Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Lifesigns

Do you remember your first date? Your first kiss?

I don't know. I'm not sure I can really pin it down. My story is a little confusing. I was confused. Is this a date? Is this a kiss? Is this how it works? Does this "count"? My story involves a production of Romeo and Juliet. Tank Girl. Nachos. Broken glasses. It was all a little strange and I had a lot of questions no one could really answer.

The Doctor had a lot of questions too. He wasn't programmed for this. (I wasn't either, really.) So when a brilliant, interesting, charming woman shows up, and captures his holographic heart, what's he supposed to do?

The woman in question is Denara Pel. She just happens to have the Vidiian Phage but (thanks to an implant already jammed in her head) they capture her mind digitally and stick it in a holographic body. Denara's a doctor too. She's been working to treat and cure the disease that's ravaged her people and herself. She and The Doctor have a lot in common. They're really into looking at blood scans and dissecting stuff and talking about epidemiology. As they spend more time together, Denara finds a new zest for life. She's had the phage since she was a child so, like The Doctor, she doesn't have a lot of life experience. No dates. No kisses.

They're both a little afraid. At first, The Doctor is even resistant to his newfound emotions. He's worried there's a glitch in his program. But, after a chat with Kes and Paris, he finally comes around.

Denara and The Doctor experience this romantic life stuff together. Because they're both limited by their holographic forms, they can only go between Sickbay and the holodeck but that means they can dance in Marseilles. They can park on Mars. They can listen to romantic music in an old convertible while they share their first kiss. It's great.

Actually, it's so great that Denara Pel doesn't want to go back to her real body--even when she knows her brain's pattern will degrade in the buffer. She's had enough of living with her disease, of being shunned and unable to live the kind of life she's had over the last few days. And, she's afraid The Doctor won't feel the same about her once she's back in her diseased body. But... of course he will. And that's one of the things I love about this episode. Just as The Doctor doesn't have any experience with love, he also doesn't have any experience with fear or disgust or exclusion. He's programmed with the absolute optimism of The Federation's belief system. He can't even fathom not loving Denara Pel--no matter what she looks like or how sick she gets.

In the end, we have to remember that, unless it's between two regular/semi-regular cast members, Star Trek relationships don't end well. This is a One Off Romance. Though Denara Pel will make an additional (and important) appearance later, she simply can't stick around. She goes back to her body and, soon, she'll have to go back to her life, her people. But, before that, she and The Doctor have one last dance and it's lovely.

Bonus Points:
-Cards on the table. I love accordion music. If I could play any instrument... ok it'd be violin. But if I could play any two instruments? Number two would definitely be accordion.
-This episode has a lot of accordion music.
-The Doctor sort of did this whole episode already in Heroes and Demons but (while I love that one) it didn't have the same emotional punch that Lifesigns does.
-The Doctor learns to dance in this episode--a skill he'll later put to use with Seven.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Voyager Re-watch: Death Wish

Alright, this episode is kind of a big deal. It's the first appearance of Q in Voyager and, in many ways, Q was put to more interesting use here. He was a pest for Picard but he's something more for Janeway. He's a villain, a potential love interest, a combatant, a friend, and, yes, a pest.

So here's what happens in Death Wish: Voyager is going about their business and happen upon an imprisoned Q. Not THE Q. Not the one we know. A different Q. For the sake of all our sanity, he's identified as Quinn. And, Quinn wants to die. He's had enough of immortality. He's had enough of the endless expansion of the universe and knowing all the things and whatever. He's done. But Qs aren't supposed to die. They don't stop living. They're immortal beings. So anyway, Quinn has been imprisoned for something like 300 years because he's so extra unhappy with his life as a Q and basically he appeals to Janeway for asylum and she's all, "Yeah ok. Let's have a trial and I'll be the judge in the end." And everyone else is like, "Sure. That seems fair."

