Section 31 and their attempted genocide being outside of character for the Federation: I'm not so sure you can claim that entirely. Why? Because of two episodes from TNG.

      Given that we're all fans here, I don't need to spend much time detailing the events of "I, Borg." The interesting thing is what happens the next time the events of that episode are brought up in the show. An admiral admonishes Picard for not taking the opportunity to destroy the entire Borg species, and directly orders him to do so if an opportunity to do so comes up again. Besides the Dominion, the Borg are the only existential threat the Federation faces within the TV series. And the reaction is the same: they must be annihilated before they kill us. Except rather than a rogue, unauthorized organization making this decision, its a decorated admiral making this choice.

      Another key fact is that with the exception of Odo, everyone in the main cast is horrified and disgusted by the existence of Section 31, and the tacit approval the higher ups seem to have settled on.

      And its not just in this particular incidence that shows the Federation isn't perfect even in TNG. There is the science officer who wants to take apart Data, simply because he's curious. The admiral who tries to take Data's daughter away. Another admiral who acts as a stooge for the Cardassians(noticing a theme when it comes to admirals?) The point is that its not like DS9 was completely novel when it came to exposing things not always being right in the Federation. The difference is that they made the such critiques even more explicit, rather than always having a convenient rogue admiral to blame it on.

    7. To summarize your concerns, you feel DS9 drifted from saying things may operate differently on the fringes from the ideal to proclaiming the entire core of the Federation is rotten.

      That's only a part of it.

      You brought up one of my examples from the previous thread, the scientist who wanted to take apart Data. Let me bring up the example that is the previous thread.

      When the higher ups made the call to take Sisko off the Eddington case it was the right call. The institution was working. His vengeance was interfering with his morals and he shouldn't have been allowed near the case. But instead of the Big-Moral-Questions we have in other shows where the problem is that there's only wrong and nothing right or there are multiple right things and they're mutually exclusive so "What do we do when 'Do the right thing' gives us no guidance at all?" Sisko just goes for straight up evil and never gets called on it.

      So: more than one problem with the show. And those are only the big two.


      The difference is that they made the such critiques even more explicit, rather than always having a convenient rogue admiral to blame it on.

      That happens to be a pretty major difference.

      Star Trek always had humans portrayed as people with the mix of good and evil that implies. Part of what that means is that no matter what there would always be bad people. Some of those bad people would be within the federation itself. Easy enough to deal with an evil ensign since the main characters all outrank such people, but an evil Admiral or whatnot, that's harder.

      If TNG didn't have a string of people who outranked Picard doing bad things the entire universe would have cried, "BULLSHIT!" because we all know that good organizations can still have bad members and since a few hundred years from now humans will still be humans it would be absurd to not have morally wrong humans in the Federation. Other species you can maybe get away with being made of saints, but not humans.

      But the question is one of society, can society be made better?

      Bad [insert rank here] you will always have with you barring psychic screening because even horribly evil people aren't evil all the time. Given that lower ranking ones are (usually) so easy to deal with Star Trek kind of has to focus on captains and the five ranks of admirals an evil Petty Officer Second Class you can just send to the brig.

      But are the bad people aberrations from the organization or exemplars of the organization?

      The Federation is a mix of good and bad people in every variation of Trek. It has to be. Anything else would be absurd. And it's big enough that if it's mostly good there should be a lot of bad people (which is good fodder for intra-Federation episodes because everyone being good at each other is boring) and if it's mostly bad there should still be a lot of good people (which is also good fodder for episodes because the underdog doing good in an evil system is a popular story.) So the question is never going to be, "Are there bad Admirals?" (Or whatever rank you prefer) because there will be either way. It's is the Federation good or bad?

      DS9, made it so there weren't rouge individuals to blame things on anymore. Because DS9 made it so the individuals weren't aberrations, they were the standard fare for the Federation and good guys were the aberrations.

