The Corrrect Answer is "All of Season One"
March 25, 2014 1:06 AM   Subscribe

 
"Darmok"

WHO DO I FIGHT WHERE DO I GO TO FIGHT THEM
posted by kagredon at 1:07 AM on March 25, 2014 [63 favorites]


Really, Code of Honor should have topped this list for super-icky space racism.
posted by modernnomad at 1:08 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


(also, yes, objectively I know that "Rascals" is terrible, but it gets a pass from me for the scene where kid-Picard slips up and calls Riker "Number One" and the Ferengi get suspicious and he tries to save it with "I call him that because he's my Number One Dad!" and Riker's clearly thinking "Captain you're a fucking terrible liar for a teenager" but the Ferengi still buy it?)
posted by kagredon at 1:12 AM on March 25, 2014 [22 favorites]


Ugh, "Up the Long Ladder." I remember watching it when it was first aired and shouting in astonishment and then disgust at the TV, much to the bemusement of my then-boyfriend.

Horrible, horrible.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:22 AM on March 25, 2014


- the one where Riker has something wrong with his brain and must experience flashbacks but then they figure out he needs to remember BAD things and it's the worst clip show ever

- the one where Lwaxana Troi takes Alexander into the holodeck program of the most annoying CGI Dr. Seuss castoff characters ever, to teach him that amateur jugglers and naked mudbaths with older ladies are fun
posted by daisystomper at 1:37 AM on March 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


Picking the worst TNG episodes is a difficult task simply because there are so many worthy choices. It could be excellent as with The Inner Light but any episode where they solve the *tech* problem by *teching* the *tech* is just crap. I didn't spend an hour of my life watching the show so that Geordie could spout some random nonsense and wave his magic wand.
posted by Justinian at 1:42 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


The more I think about it, the more I think the reasoning for that Darmok entry is kind of shit.

1. The Tenagran is pretty clearly banged up, and both he and Picard are under a fair amount of stress from the circumstances that strand them together. It makes perfect sense that neither has the energy--or the time (isn't there something that's going to blow up, literally or figuratively, if they don't escape soon?)--to work out a communication system that's more than "barely functional". They manage to kind of limp along with gestures through most of the first half. Also, the universal translator is pretty much a pure plot device--it works how and when the plot requires it to, not according to any kind of logical or consistent rules. In fact, part of the brilliance of the concept, IMO, is that it introduces an area in which that technology could still fail, in a way that feels very natural given the way technology actually works in the real world--remember when it was a hilarious meme to feed Google Translate something to translate out of and then back into English?

2. Maybe I'm hyper-aware of this, because I have a parent who does not have the same primary language as me, but I think a lot of people who don't have regular or intimate interaction with someone who isn't a native speaker don't realize how pervasive idiomatic language is, or how hard it can be to explain. Imagine how you'd explain, say, "A rising tide lifts all boats" to someone who was a fluent-but-non-native speaker. Then imagine how you'd explain to someone with no concept of boats. Or tides.

I mean, if you want to be contrary and point out all the logical inconsistencies in a well-loved episode, go for broke with "Yesterday's Enterprise", which doesn't hold up under more than a minute's thought BUT is a great episode that succeeds thoroughly on its emotional and dramatic stakes. Or any of the Q episodes, most of which are overrated. I suggest the one where Riker becomes endowed with magic for some reason and uses this to grant wishes, including Wesley's wish to become an adult who in no way resembles Wil Wheaton.

(But spot on with calling out "Up The Long Ladder" and "Journey's End", both of which are indeed terrible and yet usually get a pass for being less egregious than something like "Sub Rosa" or that stupid clip show with Riker in a coma. There's also the not-quite-bad--a very young Ashley Judd is pretty charming in a guest role--but very weird "The Game", which has already been thoughtfully and hilariously dissected by John Teti.)
posted by kagredon at 1:51 AM on March 25, 2014 [21 favorites]


Season 1 actually has some excellent episodes. “Where No One Has Gone Before”, “The Big Goodbye”, “11001001” are all fine humanistic stories in the best traditions of starfleet. It is just that what comes between them is often such dross.


But anyway Microsoft Editor Peter Bright is a nerd, that is what I wanted to say.

Darmok is fantastic.... It is one of the best episodes of trek, about coming face to face with new life and new civilizations. Aliens who are actually alien, about how they interact and survive even through mutual incomprehension. It is about fear, wonder and empathy. Staring the universe in the face and rising to meet its challenge.

But Peter Bright is a nerd, what he cares about is bullshit science, how the universal translator works and how plausible the language of darmok is. This is nerdery. These things DON'T MATTER, they have no effect on the emotional resonance or drama of the story they are just background noise necessary to put Stewart and Winfield together on that planet and let them act out those fantastic scenes. Caring about it is like caring about midichlorian counts.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:58 AM on March 25, 2014 [37 favorites]


WHERE DO I GO TO FIGHT THEM

Tanagra, of course.
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:14 AM on March 25, 2014 [38 favorites]


The last episode I watched during the original airing was the one where Riker and Troi become big slugs squirming around in the muck on some planet for some forgettable reason. Then, when the show's hour is almost up, they are suddenly done being slugs and are their regular, not-quite-so-sluggish selves, back on the ship. It wasn't clear how that came about, but Happy Ending, yay!

That was enough. Never went back.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:19 AM on March 25, 2014


Yeah Darmok isn't a bad episode, but if they wanted to do an episode where they need to learn to communicate, why not just go with "The Universal Translator got done broke". Because the explanation they have makes no sense whatsoever. Like not even a little. These aliens are capable of spaceflight, they have warp engines. How would they in their language describe the structure of the atom and how electricity works. "Watt with his hands clenched". "Heisenberg and Born at Solvay". It's not a bad episode it's just dumb.
posted by Authorized User at 2:26 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


How would they in their language describe the structure of the atom and how electricity works. "Watt with his hands clenched". "Heisenberg and Born at Solvay".

...except that there's a ton of metaphor involved in how humans talk about electricity ("flow") and the atom ("orbit"). It's not until you get to pretty high-level mathematics/physics/chemistry that you really start to abstract those phenomena from the good-enough metaphors that you learned them under; and even then, the metaphors ("waveforms") are still there; they're just more sophisticated, with better-defined caveats and mathematical representations.

I mean, sure, as far as we can tell, the aliens in Darmok are roughly humanoid, and would (we assume) have similar metaphors, but that really just boils down to the old complaint that the aliens aren't alien enough, which is more of a meta-problem of how to make a show on a budget each week without having actors talking at (for instance) a blacklit wall, than with the internal logic or storytelling.
posted by kagredon at 2:38 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


- the one where Lwaxana Troi
posted by Wolfdog at 2:42 AM on March 25, 2014 [45 favorites]


But for metaphors to work, they have to become metaphors. You can't have a language of only metaphors.
posted by Pendragon at 2:45 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Seriously, nothing for the episode where Dr. Crusher falls in lust with a ghost that lives in a lamp?

You picked Darmok over that? Seriously? Over this?

I am disappointed.

(Actually, my first job out of college was at this web dev/marketing/essentially spam mill called Tenagra. When I went for the interview, my boss said "It's a Star Trek reference." And then I was instantly ashamed that I didn't remember it. Oh, my nerd card was revoked that day.

But now I can't watch Darmok without thinking about that job. And wincing.)
posted by Katemonkey at 2:52 AM on March 25, 2014 [15 favorites]


The one where LaForge is creepy about a woman
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:11 AM on March 25, 2014 [10 favorites]


The one where Wesley is going to be put to death for stepping on a flower.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:16 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


"So look, here's the thing. This is just nonsense. It doesn't work. For an allusion to a story to communicate anything, both parties must know what the story is. And that means telling the story. It means verbs and nouns and adjectives and all the normal words. You know: all the stuff that the universal translator can cope with."

Ah, the delicious irony. The guy hates "Darmok" because he thinks it is really about technology and aliens. "Darmok" - and Star Trek as a whole - is not about technology and aliens, in exactly the same way as the alien captain saying "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" was not a reference to the actual historical event.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 3:18 AM on March 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


LaForge is creepy about a woman

Viewer, they wed. In at least one timeline.
posted by mwhybark at 3:28 AM on March 25, 2014


The River Temarc in Winter!
The children of Tama use a musical language to convey maths and equations and number.

Also there are more subtle vocal layers and gestures to the languages which the universal translator was all Kadir beneath Mo Moteh about.
(See the story "Friends with the Sparrows" from the TNG anthology The Sky's the Limit.)

Sokath, his eyes opened!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:29 AM on March 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


1. this is a lame, pot shot choice. The first few episodes were heavily riffing on the "omg it's star trek again!" thing. They even had super dramatic horn-heavy orchestral music that was very much like the TOS soundtrack. The best point they make is that we don't even what the characters are like yet. the rest is reaching, when you consider that they hadn't even really figured out what to do with the show yet and were just propping it up with stuff from TOS, and selling it on the rep of TOS as well so they wanted to stay a bit close to it kinda going "See, it's star trek! you know, like we said it would be!" both to the network and to fans.

And i mean, i'm sorry but

I had to forbid Andrew Cunningham from just submitting "all of season 1" as his pick for this piece

makes me just want to not give a fuck about these doods opinions anyways.

2. ok yea this episodes was reaaalllyyy dumb

3. i don't think this is really worthy of the list. it's classic gene roddenberry schlock of the same variety that would fit in PERFECTLY in TOS or Andromeda. It really feels like a classic, almost platonic star trek episode. It also has a lot of the playful silliness and "wait, that doesn't quite make sense... wtf" of TOS. It doesn't stand up next to some of the truly classic TNG episodes that were in the "best moments of television prior to the post sopranos/six feet under "renaissance of TV" era" category, but it's not actually crap like #2

4. i have a huge problem taking hate of this episode seriously. It's always presented in such a comic book guy, beep boop neckbeard way that seems to lack any true critical thought.

It's a terrible episode, made all the more terrible by the fact that some people actually like it. They're objectively wrong.

