Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weekend Roundup #13

Well, it's been thirteen weeks so I've officially blogged every single day for a quarter of a year. That's a pretty big accomplishment. We're getting ready to move and between that and the holiday weekend, I got a few episodes behind but I think I can make it up next week. Anyway, here's the update:

- This is the episode wherein Worf develops a life-long love of prune juice. 
-Alternate timelines, characters risen from the dead, and pissed off Romulans make this one great. 

-Data has a kid. Like any human parent, he's read a ton of contradictory books on parenting but nothing prepares him for what a huge, confusing job it is.  
-This is such a great, “Data Don’t Know” episode
-When Lal says, "I am scared," it pretty much breaks me on the inside. 

-This is the very first time we ever hear, "Worf, son of Mogue." So awesome! 

-Here's a great puzzle episode--complete with doppelgänger Picard. 
-Doppelgänger Picard likes to get drunk in Ten Forward and lead the crew in Starfleet school songs. 

-Ah, the episode that launched a million fangirl crushes: 

-Oh hellmouth, it’s the Mayor!
-Actually, I love the friendship that Tam and Data develop. This has never been one of my favorite episodes but I think it's a great one. 

-This is the first Barclay episode. 
-Bonus Points for Barclay's use of the phrase: "Flux Capacitor" 

-This is the one where Arty from Warehouse 13 kidnaps Data and tries to make him wear pretty outfits and sit in a chair like a fancy doll. Uggh. This is a legitimately great episode with a really awesome Data moment at the end but every single time I watch it, the thing makes me super uncomfortable. 

-My undying love of Mark Leonard continues in this one. I'm already planning a "Mark Leonard Tribute Post" for when "Unification" comes around. 

-This episode is 100% worth watching just to see Patrick Stewart spout Shakespeare at Gene Roddenberry's wife and a Ferengi for three and a half minutes. 
-This is almost certainly the episode that launched my fangirl crush. 

-At the beginning of this episode, Worf bestows some dating advice on Geordi: “You must let her see the fire in your eyes.” Apparently the fact that Geordi is blind and wears a visor is totally lost on Worf.
-What the hell ever happened to Ensign Gomez? I really thought they were going to do something with her. 
-This episode is actually about a mysterious alien seeking refuge from his repressive culture onboard the Enterprise. It's a pretty solid Trek story. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

TNG: Tin Man

Once upon a time, the Mayor from Buffy was a super-psychic Betazoid who rode on the Enterprise in a race against a bunch of angry Romulans to get to a mysterious alien named Gomtuu. True Story:

At the beginning of this one, they're getting ready to bring the Mayor (actually named Tam Elbrun) (actually named Harry Groener in real life) on board when Deanna announces in front of the whole bridge and god and everyone that she knew Tam a few years ago when he was a patient at the Starfleet training facility where she studied psychology. Apparently she missed the day they talked about doctor/patient confidentiality. Anyway, Tam comes on board but he has a hard time because he's so extra psychic and can't shut out the thoughts of everyone he comes in contact with. Thanks to this terrible condition, he develops a really sweet, interesting friendship with Data that runs its course throughout the episode.

This episode reminds me a lot of "Samaritan Snare." It's a quiet, somewhat slow, personal story with a little mystery. I thought I'd write a little about that and then I came upon an interview with one of the writers of this episode wherein he discussed how he was inspired to write "Tin Man" after seeing "Samaritan Snare" and thinking that it was "the most abysmal piece of Star Trek ever filmed."

Well, that's disappointing. But here's some good news. I was also considering writing about how it seemed to me that Gomtuu (the mysterious living ship they've been referring to as Tin Man) reminded me of the pods in one of my all-time favorite movies, Buckaroo Banzai.
Gomtuu from "Tin Man"

Thermal Pod from Buckaroo Banzai
 I  actually watched "Tin Man" and Buckaroo Banzai in the same afternoon and ended up looking up whether there was any connection. When I found out that Rick Sternbach designed Gomtuu as an homage to the thermal pods in Buckaroo Banzai, I was thrilled. It made me wonder: why does this little factoid make me so happy?

I think I was so happy to know that, as opposed to creating something because he hated something else, Sternback created a really beautiful piece of Star Trek out of admiration for another, often overlooked, brilliant SciFi movie. I'm not saying that it's wrong to write/draw/create a piece of art because you don't like something. Any reason to create art is a valid one. I guess I'm just saying that it's nice to see something awesome created as a labor of love and not because you think something sucked.

As Buckaroo says, "Don't be mean; we don't have to be mean, cuz remember, no matter where you go, there you are."

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's a video game!

Today, I spent some time playing video games (Borderlands 2, if you're wondering) and thought a lot about how excited I am about the new Star Trek game. It comes out April 23rd and I cannot wait! I've pre-ordered the game so you can expect a full report from me once I've played it through... until then though, you can content yourself with this great ad featuring Shatner and an old friend:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Captain's Vlog #3 & Winner of the Star Trek Portrait Contest

The Star Trek Portrait Contest is over! To see who won, watch today's Captain's Vlog! 

If you won, email me with a picture of yourself and I'll get back to you ASAP with your portrait! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

TNG: Hollow Pursuits

If you're an avid Next Generation fan (or Voyager for that matter) you're probably quite familiar with Lt. Reginald Barclay. In fact, being a fan, you probably really like him. Maybe you identify with him. I know I always did. 

His first appearance comes in the episode, "Hollow Pursuits" wherein he suffers from holo-addiction. Basically, he's created a fantasy world populated by distorted versions of his own fellow crew members, where he's the most popular, smartest, toughest, sexiest guy in town. Everyone loves him in the holodeck but everyone makes fun of him in real life. He's a smart guy. He's imaginative and creative. But, he has a lot of social problems and, when it turns out his peers can't identify with him, they resort to making fun of him, calling him "Broccoli" instead of "Barclay." 

