Monday, February 27, 2012


**** (4 stars out of 5)
During a liberty on Ogus II, tweenager Jake Potts, bored of laser tag, used red dye to fake his death for a joke on his nine-year-old brother. While hiding in the woods, terrified Willie Potts picked up infectious parasites. Enterprise is rushing for Starbase 416 to save his life.

Data suddenly changes the course, increases speed, and shuts down bridge life support. In Picard's voice Data takes full control of the ship and leaves everyone scrambling. The boy in the bubble is dying while Data beams down to the secluded jungle laboratory of a cackling old madman.

"I always loved that face," the oldster says. No wonder: he's the spitting image of Data left in the sun too long. Like a century too long.

It's Dr. Noonien Soong. He fled the giant snowflake somehow! He's a little potty, and disappointed Data went into Starfleet instead of cybernetics.

"Why did you create me?" Data asks.

"Why does a painter paint? Why does a boxer box?" Soong's need was no different than Michaelangelo's need to sculpt.

Soong speaks of a Noophian visiting Earth: he would want to tear down the ancient structures in favour of the new and efficient. But to a human, ancient things are shrines.

"What's so important about the past? People got sick, they needed money, why tie yourself to that?"

Continuity gives a mortal life meaning, and procreation gives a sense of immortality. And that is why Soong created Data. Oh, yeah. And he created someone else, too...

Evil Twin Lore was accidentally summoned also. Soong ignores Data's pleas and warnings not to reactivate the maniac. Soong is certain Lore will obey him as he always did.

Lore drifted in space for two years until he encountered some Pakleds. (I have a hard time believing Lore got his new sweater for Pakled Channukah.) That said, Lore's reaction when Soong tells them he's dying is just as hurt as a human.

Soong's take on the backstory Lore gave has a different perspective. The colonists were not envious of Lore's perfect humanity, they were afraid of his instability. Nor was Data a "less perfect version" of Lore. The brothers are virtually identical with slight differences in programming.

Among Soong's many regrets is not getting around to fixing Lore. How did his emotions get so twisted with ambition? But Soong didn't know Lore was out there, so he spent his last years solving a different regret...

He built a chip to give Data feelings.

Sadly, Soong takes a little nap that many will come to regret. When Noonien installs the emotion chip, his beloved android starts singing, babbling, and making up rhymes like Albino Flava Flav.

"Often-Wrong's got a broken heart. Can't even tell his boys apart."

Like the biblical Jacob, Lore has stolen the birthright, and if possible it's making him even crazier. He smashes Soong and heads for the hills.

Soong breathes his last. "Everybody dies, Data. Well, almost everybody."

Data comforts his creator. "It is all right for you to die, because I will remain alive."

Data gave Soong's toy dinosaurs to the healing Potts brothers and observes their reconciliation. "They're brothers, Data," Bev explains. "Brothers forgive."

"Brothers" continues the season's family drama with the triple bonus of a family made up entirely of Brent Spiner! It's frickin' brilliant! Robert, Jake, Lore... what's with all the older brother bullies and their ill-considered choices?

And poor Data. 'My brother slew my father and all I got was this lousy Pakled Sweater.'


**** (4 stars out of 5)
While the ship is in the shop, it's old home week at Earth.

Sergey & Helena Rozhenko, Worf's adopted parents, stop in from Bobriusk. They are demonstrative humans who embarrass their reserved son. O'Brien's dad is also embarrassing: he visited once and chased a nurse. "But it's always SOMETHING with parents, isn't it?"

Sergey was a Chief Petty Officer, and somehow recognizes O'Brien as a fellow CPO despite what I understand to be two glaringly obvious lieutenant's pips on the guy's collar. Just like Officer Worf's collar! But finally the Chief has a full name: Miles Edward O'Brien.

The Rozhenkos may not understand Worf's discommendation from the Klingons, but they don't have to. In all that he suffers, they are proud of him and they love him. Mom promises to mail him some rokeg blood pie. (Now, is that the sort of pie that will spoil, or just congeal? Who cares, pie is pie!)

Bev opens a case of Jack R. Crusher's effects from storage. Jack made a holographic message for baby Wesley, to hear when he turned 18. Jack spoke of his devotion to Starfleet, to Wes' mom, and to his son.

Picard goes to his home village of Labarre, France for the first time in 20 years. He meets his nephew Rene, his sister-in-law Marie, and reunites with the old vineyard's old winemaker: his cantankerous brother Robert. Their father was devoted to keeping the place traditional. Traditional cooking, traditional vines, traditional English accents...?

"In my view," gripes Robert, "Life is already too convenient."

Jean-Luc was a scholastic and athletic hero, Robert was the responsible one, but also a jealous bully sometimes. Robert and Jean-Luc get sloshed on the '47 and get into a fist fight in the mud.

The Captain opens up to his brother with racking sobs. "They used me to kill and destroy and I couldn't stop them... I tried so hard. But I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't good enough."

"So.. my brother is a human being after all..."

It's not the FUN kind of mud wrestling. With old, bald brothers, I mean. But in the end, they forgive. They even hug. And the Captain's life in space calls him onward.

"Family" is all character and heart. It probably wouldn't have been possible in The Original Series to get away with only a minimal fist fight in the midst of all this yammering and hugging. But, damn it all, these characters became more genuine in episodes like this one. They could be heroes and still be people you wanted to know.

The Best of Both Worlds Part II

**** (4 stars out of 5)

Last time on Star Trek The Next Generation: "We have engaged the Borg."

Worst. Engagement Party. Ever. 'We registered at Dytallix and instead you infiltrated our minds and bodies with controlling mechanisms!'

Back to our story, already in progress: the deflector dish attack is a fizzle before it began. The Borg know everything Picard knows. Shakespeare, caviar, personal relaxation lights. All irrelevant.

The Enterprise blew out its navigational deflector for nothing and can't move until it's fixed. They miss out on the party at Wolf 359 where the Borg under Locutus destroy Hansen's Armada of 40 starships. The dead sparking husks include the one Riker might have been on. Again, terrible, terrible party.