They're objectively wrong

If this statement isn't copy-pasted reddit, le upvotes to the left circlejerk bullshit then i don't know what is. Posts hating on this episode using absolutist phrases like that get massively praised there and are constantly posted by people who seem to basically just be going "THIS!!1!" and not actually thinking about the episode or what they're agreeing with. I saw someone describe this kind of "objective" stuff as "and another spock boards the uss fedoraprise recently and it hit home for me.

Basically, everything Another Fine Product said above. The people i hear pooping on this episode always sound like the worst nerd stereotypes who think their opinion is the only proper opinion and that anyone who enjoys The Thing They Don't Like must be like, actually and literally mentally disabled.

UGH.

5. this is a good writeup, and like #2 i don't really take issue with this. The only comment i have is that riker is supposed to, at least imo, be shatners kirk in that he's just a smarmy walking penis at times. The Deus Ex My-Peen-A of him convincing the elected official lady is terrible and makes this total shovelware though. Like the concept of him bedding her when starfleet is there to get shit done is fine, but it should have blown up in their faces and ruined everything. So yea, this episode is worth pooping on.

6. This seems to single out a few cringey points in an otherwise middle of the road, workaday episode. Once again it really feels like a TOS episode. My opinion on their writeup of this one is fairly neutral though. I just think you could nitpick a lot more episodes in the show as "awful" this kind of way. It's not like, standout bad.

Overall, i think they could have picked way shittier episodes. #2 was on the right track. I love TNG, and there are really terrible episodes mixed in.

I will admit though that i think my opinion is a bit clouded by the fact that they seem to hate TNG style plots, and also that they went so far out of their way to trash darmok.

my laptop hardlocked the first time i tried to write this post :(
posted by emptythought at 3:32 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


'Force of Nature' DAMN YOU AL GORE DAMN ALL THE GORES FOR YOUR EARTH DAY IMPERIALISM I CAN WARP AS FAST AS I WANT
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:39 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


This article did make me realise just how many episodes of TNG involve the Space Irish. In addition to the one mentioned here and the infamous Crusher ghost episode, there's also one where Picard solves the Space Troubles. And that doesn't even count all the episodes with Colm Meaney...
posted by Diablevert at 3:47 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


(really, it was just peter bright, his glass jaw thrust forth)

Oh geez i tried to hold it in but cain't! The genius of Darmok is that the alien language is presented as allusive and described as "metaphor," which is not quite accurate. However, consider: the screen convention of one language shifting into English dialog as seen occasionally in TNG on alien ships is, in fact, metaphor.

The metaphor being presented in Darmok is the script itself. Rather than actually trying to construct a script which uses an alien language with a grammatical and syntactical structure which cannot be grasped, the writers use stage business to talk about that which cannot be performed. Instead of using the Shakespearean technique of the messenger from the offstage plot event, they wrote scenes that act as the shadow of the events the scenes depict. The scenes are to the plot events as Madeleine L'Engle's tesseract is to the four-dimensional cube.

Anyway. Just finished a ten-month compleat rewatch and lordy, some of that s07 stuff was terrible, the moreso for being sandwiched in with some of the great stuff.
posted by mwhybark at 3:49 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


In addition to the one mentioned here and the infamous Crusher ghost episode

"Sub Rosa" is the orgasmic ghost one, and sir, it was the Space Scots. Shudder.
posted by mwhybark at 3:51 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


You can't have a language of only metaphors.

Yes you can. In fact, it's the only kind.
posted by JHarris at 4:03 AM on March 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


(I say that as my way of contributing because it's been ages since I saw any TNG. Sorry.)
posted by JHarris at 4:04 AM on March 25, 2014


> "But for metaphors to work, they have to become metaphors. You can't have a language of only metaphors."

I can see how it might be possible for particularly metaphor-heavy language to break a translator.

It is kind of interesting that, for example, lots of people know what "hoist with his own petard" means without having the faintest clue what "petard" means or "hoist" when used in that context. Once a phrase becomes idiomatic, the full meaning of the phrase can be transmitted even if the original meaning of the words are completely lost.

And even if the meanings of the original words are still known, the meanings can be far from obvious to a non-native speaker. Dude, you really put your foot in your mouth by cursing a blue streak like that. You're off your rocker. As a rule of thumb, when you're half seas over and seeing red, don't be a smart ass or you might end up eating dirt. Now screw your courage to the sticking place and face the music.

Now, consider a language that had evolved to be so full of phrases like that, their origins lost to the mists of time, that it was hard to explain what such a phrase meant without recourse to other similar phrases. ("Half seas over? It means tight as a drum. You're not grokking this? Bombed? Wasted? Three sheets to the wind?")

How does a translation program handle that?
posted by kyrademon at 4:10 AM on March 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


"The last episode I watched during the original airing was the one where Riker and Troi become big slugs "

I think that was a Voyager episode. Up The Long Ladder is attrocious, and Mask's only redeeming quality is data playing several crazy roles, but man are there ever a ton of bad episodes.

TNG is low-hanging though, I would like to see this done with DS9, which had many bad episodes, but even the bad on DS9 seemed better. I watched purgatory's shadow/inferno's light yesterday and enjoyed them thoroughly. And in the next episode, Dr Bashir, I presume, even Bashir's dad being a spivvy wide-boy was pretty cool.
posted by marienbad at 4:17 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think that was a Voyager episode.

The warp 10 episode is actually like, widely regarded, even by the people who made it as the worst ever. I regularly hear of people skipping that episode when watching the show. It doesn't even make sense in like, canon since warp 10 was supposed to be transwarp, although it's not like they keep what exactly transwarp is that straight anyways... nor is that really why that episode is dumb as fuck.

But no, there aren't any TNG episodes remotely as bad as threshhold.

Watching voyager when it was still airing was a rough ride though. For all people like to poop on TNG having bad episodes, voyager and DS9 have some serious stinkers.
posted by emptythought at 4:27 AM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


My list:

1. All of them.
posted by octothorpe at 4:36 AM on March 25, 2014


Masaka is annoyed that they only get mentioned briefly in this article.
posted by drezdn at 4:48 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think that was a Voyager episode.

Well, by my wrinkly forehead, I guess you're right. It's so bad that it went back in time and cast a pall on the earlier series.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:48 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I read a blog post once upon a time that defended "Darmok" by suggesting that the Tamarians have a "juvenile" form of their language that they speak as children, but then abandon it as they mature for their metaphorical language. For whatever reason they are then unwilling to go back to it even under distress, much as humans would not go back to pissing and shitting in their pants, even though they once did in their diapers.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:57 AM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


I still think defending it on those terms is still missing the point, and lending credence to the idea that path of discussions that turbonerds bring up is even productive or worthwhile to have about it.

It feels like the people who tear apart the lyrics of famous songs and try and derive some weird meaning from them in an almost sasquatch-truther way. Reversing it on them and defending it within that conversation just feels silly.

The whole framework and approach is broken. I mean the only way that isn't just more "...wut" to me is if it's some kind of satire or point-proving to show those people how silly their argument for pooping on the episode is.
posted by emptythought at 5:05 AM on March 25, 2014


These worst-of lists are almost inevitably inherently trolly, regardless of intent; I mean, YMMV and all that, but with all the truly sucky TNG episodes, someone had to go with "Darmok"? Shaka, when the walls fell! But I do have to comment on the FPP title. Yeah, the first season was mostly a shakedown-cruise bust, with Roddenberry demonstrating just how much his reach had come to exceed his grasp (light-years' worth), but there was one exception: "Heart of Glory." I think that it's a standout because it escaped Roddenberry's Box, and in turn escaped the Box either because Worf, not being human, wasn't subject to Roddenberry's restrictive rules regarding how perfect 24th century humans were (which drained the early episodes out of a lot of dramatic tension) or because Gene just wasn't that interested in the character (in the first edition of the TNG writer's bible, Worf doesn't even have a name). Whatever the reason, it lays the foundation for the character's arc as neatly and thoroughly as for any other character in the franchise, and I think it's one of the primary reasons for Worf's status as the real breakout character in TNG, and why he eventually became the character with the most appearances in the franchise.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:11 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't find the linguistic handwavium of Darmok to be worse than any episode centering on betazoids or the show's repeated LOL Ferengi and LOL Klingon episodes. Franky, most non-humans in Trek seem to follow Le Guin's observation that if you inject too much of something, whether it be metaphor, telepathy, capitalism, or honor, into a culture that you end up with social cancer. Most of us who recognize that Star Trek is a set of soft science fiction gedankenexperimenten take the premise as given and roll with it. Which is why we can accept the demographics of something like "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" as a metaphor.

At any rate, I'd have to put "Skin of Evil" on my list for worst of the worst. The cheese episodes are often redeemed by the fun of the cast. "Skin of Evil" just looks and feels miserable all around.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:17 AM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm going to nominate "Conspiracy", the season one episode about this huge conspiracy in the upper echelons of Starfleet that turns out to be the result of alien parasites. It ends with the parasites getting away, teasing a future confrontation...that never happened.

DS9 took the same idea and did it far better years later with "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost".
posted by inturnaround at 5:20 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Davige and Shigan at Fyrine IV
posted by DaRiLo at 5:23 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't find the linguistic handwavium of Darmok to be worse than any episode centering on betazoids

And there is a world of difference between a Lwaxana-centric episode and freakin' Tin Man. Tam Elbrun ought to be left out of this, I think!
posted by lumensimus at 5:23 AM on March 25, 2014


emptythought: I still think defending it on those terms is still missing the point

Yeah, maybe "defending" was the wrong word (Kadir beneath Mo Moteh), more like spitballing about how such a language could be theoretically possible.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:25 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


teasing a future confrontation...that never happened.

It ends up happening in a DS9 book and the results are ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by drezdn at 5:30 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


How would they in their language describe the structure of the atom and how electricity works. "Watt with his hands clenched".
We do measure power in "watts"...