      It went from, "The Federation is a good organization that is large and diverse and on account of that has several bad people in it," to, "The Federation is a bad organization that is large and diverse and on account of that has several good people in it."

      Total reversal. The aberration of previous series becomes the exemplar of DS9. And Odo is right, they're no different from the Cardassians with the Obsidian Order. Except the Cardassians are more up front about it.

    8. Er... that should read, "DS9, as you point out, made it so there weren't rouge individuals to blame things on anymore."

    9. I have I just have to differ that you can make such a blanket statement that DS9 shows that good people are the exception rather than the rule. That doesn't hold true within the main cast, and I don't think it holds true for the Federation as a whole.

      Going back to the coup example, if the Federation was really ruled by more good people than bad, than the admiral responsible would have not just had a handful of ships and Starfleet headquarters. He would have been able to reach out to other corrupt important people in the Federation all across the Alpha quadrant and launched a near simultaneous overthrow on multiple worlds.

      In addition, if you look at the sort of negative choices made by higher ups in Starfleet (looking the other way for Section 31, trying to make the "homeworld" more secure) I think you can argue that by and large they are the sort of decisions that can tempt people in a desperate situation without easy options. What you don't see are the sorts of people in high places making choices that betray them as venial, self serving, greedy or opportunistic. In other words, whatever faults Starfleet may have, it isn't headed by sociopaths or Dick Cheneys.

      As for your example of that terrible episode with Eddington, it is pretty indefensible. But unfortunately, as much as I love Star Trek, each series has at least one episode which essentially has to be ignored if the universe can continue to work. This is by no means special pleading. Good examples can be had from both TNG and Voyager. With TNG, there is that widely derided episode where it is discovered that warp drives essentially make space pollution that could end up destroying the universe. A revelation that is promptly ignored every episode after, as restricting warp drives would completely ruin the show.

      As for Voyager, there is the most infamously stupid Star Trek episode ever, "Threshold." Aka "Tom Paris went really really fast, so fast that he turned into a newt! He got better."
      And its not just the newt stuff being stupid that breaks the show. Its the fact they now have a way of going at infinite speed. And a way of instantly curing the side effect with no adverse effects. So Voyager could have been home the day after with a post-it-note taped onto the bow saying "We are about to turn into newts. Place inject us with the cure placed in convenient locations around the ship."

      Obviously, the Eddington episode fits into that category for somewhat different reasons. But I tend to take a hybrid Doyalist/Watsonian approach to stories, so this is one I am able to strike off as the writers having an off day and not really thinking through the implications of what they had created.

    10. You know the part where I confess to having lost complete track of the conversation?

      That would be now.

      I agree with you on this statement, "The difference is that they made the such critiques even more explicit, rather than always having a convenient rogue admiral to blame it on." But the entire first half of your most recent post seems to be saying, "No, that's not true, it still was just a few bad apples."

      So now I'm totally lost as to what it is you're actually saying.

    11. That I think having a perfect system while having imperfect people is a contradiction in terms. The fact that some people are able to get away with bad decisions is a criticism of the system. The fact that the system generally holds such people in check is a credit to the system.

    12. *Wish I'd stopped by here sooner, this is a discussion of awesome fun*

      So, I personally enjoy Voyager the most, essentially because I love the Doctor and 7 of 9 (no-sense-making costume aside). This is just a personal thing, one of my favourite areas of SF is the exploration of questions around what makes us human, what makes us *people*, and those 2 characters explore this more obviously/more often than any others (though Data has some really great stuff to add on this).

      This DS9 discussion, though. I always felt that the fault with the Federation wasn't having a collective system, but still having a hierarchical one. Power corrupts, power and privilege give people the opportunity to think that it's ok to let section 31 do their evil stuff because it protects and perpetuates the system, power can let someone think it's ok to put their own vengeance ahead of saving lives. It actually fills me with relief that this is addressed so comprehensibly somewhere in the ST universe as that 'this essentially unequal system is the ideal' vibe irks me. What I see as an issue is that they don't show a genuine collective society to counter-act this, thus giving the impression that it's trying to act together that leads to terrible corruption rather than inequality and hierarchy. I also think that we're better together, but not when things are still as inherently unequal as they are in the Federation.