Riker and Shelby get a single new collar pip each, while in the midst of sterile mechanical horror, Picard cries a single tear. Hey, it's his party, and he'll cry if he wants to.

Data and Dr. Crusher have a plan to introduce destructive nanites into the Borg, but it will take 2 to 3 weeks. As Troi points out: "In 2 to 3 weeks nanites may be all that's left of the Federation."

Guinan advises Captain Riker that his crew like him a lot, but are beyond demoralized.

"When a man is convinced he's going to die tomorrow he'll probably find a way to make it happen." She believes Riker must throw away the book Picard wrote and be a totally different Captain. "If he'd died this would be easier... they took him from us a piece at a time... Our relationship is beyond friendship, beyond family. And I will let him go... It's the only way to beat him. The only way to save him."

Riker calls Locutus to discuss terms for surrender. The Borg don't have any. Which is fine, Riker only wanted to ascertain his position. Shelby commands the saucer section while Riker darts around in the drive section. Shelby's antimatter attack is also a diversion so Worf and Data can sneak aboard from a shuttle and kidnap Locutus. O'Brien gets them out by transporter just ahead of the explosion.

Most fortunately, the Borg abandon their interest in Locutus as easily as they dreamed him up. They even remain linked to him, allowing the crew to make examinations. Whatever "multimodal reflection sorting" is, Data used it to discover a complex set of subspace frequencies on which the Borg group consciousness operates. While active, the Borg implants rewrite DNA and will resist Beverly's microsurgery. Yay, technobabble!

Worf assures Locutus the Klingons will never yield.
Locutus sounds disappointed in them. "Why do you resist? We only wish to raise quality of life for all species."

Worf expresses it nicely. "I like my species the way it is."

The cube slices through the Martian defence perimeter and zeros in on Earth.

Locutus thinks of Data as primitive and obsolete, but this doesn't stop the android from hacking the Borg. Picard's phenomenal will allows him to get a verbal message to Data: "Sleep"

Data sneaks a command through Locutus that causes all Borg on the cube to go nappy-nap. About time, too. Riker was about to ram them and end Season Four somewhat early.

When the cube recognizes it has been tricked, it explodes. Yay for our side! Did that seem too easy? Well, screw you then.

It's gonna take six weeks to fix the Enterprise in Station McKinley. Many thousands died. It will take a year to rebuild Starfleet. And Picard is haunted with a clear memory of every horrible moment of his ordeal.

"The Best of Both Worlds Part II" is amazing. I used to own the Galoob Die-Cast model of the Enterprise-D and I wore it out separating and reattaching that saucer section. Paint wore down, screws stripped so the engineering section clacked. Man, I loved that ship. Didn't make me want to BE a mechanism, though. We need nightmares like the Borg to make us think about the future. What do we REALLY want to become?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Best of Both Worlds Part I

***** (5 stars out of 5)
The New Providence Colony on Jouret IV is a smoking crater without the smoke. 'As though some great force had just scooped it off the planet.' And I think we know whose catch-phrase that is...

Tacticians Admiral Hansen and Lt. Commander Shelby show up to describe Starfleet's Borg preparedness procedures. They amount to: We Ain't. A year of great ideas for weapons are still on the drawing board. Earth's pants are very much still around its ankles.

Riker has been offered the Captaincy of the Melbourne and Shelby is gunning for his first officer chair. She's a real go-getter and Riker literally would have to get up pretty early in the morning to out-do her. (I said OUT-do. They're not bumping uglies.)

Riker barks at her for being an eager beaver, then wonders what happened to the ambitious, risk-taking guy HE used to be. He already turned the Melbourne down and wonders aloud to Troi what he's become. Troi tells him.

"'Seasoned?' That's a horrible thing to say to a man." But better than extra-crispy, like everyone else who runs across the Borg.

While Riker is making Shelby rest and take a Ritalin hypospray, the starship Lalo reports seeing a cube and disappears.

Enterprise is next to hear the hellish choir of the Borg. Their best new phaser and shield frequencies are to no avail, unless you count good enough to allow them to escape into the Paulson Nebula with only a dozen dead.

Guinan and Picard discuss hopeless battles. How Nelson died at Trafalgar but the battle was won. How the Roman Empire fell to the Visigoths. How Guinan's people were scattered, but survive as long as a few lived to keep their spirit alive.

The Borg start shelling the nebula and drive the starship out. Drones infiltrate the bridge and steal the Captain. Riker chases the cube toward Sector 001, The Terran System. Maybe you've heard of it.

"I will resist you with my last ounce of strength."

"Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own."

Oh, freedom, self-determination, and death are irrelevant, too.

Picard was chosen as the voice of the Borg because of his archaic authority driven culture. And because he drives a Pontiac.

Hansen is moving a fleet to Wolf 359 in an attempt to head the cube off at the pass.

Geordi, Wes, and Data are modifying the deflector dish into a weapon. Shelby leads an away team into the cube to grab Picard back. He has been transformed into a Borg called Locutus.

"From this time forward, you will service us."

Riker takes the risk after all and points the deflector Captain-wards. "Mr. Worf- Fire."

"The Best of Both Worlds Part I" led into the longest wait of my young life. A whole summer wondering what, what, WHAT could possibly happen next! It also led to the first 'Star Trek' story I ever wrote, as I tried to envision Part II. As I recall, the deflector shot hulled the Borg and Riker flew the whole ship inside the cube to beam the Captain out. Crusher worked to restore Picard while Shelby died in command of the battle section for victory with the fleet.

My version had the benefit of brevity, a lax attitude toward grammar, an unlimited budget, and very little dramatic tension in returning everything to the status quo. Still, it's true what they say. You never forget your first time.


** (2 stars out of 5)

Once upon a time there was a guy with amnesia whose face was ribbed for Dr. Crusher's pleasure. I can't begin to tell you how little I care about him or anything he did or failed to do.

Geordi, meanwhile, still pines for Christi Henshaw.

Worf's advice? "It is the scent that first speaks of love."