Even when the English words to describe science aren't scientists' names and place names, they're not always self-evident etymologies either, it's just that you're familiar with the meanings that those particular combinations of root words now symbolize. Imagine you lost that familiarity and I started discussing the structure of the uncleft and how bernstoneness works. Even if you look up who Ymir is, how easy is it to figure out what I mean by "Ymirstuff"? Especially if a broken-but-still-trying translator goes even further and gives you fission as "Ymir, birthing the Jötnar"?
posted by roystgnr at 5:37 AM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Bad acting, bad effects, and just plain bad writing infuses the beloved series.

In conclusion, Star Track is a land of contrasts.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:39 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


Darmok is terrible not just because it's based aroud a premise that doesn't work if you think about it for more than five minutes, it's terrible because it's based aroud a premise that doesn't work if you think about it for more than five minutes and thinks it's utterly brilliant. I know there are far worse episodes but the love for that dumb mess rockets it to the bottom for me.

Also there's one where Beverly solves a murder mystery that is dire.

And oh shit the one with Mark Twain.
posted by Legomancer at 6:00 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Why wasn't it called Planet Trek? You guys never went to a star. Not once..."
posted by dry white toast at 6:00 AM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Of course, I’m biased, but even the worst episodes had a nugget of something good in them that connected to something better down the line.

If I had to pick a least favorite episode, I think it would have to be Season 2’s “Shades of Gray,” mostly because clip shows are just lazy.

But there’s also the fact that they’ve spent all season claiming that Pulaski is a better practitioner than Crusher, and I find her decision to risk the patient’s death rather than stop the virus early on and cause local nerve damage that could probably be repaired later, pretty fishy.

Oh, sure, there were some nice Riker and Troi longing gazes, but you could have thrown those for free into any story.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:01 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


- the one where Lwaxana Troi

Oooh, them's fightin' words! You can pry my Lwaxana Troi episodes out of my cold, dead, space ballgown!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:05 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Darmok"
WHO DO I FIGHT WHERE DO I GO TO FIGHT THEM
Kadir beneath Mo Moteh. "Ali and Foreman in Kinshasa"?
posted by Flunkie at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


I had forgotten about "Conspiracy" an episode that climaxes with Frakes pretending to enjoy a fistful of mealworms with all the relish of a diet cola commercial, and ends with creature effects that looked bad even by the standards of the decade.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


> "Especially if a broken-but-still-trying translator goes even further and gives you fission as 'Ymir, birthing the Jötnar'?"

Unfortunately, I do have to point out that the take-home from this is mostly that the idea of universal language translator is silly, if necessary, handwavium, and that the real problem with Darmok is actually less that the language in question is somewhat poorly thought out, and more that it accidentally highlights the question of why the translator doesn't fail in such a way on practically every language in existence.
posted by kyrademon at 6:08 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


If anyone rags on Take Me Out to the Holosuite now I will punch them in the neck. Yeah, so, every single time Sisko mentioned baseball (one of my Favourite Things) it was totally hamfisted and clumsy and awful, and yeah it was a totally silly-ass throwaway plot after a number of Very Serious Episodes, but I can't even think of Sisko calling Rom in as a pinch hitter and filling the stands with fans for him without tearing up. Like right now. I have cried tears of joy several times over that scene.

DEATH TO THE OPPOSITION
posted by avocet at 6:13 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


I guess it is too early for Sara C. to be awake, but I look forward to her appearing in this thread.
posted by avocet at 6:14 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


OK if thinking about the concepts introduced to us in science fiction makes me a fedora-loving neckbeard then point me to the nearest milliner and away from a barber. Because I love doing that shit. That does not mean that Darmok belongs anywhere near a 6 worst list.

Unfortunately, I do have to point out that the take-home from this is mostly that the idea of universal language translator is silly, if necessary, handwavium, and that the real problem with Darmok is actually less that the language in question is somewhat poorly thought out, and more that it accidentally highlights the question of why the translator doesn't fail in such a way on practically every language in existence.

Yeah that's pretty much it, I guess. Which is why I think they should have just pointed out that the damn translator is broken because of interference or whatever.
posted by Authorized User at 6:22 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Woah, how was Code of Honor not on the list? AKA: The super racist one with the black people planet? I mean, it might be worth it for the absolutely impractical giant spikey fist weapons with instant-death poison fight-dancing in a jungle gym.

I've done a few TNG rewatches, and Code of Honor and Sub Rosa are on my skip list. Though I will admit the first time I saw Sub Rosa I was probably 12 (an after school rebroadcast), and the height of tween female nerdery (I was basically Tina from Bob's Burgers, glasses included) and it really struck a chord with me. I idolized Crusher and though I'm pretty sure being in love with a ghost in a candle is not the best role model, I was captivated by it.
posted by fontophilic at 6:33 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


avocet: "DEATH TO THE OPPOSITION"

"'No player shall at any time make contact with the umpire in any manner.' The prescribed penalty for the violation is immediate ejection from the game. Rule number 4.06, subsection A, paragraph 4. Look it up - but do it in the stands. YOU'RE GONE!"

ODO. UMP. 'NUFF SAID.
posted by zarq at 6:49 AM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


CBrachyrhynchos: "I had forgotten about "Conspiracy" an episode that climaxes with Frakes pretending to enjoy a fistful of mealworms with all the relish of a diet cola commercial, and ends with creature effects that looked bad even by the standards of the decade."

If you look closely you can even see the little stick they were using to stir the worms with from underneath, poking through.
posted by zarq at 6:53 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seriously, nothing for the episode where Dr. Crusher falls in lust with a ghost that lives in a lamp?

At the age of about 12 I was super, super, super in love with Dr. Crusher*, and I loved "Sub Rosa." An entire episode of Dr. Crusher's sex life? Was this episode taken from my dreams? It was perfect. I think her hair was redder that whole season, too, which only heightened the appeal. In retrospect, if you're not madly in-love with Dr. Crusher, that episode was utter shit, but at the time I had no idea how anyone could not love that episode the most.

*One time I was watching an episode and my father came in, saw her looking good for some reason, and said "Ooo, Beverly" and I got legit jealous. I don't think he noticed, though.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:00 AM on March 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


The one where Wesley is going to be put to death for stepping on a flower. - yes, that and the one where everybody gets some sort of bug that makes them all ultra horny. My husband was lucky I didn't give up on the series altogether after those and the general horror that is season one.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:02 AM on March 25, 2014


Bulgaroktonos: One time I was watching an episode and my father came in, saw her looking good for some reason,

I bet that reason was workin' out.

If y'all nerds are not following Fashion It So, I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


Of course, Darmok doesn't make a lot of scientific sense in the same way that nuclear-powered nazis draining the Mediterranean doesn't make a lot of scientific sense. However as a dramatic conflict, two people who can't talk to each other because they don't have a common base for cultural understanding makes a great deal of sense, especially coming after a FPP about how the Waco siege happened partially because one group was talking Bible and the other was talking Hostage Situation.

Never mind that expecting scientific sense rather than metaphor sense doesn't make any interpretive sense when you have a fucking goofy space battle as the secondary plot. But I'm probably not making sense.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:09 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Rape gangs"
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:09 AM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Woah, how was Code of Honor not on the list? AKA: The super racist one with the black people planet? I mean, it might be worth it for the absolutely impractical giant spikey fist weapons with instant-death poison fight-dancing in a jungle gym.

posted by fontophilic


Sad to say, on my short list of TNG episodes that I have no memory of watching fully, and thus, have probably never watched at all, this episode is at the top, because I always forget it. Also, I wonder if this was Denise Crosby's last episode that she worked on as Tasha Yar (as opposed to the last one broadcast).

the one where Lwaxana Troi takes Alexander into the holodeck program of the most annoying CGI Dr. Seuss castoff characters ever, to teach him that amateur jugglers and naked mudbaths with older ladies are fun
posted by daisystomper


This is on that list too. Except that I go out of my way to skip this one.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:10 AM on March 25, 2014


I really should follow through with my list of "Top Improbable, but Entertaining, Sci-Fi TV episodes".
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:10 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Rock Steady: " If y'all nerds are not following Fashion It So, I don't know what to tell you."

A link there turns up TinyTNG. Which... I can't even...
posted by zarq at 7:18 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


- the one where Lwaxana Troi

How very dare you! Majel Barrett is as vital to TNG as Rue McClanahan is to The Golden Girls.

(Also, how weird must it be for Deanna that the computer sounds exactly like her mother? They really should have played with that.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:26 AM on March 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


I liked Sub Rosa. I admit it probably has to do with the fact that I have a TV-crush on Dr. Crusher.

As for "Up the Long Ladder" and "Code of Honor", well, yeah, they were bad, but it's not like TNG had the monopoly on "Borderline-Offensive-or-Worse Sterotypes from Outer Space" in Star Trek. It's a longstanding Trek tradition.
The one where Wesley is going to be put to death for stepping on a flower.
I believe that one has one of the lines on my personal list of all-time-cringiest Trek lines. Wesley, upon being asked by a pretty girl in skimpy clothing from a culture with no sexual hangups whatsoever if he wants to play with her, gives a hangdog look and says (something like) "There are some games I think I'm not ready to play."
posted by Flunkie at 7:31 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't believe everyone is forgetting the ep where Troi gives birth to Space Jesus. Worst. Ever.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:33 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was 9 when "Conspiracy" aired, and it still creeps me the fuck out when the dude hisses about peaceful coexistence, his neck sac pulsing all the while. That's a standout episode for me, no doubt.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:34 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


FWIW, IMDB ratings have the following eleven episodes rated 6 or lower:

Too Short a Season, Manhunt, The Loss, Imaginary Friend (6.0)
Justice (5.9)
Man of the People (5.8)
The Child (5.7)
Angel One (5.5)
Code of Honor (5.2)
Sub Rosa (5.1)
Shades of Grey (3.3)

(The Naked Now and Journey's End get a 6.5, Rascals 7.3, Darmok 8.5, Up the Long Ladder 6.3)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:38 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Darmok's 8.5 puts it in the top 10, btw.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:45 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


You have to distinguish between the good camp and the bad camp of Star Trek. The good camp is hokey, yes, but it's also endearing--it wouldn't be Star Trek without some silliness. This is why I defend "Up the Long Ladder": Yes, Space Irish are silly, but there's a lightness to the tone that keeps it entertaining--plus where else would you see a cable-knit sweater/crop top? "Rascals" also falls into this category. Even the Lwaxana Troi episodes have some enjoyable moments: everyone's ragging on the one with Alexander, but it has a great moment where Lwaxana drops the Wild and Crazy Gal act and says: "I'm alone." It's especially poignant when you consider that episode was Majel Barrett's first appearance on TNG after Gene Roddenberry had died.