There is some contention as to whether "Hollow Pursuits" is a satirical statement about Trekkers. The writer credited with this episode, Sally Caves, actually said as much after the fact. Both Michael Piller, who worked with Caves on the episode and Cliff Bole, the director, disagree. They both played it straight ahead: a story about a guy with an overactive imagination who has trouble fitting in with his peers. Barclay was portrayed by Dwight Shultz, a longtime Trekker, who had mentioned what a huge fan he was to Whoopie Goldberg (another Trek fan,) who helped him get the job. Neither of them seem to have played it as if they were creating satire.

Really, it doesn't matter what was originally intended. What matters to me is how I always perceived Barclay--what the character always meant to me. Barclay has a hard time with the real world. He'd rather escape into his own fantasy world than deal with other, real life people. It's no wonder I identified so much with him. He is an honest, and sweet portrayal of anyone who ever felt more comfortable in their own imagination, wrapped up in a book, or staring at the TV than they did in a room full of their peers. 

As Barclay says, "The people I create are more real to me than anyone else." 

I get that. I spend most of my day either watching/reading about fictional people or creating them on my own. And the reason it's taken me so long to blog about my Star Trek obsession (and why I never contributed to forums) was a fear of sharing my private love in a public way. Like Barclay, I had to overcome my fear. And so far, also like Barclay, it's working out ok. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TNG: Yesterday's Enterprise

Today I watched, "Yesterday's Enterprise," which is a classic episode. Everyone's just hangin' out, exploring the universe and stuff and then, all of the sudden, an Enterprise C (the Enterprise from 22 years beforehand) appears. Next, we realize that our Enterprise has changed. It's a battle ship. Neither Worf, nor Deanna are on the bridge. Instead, Tasha Yar mans the security station.

The whole episode centers around Guinan's intuition that things are "just wrong" and whether sending the Enterprise C back to its own time (and near-certain death) is the right thing to do. Data suspects that if the Enterprise C had defended a Klingon settlement, at their own peril, that it might have lead to an alliance between the Klingons and the Federation. It's a big, powerful, intriguing episode and totally worth a look but, more than anything else, re-watching this episode just made me think about my own Enterprise of yesterday.

When I was seven, my parents split up. I stayed with my mom, moving with her to North Carolina and, while I did see my dad a few of times over the next couple of years, no one did a very good job of keeping in touch. So, when I showed up at his house to stay for the summer after two and a half years, we were relative strangers. Two and a half years isn't just a long time for a kid--it's an entire era. I felt like I didn't really know my dad anymore and I could tell he didn't really know me.

Thankfully, we knew something that we both loved--Star Trek. As a classic "freaked out single dad" present, my father gave me a Playmates Enterprise D. I remember looking at the picture on the box with my dad to figure out where the decals went and finally popping the batteries in and mashing the buttons on the back to make the warp, phaser, and photon torpedo sounds.

The toy is heavy and cumbersome but that didn't keep my nine-year-old self from running all over the place, holding it over my head, pretending to fly it through space. It was a well-loved toy. It traveled with me over several moves to new places and new houses and back and forth between my mom and dad's. It sat on my bookshelf in high school and then, when I went away to college, I left it behind. It ended up getting packed up and crammed into storage and, when I started this blog, I emailed my dad and asked if he knew where it was. He said, "I'll see if I can find it."

Lo and behold, it showed up in a box on my birthday. I was thrilled! It was filthy and grimy and when I pushed the buttons, it was totally silent. No lights. No phaser sounds. I tried to open the battery hatch but found that it was completely covered in corroded battery juice. I realized that these batteries probably hadn't been replaced since I was in high school and began to despair. I couldn't believe I'd let my beloved Enterprise fall into such a terrible state of disrepair. My husband said, "Don't worry. Maybe you can fix it up. I'll bet we can clean it out."

A few nights later, when I'd finally drummed up the courage to attempt a fix, I stood in the kitchen with my Swiss Army knife, a handful of Q-tips, and a jar of vinegar. I spent the next couple of hours working on my old Enterprise.

My dad also happened to send my old Vulcan ears
After a lot of stressful, careful work, I dried everything up and popped in some new batteries. I closed the hatch and, as I was turning the ship over and trying to prepare myself for the inevitable silence, I accidentally pressed one of the buttons. Psheewwww! The ship fired a photon torpedo at me and I jumped. My husband jumped and asked, "What was that?" 

"It works!" I shrieked and started to cry. My knees almost buckled as I set my dear old toy back down on the counter. I leaned against the cabinets and stared at the ship as I laughed and cried and remembered what it was like the very first time I heard the Enterprise--my Enterprise--make those sounds. I remembered that hot, summer day and a man who'd almost become a stranger to me saying, with the expectant tone of a dad who just really needs some reassurance that this whole parenting thing is going ok, "And this is the button for warp speed. Do you like it?" 

"Yes!" I said. And I still do. I love it. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

TNG: The Offspring

I don't want kids. I've known since I was a kid that I didn't want kids. I love kids and I've worked with kids for years and even started a Shakespeare Company in rural Kentucky just for kids but there's just no denying that I'm missing the "I want kids" part of my brain. And, I would expect that if anyone from Star Trek could be expected to identify with this notion, it would be Data. But, of course, I would be out of luck because, in "The Offspring" Data straight-up has a kid.

I love this episode. Not in a "watch it all the time" kind of way. Actually, I've gone out of my way to avoid it when it occasionally came up in reruns. Not because it's bad but because it's really, really good.
Basically, "The Offspring" opens with Deanna, Geordi, and Wesley all rushing to Data's secret lab because he's sent them an invitation to some surprise event. When they get there, they find that Data, using new cybernetic techniques, has created a Soong-Type Android. The creation, named Lal, is non-gendered and, aside from basic humanoid shape, featureless. In time, Lal chooses a human female as her form.