This does not help.

Bev uses a tricorder to link Geordi's brain to John Doe's nervous system when they find him at a crash site on Zeta Gelis. It keeps Doe alive while Crusher rebuilds his smashed husk, with the secondary effect of making Geordi feel more confident and dateable. (I wish we'd followed Geordi's romance instead.)

A month passes during the commercial break and Bev teaches Doe how to walk again with motor-assist bands.

O'Brien dislocates his shoulder kayaking on the holodeck, something that happens all the time. Less commonplace is the way John Doe heals him with a touch!

It's taken an entire month (possibly because Geordi was spending all his time kissing Christi) but the Chief Engineer has found a star chart in the biochemical storage jar from the wreck. They can take Doe home. But he was escaping from home, so instead they drive in circles for a few more weeks.

John attempts to escape again and accidentally breaks Worf's neck, then just as abruptly brings the Klingon back to life. The fascist Zalkonians of Zalkon demand John's return as a criminal. He is accused of being a rebel who will never, ever be any good. Bev argues against handing him over to zealous Sunad for execution.

Sunad therefore uses some form of push-button wizardry to suffocate everyone on Enterprise. John Doe's counter-magic spell un-chokes them. Mind restored, John describes his painful metamorphosis into an energy being, and the culture that tried to stifle him. A demigod now, he plans to tell his people of all they can achieve in this new evolution.

What fun! Energy balls with no faces or genitals! WHERE DO I SIGN UP!?

"Transfigurations" presents a very dull look at transcendence. 'Good Samaritans heal space Jesus' has very little impact with me somehow. It was a story that wasn't working at all until Rene 'The Offspring' Eschevarria spruced it up. Good effects, good stunts, but very slight impact.

It's the ultimate long-distance relationship dating an energy being. 'Someday, you will transcend your physical body. And on that day, I hope you'll pick up the phone.'

Friday, February 24, 2012

Menage A Troi

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Taking a page from Kivas Fajo's playbook, DaiMon Tog of the Ferengi kidnaps a complete set of Trois to read his competitor's minds. As long as his competitors aren't Ferengi.

Hey, nobody said it was a great plan! Plus, Tog is really hoping to get a look at Lwaxana's Sacred Chalice of Riix.

Lwaxana is impatient with Deanna not making her any grand-babies. Why isn't she conceiving with Will Riker, right now? On the coffee table?
"...finding a husband, having a child. That's what made ME happy. At least, until now."

Deanna isn't having it, and wants the demeaning pet name 'Little One' to stop.

Wesley Crusher has passed his Academy Entrance Exam. Now for the orals. That's what she said!

Betazed is one of those blue-green planetoids you've heard so much about. Will and Deanna reminisce next to a singing bush called a muktok. (Unlike 'Three Amigos', scene does not include Invisible Swordsman.) While Mr. Homn picks berries, Tog shows up with a bouquet of bog flowers and a free abduction.

Tog's Dr. Farek beams the Trois out of their clothes.
Best. Transporter. Ever!

Lwaxana swallows her pride and her lunch and makes out with Tog. Fortunately for the sake of TV propriety, one of the most erogenous zone on a Ferengi is the ear. So Mrs. Troi strokes the bejesus out of Tog's lobes. Repugnant!

Meanwhile, Riker cons his cell guard into a chess game and a free slug in the jaw.

Hey, I thought Ferengi LIKED slugs?

Left to his own devices, Riker plants a signal in the Ferengi ship's Cochrane distortion. Wesley recognizes the rhythm but misses his ride to the Academy on the Bradbury while tracking it down.

Mrs. Troi submits to Tog, risking another round of Farek's painful brain scans to buy Will and Deanna's freedom. She also arranges for Picard to play the insanely jealous lover for Tog's benefit.

"Now, Jean-Luc, you must stop killing all my lovers, that simply HAS to stop!"

Reluctantly at first, Picard throws himself into the part, spewing poetry and death threats until the Terrified Tog returns his prize.

Although Wesley's cadet career will have to wait another year, Picard cannot make Wes wait any longer for a cooler outfit. The Captain grants everyone's favorite helmsboy a field promotion to full Ensign.

"Menage A Troi" is a hoot. Leaving aside how easy the Ferengi military is to defeat, and how ludicrous it would be to have a Betazoid for a business partner when most of your business is surely with other UNREADABLE Ferengi, I just never, ever get tired of Lwaxana Troi. Middle-aged sex slave to a Space Troll? Bring it. She's utterly indomitable.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


**** (4 stars out of 5)
A venerable Vulcan Ambassador is coming aboard. He's here to negotiate a treaty with the mysterious MacGuffins... uh, Legarans.

Sarek is on his second human wife, Perrin. Good gravy. Talk about your May-December! Perrin's what, 50? Sarek's a good three grandfathers older than his lady love.

Sarek got Coridan to join the Federation, and was involved in the Klingon Alliance, too. Young Lieutenant Picard met Sarek very briefly at his son's wedding. (The writers are being coy but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Sybok's wedding.)

As Picard remembers it, Sarek spoke to him at the reception, but he only grinned like an idiot. Picard is still in awe today. "I hope I'm that frail when I'm 202 years old."

Sarek's handlers are a Vulcan called Saketh and Ki Mendrossen (who strikes me as Betazoid, which would certainly be helpful under the circumstances, but nobody says one way or another. I'll rectify that now: I officially declare him a Betazoid. So there!).

Legarans live in a dark, stinky, slime pit. Sarek is flipping his Vulcan lid: the conference room is neither dark, stinky, nor slimy enough!

Wes and Geordi get irrationally angry and a little personal with the insults. I think I heard "Space Virgin" and "Holo-Deviant" about to be bandied about before Riker arrives and breaks it up.

The Sareks and their Mother Hens attend a Mozart concert where Data's violin playing causes Sarek to publicly weep. (Probably because Data was actually playing Brahms!) His entourage quickly shuffles him out.

The next day, after Wes's date with Ensign Suzanne Dumont in the arboretum, his mom smashes her tea cup and chokes the life out of him. Well, she slaps him, but it was a near thing.