The bad camp, on the other hand, is where the show's self-seriousness gets the better of it. Here you have "Conspiracy," "Sub Rosa," and most of the "Wesley Crusher, Star Child" arc. (But remember the good Wesley episodes: "The Game" and "The First Duty".) I'm willing to forgive a lot about Star Trek, but any time the "message" drowns out the plot, or the acting becomes too cringe-worthy, or the handwavium elements of the story aren't effectively concealed, I have to give up.
posted by Cash4Lead at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


Lwaxana Troi when the production values fell.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:55 AM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


I will fight all y'all Troi haters! "Unnecessary"? It is a wonderful irony that MetaFilter of all places thinks a therapist isn't the most necessary person ever on a ship in space full of diverse peoples. Of course a counselor is necessary, and this is explicitly demonstrated to us when she helps the anxious Reggie through his anxieties so he can perform his engineering duties.

I do feel like Troi's characterization and development by the writers is lazy and unfair. As trunk muffins stated upthread, the giving-birth-to-Space-Jesus episode is terrible. It's bizarre. Why would Troi, who has given no indication that she wants a child before, suddenly be so okay with finding herself mysteriously pregnant that she carries it to term? Just weird.

Oh and it gets really tiring how many episodes are about Dr. Crusher or Counselor Troi being seduced by men. Those episodes stand in stark, shameful contrast to the episodes about these women doing their jobs to solve problems.

And that's not getting started on the massive crawl-out-of-my-skin creepiness of that Q-with-young-female-Q-ingenue episode, or the vague racism I can't help but sense whenever I see the Ferengi or Klingons.

Each episode really is hit-or-miss, isn't it? At least, in my viewing.

So yeah sorry this went all over the place. Last year I started re-watching all the TNG episodes in order and apparently I have a lot of feelings (mostly love).
posted by nicodine at 7:58 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


It is kind of interesting that, for example, lots of people know what "hoist with his own petard" means without having the faintest clue what "petard" means or "hoist" when used in that context.

Petard? I thought that was "hoist by his own Picard."

Who's Petard?
posted by Naberius at 8:00 AM on March 25, 2014


Troi is unnecessary because Guinan is the ship's real counselor.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:10 AM on March 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


the vague racism I can't help but sense whenever I see the Ferengi or Klingons.
The Klingons at least muddle so many different stereotypes that it's hard to call them out as insulting to any one group.

But ouch, the Ferengi? There's nothing vague there. If Armin Shimerman hadn't been so fantastic I don't think I'd have ever even imagined the concept to be salvageable.
posted by roystgnr at 8:18 AM on March 25, 2014


Of course it's a good idea to have therapists on the ship, but it's a good idea to people of lots of different professions on the ship; most of them we don't ever even hear about, or barely hear about. There was a psychiatrist on the Enterprise in TOS, and I have a vague feeling that she was described as "one of" the psychiatrists in the crew (I might be confusing that with another episode wherein a similar statement is made about someone else). But like I said we don't hear about them or rarely hear about them, just like we don't or rarely hear about the ship's cleaning staff and quartermaster's staff and HR staff and on and on and on.

But we hear about Troi a lot because she's got a dual role - she's (one of) the ship's therapist-type people, but she's also the captain's counselor, due in part to her empathic abilities, putting her right in the thick of the things that are considered of interest for the show (as opposed to of interest for the ship and crew).
posted by Flunkie at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I always liked the potential of Troi as a character, but I think the eye-candy element/Mystic Woo Psychic-ness/Riker the Ex elements were so strong from the get-go that either the script and/or Sirtis just weren't capable of overcoming them.

Now if they had made Troi a super-sensitive, dewy-eyed dude..well. That might have been interesting. Especially if he was still Riker's ex (if Riker had been more like Jack Harkness). But that was not remotely possible then.

I have to be in the right mood to watch Trek; there is so much cheese, and TV writing in general has gotten so much better, that I have to remind myself how much wonder and happiness the show brought me when it aired. It was a breath of intelligence and joy in what was still a sitcom wasteland. I was so excited for Friday evenings when it aired (I think it was Friday); I watched it with dear friends in the common room at college, and we never missed an episode. I wanted to live in that world so badly.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


The psychiatrist who I think was described as "one of" the TOS Enterprise's psychiatrists might have been this one rather than the one I first linked to, too.
posted by Flunkie at 8:34 AM on March 25, 2014


I am loving this thread, it is making me want to watch season 1 again. There is a real difference between even season one and two. One is so much more old style. Also Crusher is the better doctor.
posted by marienbad at 8:40 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


There needs to be a "ST:TNG, just the good parts" list. An abbreviated viewing list, for the modern viewer. OTOH the show really just doesn't work well watched off of Netflix or whatever, in one big binge. Part of what made TNG fun to watch when it first came out was the weekly anticipation. Back then even when it was bad it was still good, and while you might groan to see a Wesley Trailer at least it was gonna be more scifi on TV.

Putting Darmok on the list is masterful trolling, guaranteeing angry nerds forward the article to their friends.
posted by Nelson at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


I always just use Greg Nog's excellent guide when I'm looking to watch an episode or two.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:45 AM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, to be sure one of the biggest flaws with TNG as a series is that outside of Picard, Data and the other characters were criminally underdeveloped.. Geordie, Troi and Riker are all one-note characters (Geordie in particular never even gets a sniff of a character)

Keith DeCandido's Rewatch at Tor.com is an excellent episode guide. Depending on your interest level you can watch those he gives 5+ for the competent, entertaining TNG or 7+ for the legitimatley excellent episodes that showed off the full potential of the show.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 8:52 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


But we hear about Troi a lot because she's got a dual role - she's (one of) the ship's therapist-type people, but she's also the captain's counselor, due in part to her empathic abilities, putting her right in the thick of the things that are considered of interest for the show (as opposed to of interest for the ship and crew).

She also had a third role: wearing a low-cut dress for most of the run. (I remember when she changed to standard dress, and the whole Trek universe went "Hooray!")
posted by Melismata at 8:55 AM on March 25, 2014


Has there ever been a universal translator tech in tv sci-fi that has made sense when you looked at it too hard? I was just thinking about this when I started a Farscape rewatch the other day. So the translator microbes are translating speech (and the mouth movements he sees!) for Crichton after they're injected into him, and they only need to be injected into the listener to work for them, they don't have to have a two-way communication with microbes in the speaker - does that mean that they only translate things at the comprehension level of the person they're injected into? Like, if he was just dumb as a rock, and his brain is all the microbes have to work with, everyone he hears would have to be dumbed down to his level for him to understand them. Likewise, metaphors, idioms and proverbs from other cultures - do the microbes just do a "best guess"? It seems like translator tech would be rampant with mistranslations, made even worse because they give the user the illusion of confidence in the translation by giving it in terms their brains can easily grasp.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:01 AM on March 25, 2014


FYI Peter Bright is a professional troll, of the John C. Dvorak so-wrong-it-makes-people-angry variety. His day job is basically to like Microsoft products in order to drive up pageviews. Of course he hates Damrok and Jalad at Tanagra.
posted by Vulgar Euphemism at 9:31 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Whatever the issues with the universal translator, they were far better than a lot of the usage of Hoshi Sato. The universal translator, I could at least suspend disbelief and say "OK, superduper complicated computer program, needed to make the story go, whatever, no need to get hung up on it". Sato, though, not so much.

I was actually excited to see the way they used her at first - needing significant time to work things out, and a whole lot of time for languages that she had no baseline reference for. It was still of course unrealistic, but it was neat as an instance of "low tech" Trek in Enterprise that had significant issues, as opposed to the "It's magic, it just works" that's so prevalent in the other Trek series. I liked a lot of that sort of stuff at the beginning of Enterprise - like the grappler instead of the tractor beam, ionized hull plating instead of shields, and so on.

But all of it quickly devolved into magic after the first few episodes or whatever. In Sato's case in particular, it became:

Alien from a never-before-encountered species: BLEGLURTZ FARNA BOOD!

Hoshi Sato: I think he's saying something about... toothpaste? I need to hear more.

AFANBES: ZAGABAGA REFLUCH MOOPAN! DIPBRETZ GIL!

HS: OK... "Dipbretz gil"... let's see... maybe... SOWAP PIFFTAB REGZON!

AFANBES: GLEDBOP BROG!

HS: Yes. Captain, his ship's stores of toothpaste have been destroyed in a warp breach accident, and he's wondering if we have any to spare.
posted by Flunkie at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


All I know is that in Darmok, where Picard starts to tell the alien the story of Gilgamesh, taking us back to the beginning of written language and epic, I burst into tears.

Same with the reveal in the Inner Light. Picard holding the flute to his heart and the last scene a few notes lingering in space.

I can forgive a whole lot for those two episodes.
posted by jokeefe at 9:56 AM on March 25, 2014 [16 favorites]


Geordie in particular never even gets a sniff of a character

What? Geordi knows things! Things to make us go!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:59 AM on March 25, 2014 [12 favorites]


Has there ever been a universal translator tech in tv sci-fi that has made sense when you looked at it too hard?

Only the Babelfish, but that thing works on literal telepathy, soooooo
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:00 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Big "Conspiracy" fan probably because of the reasons stated above.

The little dig at the TOS episode "Naked Time," however, was uncalled for. Unlike the silly TNG remake, "Naked Time" was no mere Ren & Stimpy Space Madness story about people acting "goofy." Rather it was a suspenseful piece of writing that also gave us one of the first looks at the inner struggle, and shame over his human heritage, that define Spock. That inner turmoil also formed the mold for so many other characters in later Treks: your Datas, your 7-of-9s.