Her child-like journey is chronicled throughout the episode but the story really belongs to Data. It's his new life as a parent that we focus on and we see him experience several almost-emotions at crucial points of Lal's life. The whole episode is artful and sweet and it's made even better by Jonathan Frakes' directing. Apparently, this episode was his directorial debut and it works quite nicely. If you're wondering what he did about directing himself--he was basically only in one short scene wherein Riker comes into Ten Forward and hits on Lal before realizing that she's Data's daughter. Classic Riker! 

This is a bottle episodes. No one ever leaves the ship. There are no new sets and only two guest actors. The whole story of Data's life as a parent unfolds aboard the Enterprise and, by the end, you might almost regret (as I always used to) ever knowing Lal. But, maybe not. 

This episode is still hard for me to watch and I would love to hear what actual parents and people who aren't missing the parent part of their brain think of this episode. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekend Roundup #12

I'm TWELVE (seriously?) weeks in and here's what I watched this week:

48-Shades of Gray
-Here's a clip show of Riker's memories. There are only two seasons of memories to draw from but what makes it worse is that this was the season finale.

49- Evolution
-This third season premier is all about Wesley messing up his school project and consequently putting the entire ship at risk.
-Oh yeah, Bob Kelso is in this one and he's just as much of a jerk as he was to those nice young interns.

50- The Ensigns of Command
-Here's a great "Data Learns A Lesson" episode.
-This one is simple and sweet and not only features a girl totally crushing on Data but also shows Picard being super awesome and knowing rules. I know that sounds lame but isn't that one of Picard's best qualities? The man knows some rules.

51- Survivors
-I always refer to this one as "that belljar episode."
-I don't want to spoil the mystery of this episode for you because it's actually pretty great. Go and check this one out on your own.

52- Who Watches The Watchers
-The captain becomes a god to a group of Bronze-age aliens who refer to him as "The Picard."
-Wait, how is this not already part of the fandom? From now on, we should refer to him as "The Picard"

53- The Bonding
-When an away mission runs into some unexpected explosives, one of the team dies. She leaves behind a grieving son and The Picard has to break the news to her little boy... just like he did with Wesley.
-I know people are kind of snidey about Wesley but I think this is a great episode for his character. He actually has a moving scene where he finally confronts The Picard about all the anger he felt toward the captain after his own father died.

54- Booby Trap
-Hahah... booby.
-Ok, so in this episode, Geordi is trying to woo a girl on the holodeck. I don't really understand why Geordi can't get a good woman. He's a great guy.
-Anyway, eventually Geordi decides to head to the holodeck and figure things out with a holographic projection of a hot lady scientist.
And by figure things out, I mean smooch
55-The Enemy
-This is not only a Romulan episode but also a Geordi episode. Score! 
-Basically, this one is all about whether or not enemies can overcome their longheld prejudices and work toward a common goal. Worf, Geordi, and a couple of Romulans are all put to the test and some do better than others. 

56- The Price
-Ok, this is not one of my favorites. I sort of have a hard time watching it.  
-Devinoni Ral is a slimy, smarmy, blazer-wearing negotiator who comes in to wheel and deal for the use of a wormhole on behalf of the aliens who hired him. Actually, his real purpose is to gross me out by constantly macking on Deanna Troi in weird, uncomfortable scenes like these: 
This foot rub literally lasts 20 seconds. 
-Ultimately, Deanna calls shenanigans on all this mess but not before we end up with scenes like this one:
Dr Pulaski would not have let stuff like this go on. 
57- The Vengeance Factor
-Begun the Clan Wars have.

58- The Defector
-Here's an episode with wall-to-wall Shakespeare quotes. Yes!
-Oh, also, it's an awesome Romulan/Cold War story. So great. Obviously I love this one and you can go read all about it in this post.

59- The Hunted
-Basically, a super soldier escapes his prison and hides out on the Enterprise. He's super sensitive and handsome with floppy, brown hair so Deanna naturally warms to him.
-Where do they keep getting these roguish bad guys? This guy reminds me so much of The Outrageous Okona. Is this just what men looked like in the late 80's?

60- The High Ground
-How about another roguish bad guy episode? This time, he gets involved with Beverly instead of Deanna.
-Seriously, where do these men come from? This guy literally carries around a sketchbook and charcoal pencils and Beverly's all like, "Paint me like one of your Rutian IV girls."

61- Deja Q
-Yay! Q's back!
-Ok, so Q's been made mortal in this one because he's such a jerk most of the time and the Q Continuum is pretty fed up with his crap.
-No one believe's he actually human until Guinan gives him the ole' "is he really mortal test" by stabbing him in the hand with a dang fork.
-Watch this episode for the sweet friendship Q develops with Data.

62- A Matter of Perspective
-Much like the episode where Piglet straight up murdered a stripper and blamed Scotty, this episode is all about a crazy trial wherein one of our crewmen (surprise, surprise, it's Riker) got himself into trouble and has to prove his innocence.
-This is actually a pretty cool episode about perspective, truth, and relative reality. Though, if you want to see the ultimate portrayal of this theme, check out the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "I Saw The Whole Thing."

Alright, that's it. I got fifteen episodes in this week and that's pretty much my goal. I'm really looking forward to this week! My portrait contest winner will be announced on Thursday and I get to watch some really great episodes! 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

10 Reasons You Should Watch "The Defector"

The third season episode, "The Defector" isn't an episode you hear much about. It's not fun and rompy and it's not epic or super dramatic. But I love this one and here are a few reasons why you should try it out:

1- Patrick Stewart is in the same scene as two different characters. Picard and this guy:

2- The whole reason Stewart is dressed up like this is because Data is trying to get a better understanding of humanity via the works of one of our best humans--Shakespeare. Even if you're not a Shakespeare nerd, this is pretty awesome.

