ST:TNG Blog Project

ST:TNG Blog Project

I feel like the quality is improving. I’m still not blown away by the stories and the show kinda feels trapped by the 45 minute time limit with some episodes rushing to a conclusion, but the character development is getting stronger. Picard’s backstory in The Battle told us more about our new captain. And now we get to learn a bit more about Riker and Data:

S1:E10 Hide and Q

I was surprised this episode happened so early in the show! As I have said before, Q is one of my favorite antagonists. He’s just such a lovable jackass. Here he is, back again, convinced he knows how to corrupt Riker and, to his credit, he almost does if it wasn’t for the voice of reason of Captain Picard talking him down from the slippery slope of absolute power. As conundrums go, trying to decide if you should keep the power over life and death would be a hard one, especially for a Starfleet Commander.  This is probably the best episode with a big idea so far.

S1:E11 Haven

This episode is most notable because it is the introduction of Deanna Troi’s mother, Lwaxana. She is a staple in the series, showing up to torture Picard, though in a complete different way than Q. We also get lots of great Troi/Riker and if you weren’t shipping these two yet, this episode makes it pretty clear that the show writers want these crazy kids to get together. This is the goofiest episode yet, the main plot is forgettable, and the only parts that stay with you is how ridiculous Lwaxana is.

S1:E12 The Big Goodbye

And so begins a long line of “How is the holodeck even a thing?” episodes where something random goes wrong, allowing the Holodeck to hold crew members hostage and endanger them by putting them in a time period closer to our own, when humans were still “savages”. To “relax” Picard decides to play his favorite noir detective, Dixon Hill (think Sam Spade but without the copyright infringement).  We find out that the Enterprise has a “20th century expert” on board and that women in the future don’t apply their own makeup (Beverly is fascinated by the woman checking her face in the police station.)  Oh, and again, if you weren’t sure if you should ‘ship Picard/Crusher, this episodes makes it pretty clear that, yeah, the writers are going to make that a thing eventually.

S1:E13 Datalore

THIS might be one of the best episodes so far, though the ending suffers from the classic “OMG THE SHOW IS ALMOST OVER DO SOMETHING!” but otherwise, great character stuff for Data. The Enterprise goes to visit the planet where Data was found and discover another android body. They decide to assemble the body and meet Data’s “brother” – Lore.

I would like to subtitle this episode – “Phrasing and Synth Music” because it had some awful music and some great lines that made me giggle, such as:

“Does he have all the same parts as you?”

“How do we turn him on?”

“He has a child’s body but we have found him to be much more.”

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But it also had some great moments, like when Data tells Dr. Crusher that he can be shut down by pressing a special button on his back. He swears her to secrecy, noting “If you had an off switch Doctor, would you not keep it a secret?” (This, of course, plays into the plot later).

We also find out that Data earned his Starfleet uniform with 4 years at the academy and has been working for at least 15 years since then. Gotta respect that because I’m sure Starfleet would have given him an honorary degree if he had asked.

This is also the episode that brought us this often used/abused quote:

star-trek-shut-up-wesley-reaction-gif-tng-13995937890

Which, honestly, seemed really uncalled for!  And even worse when his own mother chimes in! First, really rude of Captain Picard to use such language toward ANYWAY, but especially a kid who is learning how to be a Starfleet member. Wesley does lose his shit later, pointing out that if he was an adult, they wouldn’t speak to him that way (which is 1000% true).

Anyway, I really enjoyed this episode and all 4 of these were a lot of fun. Now I need to distract myself with some other shows while Andy catches up. 🙂

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Blog Project: Star Trek: The Next Generation

Blog Project: Star Trek: The Next Generation

My friend Andy cannot resist an amazing blu-ray deal so when Amazon.uk had Star Trek: The Next Generation on sale for some obscenely low price earlier this month, he ordered it. I had been wanting to rewatch TNG for awhile, so we are taking this opportunity to team up and watch the show, blogging our thoughts and reactions 30 years later.

A little background for me: TNG was a HUGE part of my childhood. I have lots of happy memories of Saturday nights, getting Pizza Hut on the way home from church (my parents were big fans of the 5 o’clock mass) and sitting at the table in front of the tv in the basement, happily watching and eating together. We never really had a show like that again, that kept us all entertained, that brought us together, and I remember the emotions of watching the series finale and knowing that this was more than an end to a TV show…

So it has been interesting watching these episodes, produced in 1987, watching on an HDTV screen in 2016 (well, bouncing between my TV and my iPad, and realizing how much my life has started to mirror the Star Trek technology, especially when I start watching by asking Cortana to launch the Netflix app on my Xbox). I’m not sure I will be able to blog in-depth reactions to every episode – there are seven seasons worth! But I want to at least give a mention to them and see what memories, if any, surface while watching.