The ending where Shatner overacts when they pull some antimatter trick was a bit much, I will grant you.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:06 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


The one where people play a really lame skeet shooting game that looks and feels like heroin but is really mind control.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:06 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that if you're going to ding any episode for some of the things this piece complains about (language barriers, tech talk), I don't get how you could enjoy any Trek. I mean, that's a lot of paragraphs devoted to dissing Riker's seduction technique. I don't pretend that "Up The Long Ladder" is brilliant writing, but it's pretty entertaining, and being entertained is why most of us watch television.

One point I'll give them: If I was Starfleet Command, any crew that managed to get tripped up by the Ferengi as many times as Picard and Co. would be running supply ships.
posted by dry white toast at 10:18 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


People like this reviewer always strike me as looking for someone else to blame for their own lack of imagination and capacity for creative thought.

If it was supposed to 100% follow every minute rule of how every little thing works in the here and now, it would be set in the here and now, instead of five hundred years in the future, after a total collapse of our society and its rebuilding under the influence of civilizations we currently have zero knowledge of. That means the show's creators have a certain amount of freedom to pick and choose.

And anyone who doesn't think Riker got any character development is using a different definition of the term than I.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:20 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thing that makes "Darmok" so great is Paul Winfield, who creates a character that really feels alien, even though he wasn't given much more than a standard Star Trek bumpy forehead to work with. It draws us into an aspect of alien contact rarely seen in the rest of the franchise – how will we cope with an intelligent alien species whose whole cultural apparatus is different from ours?
posted by zadcat at 10:21 AM on March 25, 2014 [13 favorites]


Has there ever been a universal translator tech in tv scifi that has made sense when you looked at it too hard?

Look, it's really quite simple

It feeds on brainwave energy, absorbing all unconscious frequencies and then excreting telepathically a matrix formed from the conscious frequencies and nerve signals picked up from the speech centers of the brain; the practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language — the speech you hear decodes the brainwave matrix.

Is that really so bizarrerly improbably?
posted by Herodios at 10:41 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Because the explanation they have makes no sense whatsoever. Like not even a little. These aliens are capable of spaceflight, they have warp engines. How would they in their language describe the structure of the atom and how electricity works. "Watt with his hands clenched". "Heisenberg and Born at Solvay".

Lots of people bring this up with respect to "Darmok," and I've never found it convincing. Who says the Tenagrans don't have specialized language and terminology and symbols and diagrams to deal with technical subjects...just like humans do?

This is as stupid as an alien who discovers humanity and learns everyday human language and reads all of Shakespeare and Dickens and Dostoyevsky, and concludes that humans can't possibly have complex technology because there's nothing in their language that allows for the precise expression of difficult mathematical concepts, electronic circuits, chemical structures, or any highly technical subject which humans—unknown to the alien who has not looked any farther than human literature—have developed specialized forms of symbols and diagrams to do exactly that.

Here's the chemical structure of Erythromycin A, an antibiotic. How would you precisely describe it using everyday language? And if all you knew of humans was a few days' worth of everyday conversation, would you conclude that humans were incapable of expressing the chemical structure of Erythromycin A?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:43 AM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


I was just thinking about this when I started a Farscape rewatch the other day. So the translator microbes are translating speech (and the mouth movements he sees!) for Crichton after they're injected into him, and they only need to be injected into the listener to work for them, they don't have to have a two-way communication with microbes in the speaker - does that mean that they only translate things at the comprehension level of the person they're injected into?

I may or may not have spent too much time thinking about Farscape, but: It's even weirder than you think. Because the microbes don't translate everything - besides "frelling", "dren", etc., there's also units of time - "microt", "arn". So, why can the microbes translate almost everything from any language but can't make the fairly straightforward jumps, that you and I, despite not being linguists, can deduce from context to replace "dren" with "shit" (besides the meta-reason of it being a family TV show) or "arn" with "hour"? And then there's partially-translated compound words, like "drenhead" or "quarter-arn".

And it gets even weirder, because it's not just a failure to translate: it's not like "frelling" is exactly what Aeryn said and the translator microbe decided to just pass it along untouched. Sebacean doesn't sound anything like a human language so the Sebacean word for "second" is getting translated into "microt" but not into "second".

Only explanation I can come up with, that even partly works, is that each "colony" of translator microbes is basically a very sophisticated, intelligent (but not magically super-intelligent, they still have trouble with, for instance, the Pilot language) linguist with its own terms for things (like units of time), and it's own personality (possibly influenced by the personality of the host). So translation goes alien speech -> microbe speech -> local host speech, except that your translator microbe is making its own decisions about what to translate and how (maybe it doesn't bother with "frell" because "profane speech act" is pretty much the same anyways). The fact that they mention Pilot's language being incredibly complex has always made me imagine that some of Pilot's endless exasperation is because every scene where he tries to tell the crew stuff is actually playing out sort of like this except the crew doesn't even realize how much nuance they're not getting.

There's not as much wiggle room for that kind of thing in ST:TNG, though, because the universal translators there are apparently purely computerized. Still, given that people are making smart phone apps in this day and age that can translate stuff from other languages, over the course of the next few hundred years and however many encounters with other alien species, making one which functions off "universal" linguistic rules to translate even un-encountered languages seems far from completely unbelievable to me. Nor does the idea that it would break in weird edge cases, as I've pretty much never used a piece of software that didn't break in weird edge cases. And I feel like anyone who has ever debugged software, even a little bit, should know that which edge cases cause your program to stop working and why, is not always obviously logical to us people.

So in conclusion, Farscape is an infinitely re-watchable and many-splendored thing, and Peter Bright is a troll.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:50 AM on March 25, 2014 [7 favorites]


The one where people play a really lame skeet shooting game that looks and feels like heroin but is really mind control.

Interesting bit of trivia For the superfans out there! This was actually the ONLY episode of any Trek series that had a main character walking in on his mom while she's blowing her wad
posted by Greg Nog at 10:50 AM on March 25, 2014 [13 favorites]


Interesting bit of trivia For the superfans out there! This was actually the ONLY episode of any Trek series that had a main character walking in on his mom while she's blowing her wad

It strikes me as the ultimate teen nightmare, discovering that almost every adult in the world around you has a masturbatory life.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:08 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


and wants to talk about it with you.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:12 AM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Majel all you want but Lwxana was a horrible character. Derp derp all old ladies are starving cougars har har har.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:30 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


And I don't understand all the hate for Darmok.

Look people, to understand a society you must understand the metaphors under which they operate. Has metafilter taught you nothing!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:32 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here's the chemical structure of Erythromycin A, an antibiotic. How would you precisely describe it using everyday language? And if all you knew of humans was a few days' worth of everyday conversation, would you conclude that humans were incapable of expressing the chemical structure of Erythromycin A?

I'm not even talking about the complicated stuff. The aliens are apparently incapable of basic logic like "(point me) (exclusive and) (point you) (act/do work)". Clearly to have a spaceship they need to have a robust system of mathematics, physics and some sort of system of communicating these things with others.

And again, Darmok solidly deserves it's reputation as one of the best TNG episodes, this minor nitpick has no effect on that. And yeah the concept of two aliens being unable to understand each other because of utterly different cultural viewpoints is interesting.
posted by Authorized User at 11:38 AM on March 25, 2014


After seeing Marina Sirtis in person once, I think Troi would have been a much better character if they'd just let her be herself and improvise all her lines.
posted by heathkit at 11:39 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]


It strikes me as the ultimate teen nightmare, discovering that almost every adult in the world around you has a masturbatory life.

My favorite part of that episode is how the key plot point is that Wesley himself hasn't yet learned the joys of masturbation. His purity leads to his saving the Enterprise. (Dear Wil Wheaton; I was in the alt.ensign.wesley.die.die.die brigade back in the day now and now that it turns out you are a decent man I feel terrible.)

In case you haven't checked in recently, Lwaxana Troy has made her triumphant entrance in Larp Trek.
posted by Nelson at 11:39 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Majel all you want but Lwxana was a horrible character. Derp derp all old ladies are starving cougars har har har.

Lwaxana was a great character because she was more than just a "starving cougar". Her constant man-chasing a way for her to keep everyone off-balance and watch them squirm. Almost every one of her episodes has her revealing some kind of vulnerability beneath the outrageous facade, and Majel could switch between the two perfectly. In fact, I think she was a more layered and rich character than most of the bridge crew.

And as silly as the episode with Alexander was at times (my friends and I still say "The higher, the fewer" to each other at random times), I always remember that episode as being about Lwaxana confronting her mortality.
posted by heathkit at 11:49 AM on March 25, 2014 [11 favorites]


It's even weirder than you think. Because the microbes don't translate everything - besides "frelling", "dren", etc., there's also units of time - "microt", "arn".... Sebacean doesn't sound anything like a human language yt so the Sebacean word for "second" is getting translated into "microt" but not into "second".

Here's my guess, and it's based on not having seen Farscape at all, so feel free to tell me I'm wrong if the show explicitly contradicts one of the things I'm speculating at here....

I'm guessing we can tell from context that a "microt" is a unit of time which is about a second, and an "arn" is about an hour. But we don't know that 1 microt = 1 second exactly, or 1 arn = 1 hour exactly. Maybe 1 microt = 1.19 seconds, or 1 arn = 0.86 hours. So it wouldn't be correct to translate "2 arns" as "2 hours."

But then, you ask, why wouldn't the translator microbes translate "2 arns" as "1.72 hours" or "1 hour 43 minutes?" Perhaps arns are well-known enough that they've become a de facto English unit of time, alongside hours, just as a person may understand "20 inches" or "50 centimeters" even if they prefer one or the other when describing length themselves, and arn has become an English word for that unit of time—in which case "2 arns" is a perfectly good English translation of the Sebacean?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:50 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nelson: "In case you haven't checked in recently, Lwaxana Troy has made her triumphant entrance in Larp Trek."