3- This episode has some actual intrigue. We don't know until the very end whether Admiral Jarok's warnings about an impending war are for real. And, when we find out what's really going on, it's actually surprising.

4- I don't know about you, but I love Romulans. I seriously love them. Every time I get a Romulan episode, I'm excited. I don't fully understand this fascination and I anticipate writing about it at some point. Until then, what I do know is that "The Defector" is a great Romulan episode.

5- James Sloyan's portrayal of Admiral Jarok is fantastic. Apparently he said in an interview that he loved Star Trek because it was the only place an actor could "do Shakespearean acting and make it work for you on television."

6- Surprise Vocabulary Lesson: Riker and Jarok swear at each other in not one, but two alien languages.

7- Gene Roddenberry described this one as "The Cuban missile crisis at The Neutral Zone."

8- Picard, worried about the potential start of a war, asks Data to keep a record of all the events as they transpire. He wants to make sure that there's an official, dispassionate view of history. It's a great scene.

9- As Picard questions his decision to lead his people into the Neutral Zone, we get another Henry V quote, this time from the captain: "Now if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for their king, who led them to it.

10- As Data learns another lesson about the hope inherent in humans (and Romulans) we get an excellent, punch-you-in-the-gut ending. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

TNG: Who Watches The Watchers

In the episode "Who Watches The Watchers," a group of bronze-age proto-vulcans experience a dramatic cultural shift when they experience seemingly inexplicable "miracles" at the hands of a deity they refer to as "The Picard." Until this point, they have evolved much like the vulcans we all know and love. But, once religion creeps in, things start to change.

Men and women begin construing natural events from the earth/weather/sky as signs from The Picard. They believe that he can bring loved ones back from the dead and very nearly make a human (human/betazoid actually) sacrifice to appease him. In a matter of days, they are obsessed with The Picard and all that he might do for them, if only they interpret his signs correctly.

Of course, The Picard isn't actually speaking to them through the wind and rain and he definitely doesn't want sacrifices (of Deanna or anyone else) or prostration or prayers--no matter how well-intentioned. In fact, The Picard's own god is The Prime Directive which is why he is completely horrified by the idea that a bunch of people (through an accidental first contact) are not only aware of his existence but are now worshiping the very idea of him.

Picard feels a moral obligation to put an end to all this business and eventually does manage to do so. But, just imagine if he hadn't:

"Do you have a few moments to talk about The Picard?" 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

TNG: Season Two Essentials

If you're interested in picking up where TNG really gets started, try out Season 2. Some of the most iconic, classic episodes are to be found in this excellent season.

1- Elementary Dear Data
-Any time you get Geordi and Data dressed up in period costumes pretending to be Watson and Holmes, it's guaranteed to be great.
-If you're sitting around being mad because the Season 2 finale was so shoddy, watch this and see where they spent all their money.
Stand Out Line: He can be reached at 221B Baker Street! 

2- The Measure Of A Man
-It's widely thought that this is the first truly outstanding TNG episode. I'm not sure that I 100% agree with this statement but is the first (of several) TNG episodes that straight up make me cry.
-This is a prime example of the big, ongoing question in Star Trek--"What does it mean to be human?"
-The relationships between Data and his friends, his first officer, and his captain are all beautifully displayed here.
-The episode that brought us the "fully functional" joke pays off here in a brilliant, poignant way.
Stand Out Line: A courtroom is a crucible; in it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product: the truth, for all time.

3- Q Who
-This episode features Q, Guinan, and our very first look at the Borg. 'Nuff said.

4- A Matter of Honor
-This is the episode wherein Riker serves on a Klingon Bird of Prey as part of an officer exchange program.
-It's our first real brush with Klingon culture and daily life and Riker's go-with-it attitude make him the perfect character to show us this stuff.
Stand Out Line: He is not very attractive, but I will have him.

5- Samaritan Snare
-I already wrote about this episode in depth and you're welcome to go read that post. 
-I love this one because of its straightforwardness and simplicity.
Stand Out Line: Would you like another sandwich? 

Runners Up

The Royale
This is a great, rompy episode that feels a whole lot like older, TOS episodes such as "Spectre of the Gun." Basically, Riker, Worf, and Data all get trapped inside a physical manifestation of a badly written book about a 1920's era hotel. Oh yeah and it's NOT a holodeck episode.

Loud As A Whisper
This episode features a talented treaty negotiator who also happens to be deaf. He communicates through three telepathic translators and, when they're all burned to a crisp, he has to figure out something else. The concept alone make this one worth watching but the acting is pretty great too.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Star Trek Portrait Contest: One Week Away

As you may remember from last week, I'm having a contest. The prize is a portrait (by me) of your Star Trek self. Now, the contest deadline is just one week away!

Until then, here's yet another sample from someone a little less Starfleet-ey. A while ago, when my friend Christi started watching Star Trek, we had the "what species would you be" conversation and she came up with Betazoid/Talaxian:

After a long day spent fruit picking/reading, she's ready for an evening
with friends and family where she'll no doubt read everyone's minds. 

To be fair, the Talaxian genes do seem a bit dominant but, if you look closely, you can see the gorgeous black eyes common to Betazoids. She did not, however, seem to inherit the underslit nose or hairy feet of her Talaxian ancestors.

Ok, to enter the contest, just leave a comment on either the original post or this one telling me what Star Trek species fits you best. For every time you share this blog (with your mom on the phone, on Facebook, on Pinterest) just let me know about it in the comments section and you'll get an additional entry.