    13. Ok, good. I'm glad you articulated this.

      I'm pro-institutions, generally. Let's put our strength and smarts together, for the benefit of all! But I think all institutions eventually fail/decay, and that that's less about whether the people/mission/ideals were good, and more about how well suited they were for the circumstances.

      The Federation isn't one thing; it has different parts and different times in its lifecycle. The same goes for the Bajoran religio-political system, and pretty much all the institutions that are portrayed. And I really, really like the way there are Designated Protagonists, sure, so we can follow the story and root for those we know, but not so much Designated Heroes. Everyone screws up, everyone makes choices with bad consequences... and pretty much everyone adds something of value somewhere, even characters who are consistently portrayed as Wrong.

  4. NuKirk: A jerk who never gets called on his shit. Instead, the universe revolves around him. Grrrr!!! And so many potentially awesome characters were under-utilized and ill-served by making it the Kirk is Awesome Show. (Those characters could have gotten more development if there were an associated TV series, I suppose.)

    (I have only seen the first of the new movies. Everything I heard about the second one made me want to run screaming far away.)

    1. See it if you want to see what happens when someone who wanted to make Star Wars is forced to make a Star Trek movie, mixed in with utterly embarrassing references to Wrath of Khan.

    2. If memory serves he's going to make Star Wars, which I expect him to ruin every bit as much as Trek.

  5. On a less contentious note, I just remembered that I am currently reading a hilarious webcomic called Larp Trek. The idea is that the TNG crew have non-working Holodecks, so Geordi comes up with the idea of having the main cast do a table top gaming session together. And it just so happens that the characters and plots they act out are of the DS9 crew.

    Its great stuff and very funny. Every comic also has alt-text, so make sure to drag your mouse over to see it.

  6. I swear I posted this before. Maybe in the other thread?


    My favorite is The Undiscovered Country. It has a lot of the not-so-great points of Old Trek, but also so, soooo much of the wonderful stuff. It has change, and working with old enemies, and arguments over whether trust and hope are logical, and Uhura doing communications stuff, and Captain Sulu, and... yay!

    I think First Contact is the best movie, mostly because Alfre Woodard/Lily. I frakking hate time travel, but I like the glimpse of the older, rougher Earth, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and people letting out their inner fanboys a little too much. I do really wish they would've put Lt. Hawke's boyfriend in it, though... Oh, the things with dish, where they go outside the ship, that was awesome and suspenseful... Not a huge fan of the Borg Queen...

  7. I really wish they would have made DS9 movies. But I'm not sure where they could fit into the whole story... Anyone have ideas?

    1. Although, having thought of it a bit, I guess I do have a couple: I would love to see the rebuilding process with the Changelings, and on Cardassia too, and everywhere, and fallout from new alliances and lost capabilities and...stuff. Then if rogue elements and/or new threats pose dangers to the future, that could be a reason for getting the band back together. And maybe Sisko could come back or someone could get in touch with him or get news of him? And Jake should be in it because Jake is TEH AWESOME.

      I do very much like Chris's idea of having a lot of it have to do with dismantling Section 31 and guarding against its resurgence. I wish I knew more about the original history of the Federation, so there could be discussion of sins and mistakes from the past to avoid, and examples to follow...

      And I would be all for characters that wandered off during the series coming back to play a role... More than one movie would be good, and there's plenty of scope for original characters or expanded roles...Ok, typing this is making me hate NuTrek even more...

    2. Damn, those movies could have been awesome.

      It is a shame about the nuTrek films. Essentially to me they're more like hi-octane action films than Star Trek films, which I actually love, but there are lots of other worlds to have them in. It's a real shame to lose a lot of what made ST special. Not to mention the typical-of-current-film-industry problematic things in them.