Yeah, but that jerk hardly ever updates it anymore.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:55 AM on March 25, 2014


After seeing Marina Sirtis in person once, I think Troi would have been a much better character if they'd just let her be herself and improvise all her lines.

When I was young, I thought Troi was useless

Picard: Fuck all y'all!! Rwar!!! Photon torpedo that ship into tomorrow!!
Troi: I sense great anger in you Captain.
Picard: Ya think?

But when I got older I realized that people aren't always aware of what they're feeling, even if its obvious to others. Her job was to hold a mirror and make people confront themselves, so that everyone could stay on their A-game by not having any subconscious shit stirring up. It was very smart of the Trek reboot recognize that for a team to travel in space, emotions are just as important as logic, and they did this by creating a character whose sole purpose was emotion. In season 1 Marina was instructed to be more Vulcan-like, but Vulcan about emotions which was even better. Not that emotions were irrational but they were supremely rational given the person's situation, and then deal with them rationally. It was sad to see her character morph into something more generic as the seasons went on.

And when she lost her powers she turned into a class A-1 bitch How do you people liiiiiiive like this????? so awesome.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:05 PM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Disclaimer: I have not clicked the link because I know it is clickbait and would make me angry.

The answer is easy:
1. Every holodeck episode
2. Every Q episode

Done.
posted by Joh at 12:16 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Almost every one of her episodes has her revealing some kind of vulnerability beneath the outrageous facade, and Majel could switch between the two perfectly. In fact, I think she was a more layered and rich character than most of the bridge crew.

And as silly as the episode with Alexander was at times (my friends and I still say "The higher, the fewer" to each other at random times), I always remember that episode as being about Lwaxana confronting her mortality.


Agreed. I think I've watched that episode three times. First when it aired and I was in my teens, and I hated it (not even the B plot was worth much: space dust starts to eat the Enterprise if I recall correctly). But I've watched it a couple times since in recent years and while the story was a little too obvious in the best tradition of Stark Trek writing, it still aimed for a complexity of characterization that was too often overlooked in the utopian frame in which Roddenberry set the series. And, don't get me wrong, I love the utopian aspect of ST:TNG, but it often proved difficult for the writers to balance idealism with compelling storytelling (akin to the problem a lot of Superman writers end up wrestling with and too often failing).

Also, this is the only episode where I can stand Alexander.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Joh: "The answer is easy:
1. Every holodeck episode
2. Every Q episode
"

I know those words, but that sentence makes no sense.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:27 PM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Joh: " 1. Every holodeck episode"

One of which gave rise to arguably one of the funniest scenes in the entire series: "I am the Goddess of Empathy. Cast off your inhibitions and embrace love, truth and joy...."
posted by zarq at 12:33 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


The holodeck sherlock stuff was pretty good, especially the second one.
posted by marienbad at 1:00 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


The aliens are apparently incapable of basic logic like "(point me) (exclusive and) (point you) (act/do work)". Clearly to have a spaceship they need to have a robust system of mathematics, physics and some sort of system of communicating these things with others.

There are people who think and process things differently than other people and yet somehow manage to do things?

*gasps, clutches pearls, collapses on chaise longue, summons houseboy to burn ostrich feathers*
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:02 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lwaxana was the fiercest bitch (and honey, I mean that in the sense of Being. In. Total. Control. Of. Herself.) this side of Risa. And I could easily be persuaded that the reason she did so much of her pants-chasing on the Enterprise was to try to push Deanna to stop farting around and make her damn move already, while we all still have a pulse.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:15 PM on March 25, 2014


Now I want a houseboy and ostrich feathers!

:pouts:
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:16 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are people who think and process things differently than other people and yet somehow manage to do things?

Well yes. And maybe even their logic and math system was different enough for it to be difficult for us to comprehend. But we didn't see that. We saw a language that had words for thing like 'and' and 'at' and 'when' but somehow a complete inability to use them beyond their idioms.
posted by Authorized User at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I saw this article and I've been on Ars since 2001. I think they should avoid media criticisms like this in the future. Being that desperate for page views is beneath them.
posted by Catblack at 2:03 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


How have we gotten so many comments into this thread and not one mention of the one in season 7 where Picard becomes part-lemur?

Oh, wait. Because that's the best one.
posted by sparkletone at 2:11 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm sympathetic to Darmok based on my experience trying to learn ASL, and discovering that it has an entire grammar for symbolic substitution using time and 3-D space that is difficult to translate into English. My conversations with native ASL speakers were difficult because they had to "baby-talk" me, make explicit relationships that they could symbolize with a flicker of the hands at a specific relation to the face. It's something I can only compare to the meta-programming of lisp and scheme.

Which makes me something of a weak Whorfian. The pronoun abstractions that Picard tries to use to talk to Dathon are something that children master between the ages of three and five for their native languages. But these don't translate across human languages where things like gender, temporality, conjugation, and class may or may not be important.

Simultaneously, children engage in the symbolic roleplay that Dathon uses to talk to Picard. It's a different form of symbolism that isn't entirely alien to us. But for Dathon's language (filtered through the translator) to rely on metaphor abstraction rather than pronoun abstraction isn't much of a stretch for me.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:55 PM on March 25, 2014 [8 favorites]


The problem here is that ST:TNG operates, for the most part, in a "realistic" mode; science-fiction tropes aside, we expect characters will act the way people would act, that events follow logically and that everything that happens should have a reasonable explanation. "Darmok," on the other hand, shifts over into a storytelling mode that is more like a fairy tale, a parable -- where things happen because they make emotional sense, to make the story work on a deeper level. I don't think there's much use in deriding it on the grounds that it "couldn't happen." That's not what the story is trying to do.
posted by webmutant at 3:12 PM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]


Every member of the bridge crew has been kidnapped,tortured,brainwashed and/or reality warped,repeatedly. They face combat stress on a monthly basis. They all have weird family or relationship issues. They have all suffered life threatening injuries or diseases, frequently. One of them is incapable of empathy, literally a sociopath.

They have an unusually pleasant work environment where each of them excells professionally.

Troi is a wizard.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:44 PM on March 25, 2014 [19 favorites]


Wow, today I learned that while there is a lot of agreement on which ST:TNG episodes are the best, the choice of the worst is far more personal.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:52 PM on March 25, 2014


my laptop hardlocked the first time i tried to write this post :(

Did you ask it to calculate pi or something?
posted by JHarris at 4:00 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


We saw a language that had words for thing like 'and' and 'at' and 'when' but somehow a complete inability to use them beyond their idioms.

They had some ways of thinking in common with the protagonists, and not others. I don't see the contradiction in that. Chacun a son gout, I guess.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:57 PM on March 25, 2014


Did you ask it to calculate pi or something?

Nah, there's just some bizarre bug in safari on osx 10.9 that completely locks up my computer(retina macbook pro 2012). it isn't my machine, and a few other people have had the problem if i do a few focused google searches. it used to only happen on battery, but now with 10.9.2 it can happen while plugged in too! fun.

I should really just stop using safari, but chrome renders fonts oddly and doesn't scroll right... and firefox is a bloated piece of crap now.
posted by emptythought at 6:07 PM on March 25, 2014


Sounds like that unit is in error.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:29 PM on March 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why doesn't anyone remember The Chase? I mean, if you really want to go "oh, holy shit, did they just made the argument that human life was seeded on Earth by some crazy ancient aliens?", there is your bad episode.

And the worst part is that the whole episode revolves around them trying to get the Klingons, the Romulans, AND the Cardassians to all work together to find this ancient doozy-whatzit, and when they all find out "oh, all our races look kinda similar because some ancient aliens seeded all our home planets with DNA and so we are all kind of cousins in some weird way", they all kind of just go "nah, fuck that, let's not tell anybody" and everyone goes back to fighting the same old fights all over again.

No one ever talks about that episode. But I hated it more than Journey's End (which was actually more of a relief than anything else, because No More Whiney Wesley Crusher, and yes, I love Wil Wheaton, and cannot fault him for the bad writing, and the worst directing, and even further, just whatever it is that happens with shows the end up in syndication), or any other episode that anyone ever talks about.

I also hate that people believe in Ancient Aliens, too, but that has nothing to do with Star Trek.
posted by daq at 1:32 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Naw, I liked The Chase, and you can see a direct line between that episode which was written by Ronald D. Moore, and BSG. It is odd that no one ever mentions it again, but that wasn't really how TV shows worked at the time. Like a 3 episode plot arc was groundbreaking and suspenseful.

I think it's a neat take on this idea that if you, as a civilization, stop fighting with the other people on your planet long enough to begin to look outside of your own solar system, and find... nothing. No other kids on your block to play with. This could be incredibly depressing, but instead you cook up some DNA, sprinkle it around, add a few billion years, knowing full well that you will likely not exist in your current form either, and hope that your little petri dishes will grow into new different civilizations and they can play together.

I think this idea is appealing to me because as a sci-fi fan, as we start looking beyond our own planet, it's looking incredibly empty and lonely, and wouldn't it be nice if we found some neighbors who were, say, composed of solid matter, shared the same visible light spectrum, auditory spectrum, rough requirements in pressure, atmosphere, temperature, etc. Much nicer to imagine that then attempting to communicate with an invisible bag of goo that speaks in radiation or something.
posted by fontophilic at 6:40 AM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


No one ever talks about that episode.

Just a few days ago I had a realization about something in Star Trek Into Darkness that ought to have a gigantic impact on the Abrams/Trek-verse. [Spoilers for Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness follow.]

In Star Trek, old Spock gives young Scotty an equation for transwarp beaming. Scotty uses this to beam from Delta Vega to the Enterprise, now en route to Earth, but we don't know just how far that is.

In Star Trek Into Darkness, Khan uses transwarp beaming to beam from Earth to Qo'noS, which should be quite some significant distance.

The Abrams/Trek-verse now has seriously long-range beaming. Think about this. This is a massive change from the original, and should have major societal effects. A lot of stuff that the Enterprise and Enterprise-D used to do is now unnecessary. Transporting medical supplies to a planet suffering a plague? No need to have the Enterprise deliver them, you can just beam them there. Diplomats going to a conference? No need for the Enterprise to ferry them there, they can just beam there. And so forth. Perhaps the only thing the Enterprise is still needed for is exploration (its original mission, after all).