So, figure out your species of choice and the clothes you would wear in your Star Trek life and report back here!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Shades of Gray: An Aberration

TNG is a pretty amazing show. Granted, it took a couple seasons to really find its own voice and figure out its characters but, on the whole, it was steadily quite good. If you were watching the show when it first aired, you would've been chugging along in 1987 for season one. You'd have thought, "Woah! This new Trek is totally tubular'!" (My 80's slang may be a bit off there) You would've waited all summer for Season 2 and when it got here, with Guinan and the Borg and episodes like "Measure of a Man" and "Elementary Dear Data," you would've loved it even more. And then May of 1988 would've rolled around and you would eagerly await the Season 2 finale, "Shades of Gray." And, when it aired, you'd have said, "Oh harsh, man. That episode was totally bogus. Gag me with a spoon." (I'll stop now I promise.)

"Shades of Gray" is a clip show. They've only got two seasons under their belt and they show clips of Riker's memories. I feel like that's as much as needs to be said about the content of the episode.

The point is: "Shades of Gray" is a seemingly random, terrible episode. The fact that it's the season finale only makes everything worse. It's as if the fine people over at Paramount didn't even want viewers to come back for Season 3. It's not just me that thinks this. "Shades of Gray" is widely considered the worst episode of the Trek franchise and, every time I get a friend into TNG, they inevitably come to me a couple months or weeks in and say, "Hey, what's up with the Season 2 finale?"

Well, here's the answer: it's not entirely clear.

According to Wikipedia, "Shades of Gray" is the product of the 1988 Writer's Strike. Yes, the very same strike that gave writers expanded creative rights and gave viewers epic late night bits like Letterman's "Hal Gurney's Late Night Time Wasters" gave Trek fans a totally lame season finale by virtue of the fact that there were no writers to pen the episode.

According to Memory Alpha, however, which quotes the director and writers who were actually stuck with this one, "Shades of Gray" was a bargain the creatives had to strike with Paramount thanks to the overrun budget for episodes like, "Elementary Dear Data" and "Q Who?" So basically, Paramount said, "You spent too much money. For your last episode, don't spend any money." Star Trek already had a small budget so that decision pretty much relegated them to a clip show. 

Apparently the original idea for this episode had Geordi and Data running around in an alien forest while the trees and creatures tried to attack them. I can see how Paramount would've balked at the figures for an episode like that but I can't see how anyone could possibly think a clip-show featuring a mere two seasons of Riker's memories would be anything anyone would want to watch. It should have been (and was originally supposed to be) a bottle episode. 

Just thinking about what could've gone in place of "Shades of Gray" really makes me sad that we missed out on what might have been a potentially great episode of Star Trek. Bottle episodes are often some of the most original, inventive episodes and I imagine TNG would've come up with something great. Just look at what TOS did with an even smaller budget and even less network support. They had THREE bottle episodes: "Tholian Web," "Balance of Terror," and, "Journey to Babel" all of which were far out, man. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Young Naturalist: Serpent Worms

It's been quite some time since I've done a Young Naturalist post. Honestly, crazy creatures just aren't quite as plentiful in TNG as they were TOS and TAS. I've been thinking about doing the Crystalline Entity but, once I had the idea to draw serpent worms, I couldn't resist. So, here are the serpent worms of Qo'noS--otherwise known as Gagh.

And here's a picture of them from the series: 

I came this close (pretend you can see me holding my finger and thumb super close together) to drawing them with a knife and fork. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekend Roundup #11

Week eleven wasn't bad! Thirteen episodes! 

-This is the first time the Enterprise crew gets together to  play poker--something that would last the rest of the series. 
-Hey they're in the JAG office! Fun. This makes me picture JAG as a SciFi show. Someone get me CBS on the phone, STAT!

-Wesley falls for a girl who's actually less worldly than he is. A-freaking-dorable.
She literally says, "You've been SO many places!" 

-This is the first time Picard orders Tea--Earl grey, hot. Sadly, it comes out all crazy because of, you know, the contagion. 

-This is the one where they beam into a 20th century hotel and everyone's got lots of moxy. Data learns to play black jack and, in order to escape, Riker, Worf, and Data pretend to be "foreign investors." 

-Duplicate Picard arrives on a shuttle but his brain is all jacked up.
-He’s from the FUTURE… future... futurefuture…(I'm making an echoing sound that you'll have to imagine for yourself.)

-Riker is offered his own command but his dad comes to give him the what-for. Talk about awkward.
-Kyle Riker and Pulaksi had a THING. 
-Kyle refers to Anbo-jyutsu as the ultimate evolution in the martial arts… we’ll see about that.

-Picard takes Deanna to meet his pony.
-I have a lot of problems with this episode. Namely, robbing a little girl of her memories. I'm not buying your Prime Directive shtick this time, Picard. 

42- Q WHO?
-This is the episode wherein we meet the Borg and, more importantly, we learn that Q is afraid of Guinan.
-You are smart. You make our ship go.

-Worf and Pulaski share a little secret about Worf having a fainting spell. To repay Pulaski for keeping his secret, Worf brings the doctor a Klingon tea ceremony. This is a great scene. 
-Oh and also, the Enterprise cargo hold is totally full of basically Irish lads and lasses. 

-Lwaxana is way into Picard. She beams onboard and makes the captain eat dinner with her.
-Most of the virile male staff end up hiding out in the holodeck until Lwaxana's crazy time is over. 
-She's so likable in this one. It really takes me back to when she was Christine Chapel. 