Ensign D'Amato fails to respect Worf's authority. No one ever saw Ensign D'Amato again.

Also O'Brien started a bar fight, but that's not out of the ordinary. (He has a condition called Being Irish.)

Beverly and Troi diagnose Sarek with a rare condition called Bendaii Syndrome. His emotional repression has failed and is now projecting outward onto others.

Sarek is "being insulated against that truth by those who love him most." Riker and Picard start barking at each other and Data pipes up 'Mommy, Daddy, Don't Fight!'

When Picard confronts the Ambassador, Sarek has a screaming fit. Perrin proposes a wildly dangerous mind meld between Picard and Sarek. This offers Sarek Picard's stability, and Picard Sarek's emotional meltdown. You're welcome.

Beverly stays with Picard in his room to offer private comfort in a disturbing and astonishing delivery of Sarek's inner monologue.

(Rather than risk this, couldn't the Legarans meet with a Holographic Sarek? But of course, that wouldn't be dramatic. Legarans love drama. Stinky, slimy drama.)

I read that the time travel element from 'Yesterday's Enterprise' was originally connected to this story, which would have seen an alternate history war with aggressive Vulcans that only Sarek could put right by travelling back in time and becoming the Vulcan Buddha, Surak. I'm actually fine with it as is, and for me to admit a story is better without time travel is something of a coup.

"Sarek" is many things, but mostly a reflection of how the showrunners felt around the declining Gene Roddenberry. Watching the mind of a venerated elder crack and crumble is painful and frightening. I certainly felt that way during my grandmother's final mortal years.
So here's wishing all of you 'Peace & Long Life'.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Most Toys

*** (3 stars out of 5)

What you gonna do with all that hytritium? All that hytritium in your trunk?


As far as his crew are concerned, Data is killed in a shuttle accident. In reality he is a victim of an elaborate kidnapping by Kivas Fajo, a scruple-free Zibalian trader.
I wonder if Fajo had an Earth ancestor called Artie Nielson of Warehouse 13? They have similar habits as hoarders, if wildly dissimilar moral motives.

Fajo has a shipload of cowed followers, and also heaps of valuable rarities. A baseball card, the last Lapling, even 1 of the 7 Mona Lisas which Leonardo da Vinci painted for the Fourth Doctor.

And now this evil space leprechaun owns the only known sentient android. One of a kind and helpless behind forcefields. Fajo's horrible friends will be green with envy even if they aren't Orions.

When Data refuses to be a good little manikin and wear Fajo's chosen costume, the twisted lunatic dissolves Data's uniform with finoplak. When his only choices are going naked or decked out in quasi-jodhpurs like some grey-and-pink Aquaman, Data picks jodhpurs. But it was a near thing.

Fajo owns several limited-edition Varon-T disruptors. Super-rare, and also super-banned throughout the Federation.
"It's not just lethal, it's vicious." Fajo threatens to use it to torture his 14-year minion Varria to death to force Data's acquiescence.

Varria confides to Data: he'd do it, too. Fajo's rewards for loyalty are lavish and "his punishments are equally... lavish." The way she delivers that line made me shudder back in 1990. Should her alien-smooth face REALLY look like that?

Riker and company start to doubt whether the water contamination they are stopping was naturally occurring, and why Kivas Fajo had the antidote ready, and finally chasing down Fajo's vessel.

Having betrayed Fajo's trust and failed an escape attempt with Data, Varria is slowly murdered by The Disruptor that Spells Rupture. Varon-T: For the Sadist Who Has Everything and Wants Some of It to Disintegrate Screaming.

Kivas taunts Data with a reminder that he is incapable of killing. IF ONLY DATA COULD GET ANGRY AT INJUSTICE!

O'Brien wonders what was up: Data's weapon discharged just as his rescuers beamed him out. Did he fire it at Fajo?

What do YOU think?

"The Most Toys" is a dark tale of greed, need, torment and death, made more so over the real-life suicide attempt by the first Fajo, David Rappaport. Saul Rubinek brings plenty of sick, sweaty, twitchy menace to the inherited role. He made Fajo convincingly worthy to be executed by even the nicest of androids, Federation law be damned.

Hollow Pursuits

***** (5 stars out of 5)
Picking up old medical waste turns out to be a bad idea! When Engineer Duffy drops one of the Mikulak sample containers, he tells Geordi he's blown a seal. Geordi tells him to chuck the damn thing and leave his personal life out of it.

Somebody on this sparkling technological marvel of the future has to do the dull, menial jobs...
Enter Lieutenant Reg Barclay, a diagnostics engineer who came highly recommended by starship Captain Gleason. Yet Barclay's always late and often on report. Was Gleason spreading a thick, creamy layer of truthiness?

Barclay has crafted a vivid fantasy life on the holodeck where he can deck the holo-boss. In the off-hour illusions he's a bad-ass who can put Riker in a headlock for his 'holier-than-thou attitude', or put Troi in a lip lock as 'The Godess of Empathy'. In reality Reg's got a nervous stammer and he's awkward with everyone.

Picard orders Geordi to get to know Barclay. "Make him your best friend."

Guinan's Uncle Terkim was regarded as a bad influence, but she thought of him as the only one in her family with a sense of humour. Guinan not only likes misfits like Barclay, the idea of "Fitting In" repels her.

Geordi bolsters the efforts of his underling and ends up making an actual friend. Finally there's someone in Barclay's corner he didn't program himself. After Geordi's adventure with Holographic Leah Brahms, his attitude about Barclay's fantasies is necessarily sympathetic. To La Forge, any holodecking is good holodecking, just so long as it isn't ruining you IRL.

(Which it does, because, let's face it, holodecks would be so addictive that holo-addicts would make meth-heads seem like chocoholics.)

Everyone soon blunders into Barclay's private domain. Troi is amused when Riker is affronted by his tiny Musketeer facsimile. Will in turn is pretty gleeful when Deanna meets Toga Troi.

"We want to gain some insight into what's been troubling this poor man," Riker grins.