S1:E1/2 “Encounter at Farpoint”
I remember this episode pretty well but I think that is because it was rerun the most and I’ve tried to start the series over before and become distracted. Plus, Q. Q is one of my favorite characters in the series and a lot of the episodes I remember have Q in them (and Barkley…but we’ll get to him later!).

I think this is a pretty solid pilot. They manage to introduce everyone without making it feel like a line-up. And there are a lot of characters on this show – we have a whole crew of people! And the plot of the first half of the premiere, with Q putting them on trial for the crimes of humanity, gives the audience a chance to catch up on the history between 1987 – The Original Series (TOS) – to TNG.

The second half we meet Riker and Wesley, who I think are written to be the audiences eyes. Riker is new to the Enterprise, Wesley was there for the kids. I love the hint we get of Riker and Troi’s previous relationship, calling him “Imzadi”. If I had to trace back in fandom and find my first “ship”, I’d say it was Riker/Troi and Picard/Crusher. Not the most imaginative, but they were the first show relationships I was invested in and wanted to happen.

The end of the episode sets up the series – that Q will always be watching and judging and they have plenty of time to prove if humans are worthy.

S1:E3 “The Naked Now”
The next two episodes felt like homages to the original series, which makes sense. Unbeknownst to me at the time, TNG met with some push back from TOS fans, plus I’m sure the network wasn’t sold on the idea of a science fiction show. Sci Fi shows are expensive and never seem to get as big of a following. This episode was supposed to be similar to “The Naked Time” from TOS, which I’m sure writers hoped would appease the TOS fans, but had the opposite effect of making it look like TNG was just going to copy+paste episodes.

S1:E4 “Code of Honor”
And if “Naked Now” hadn’t been trouble enough, this episode is very problematic, even more so 30 years later. Again, it feels like a throw back to TOS, with the ridiculous “fight to the death” challenge. It is hard to watch this episode now, with a planet population by black people who talk with slight accents and who act uncivilized, making comments about Tasha being head of security and a woman and all other kinds of things that make your eyes roll back into your head.

For some reason E3 and E4 focus a LOT on Tasha Yar. I suppose have a woman as Head of Security was a big deal for this reboot and they were really proud of it, but in “Naked Now” she ends up getting brainwashed by the virus and running around in a skimpy outfit, trying to seduce Data and in “Code of Honor” she is made to fight to the death with another woman.

S1:E5 “The Last Outpost”
This episode was a little more straight forward, with the introduction of the Ferengi. I was excited to see proto-Quark because isn’t he one of the best things on DS9? I have a few thoughts on the Ferengi but I want to see a few more episodes with them before I come to any conclusions.

One thing that Andy and I have already talked about – it seems the best TV shows have some of the worst first seasons. Watching TNG, I was reminded of the first season of one of my favorites shows of all time Parks and Recreation. P&R has a terrible first season (in fact, I didn’t watch it when it originally aired because I was so turned off by the first few episodes). They are trying way too hard to be The Office and 1) we already had that show airing on the same channel and 2) we were ready for something new.

Right now, TNG feels like it is trying really hard to be TOS. But that’s not what the people of 1987 wanted – they already had TOS. They knew those episodes by heart. They didn’t want lessons from the 60s, they needed stories about the 80s, stories about our future. So I expected these first few episodes to be bumpy and awful. Thank goodness CBS kept it going. Nowadays shows barely get a chance (**coughFIREFLYcough**) before they are cancelled. I can’t wait to get to the classic episodes, but I want to watch the whole series, see how the characters grow and change and evolve over the seven seasons. And I can really only appreciate that if I watch them all again.

Make it so.

Jon Stewart; or why I will be crying my eyes out later tonight

Tonight at 11pm, the final episode of Jon Stewart’s 16 year run as the host of The Daily Show will air.

I remember when Jon took over as host of The Daily Show. Back then, during Craig Kilborn’s short run, it was more childish and immature and it appealed to high school me. I used to watch it every night while chatting on AOL Instant Messenger with my friends. Then Jon Stewart took over and while the silly jokes were still there, it was clear the brains behind the gags were not just going for the easy punchline. I suddenly found myself learning about the world, about politics, in a way I had never been engaged before.

I watched Daily Show all through college and for a good while after that. I attended the Rally for Sanity in Washington D.C., one of the craziest events I have ever been to. Jon and the crew were the voice of reason, or at least they admitted how ridiculous politics can be, and will always be. Instead of thinking “am I the only one who sees this?”, Stewart reassured me that, no, I was not crazy, the world was crazy.