46- The Emissary
-Yay! It's K'Ehleyr.  (I had to look up how to spell her name. I'll go hang my head in shame.) 
-The Enterprise heads out to wake up a bunch of Klingons who've been asleep since wartime. It's too bad they don't have regular, non-turtle foreheads. That seems like a missed opportunity. 
-I love their solution to this one. So smart! I'll probably write about this "The Emissary" again. 

-A wormy guy shows up and makes the Enterprise take part in war games to determine their efficiency in a battle scenario. 
-Pulaski gets Data to challenge the wormy guy to a game of strategema. This is a nice scene. She also tries to give him a pep-talk later. Nice, job doctor. 

Ok, that's it! I pretty much hit my weekly goal and, since things haven't been quite as crazy in my life lately, it wasn't too hard. Hopefully this week, I'll keep up this pace.  I still have a few episodes I'd like to write about from Season 2 before I move on. We'll see how it goes! 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Give Pulaski A Chance

When I was a kid, I hated Dr. Pulaski. And, I wasn't the only one. She was mean to Data. She butted heads with Picard. She replaced Dr. Crusher. All of these things made me and a whole lot of other fans hate her. I hated her when I was a kid and I hated her as an adult. Actually, I hated her until about two weeks ago. Then, all of the sudden, I liked her. I really liked her. Suddenly, I loved her.

Here's what I realized about Dr. Pulaski: She's essentially Leonard McCoy. Dr. McCoy was mean to Spock. He butted heads with Kirk. He replaced Dr. Boyce. The thing is, Dr. Boyce had only been around for the pilot. In fact, the only character that ended up carrying over from "The Cage" was Spock, so there was no fan (or actor) animosity toward DeForest Kelley when he stepped into the role of ship's physician. He was just a cranky old doctor who didn't care much for Spock and argued a lot with the captain. People didn't hate him for that. So, what's the big difference? Why is one character so well-loved and the other hated?

Pulaski and Bones are both hard-headed and stubborn. They're skeptical about new technology but brilliant in their own methods. They both hate the transporter. They're leery of people who possess no emotion and they're not afraid to make that fact known. They're both folksy with a strange, guarded kind of warmth and an ever-present raised eyebrow. Basically, the TNG staff were writing Pulaski like McCoy and, in a more general sense, they were writing her like a man. She was pushy, outspoken, opinionated, and confident. There was nothing gentle or soft about her. And, especially after losing Tasha, I felt like that's something the show needed.

Looking back at my notes, I think I turned the corner on Pulaski somewhere around the middle of the season. So, even though I love her in specific episodes like "The Icarus Factor" where we find out that she had a long-ago love affair with Riker's dad or "Up The Long Ladder" when she shares a Klingon tea ceremony with Worf, I can't put my finger on the moment I suddenly bought into the whole "Pulaski is pretty great" thing. It just happened gradually. And, I'm betting that if Pulaski had stuck around a while longer, she would've become even better.

I'm not saying that you have to love Pulaski. All I'm saying is that, if you're interested in giving her another chance, go back and watch some TOS and then watch some second season TNG. See if your feelings about Pulaski change. And, whether they do or they don't, come back and tell me what you think.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Have Branson Bring Round The Shuttle

Sometimes it takes a while for something to really sink in. I've seen the TNG episode, "Manhunt" several times. The episode is packed with great stuff: Dixon Hill, Worf musing about how handsome and noble a sleeping fish species is, and a fantastic bit with Data's "amusing" anecdotes.

This episode also heavily features Deanna's mother, Lwaxana Troi. I admit that sometimes the character can be a little grating but, the longer Lwaxana's around, the better she gets. As a kid, I loved her. She was silly, funny, powerful, smart and... rich. She even had a valet.

Yep. Lwaxana's valet is Lurch. 
As a kid, I didn't get what a valet did. I kind of knew (from 30 Something probably) that there was a guy called a valet who parked rich people's cars. I knew later on (from Sherlock Holmes probably) that sometimes a guy called a valet carried rich people's suitcases. It literally wasn't until I started watching Downton Abbey a couple years ago that I actually understood the traditional role of the valet.

Now, all I can think about is what the Enterprise would be like if it were run like a country estate in Edwardian England. I imagine Data working as Picard's valet, helping him get into his dress uniform and advising him about ship's matters in a totally non-presumptuous way. I imagine Wesley bringing round the shuttle to drop off delegates and Beverly prescribing warm milk with cinnamon for deadly epidemics. It's a world where the future and past have settled comfortably together and Captain Picard makes long and lofty speeches about his ship and his god-given duty to care for it while Riker stands in the background just hoping he'll get to separate the saucer section.

"I'm so sorry. I thought you were a waiter."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Unsung Episode: Samaritan Snare

There are a lot of really amazing, excellent, iconic episodes in Star Trek. And, I write about those. They get a lot of attention because they really are just that superb. Classes are taught about some of these episodes. Academic papers are written. Critics are still taking them apart--even after all this time. But, here's the thing, there are a whole lot of other, really great episodes that people don't seem to recognize. I don't have any idea what other people think about them but I love them and (for the purposes of this blog) that's all that matters. So, I have a new mission: Shine a light on some of the unsung episodes. My first one is, "Samaritan Snare."

This episode has two plot lines. First, Geordi beams aboard a ship full of seemingly unintelligent aliens who need help fixing their engines. They're fond of saying, "Can you make our ship go?" Second, Picard is ordered by Pulaski to have an important medical issue taken care of but he doesn't want the rest of the crew to know about it so he takes a shuttle with Wesley Crusher, to a nearby star base.