Real Troi snarls at the gushing fantasy goddess. "Muzzle it."

Mortified, Barclay asks La Forge for a transfer off the Enterprise. Geordi refuses to give up on the guy. "You're just shy, Barclay."

"Just shy. It sounds like nothing serious, doesn't it?"

Despite his anxiety, his flights of fantasy, and his mistaking a flow capacitor for a flux capacitor, Barclay (teamed up with Geordi) brings the mad skills in time to save the ship from a runaway warp flight disaster.

"Hollow Pursuits" is a personal favourite of mine and the debut of a personal favourite character. I love the TNG crew unconditionally, but as much as I look up to heroic types, I'm drawn to the relatable guys as well. If flawed, imaginative weirdo Reg Barclay belonged on the Enterprise then so did I, or so the fantasy goes. If he could overcome his shortcomings then I could, too. There's nothing hollow about that pursuit.

Tin Man

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Captain Robert DeSoto (Riker's former commander on starship Hood) brings a secret mission and controversial First Contact Specialist Tam Elbrun. When Troi studied psychology at the University of Betazed, Tam Elbrun was her patient.

In the Ghorushda Disaster, 47 Starfleeters got killed including two of Riker's Academy chums. Most blame Tam Elbrun for it, since if he's such a good mind-reader he should have prevented it.

Tam has Betazoid eyes and they light up at the sight of Data. Elbrun can't read Data's thoughts and that's rare for him. Tam was born with his ESP instead of developing it normally in adolescence. Most like him can never lead normal lives. He's only stable with a lot of help & self-imposed isolation. Also, he probably listens to 'The Cure' a lot.

"Tin Man" is the code name of an organic starship purposelessly orbiting the dying star Beta Stromgren. The Romulans lay claim to that region and have already sent some ships out to study.

"Study as in dissecting, I'll bet," says La Forge.

Data repeats the baffling statement I once heard from Spock. You remember, the well-known fact that no natural phenomenon can travel at warp speed? Except the Vampire Cloud & the Q & the Farpoint Jellyfish & oh, yeah, TIN MAN!

Tam can't block anyone's thoughts, never could. And hearing thoughts is always frightening to him. That's gotta suck. Back in school, Troi hadn't found a place to fit in, but she has on the Enterprise. She hopes Tam will find where he fits one day...

Data's a little worried that Betazoids can't read his mind. "Perhaps there's nothing there to read."

"Perhaps you're just different," Tam counters. "It's not a sin, you know. Although you may have heard otherwise."

Tam warns Gomtuu (Tin Man) against the Romulans, and it destroys them first. Gomtuu was once one of millions, hasn't seen another of its kind for millennia. It used to have a crew but they died in an accident. It lost interest in living with no crew to care for.

"Is that the purpose of existence?" Data ponders. "To care for someone?"

"It is for me," says Tam.

The empty ship and its new heart save each other.

"Tin Man" was adapted from a 1977 Nebula nominated story called 'Tin Woodsman' and submitted to TNG by writers convinced they could outdo 'Samaritan Snare'. Which they did. No offense.
Sensitive wimp finds a friend, and they gain strength together. I dare the outcasts who went in for drama instead of football not to sniff a little. But the real victor here is actor Harry Groener, who makes me care about a man in love with a space pine-cone.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Captain's Holiday

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Wanna hear a slogan better than 'Welcome to Edmonton- Gateway to the North'? Well, here it is: "Welcome to Risa. All that is ours is yours."

Reduced to exhausted grunts by two weeks of dispute negotiation, Picard needs a vacation. And his underlings force him to take one.

Dr. Crusher won't take Picard's promise to find something fun to do at Starbase 12 for an answer. "Watching some technician fill deuterium tanks is not my idea of fun!"

Oh, Beverly! You just haven't seen the right technicians. Starbase 12's 'Tanks & Techs' Techs in Tankinis issue was EXTREMELY popular.

Riker knows a place called Risa. "I'm sure you'd find their sybaritic outlook on life very appealing."

Also, Troi threatens to invite her mother to visit them.

Riker casually requests Picard bring him back a souvenir horga'hn. The Captain purchases one and the fifth woman who propositions him finally explains: "To own one is to call forth its powers. To DISPLAY it is to announce you are seeking jamaharon."

Picard did not need its help, but it clearly works anyway. He falls afoul of a slinky archeologist called Vash. She's on the wrong side of Sovak, a sniveling Ferengi dressed for Magnum P.I. They're both after the Tox Uthat. It can halt all nuclear reaction in a star and somebody carelessly left it lying around in the past. 27th Century Vorgons Ajur & Boratis have come back in time for it.

Vash admits she stole Sovak's advance payment for finding the MacGuffin. "It was the only way I could afford to get to Risa." Commerical transport in the Federation, eh? Sounds like a job for... money... in a moneyless society. Vash also isn't planning to GIVE the artifact to the Daytrom Institute. I guess that would be... selling it? For some sort of... I dunno... Money? She may be some sort of throwback, but she's a sexy throwback.

"Any woman who can beat a Ferengi at his own game bears watching," says the Captain. And on their nighttime sleeping bag expedition he does a little bit more than watch, if you take my meaning.

Since this spot on Risa is a beach resort, I kind of wondered why the Vorgons showed up in brown flannel and woolen mittens instead of beach wear. (Even Picard brought his trunks!) Then I realized, for all I know, they're NUDE. Which, truth to tell, is much more terrifying.

"Captain's Holiday" exists largely for a romp and at the request of Patrick Stewart for Picard to be less dud, more stud. Well, it's fun on a bun! Nice one, producer Ira Steven Behr. I forsee you'll do big things!

(Belated thanks to talented artist Lauren Castor AKA merrypranxter for the horga'hn which I acquired years back in typical Ferengi fashion... by swiping it. Buy the jamaharon t-shirt!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


** (2 stars out of 5)

In the lull between a plague and a terraforming, the 2001 monolith tiptoes into Picard's room and beams him away.
He finds himself in a cell with other captives, while back on the ship a doppelgänger is drinking his wine.