As an analogy, consider what would happen if transporter technology was invented on today's Earth, and available relatively inexpensively: the airline and shipping industries would collapse overnight.

Now (tying this back into the "no one ever talks about it" I used as a very loose hook to bring this up), do you think that will be mentioned in the next Star Trek movie? I'm guessing not. I'll bet that there is some dilemma in the film which would much more easily be solved by transwarp beaming something or someone to where they need to be, but the Enterprise will have to take them there anyway, leaving the implications of transwarp beaming unconsidered. I'll be happy if they even have a throwaway line about "why we can't use transwarp beaming for this," but I don't expect even that much.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:17 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


As an analogy, consider what would happen if transporter technology was invented on today's Earth, and available relatively inexpensively: the airline and shipping industries would collapse overnight.

This is actually one of my frequent daydreams.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:23 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Transwarp beaming is a disaster waiting to happen, in-universe. Consider its effects on warfare. Imagine: you beam photon torpedo warheads into another solar system onto a habitable planet, space station or into a star. All you need are accurate scanners and BOOM. Mass annihilation.

Oh, Klingon honor might demand face to face battles. But Romulans would embrace such tactics and then wipe out the Federation.

This is what happens when writers think up cool concepts but don't fully consider the logical conclusions.
posted by zarq at 8:38 AM on March 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


No one ever talks about that episode.

*I* do! The alien was played by Salome "Terror from the Year 5,000" Jens!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:38 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Underpants Monster: "*I* do! The alien was played by Salome "Terror from the Year 5,000" Jens!"

Who would go on to play the Female Changeling on DS9!
posted by zarq at 8:41 AM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


zarq: Transwarp beaming is a disaster waiting to happen, in-universe. Consider its effects on warfare. Imagine: you beam photon torpedo warheads into another solar system onto a habitable planet, space station or into a star. All you need are accurate scanners and BOOM. Mass annihilation.

Even without getting into transwarp beaming, it's kind of foolish to not use transporters as weapons even in "conventional" starship battles. As soon as you've got an enemy's shields down, why not beam a torpedo right next to their warp core?
posted by Rock Steady at 8:44 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


As soon as you've got an enemy's shields down, why not beam a torpedo right next to their warp core?

Because you'd have to lower your shields to do that, too.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:45 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


But since shields are generated in sections (fore, aft, etc) it should be theoretically possible to lower shields on a section facing away from your opponent and then use the transporters.
posted by zarq at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2014


While I don't know of any canon to support it, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to suppose that you'd have to lower the shield in the direction that you're beaming something.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:53 AM on March 26, 2014


*grumble*

But I have an engineer who frequently breaks the laws of physics!
posted by zarq at 8:55 AM on March 26, 2014


... and even if you don't — if a transporter beam could follow a curved path through one lowered section of shields to end up in a different direction — then it would follow that when you lowered one section of shields to beam a torpedo warhead onto your enemy's ship, the enemy could beam a warhead onto your ship through the lowered shield section at the same time.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:57 AM on March 26, 2014


Transwarp beaming is a disaster waiting to happen, in-universe.

IIRC that's pretty much why they destroyed the Tkon gate they found.
posted by drezdn at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


TNG actually comes *this close* to introducing transwarp beaming, in the not-good s07 episode "Bloodlines," in which S01 villain Daimon Bok returns to attempt vengeance upon Picard via the mechanism of killing Picard's son. Who turns out to not be his son.

The script needs dictate that Bok has to appear and disappear in Picard's presence in order to create jeopardy for the kid, who is on board the Enterprise as well. Bok's beaming technology is explicitly described as long-distance, if in-system, and has the added plot-terrible feature of being able to penetrate the Enterprise's sheilds, apparently because it is something called "subspace beaming". Since subspace comms are not impeded by sheilding, I suppose, this new use of subspace wavelengths is not either.

Of course, the episode never stops to consider the implications of this: Bok is hiding somewhere in-system and able to beam in and out of the interior of a Galaxy-class starship with active shields, and able to do so with pinpoint, single-person presence accuracy. Imagine the military implications of this, let alone the possible kidnapping or outright theft japery.

So while we do not know the distance from which Bok is beaming, we do know it involves subspace, which strongly implies transwarp, as subspace comms appear to permit zero-lag face-to-face conversations at very long, multi-light year distances. Perhaps subspace relies on quantum entanglement.

At any rate, not only does it appear that transwarp beaming exists by the end of TNG, it is a technology used by the *Ferengi*, for Kahless' sake. Much like the also S07 warp speed limit, this technology lays waste to certain narrative possibilities and we should be thankful it was not developed further in subsequent TNG (or DS9 or VOY) yarns.
posted by mwhybark at 9:01 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Chase is hilarious. I think it's the grandest retcon of all in Star Trek. "Of course all the aliensl look like human actors, we come from human actor DNA!". It's a fine companion to the Klingon Augment Virus.
posted by Nelson at 9:02 AM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


At any rate, not only does it appear that transwarp beaming exists by the end of TNG... we should be thankful it was not developed further in subsequent TNG (or DS9 or VOY) yarns.

I suppose that depends on what you thought of Voyager...it could have eliminated the problem at the heart of Voyager entirely, which some fans would see as a good thing.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:07 AM on March 26, 2014


The Dominion seemingly have long distance transport technology, but only use it once, and then it's never mentioned again.
posted by drezdn at 9:10 AM on March 26, 2014


One of them is incapable of empathy, literally a sociopath.

Can we please give Wesley Crusher a break, just once?
posted by Panjandrum at 9:12 AM on March 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


oh, and I wanted to mention that panspermia and a precursor intelligence or intelligences (referring to "The Chase" thread above) is baked into Trek from at least TAS and I think implied in TOS. I guess during the TNG era a decision was taken to largely ignore TAS plot elements, with the exception of the events in "Yesteryear" (Spock time travels to save himself as a child on Vulcan). I can't put my finger on where panspermia is referenced precisely in TOS, but the Organians appear to be possible evidence as do the Space Indians of "The Paradise Syndrome".

Of course, Q strongly implies a single-source spontaneous generation of life on Earth when in "All Good Things" he takes Picard to watch nothing happen in the primordial goo thanks to the temporal disruption. But everyone knows you can't believe everything Q says.
posted by mwhybark at 9:15 AM on March 26, 2014


Transwarp beaming is a disaster waiting to happen, in-universe. Consider its effects on warfare. Imagine: you beam photon torpedo warheads into another solar system onto a habitable planet, space station or into a star. All you need are accurate scanners and BOOM. Mass annihilation.

I remember reading a science fiction short story several years ago where the invention of teleportation on Earth leads to the collapse of civilization after people start beaming nukes at each other. The protagonists of the story I think end up living in a cave. I wish I could remember more about it.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:54 AM on March 26, 2014


Last night I watched the "Through A Mirror, Darkly" Enterprise 2-parter (mentioned upthread), and man was it ever confusing. I watched half of the first season of Enterprise when it was first on, and was considering giving it a go, but after the 2-parter, I am not sure. For a start, the titles seemed to be a glorification of war through the ages. It was supposed to be at the start of the federation but there is an emperor and and empire? Should I give it a go or is it best forgotten?
posted by marienbad at 11:32 AM on March 26, 2014


It's set in the Mirror Universe, which you may remember from TOS as the "evil Spock with goatee" universe. More info here.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:34 AM on March 26, 2014


As in the mirror universe from DS9? Ok.
posted by marienbad at 11:46 AM on March 26, 2014


Yeah, I think the mirror universe is the same across the various series. Much more here.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:21 PM on March 26, 2014


marienbad: "Should I give it a go or is it best forgotten?"

It's pretty much the best episode (two parter) of Enterprise in the entire fourth season. The showrunner at that point was Manny Cotto. And he was a big TOS fan.

Basically, the episode is set in the Mirror Universe. The opening reworks the ending of Star Trek: First Contact, with James "Zefram Cochrane" Cromwell, only instead of greeting the Vulcan who steps out of the ship with a handshake, Cromwell pulls a gun and his crew attack -- altering Earth's first official contact with an alien spacefaring species irrevocably.

The opening credits show the rise of the Earth Empire, which has its roots in humanity's bloody past. If you watch closely, you'll spot a shot of the Konavalov firing a torpedo, from The Hunt for Red October.

The two parter is quite literally FILLED with TOS continuity references. Which I will not give away, except to say that Cotto managed to thoroughly tie in the events of the TOS ep "The Tholian Web" (which had aired 37 years earlier!) that was just wonderfully mind-blowing.

During the filming of the second part, the cast and crew received word that the show had been cancelled. So basically, Cotto showed the fans what the show could have been. A serious, fun continuity-filled homage to TOS and the series as a whole. A way to piece together events whose threads had been left dangling in other series. A bit of humor, a bit of camp, a bit of scenery-chewing. Instead of the confused, uneven mess we were given over the previous three seasons. Very frustrating.

Do watch the episodes. If you're a long-time fan of Trek, they are totally worth it.
posted by zarq at 12:27 PM on March 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Keith DeCandido's Rewatch at Tor.com is an excellent episode guide. "

Man, you are not kidding, these are amazing.

On preview - thanks zarq, will give them a go.
posted by marienbad at 12:41 PM on March 26, 2014


DevilsAdvocate: Because you'd have to lower your shields to do that, too.

Attacking Captain: OK, their shields are down, get ready, Transporter Room... Shields down!
Engineering Bridge Officer: Shields down, Captain.
Attacking Captain: Energize!