What's the result of all this immortality/death business? Well, it's kind of a mixed bag--of traditional Trek episode types. Since The Original Series, we've had a few different kinds of episodes. You've got the big adventure, the ethical quandary, the romp. (I feel like when I was actually in my YEAR of Star Trek, I had my finger on this a little better but, you know, time passes) And then you've got some sub categories. One-off romance, ongoing romance, single character focus, family focus, etc etc. But those mostly fit into the bigger themes.

I love the big ethical quandary episodes, like City on the Edge of Forever: Ethical Quandry with One-off romance and friendship under theme.

I love the romps. Man, I love romps. Like The Naked Time: Big crazy romp with some one-off romance and character under themes.

For the most part, an episode decides what it is by the end of the cold open and announces its type/theme to everyone. In Measure of a Man you know it's an ethical quandary episode in the first five minutes and you spend the rest of the episode alternately wringing your hands and crying.  In DS9's, Take Me Out To The Holosuite, it's clear from the start that this is an episode about baseball and fun and we're all going to enjoy our Trek friends re-enacting The Sandlot.

Deathwish is kind of both. Mostly, it's an ethical quandary. It's designed to make us feel ways about things. Particularly, it's designed to make us feel ways about assisted suicide. When is assisted suicide ok? Is it ever? What if it's a guy who's already lived as much life as anyone would ever ask for? Etc.

And then Q (the Q we know) shows up and snaps in Riker, Isaac Newton, and Maury Ginsberg for reasons that are... thin. I'm not saying it isn't fun to see Riker. I always like seeing Riker show up but... it's not really justified here. I'm supposed to be feeling ways about things, remember? Not going, "Hey, there's Riker!" It's all really wacky and rompy for about a scene and then it's back to feeling ways about things. THEN, Janeway (who, I'm sure, has had a big day of wrestling with her feelings) wakes up in the middle of the night to find Q in bed beside her trying to get all kissey kissey. He's wearing a night cap. ROMP. Once again, it plays around for about five minutes before Q shows Janeway what she could have if she sides with the Continuum--Earth. They could go home. This is legitimately tragic. The look on Janeway's face is heartbreaking so... we're back to feelings.

I think this one has the makings of a truly great episode. We actually get a lot of great stuff about Q and the continuum and about the background of the Q we know. And that's great. We get a legitimately interesting ethical quandary. We get Janeway and Tuvok at their best. And, we get an interesting and satisfying end to the whole thing. I think it's possible that this rompy stuff is in there to keep you from thinking too much about Q and Voyager getting together, to keep us from asking too many questions about why he doesn't just send them back home. Either way, I've always quite liked Death Wish. I just wish it wasn't suffering an identity crisis.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Dreadnought

We're really getting into a good stretch of episodes here.

Dreadnought is all about how Past-B'Elanna (who was a genius) messed with some super deadly Cardassian junk and then sent it on its super deadly way and now that Cardassian junk is be-bopping around the Delta Quadrant and killing folks willy nilly because it's all confused and Current-B'Elanna (who is still a genius) has to smarty-pants her way out of it. This is B'Elanna literally facing the person she used to be. She even re-programmed that Cardassian junk with HER OWN voice.

Oh man. I don't have any deadly artificial intelligence torpedo ships wandering around (I hope) but I do occasionally have the unexpected memory of some variation of the person I used to be. Don't get me wrong. For the most part, I've always been me. Weird. I play too many video games, watch too many cartoons, and talk to myself in grocery stores. My favorite foods are pizza and ice cream. None of that stuff has changed from the time I was ten years old. But sometimes I think about conversations I had or mistakes I made and I think, "What an idiot." But, really, what I should be thinking is, "Hey, at least I didn't re-program a torpedo ship that's going around killing people now. Because that would be really embarrassing."