Picard's cellmates are introduced. Bolian Mitena Haro, she's a first year Academy Cadet who's been here 3 days. Pacifist Kova Tholl of Mizar II has been here for 12 days. I see beds and the jello-puck dispensing food machine, but without toilets or shower that cell must reek!

Picard's Queen Dopplepopalis sends the crew on an increasingly inexplicable 'secret' mission into the throat of a deadly pulsar.

Who is their captor, Picard ponders. The Bolians don't get along with the Moropans, but this room is not Moropan technology. The Mizarians claim no enemies, although they've been conquered six times in three centuries. They value peace above confrontation. And this one kind of needs a punch.

Their fourth joins them: hissing giant lolcat Esoqq of planet Chalna. Picard visited there 12 years ago on Stargazer and apparently by having heard of the place earns Esoqq's respect, I guess? The Chalnoth are rebels and they'll never, ever be any good. And the jello pudding pucks aren't going to cut it: Esoqq's gonna eat Tholl in four days, tops. (It might be the only way Tholl could earn my respect, too: letting someone eat you to maintain peace would indeed show some backbone. And other organs.)

Speaking of dinner, quirky replacement Picard asks Bev to an intimate dinner in his quarters. A talk, a dance, a kiss, then it's out the door for the dancing doctor. Just when she thought it was getting interesting. Bow-chicka-wow-wow!

Picard, Haro, and Esoqq are hit with a pain beam for their escape attempt. They begin to turn on each other, wondering if one of them is an imposter.

Tricksy Captain doles out backslaps, ales, and song on the Enterprise. He starts to scare the senior staff. Yes, precious.

Riker mutinies when it becomes clear "Picard" is not concerned for the crew's welfare in the face of pulsar radiation.

In the cell, Picard divines they are in an Authority Test: The Commander, The Follower, The Collaborator, and The Anarchist. Picard also exposes Haro, who in the process of kissing up to Picard knew too much about Enterprise's missions. Once the subjects are released, the telepathic scientists are themselves captured by Picard. Lo and behold, they don't like it. He asks them to remember that the next time they feel like snatching people.

Everything is back to normal, but Jean-Luc is discomfited by Beverly scooching a little closer. Yikes! A lady person!

"Allegiance" has no strikingly terrible flaws, and the alien makeup is really cool. I love me a new alien. Point a camera at Patrick Stewart and 'boom', you got good work. But I'm really blase about the story. Especially the unnamed villain researchers. With the power to duplicate someone's memories, and transform yourselves, what do you really need to kidnap people for? Send in your monoliths, make the scans, then study the scans. Study each other role-playing the scans if you want to. But this seems less like an Authority Test and more like an out-of-control game of Marry, Screw, or Kill. Putting your own researchers into the test pretending to be subjects invalidates your results anyway, doesn't it?

Sins of The Father

*** (3 stars out of 5)

To make the officer exchange program an actual exchange, the Klingon first officer Kurn will take Riker's job today. But he's playing it the human way. So Riker gets to live. Here comes Kurn now...

CANDYMAN! AHHHH! Who said his name in the mirror? Not me! Cheese it! Feets don't fail me now!

Commander Kurn may not be a killer revenant, but he's pushing hard on his underlings. Except Worf. With Worf he's all smiles, honeyed words, "please" and "excellent".

He all but pats Mr. Worf on the head and seems disappointed when Worf reigns in his impulse to pop the new boss' head like a grape.

The new first officer is even polite at dinner. "I shall try some of your burned, replicated bird meat." Kurn also is "honoured" by Picard's real caviar: he wipes it off his hand onto the turkey.

Worf approaches Kurn to figure out how he has offended him.
"I am not human. If you had given offence you would not need to ask."

Turns out Kurn is Worf's baby brother. Daddy Mogh, mom, and toddler Worf were not intending to stay on Khitomer for long, so they left Kurn with family friend Lorgh. Worf's adopted father was told by the Klingon High Command that Worf had no living relatives, because they assumed Kurn was dead, too. Raised by Lorgh, Kurn only learned the truth of his origins at his Age of Ascension.

Now he needs Worf to answer a challenge laid on their family: was Mogh a traitor who sold out Khitomer to the Romulans? It's been 20 years, and Duras (the son of Mogh's rival Ja'rod) has made the challenge. If Worf fails, he will be executed, and the House of Mogh will be disgraced for seven generations.

Picard insists on standing with him in "the First City of the Klingon Imperial Empire", on the continent of Redundant Redundancy.

It's our first look at the storming green skies and baleful surroundings of the Klingon world. It's a nice place to die, but I wouldn't want to visit. You know that song that goes 'might as well go for a soda... nobody hurts and nobody dies?' That's not the case here.

"Your challenge can only result in a fool's death." Kurn declares.
"It is a good day to die, Duras, and the day is not yet over." says Worf. Awesome.

Picard has Data study up on Khitomer while Jean-Luc researches Klingon law.

The Council head K'mpec (apparently of the House of Korrd from Star Trek 5) quietly tells Worf he will lose, and only by leaving now will he avoid shame and death. Duras sends goons to cut'luch Kurn in a dark alley. The cut'luch is an ancient onomatopoeia knife. It does what it sounds like. Picard takes over as Worf's second.

Beverly turns up another Khitomer survivor. Not among the 4000 dead was Worf's badly injured nurse Kahlest. Picard shakes her out of mourning, and in turn she saves him from Duras' hit men. She agrees to be a surprise witness.

The Council was trying to minimize dishonour to Duras, whose family is too powerful to defy. Ja'rod gave the Romulans the defence codes and died with those he betrayed. To protect Kurn and the Empire's "honour", Worf accepts an unjust discommendation. Even Kurn must play along or their might be Civil War. The Council turns their backs on Worf and he can no longer play their reindeer games.

"Sins of The Father" raises a very important question. If your family name is Lorgh, how do you introduce yourself without people handing you Kleenex or asking if you're all right?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Offspring

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

If you open a door on a shockingly pale man holding a severed foot it isn't usually such a charming story as this. But you'd have to know Data.