Defending Engineering Bridge Officer: Captain, all of a sudden there's a torpedo next to the warp co-

[KRAKATHOOM]

Attacking Captain: Shields up! Good job everyone!
posted by Rock Steady at 2:23 PM on March 26, 2014


In general, a single well-placed photon torpedo will destroy a ship with no shields, and can be fired without lowering shields, so why take the unnecessary risk of lowering your own shields, even if it's pretty unlikely that the enemy would fire and/or transport his own torpedo onto your ship in the fraction of a second available?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:53 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Because if you hail them a split second before, you get to see the shocked looks on their faces when their ship goes KABLOOEY?
posted by zarq at 3:07 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Should I give it a go or is it best forgotten?

The intro to those two episodes was special, and specific to those two.

If you mean should you give the series in general a go, i'd say yes. I know i'm in the minority here, but i really liked enterprise and was deeply saddened when it got cancelled and when it faltered here and there throughout it's run. It was just beginning to really get its legs right around that two parter, and as zarq said above that episode was sort of a sample of what the show could have become.

Just don't watch the last episode, it's stupid as fuck.

Enterprise has some dumb story elements and threads that are groan inducing and kinda distract from the better bits, but there's a lot of good stuff in there. And even at it's lowest points for the most part, it's still cruising higher than the cringey low points of TNG or voyager. The first season has similar growing pains to the first seasons of some of the other shows, but it starts to hit it's stride after that. It's just that season 4 made it seem like there was about to be a really cool story arc that we don't even get a cliffhanger off of, they just drop the entire thing(the potential romulan war, not really a spoiler).

Honestly i think enterprise should at least get nominated for a "most wasted opportunity of an early 2000s cancelled scifi show" right up there with firefly and the other nerd wankfest stuff that constantly comes up. The potential there for awesomeness that just got flushed down the toilet is pretty huge. So yea, it's a worthwhile journey... but prepare to be pissed off at that when you finish it.
posted by emptythought at 3:54 PM on March 26, 2014 [4 favorites]


One of them is incapable of empathy, literally a sociopath.

No, you've got it backwards. Only one of them is capable of empathy. It's her superpower.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:43 PM on March 26, 2014


If I remember correctly, they came close to transporters-as-weapons in Enterprise. There was an episode where one ship beamed crew members off the other ship during a battle, I think. Just beam the other ship's bridge crew to your brig, or even just into space; battle won. I forget whether this was Archer or some alien captain who did this; I want to say it was "the bad guy", but that doesn't really narrow it down, as Archer became all Dick-Cheney-In-Space for a couple seasons there.

And didn't Spock beam photon torpedoes directly onto another ship in Into Darkness?
posted by Flunkie at 9:20 PM on March 26, 2014


Look people, to understand a society you must understand the metaphors under which they operate. Has metafilter taught you nothing!

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 10:44 PM on March 26, 2014


As soon as you've got an enemy's shields down, why not beam a torpedo right next to their warp core?

Well, for one thing, it sounds to me like the sort of thing that at least the major operators would have signed treaties against doing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:25 AM on March 27, 2014


Pah! The Khitomer Accords are not worth the PADDs they were written on!
posted by Rock Steady at 7:12 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I say this from a place of love, but "everything that can't be explained away by technobabble probably has something to do with diplomacy" is the Star Trekiest thing I can imagine.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:03 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Scifi.stackexchange: Why can't transporter technology be used as a weapon?

Their take away seems to be that when an enemy's shields are down the attacker has such an overwhelming tactical advantage that they might as well just bream in troops and capture the ship and crew. There's no glory in detonating a defenseless ship.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:30 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's no glory in detonating a defenseless ship.

Then why bother with shields at all?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:57 AM on March 27, 2014


Because some people (deep breath) are WITHOUT. HONOR.
posted by kagredon at 9:04 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Have transporters ever been used in tandem as, basically, a really neat propulsion system in the Trek universe? Like, you've got two small ships that are basically just a transporter and crew area, and Ship A transports Ship B which then transports Ship A, repeating the leapfrog over and over again. You could even have a network of small ships all doing this. That kind of maneuverability couldn't be beat, since you wouldn't ever really need to turn and you could instantly be anywhere within transporter range. It would be pretty much dumb luck to even hit a bunch of ships doing that.

Also it seems like transporters would be way better than anything else for combat. If you can't beam things through the shields, you can at least beam mines or whatever as close as possible with no means to intercept or evade them, and then when the shields are down you could beam munitions or a boarding party to disable or board the ship. I'd imagine that kind of tactic would be the standard, with opponents engaging via transporters at maximum transporter range instead of the naval-style battles they have.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:05 AM on March 27, 2014


I say this from a place of love, but "everything that can't be explained away by technobabble probably has something to do with diplomacy" is the Star Trekiest thing I can imagine.

Of course it comes from a place of love! We wouldn't be here flappin' our jaws about Star Trek if we didn't love it!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then why bother with shields at all?

To prevent being disabled, boarded, and captured. You'll still be attacked, just not obliterated; your hull will make a fine trophy, dissected and displayed in the center of the capitol to serve as inspiration to their troops.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:16 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Because some people (deep breath) are WITHOUT. HONOR.

But some totally aren't! Like, if you're besieged by Klingons, why not just drop the shields and go whoops!

And to protect against beam-ons ('cause you're gonna get some beam-ons), surely you can just use your sensors to detect new life forms coming aboard, which you can then patch into your transporters to automatically beam those life forms right back out into space.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:26 AM on March 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


It is sort of surprising that there are so few circumstances where military prisoners/prizes come up in Trek. You'd think the Federation would be more willing to encourage this practice if it meant less loss of life.

(while we're at it, why has no one bothered to create inertial dampeners that don't fail every time something so much as taps on the shields? The shielding thing would make some sense if the concern is about exposing vital systems to weapons and/or space debris*, but given that most of the systems under the shield seem to either be (1) durable enough to survive anything that wouldn't destroy the whole ship or (2) so sensitive that being hit with the shields on still fucks with them, what's the point?

*if you've played FTL, think about those asteroid zones; even if you can rely on the other party not to shoot torpedoes at you, rocks hurtling through space are not so easily reasoned with)
posted by kagredon at 9:54 AM on March 27, 2014


Transporter range (in the 24th century) is around 40 000 km and take about 2 seconds to fully cycle.
This equates to 0.06671 c

The slowest warp speed referred to is warp 0.5 which is 0.4 ish c (but really should be 0.125c using the standard log scales)

If we are a bit more generous and say that a transporter specially built can cycle in a quarter of a second that gets us up to 0.534c

There have been references of impulse powered ships travelled at .25 c (or at least being limited to 0.25c to avoid appreciable relativistic problems)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Now if you had 10927 such ships in a line optimally placed and you could interlink all the transporters and send the matter stream from the last to the first in a normal 2 second transporter cycle.... then you're at warp 9 for every transport.

Of course you'd probably lose a bit of that due to needing some overlap, so let's say 11000 ships just to give you the leeway, and also we don't know how fast the matter stream travels, but if it's subspace then that should be fine.
Although your fleet will be spread across 1.5 times the distance between here and the sun and it will take your fleet 6 hours, 6 minutes and 40 seconds to accelerate from a standing start (assuming all grouped together) to full speed.

ALSO! I really should get back to work.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:11 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


while we're at it, why has no one bothered to create inertial dampeners that don't fail every time something so much as taps on the shields?

One assumes that being shaken around, while inconvenient and unpleasant, is a lower priority than whatever else Starfleet R&D is working on.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:22 AM on March 27, 2014


If they didn't shake around, how else would the audience crew know they were being fired upon?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:29 AM on March 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Star Wars went all No-Prize on both inertial compensators (pilots can dial it back to get a better "feel" while piloting) and sound in space. I would totally change my ship's aural sensor samples to make every engine and blaster in space sound like my own impression of it. Pew pew pew! Whoooosh!
posted by jason_steakums at 10:47 AM on March 27, 2014


Yeah... ok look... let's all not make a big thing out of this but I realised I was using the wrong warp scaling factors.
The warp factor was rescaled to in 2312 . So.. like some sort of chump I was using 24th Century trasporter tech but with 23rd Century warp factor scaling.

You actually need 22724 ships spaced at 40000 km to match 24th century warp 9. (and 36910 ships to reach the Enterprise D's maximum speed of warp 9.8)
and I promise I will stop now, sorry.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 10:55 AM on March 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm sure there was a recent comment in a Trek thread recently* about the outdated navel battles they have in space, and this thread has been interesting in this regard. I can imagine, as mentioned upthread, that perhaps the teleporting a torpedo thing would be outlawed by treaty, but that there would be groups who would still use the tactic (the Maquis maybe?) But the comment did make me wonder how this sort of thing would actually go down in space. It always amazes me that they ever target anything manually when the computer could do it quicker and more accurately, but then, what would the crew do?

"Yeah... ok look... let's all not make a big thing out of this but I realised I was using the wrong warp scaling factors. The warp factor was rescaled to in 2312 . So.. like some sort of chump I was using 24th Century transporter tech but with 23rd Century warp factor scaling.

Flagged as hilarious and fantastic.

* I thought it was in the recent Worf thread but cannot find it there.
posted by marienbad at 11:14 AM on March 27, 2014




(Also, how weird must it be for Deanna that the computer sounds exactly like her mother? They really should have played with that.)

But it can't be Troi Snr. The voice of the computer was provided by Number One. Vastly different.
posted by Mezentian at 10:28 PM on March 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know that was also Majel Barrett, don't you?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:27 AM on March 30, 2014




That would be the jest, yes.
posted by Mezentian at 9:51 PM on April 4, 2014


There was only one instance in the Star Trek canon of a transport being used as an offensive weapon, and that was in VOY when the beamed a torpedo onto a Borg ship in an attempt to disable it for salvage.

One of the things I like about Stargate SG-1 was how much of the series played like a true fan of sci-fi was writing it. As soon as they got transporter technology, they started beaming nukes into enemy ships in every fight. It was just a regular thing.
posted by heathkit at 12:29 AM on April 6, 2014


I had forgotten about "Conspiracy" an episode that climaxes with Frakes pretending to enjoy a fistful of mealworms with all the relish of a diet cola commercial

I was eating Mac and Cheese the first time I saw that. I did not eat Mac and Cheese again for a year.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:36 AM on April 12, 2014


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