The first plot is great because it's interesting and different. The aliens aren't as dumb as they seem and Geordi ends up in a lot of trouble. They also bring back an old TOS motif--talking in code--which makes the whole thing really satisfying. Otherwise, "Samaritan Snare" is relatively quiet. Fully half of this one is a road trip with Wesley and Picard.
Yeah, mostly it just looks like this. 
The most exciting thing that happens in this plot line is that Picard and Wesley eat some sandwiches and have a conversation. Yes. It's a legit road trip. They live in the future and could eat fois gras and lasagna if they wanted to but they're eating white bread sandwiches and drinking caffeinated beverages. This is every road trip ever. And, really, that's why it's so awesome. Because what happens on a road trip (and take this from someone who spent hours in the car with her divorced parents who lived hundreds of miles apart) is that you eat pre-packed sandwiches, stay quiet for a while, and then end up talking because there's nothing better to do and you're sick of staring at the road.

Wesley attempts to engage Picard in conversation and, after several false starts, the captain finally opens up. He tells Wesley why he's going to the star base--for cardiac surgery. Then, he tells the acting ensign a story about how when he wasn't much older than Wesley, he got into a bar fight and ended up being impaled through the heart. It's an AMAZING scene. There aren't any flashing lights and no one's trying to separate the saucer section; it's just two guys eating sandwiches and talking.

I'm not even joking. 

This plot line is wonderful because it's full of great lines and excellent character moments. The sandwich-eating scene is a perfect example of the quiet, human moments that we all have every day. It's a simple exchange of personal history. It's something humans have always done, continue to do, and will still be doing--on road shuttle trips--three hundred years from now. And, there's something really comforting about that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Species: Check All That Apply

I don't know what brought you here. I don't know if you're a long-time Trek fan or if you've never seen an episode but I do know this: at some point, after watching a lot of Star Trek, you start having conversations with people about what species you would be. It's an inevitability.

I've found, through lots of soul-searching and other, even less quantitative means, that I'm half-Vulcan and half-Klingon. That's not to say that my parents are Vulcan and Klingon. They're actually Bajoran and Betazoid. Whatever, I know what I am. And, because I'm an artist, I spent some time working up what I would look like if I existed in the Star Trek universe:

Now, here's the exciting part: You can get one of these too!

It's a contest! It starts today! The prize is a Star Trek illustrated portrait of yourself!

Entering the contest is easy:
Just leave a comment below with your preferred Star Trek species.
But wait, that's not all! You can better odds with a little more work:
You get to add your name to the contest once for every time you share the blog. If you share it on Facebook, your name goes in again. If you share it on Pinterest, your name goes in again. If you tell a friend about it in Gchat or over the phone or in the bathroom stall next to you, your name goes in again.
For every time you spread the word about this contest, you get another entry. Just come back here and tell me that you did it. I'll add it all up.

So, if you: leave a comment, tell your BFF, post it on Facebook, and pin it to your geek board, you get 4 entries.

Now, go forth! Be proud of your Star Trek species! Spread the word!

 The contest will be over in two weeks--on March 27th. If you have any questions, just ask!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Measure Of A Man

 I recently re-watched "The Measure of a Man." If you haven't seen this one, I urge you to spool it up right now. Although I have a whole list of "If you only watch..."episodes, this one always stands out as one of the truest, most heartfelt, most committed to the "what makes someone human" concept in Star Trek and SciFi. I always say, "Watch this one. Just watch it. If you don't watch any other Star Trek--watch this one."

Ok, if you didn't take a 45 minute break between the last paragraph and this one to watch the episode, and you haven't seen it before--basically, an engineer shows up and wants to disassemble Data. He hopes to build many more Datas and station them all over Starfleet. He sees Data as property rather than as a person. He denies Data's humanity. The entire episode is based around argument over whether Data has the right to choose his own destiny.

"The Measure of a Man" is iconic. A lot of people have written a lot of things about this one and that intimidates me a little bit. But, this blog is all about my personal experiences with Star Trek and I'll never forget my experience watching this episode for the first time.

I didn't see this one until I was in college. Somehow, it always went by me and Netflix Instant (or DVD money) didn't exist back then. But, on a winter day, in Northern Kentucky, when I'd just got back from some mid-morning anthropology class, I sat down to watch Star Trek reruns. I was excited when this one came on because I knew from the first that I'd never seen it. For the next hour, I couldn't look away. A while later, when my soon-to-be-husband came home, I was still puffy-faced from sobbing. Like a little kid, I ran over every plot-point in the episode and, when I came to the end, I started crying again.

Here's the thing, I've seen this episode many, many times since that day. Time has passed. I got married, went to grad school, moved across the country, wrote three novels, had my five-year-anniversary, and started a crazy Star Trek blog all in the time since I first saw the episode. And yet, when my husband came home from work the other night and asked what I'd watched that day, I answered, "The Measure of a Man" and ran off the plot-points again (for no one's benefit because he's also seen this one a dozen times) and, when I got to the end, I choked up and tears rushed to my eyes and I couldn't finish.

So, again, I urge you to seek out this episode. It's a prime example of what Gene Roddenberry started doing in the 60's and what he continued to do until the day he died. It's what Star Trek continued do after he was gone and what it does even now. This episode questions what it means to be human. "The Measure of a Man" is a perfect example of Star Trek. Or, at least it is for me. I'd love to hear your opinion.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend Roundup #10

Umm... looks like I dropped the ball last week. I only watched like seven episodes. To be fair, I had a lot going on. I fully expect that this week will be a lot more productive. And, by productive, I mean that I will watch like twenty episodes of Star Trek. 

-The crew comes across a ship-full of human popsicles. Does this happen in EVERY Star Trek?Seriously. I can think of three instances right now. 
-Guess who's back! Woohoo-- it's the Romulans! 


-This is Guinan, Pulaski, and Riker’s Beard’s first episode.
-Basically, Troi becomes impregnated with an alien life-form who turns into an adorable betazoid child. 
-Everyone's in trouble. Surprise! Riker's trying to separate the saucer section. Just kidding, that's not a surprise. 