Behind the closed doors of a lab on deck 12, the android officer has created life.

Picard is flabbergasted.

"I have not observed anyone else on board consulting you about their procreation, Captain." And unlike them, Data doesn't leave a mess...

Data has named the android, but allowed it to choose its own gender and appearance. Lal wanted to be exactly like Troi, but settles for the option Troi liked: a human female.

"Show me more, Father." Lal learns to blink, and eat, and read. She plays catch to the same skill level as I do at age 35: zero.

Wet Blanket Admiral Haftel wants Lal in the Daystrom Annex for research. And he feels Data's presence would 'retard the new android's progress'. Picard sticks up for Lal as Data's child.

"It may not be easy for you and I to see her that way, but he does. And I respect that."

School is a tough one. Lal couldn't grasp teen socialization, and the pre-teen class they moved her to was afraid. Data has the difficult moment of explaining. "Differences sometimes scare people..."

"I do not wish to be different," Lal asserts. Kid, he gave you flesh tones, that's more than he got!

"I can give her attention..." Data frets to fellow single parent Dr. Crusher. "But I am incapable of giving her love."

"Now why do I find that so hard to believe?" says Beverly to herself.

Does Guinan's Green Stop Sign hat send a mixed message? Stop? Go? Whatever! She hires Lal as a waitress to observe human behaviour. Lal masters the use of contractions, which Data still has not. Hasn't.

Also she should not steal her first kiss from Will Riker. Shouldn't. Does.

Lal asks her father why he still tries to emulate humans.

"It is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are, Lal. It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards."

With Haftel's threat of relocation, Lal runs to Troi and becomes AFRAID. The fear registers in Troi's senses.

Lal's emotional awareness seems to be a symptom of cascade failure. Data and Haftel put aside their differences to try to save her... and fail.

"Another pathway would collapse, and then another. His hands... were moving faster than I could see... he refused to give up. It just wasn't meant to be."

"I love you, father."
"I wish I could feel it with you."

"I will feel it for both of us. Thank you for my life. Flirting. Laughter. Painting. Family. Female. Human." Her last words.

Data transfers Lal's memories back into his mind. It seems strange, but I guess there's a lot of dead people up there already.

"The Offspring" does what it ever has and always will: moves me to tears like a big girl's blouse. It's essentially the same plot as 'The Child', of course, but it works so, SO much better. Hallie Todd's hilarious and heartbreaking performance, Rene Echeverria's touching words, and Spiner, Stewart, Sirtis, et al giving their best.

If you don't like this one, your soul needs a level one diagnostic.

Yesterday's Enterprise

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

Guinan urges Worf to try prune juice, and also to try 'companionship'. Worf thinks human females are too fragile. Guinan believes some on this ship would find him 'tame'.

When Guinan says 'Companion' I'm thinking Inara from Firefly, or maybe she's gonna bring in a Socialator from classic Battlestar Galactica. I'm sure Worf's just holding out for K'Ehleyr. Guinan, Space Madam!?

An outdated Starfleet vessel emerges from a space rift. Instantly the Enterprise changes: the lighting is permanently dim, the uniforms are subtly altered, everyone's tired and on edge, and weirdest: YAR is at the security console once more.

No, wait, maybe not. The old ship is the Enterprise-C, lost under Captain Rachel Garett near Klingon outpost Narendra III 22 years ago. That's a relief. It's not the undead, it's just the whole universe unravelling like a cheap suit. Phew!

Boy, speaking of cheap suits, Starfleet really could not get enough of that red movie-style uniform. They were seemingly using it from the early 2280's until at least 2344. Apparently it's a perennial fashion favourite. It's the blue jeans of Starfleet uniforms! Contrast the one in use now: 5 years. Or the classic series: 5 years. Even the god-awful pantsuits from The Motion Picture probably got no more than 5 years of use, if that.

Still, who can blame them? That's a cool jacket.

Guinan is the only one who senses that something's off: she remembers it was different- there used to be families and children aboard. Picard scoffs "Guinan, we're at war!"

"We're not supposed to be. This is not a ship of war, this is a ship of peace."

Well, it's not 100 percent awful here in the altered timeline: I heard a page for Dr. Selar to the null-g ward. Zero gravity sounds like a very logical place for Dr. Selar, her tight uniform, and her perky... ears. What, what!

Captain Garett was trying to save the Klingon outpost from four Romulan warbirds, when the fierceness of the Romulan torpedo volleys apparently caused the Kerr Loop that pulled them out of time.

Suffering from temporal shock, the C's Helmsman Lt. Richard Castillo works closely with Yar on the repairs. She's served with the 6,000 troops of the Enterprise-D since her Academy graduation 4 years ago. But it looks like Dick turned her head!

Picard cannot ask Garett & her 124 surviving crew to return to the instant of their deaths on Guinan's say-so. Yet forty billion people and half the Starfleet have already died in this war that should never have happened.

Picard has learned long ago to trust Guinan's special wisdom, wherever it comes from. Garett's crew are willing- if only because they don't want to live in this time or 'slip out in the middle of a fight'.

Picard confides to Garett: "The war is going very badly for the Federation. Far worse than is generally known. Starfleet Command believes that defeat is inevitable... One more ship will make no difference in the here and now, but 22 years ago, one ship could have stopped this war before it started."

"The Romulans will get a good fight. We'll make it one for the history books." Garett surely would have, but a Klingon bird of prey soon does her in with a wicked chunk of shrapnel. (I'm amused to learn it's the wing of a VF-1 Valkyrie from the Japanese cartoon Macross... like the one I have on my nightstand, except not yet embedded in my skull.)

Castillo takes command. Motivated in part by her affection for him, and partly by Guinan's assertion that her death in the other timeline was senseless, Tasha Yar volunteers to join them in the past at tactical.

"I've always known the risks that come with a Starfleet uniform. If I'm to die in one, I'd like my death to count for something."

Against logic, Picard allows this. So does Dick.