Like Joss Whedon’s shows, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show made me feel less alone in this crazy world. They reminded me that other people, a LOT of other people, laugh at the same jokes as me and have the same serious concerns about our world. It was comforting.

I know when I watch that final episode I will cry. Not just because it is goodbye, but because I won’t know where to go to find that comfort anymore. Yes, there are little niches and nooks on the internet that probably provide similar satire, I can watch John Oliver’s segments on YouTube, but a mainstream, popular source of levity on a daily basis won’t be readily available to me.

And maybe I will be surprised again by Trevor Noah and the new team taking over.

But right now I am very scared, as I see the new presidential candidates lining up, as I see that FOX NEWS is still a thing, as I see ignorant comments online about all of the things happening in the world…and I realize that after tonight, Jon Stewart won’t be there to react to it, to tell me that my frustrations are well founded, that I am not the only one staring at the screen and wondering WTF is going on.

in praise of Hannibal (why are you not watching the best show on TV?)

Hannibal Season 3 is a prime example of how much better a television or movie series based on books can be if all of the source material is out in advance. Watching this season, as the writers fold in the 31-year old story of Red Dragon and knead it into their current narrative, into our current world…there are only a few more episodes before it is all done, but even after the show ends, there will still be this delicious dish left over for others to savor.

Going to ramble a bit about the show vs the book so spoilers here and there for both of them. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

I just read Red Dragon a few months ago and I thought it had stood up pretty well, but, of course, Will and Hannibal’s relationship is nothing like the show. When Harris wrote the novel, he had no idea what Hannibal would become. Bryan Fuller ans his team managed to craft a prequel to the story over the past two years, lifting elements from other books in the series and they have made the characters and story richer for it. The connection between Hannibal and Will is even stronger, even creepier.

With the addition of Alana Bloom and her relationship with these two men, the story gets an extra layer. Watching her “wag her finger” at Hannibal in last night’s episode made me worried about where her path would ultimately lead. She knows Hannibal will kill her. I feel like she is resigned to that fate, but she will do everything in her power to keep him locked up for as long as she can. I’m concerned she won’t survive this season, that maybe instead of sending the Red Dragon after Will, Hannibal will send him after Alana and her new family. Though I suppose that wouldn’t really count as him killing her, which was his promise. He is very particular about language and meaning, that Hannibal.

The scene between Will and Hannibal was so fantastic. The language was magnificent, as Hannibal proclaimed that he had created a family for Will already and how betrayed he felt, not because Will took the stand against him in court (though his comment about the cologne shows it did bother him a little), but that Will has moved on and created a strong bond with another person, a person who makes him better, not worse. Hannibal doesn’t like it.

And, of course, Jack and Hannibal. Trying to play each other. Was Hannibal really surprised that Jack read his note? He must have known that would happen and as soon as Will revealed that he had read it, Hannibal knew Jack had too, that he had manipulated Will and also Hannibal. Or had Hannibal manipulated Jack? I think they are believe they are playing each other and are aware that the other is playing them.

I love how Hannibal’s cell shifts between reality and the mind palace he has created for himself. That one moment Will is beyond the glass and the next they are in Hannibal’s office. And the flashbacks to Hannibal’s secret life with Abigail…his comment to Will about the “ready made family” with Molly, how her already having a son meant that he didn’t have to worry about passing on the traits he didn’t like about himself…and then telling Will that he gave him a daughter once. But for Hannibal, Abigail was the daughter with the traits he wanted, someone willing to hunt with him and for him. Something a biological child could not guarantee him either.

Then we have Richard Armitage lurking around as The Tooth Fairy The Great Red Dragon, with only moments of actual dialogue but mostly it’s about flexing and twitching and screaming into the sky. Yet he is still amazing and captivating. The way he curls his back and his hands, the agony of transforming. It took me a moment to realize that so much of the book we are IN Dolarhyde’s mind, HE hears the voices but in reality no one else would, so those moments of him freaking out, growling, smacking himself, there is a voice he hears that we do not. We are the sane ones watching him, NOT hearing the voice of the monsters in his head. It makes it even more terrifying because as an audience we can’t even pretend to understand.

JIMMY! BRIAN! FREDDIE! The old gang is coming back together and they are just as amusing as they were before. Especially Jimmy’s line about being overly fond of cats (which later made me think of Beverly and how we all cried for her even though Hannibal had slaughtered so many before her…anyway, we are all overly fond of cats/Katz).

In conclusion: THIS SHOW! and I WANT MY SILENCE OF THE LAMBS FINALE!