So I guess you could say that Dreadnought is really good for helping you put that really bad butterfly tattoo in perspective. But, even without all the added personal crap, Dreadnought is a great episode. It stands on its own as an example of Voyager doing something interesting, tense, and authentic with its existing story and characters. B'Elanna is a badass. She's tough, smart, strong, determined, and thoughtful. She recognizes when she's made a terrible mistake and she'll do anything, even put her life on the line, to remedy it. Good job, B'Elanna, when you look back at this episode, you can remember it fondly.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Meld

So this is the episode wherein Crewman Suder (aka Luther Lee Boggs aka Brad Dourif) murders the crap out of some guy for no reason and Tuvok just can't wrap his Vulcan head around it so he goes and does an ill-advised mind meld with Suder and it's a whole bad scene. Suder's sociopathic, violent tendencies infect Tuvok's logical mind and suddenly Tuvok just doesn't feel like himself anymore. He knows what's going on yet he can't maintain control, can't ask for help, can't do anything much besides sit in his room and hope he can logic the darkness away.

I've always loved this episode. Brad Dourif (who plays a similarly disturbed killer in one of my very favorite X-Files episodes, "Beyond the Sea") is spot on. I love that we've always seen Betazoids who are sweet and kind and overtly open and empathic and now we get an individual with all the Betazoid capabilities and none of the empathy. He's Moriarty to Tuvok's Holmes and he brings a legitimately scary sense of darkness to a show that is typically fairly light. Tim Russ' performance is similarly great. It's basically Data playing Lore but I actually enjoy it more and find Russ' performance more nuanced than Spiner's. I'm always happy to re-watch this one but this time it was a little different. A little too timely for me, maybe.

About a year ago, I started to feel a subtle darkness creeping around the edges of my own thoughts. I was stressed out and rightly so and I chalked it up to that. Then, about six months ago, I started having nightmares. It was the same week every month. A week of nightmares. Bloody, gory, awful nightmares. It got to the point that I didn't want to go to sleep. Then it was little things. I was irrationally mad about stupid stuff. Irrationally crying about some little thing a friend might have said. I knew it was irrational, that I was upset for really no reason but I couldn't make it go away. Then someone close to me attempted suicide and it threw my whole world off balance. Granted, that's a crappy thing to deal with and it would be tough for anyone but I fell into a deep, obsessive depression for about a month. And then it just kept getting worse. My friends and family started to notice. "How is everything? You seem a little down lately." But I've conditioned them not to ask too many questions, not to be too clingy or to get too weird and up in my business. "I'm fine," I'd say, hoping that if I said it enough it might really be true.

You watch commercials where a woman is out playing catch with her kids or smelling flowers in a field or drinking tea on the sofa as a soft-voiced speaker glides through all the terrible side effects of the drug this commercial is inexplicably advertising. They say things like, 'May cause depression or suicidal thoughts..." And you think, "Who would take that? Why would you take that?" And you don't even realize that's exactly what you are doing. You are the woman on the sofa. That's how messed up your brain is. That you can't even recognize your chemistry has been altered beyond recognition. It's become impossible to gain any distance. You're trapped inside yourself and that's the last place you want to be.

Sometimes it takes someone who loves you saying, "What is going on? You aren't yourself!" before you realize what's happened, before you realize you've slipped so far down a rabbit hole you can't even see the light at the top anymore, before you realize that you really aren't yourself. That your brain has slowly been adjusted by a medicine you've been prescribed. That darkness has spread inside your head. And, that it's not your fault. That you aren't as broken as you were afraid you might be. That maybe you don't have to feel this way anymore.

I've always had a bad reaction to hormonal birth control--which I've been taking for another medical condition for over a year. Typically the reaction is obvious and comes fairly quickly. This time, the effects were more subtle and it took a long time for me to put it together. I had the physical symptoms of a bad reaction and I knew what was causing it but my brain was so messed up that I couldn't put it together with the depression and irrationality--the loss of myself. I was like Tuvok. My brain was infected and I wasn't ok and I just wanted to shut myself away and logic the problem into nothingness. But, in the end, that's not how Tuvok solved his problem. Tuvok needed Janeway's help. Kes' help. He needed The Doctor's help. By the end of the episode, he's on the shaky road to recovery. Suder's negativity has mostly been purged from his brain but he'll always be left with the knowledge of how easily and unknowingly he slipped into darkness. Still, he's getting better. As The Doctor says, "You're on your way back to being normal."