(Amidst all this fervour, it might have been better if Yar had worn the old uniform or at least taken off her commbadge. I don't know if it would make any difference, but why make the anachronisms worse?)

The D may have given the Klingons 'a pasting on Archer IV', but shepherding the C back into the rift costs them Riker's life, a bridge in flames, and a warp core about to breach.

In a trice, there is no sign of the rift and nothing to put in the log but Guinan's sense of relief.

(Well, that and Geordi's weird cuffs. Things may be fine, but these people didn't escape entirely unchanged.)

"Yesterday's Enterprise" is top notch. I've watched it often, and it's one of my cousin Ryan's favorites. Tricia O'Neil and Christopher McDonald: well played. And of course, splendid to see Denise Crosby again. What an adventure!

Behr, Manning, Beimler, Moore, Ganino, Stillwell, and Piller somehow proved that too many cooks do not always spoil a broth when it's writing. Exciting, unsettling, romantic, and dramatic. Very well done indeed.

"Let us make sure that history never forgets the name Enterprise."

A Matter of Perspective

** (2 stars out of 5)
Picard takes a painting class. Data's review of Picard's painting is not positive. "Unsettling", 'semi-fauvist', not quite right in the cubist department, inappropriately Vulcan-ish. He could go on.

Dropping off dicosilium at Dr. Apgar's research station orbiting Tanuga IV, Riker transports out just as the station goes ka-blooey.

Tanugan cop Krag arrests Riker on suspicion of murder. Apgar was the only one aboard, and two witnesses say Riker threatened the man. Under Tanugan law, Riker is guilty until proven innocent. And Tanugan law is like Tanugan love: sloppy and ill-considered. Picard exercises his right to hold an extradition hearing. Data assists Krag in designing a holodeck simulation of the events leading to the explosion.

In Riker's deposition, he was all business, only assessing Apgar's development of a Kreiger-wave converter. In his version, Apgar is weirdly defensive and his wife is visibly randy. When Apgar catches his missus throwing herself at Riker, Apgar slaps her and flails a missed punch at Riker, too.

In Krag's hypothesis, somewhat corroborated by the energy scans of the ground computer, Riker whipped out his phaser and shot the reactor just as he beamed out.

The widow Manua Apgar's testimony lays emphasis on Riker hitting on her, inviting himself to stay overnight, forcing himself on her, and gut-punching her husband.

Will objects, but Troi senses no deception from either of them.

Meanwhile, two weird radiation events sizzle the walls of the ship like Jiffypop at a regular intervals after the explosion.

Apgar's assistant Tayna (secretly Hearsay Girl of the Legion of Rumor-Mongers) relays Apgar's description of Apgar's beat-down of Riker, and Riker's direct threat against the scientist.

Picard constructs a composite picture which ends up scientifically proving Apgar used his working converter to shoot at Riker during transport- reflecting the beam back. Apgar blew himself up. Their holographic recreation of the converter has been randomly blasting the ship whenever it orbits into range of the surface generator- because Apgar never turned it off.

"A Matter of Perspective" is no comedy, but it's a little farcical, and I doubt it was meant to be. Using the holodeck for a murder mystery trial is cool and all, but everything seems a bit trumped-up. (That word means what I think it means, right? Phony with bad hair, like Donald Trump?)

For example, O'Brien did the beaming. He saw Riker had no phaser in his hand during transport. In a hearing conducted on opinion and hearsay, shouldn't O'Brien have some input?

And I don't want to keep harping on this forever, but 'Wolf in the Fold' mentioned a little something called a psychotricorder. Does this technology still exist or not? Scan Riker for guilt and break for lunch already.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Deja Q

**** (4 stars out of 5)
Enterprise is trying, much like an ant pushing a tricycle, to stop a moon from dropping out of the skies of Bre'el IV.

When who should suddenly appear but Q, nekkid as a jaybird.

Q claims the Continuum has convicted him as a spreader of chaos, and condemned him to powerless mortality. He reads to the tricorder as human, and to Troi's senses as terrified.
Q is desperate for sanctuary and, sickeningly, Picard is the closest thing he has to a friend. They still don't quite believe that he is merely mortal.

"What must I do to convince you?"

"Die," Worf declares, with Spockian logic.

"Oh, very clever Worf, eat any good books lately?" The ex-god of snark is tossed in the brig.

Data ends up as Q's chaperone as they attempt to integrate him into the crew. It doesn't go all that well: on their first stop Guinan stabs Q in the hand with a fork. To test his humanity, you understand.

The hostess is not especially ashamed of her action. "You're a pitiful excuse for a human and the only way you're going to survive is on the charity of others."

Almost immediately, something else comes after Q for revenge. A plasma people Guinan called the Calamarain attack him. Q thinks of them as humorless, at least when it comes to whatever joke (or torment) he put them to.

"It's hard to work in a group when you're omnipotent."

Data, trying to save Q from the Calamarain assault, nearly gets his noggin destroyed. Crusher and La Forge set to work restoring him.

Q realizes what Data risked for him, confesses that he is a miserable coward, and steals a shuttlecraft. Perhaps he was running away, perhaps he was committing suicide, but... just maybe...

Another Q (Corbin Bernson is a comedy god, by-the-by), something of a parole officer, claims this death is a little bit selfless. Eventually the Calamarain would've destroyed Enterprise and Q's sacrifice might have just saved them.

Re-frocked, Q the Incorrigible doles out fantasy women and cigars, and offers a particular reward to his 'Professor of the Humanities'.

"I would never curse you by making you human. Think of it as a going-away present."

The present for Data is a belly laugh worthy of Stan Laurel. "It was a wonderful... feeling."

Also, Q put the moon back to normal. Nice guy after all?
"Don't bet on it, Picard."

"Deja Q" is a brilliant comedy with some great stuff to say about who and what we are. Rage, fear and loneliness, justice and mercy, compassion and sacrifice. Things can look pretty bleak, (if, for instance, you're in caffeine withdrawl) but it might be all right in a universe where a droid and the god of chaos can find common ground.