-This is the episode wherein the Enterprise gets sucked into a crazy, never-ending blackness. 
-This one feels A LOT like an episode of TOS. I love it. 

-Geordi and Data are LARPing a Sherlock Holmes mystery in the holodeck. Good times. 
-Man, Dr. Pulaski keeps giving Data all this crap. WTF. 
-Ok, this is a little embarrassing to admit but I JUST REALIZED (after 25 years of watching this show) that Dr. Pulaski is totally the Bones to Data's Spock. 

-The Enterprise helps out a rogueish space guy.
-Ok, this guy is pretty much Mal. 
-Go home, Mal! Save Serenity! What are you doing here? 

- This is the first place I saw another deaf person besides my uncle. I had intended to write an entire post about this so maybe I'll come back to it later. 

-This episode is worth watching just to see Data grow a beard. 
Well, I guess you don't so much need to watch it now. Sorry 'bout that.
- It's a pretty straight-forward "everyone's suddenly getting real old" episode.
- I actually totally love this one because of all the Pulaski stuff. She has a great arc here with Picard.

-Riker volunteers for the officer exchange program on a Klingon ship. Why? Because no one's ever done it before! Awesome! 
-This is really the first time we've ever spent a whole lot of time with Klingons. These guys are hilarious. 
-I love how much has been added to the Klingon mythology. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oh, Neil.

Ok, so it's Sunday and, basically, this was the first weekend in several weeks that my husband and I didn't have to go crazy places and drive all over Los Angeles. We needed a break. So, I spent a lot of time napping, reading, and watching 80's movies. I did not spend a lot of time blogging. Tonight, I was going to do a Weekend Roundup but I ended up just watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson on The Daily Show because why not?

The whole episode is available on Hulu and probably other places but here's part of the interview from YouTube. Watch it. Enjoy it. And look forward not only to The Weekend Roundup but also my upcoming post on "The Measure Of A Man."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Following Preview

I typically spend my Saturdays eating cheeseburgers, playing video games, and napping. So, sometimes I miss stuff that happens on the weekend. Luckily, my dear friend from The Tardis Page alerted me to the new Star Trek: Into Darkness trailer and I am SO glad that she did.

I know, I know, I know (believe me, I know) that a lot of Trek fans are all "Down With Abrams" and that's ok. You're entitled to your opinion. But, I'm just going to go ahead and say that I LOVE the reboot and it looks like Into Darkness is shaping up to be as good as (or maybe even better than) 2009's Star Trek

What do you think? 

Friday, March 8, 2013

TNG: Season One Essentials

Wow, it's been quite a while since I've done one of these. I hope I didn't forget how. I'll just jump in and see how it goes. 

1- Encounter at Farpoint
-This is the very first episode of TNG. Like the rest of this season, it's a little clunky in places, but it deserves a good watch. 
-You get the beginning of the Q/Picard relationship that will last until the very end of the series. 
-There's a guest appearance by DeForest Kelley. Yes! 
-Picard says, "Costumes like that..." to Q. Look who's talking, guy. You're wearing pajamas. 
Stand Out Line: Separate the saucer section! 

2- The Big Goodbye
-This is the episode that launched lots and lots of Dixon Hill fanfiction. 
-Picard, Beverly, and Data all play dress-up. 
-The way Picard loosens his tie after returning to the bridge is just perfect. 
Stand Out Line: It was a nice place to visit, Number One, but I wouldn’t want to die there.

3- Symbiosis
-This is a great twisty-turny plot episode. 
-Picard and Beverly have some great stuff here. 
-This is our first real introduction to the Prime Directive and how much it means to Picard.
-This one was actually the last episode Denise Crosby shot. I feel like, in her conversation about drugs with Wesley, this shows. 
Stand Out Line: It's hard to be philosophical when faced with suffering. 

4- Datalore
-If you don't watch this one, you won't understand who that guy that looks just like Data is in some future Essential Episodes I'll be mentioning. 
-The Data/Lore dynamic is great. 
-Data has an off switch. Umm. This is a bad idea. 
-Pro-Tip: If you have an android (or similarly outsider-ish) friend and they suddenly start using contractions--DO NOT TRUST THEM. THEY ARE AN IMPOSTOR. 
Stand Out Line: Shut up, Wesley! 

5- The Neutral Zone
-This episode is worth watching for one reason: ROMULANS! 
-They're back and it's a big deal. Everyone on the bridge "never thought they'd see a Romulan." 
-Basically, there's a crazy shadow enemy going around blowing up bases in the Neutral Zone. No one knows who it is but the Romulans are pretty confident that it isn't the humans because, as the Romulan commander pretty much says, "You guys are dumb." 
-This one is full of intrigue, mystery, and great moments that harken back to classic Trek. 
Stand Out Line: We are back.

Runners Up 

-When I was a kid, I was terrified of this episode. I had nightmares about purple fish fins sticking out of the necks of my family members. 
-Uh... don't let that previous statement dissuade you. I'm sure if you aren't a four-year-old, you'll be totally cool with this one. 
-This is a smart, interesting, well-written episode that I really felt like must've been planned as the season finale. 
This happens and it's totally gross.
I'm not doing a very good job selling you on this episode, huh? 

The Naked Now
-Everyone in this episode goes bonkers when their ship is infested with a virus that causes intoxication-like symptoms.
-We get an otherwise pretty impossible look into the inner lives and feelings of these characters thanks to their sudden loss of inhibition. 
-If you don't watch this episode, you'll never get the Trek inside joke-- "Fully Functional." I mean, unless you google it. Still, it wouldn't be as fun. 

Drunk Data
How can you not watch it? 

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