Friday, July 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Threshold (Generic Ensign's Log)

Generic Ensign's Log

Stardate 49372.99
9:05 AM- So I was in the mess hall last night and heard Neelix  giving B'Elanna, Tom, and Harry some advice about warp field theory. No good can come of this.

11:13 AM- Apparently Tom Paris achieved a simulated Warp 10 in the holodeck this morning. What is happening? I mean, I know B'Elanna's a brilliant engineer or whatever but really? Just the three of them? They managed to do what Starfleet's been trying and failing at for longer than I've even been alive? I just can't even.

1:26 PM- Well it's going around. The rumor is that the captain is going to let Paris take out the shuttle for a Warp 10 test flight. I know what I said earlier but I'm actually pretty excited about this. I mean... what if it really happens? If it works we can all go home!

5:17 PM- Holy Crap! He did it. He got Warp 10! There's a party in the holodeck later.

Stardate 49373.1
10:30 AM- I heard B'Elanna and Tom in the mess hall this morning talking about another test but then Tom suddenly keeled over and looked like he'd been poisoned. They took him to sickbay. I wonder what's going on.

2:20 PM- I ran into Kes in the hall and I guess Tom's turned into some kind of monster thing. I mean, she didn't say monster, obviously. But from the way she described him... gross.

5:43 PM- We're on Red Alert. I was in engineering when The Doctor decided to try some kind of treatment to fix Tom (he really is super gross) and he suddenly up and took off. He got to Deck Six and found the captain and I guess he just ran off with her. Now we're searching for both of them but who knows how long it'll take. He left our space going Warp 10.

Stardate 49373.4
12:00 PM- The captain and Tom are both back. Everything's pretty much back to normal. They're in sickbay recovering and no one has any idea what happened to them or how and why they're both alright now. It seems like, once we found them, it only took about five seconds for The Doctor to fix them and, I mean, I'm not saying I know how bad they were but I heard they were in a real bad way. Real bad. And, ok, I know this sounds completely crazy but I swear I heard it from Wildman who got it from Carey who overheard Chakotay telling B'Elanna that (and, believe me, I know how ridiculously impossible and insane this sounds) Tom and Janeway had turned into some kind of salamanders when our team found them. SALAMANDERS. Seriously. And not only that but apparently they had enough time to reproduce while they were down there for three days. I can't believe I'm even recording this log right now. There's no way this is what actually happened. Right?

I mean, honestly, if going to Warp 10 turns us all into salamanders but The Doctor can just turn us all back into humans, why not just use the tech to go back home? We might be salamanders for five minutes but isn't that worth the price of being home tomorrow?  I don't know. I guess I shouldn't even be asking these questions. This whole thing is clearly above my pay grade.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Science Ladies

So the VERY next episode I'm going to talk about is Threshold and I know we're all really excited about that. But... the last couple days what I did was just watch a bunch of X-Files because once I start it's like I'm a kid again and I just can't stop. Anyway, I've done so much writing work lately that I've been aching to do a little art (that's not work or commissioned... just stuff for myself) and I ended up spending some time in photoshop while Scully got kidnapped by aliens/the government.

I've been wanting to do a B'Elanna piece for a while now--especially one in a sciencey setting--so this is what I came up with:

And of course I had to do a Scully piece. I realize eating a sandwich in the morgue is a huge cliche but whatever, if anyone can pull that off, it's autopsy extraordinaire Doctor Dana Scully, FBI. 

I have almost no experience with animated gifs but I really wanted Scully to chew her sandwich while the entrails dripped blood so... I made it happen. Now I'm thinking about animating B'Elanna up there too.
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