Friday, February 27, 2015

Emotional Suppression

I feel a desperate need to write now. To say something about Leonard Nimoy's passing.

It's going to take a little time, though. I'm writing and deleting words and sentences and paragraphs over and over.

What it comes down to is this:

I can't do it right now. I plan to. I plan to soon. But right now I feel as though my heart will burst and I need to take some time away from all this.

Until then, I'll say the same thing I said earlier today when I first heard--the lines from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities which Kirk utters after Spock's death in The Wrath of Khan:

It is far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

A few past Spock posts: 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Faces

Alright, here's another episode I've always tended to take for granted. I appreciated (or thought I did) the internal (now external) struggle with B'Elanna but this one was always overshadowed for me by one, singular thing:

Actually, in my house, whenever we see a super creepy guy dressed like a super creepy guy on TV, one of us says, "That guy's gonna be wearing someone's face around later." And it's all because of this episode.

You have to admit, it's pretty distracting. That happens sometimes, with baddies. They (or their actions) can be so evil, so memorable, so ostentatious, that they eclipse the actual story. The great, personal story in Se7en is totally overshadowed by Gweneth Paltrow's head in a box. I'm not saying that makes it a bad movie. I'm just saying it happens.

Anyway, this episode isn't actually about a Vidiian surgeon wearing Crewman Daniel's face around like a Halloween mask. It's about B'Elanna Torres' longtime personal struggle. It's about her identity issues suddenly becoming a very real, physical problem that she has to overcome in order to survive.

Re-watching this one it occurred to me that Both Dawson and the writers have a spectacular handle on the character of B'Elanna. Dawson plays each side differently than she plays regular B'Elanna. Klingon B'Elanna's voice is deeper and her speech more aggressive while Human B'Elanna's voice is lighter and gentler and she's more reserved overall. Everything about these characters is just a little different from the way B'Elanna is usually played. From posture to voice to eye contact, each of the three versions of B'Elanna are different and unique.

Back to the story: The idea of a klingon/human woman being at odds with herself goes back to Susie Plackson's character, K'Ehleyr, on TNG. The idea of a human/alien bi-species character having issues with his/her identity in Star Trek goes all the way back to Spock. But no character has before been physically split. And, I kind of get why. It sounds a bit goofy--a little like venturing into "Spock's Brain" territory. It helps, though, that we never see the procedure. Actually, the way we're brought into the knowledge of B'Elanna's split is really well-engineered.

We're first shown Klingon B'Elanna. We're lead to assume that the Vidians have simply done away with B'Elanna's human DNA. We spend a lot of time with Klingon B'Elanna and we get used to her--her aggression, her strength, her confidence. They're all qualities our B'Elanna possesses, just not quite in such abundance. It's not until the end of Act 1 that we get a glimpse of Human B'Elanna. We soon recognize more qualities we're familiar with: sensitivity, self-doubt, and a brilliant, technical mind.

B'Elanna has always been at war with herself but, in these incredibly dangerous circumstances, both sides have to work together to survive and thrive. And, really, that's what B'Elanna does every day. In the end, she doesn't really want to be melded back into her true self but, like it or not, this is who she is. Each half of B'Elanna makes the whole stronger.

The Little Things:
-I love that a Talaxian makes a guest appearance here.
-When Chakotay says, "My face was just grafted." I almost lose it. Every time. I love it.
-I adore Klingon B'Elanna's forehead ridges.
-I love the moment where each B'Elanna sees the other--up to this point they both believed they were all that was left and this reveal is a great one.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Cathexis

About a year ago, knowing I was about to begin work on a new novel that involved a lot of mystery novel themes and tropes, I got a huge stack of them and started cracking spines. I'd re-read all of Sherkock Holmes in 2013 but went ahead and re-read Hound. Then I read about ten Agatha Christies and then some Raymond Chandler and I watched a bunch of mysterious TV shows and BBC costume drama mysteries. At some point, I realized I loved mysteries. I loved reading them. I loved writing them. I loved watching them. Honestly, it shouldn't have been a surprise--I've been in love with Sherlock Holmes since 8th grade and Clue was my favorite board game. Anyway, I guess that's why I find Cathexis so surprisingly satisfying.

Set Up:
Chakotay and Tuvok return from an away mission all messed up and they're sent directly to sickbay where it turns out they've both been whacked in the head by some kind of space mess. Chakotay's in a coma as a result of the blow but Tuvok is pretty ok. No one knows what to do about their first officer but they decide to go about their business when all kinds of strangeness ensues. Foul play is suspected.

-Tom Paris looks guilty as hell--which pretty much means he's not to blame.
-Kes gets all psychic and feels a presence in her quarters and is subsequently attacked.
-The warp core shuts down with B'Elanna at the console but she doesn't remember anything.

They pretty quickly get that something's not right--that someone or something is controlling crew members at will. But how? The finger gets pointed all over the place and smokescreens are dragged out to great effect until the real guilty party is revealed and dealt with.

What's really in the little brown envelope?
Tuvok, in the Shuttle, with a Hostile Alien Entity
I knew it! 
This one doesn't have a ton of action. It doesn't have any extra cast or sets or crazy props (outside of Chakotay's medicine wheel). It's essentially a bottle episode. And it's well done. It's eerie. It's quiet. It's a lot like an old novel of espionage onboard a Cold War submarine--only in space. It could be anyone--literally, because in the end, it's not really anyone. And that's what's so lovely about this kind of SciFi. Regular mysteries become extraordinary when mixed with the endless possibilities of space and flexible futures. This is an episode I tend to forget about when listing my favorites but I really shouldn't. It's a legitimately good episode and a fun watch.

Bonus Points:
-Seriously, did you think I wouldn't talk about Janeway's holo-novel cold open? The woman is wearing a tartan dress and inhabiting a creepy ass house on the moors (another genre I love) when she's so rudely interrupted by Harry Kim (of course) with news of the away team. It really feels like this cold open is setting up some kind of big arc for later but I honestly cannot remember whether or not it ends up paying off. I guess I'll see.
-I love that The Doctor knows all about Chakotay's medicine wheel and it totally makes sense--he's the only doctor in Starfleet who even could hold and accurately remember all that medical information since he's basically a walking database.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Heroes and Demons

YES! Heroes and Demons is the first ever Voyager Holo-Romp. Actually, it's Voyager's first romp. And you know how much I love a romp. I was crazy excited about my re-watch for this one. 

It goes like this: Voyager encounters a strange energy in space and think they might be able to harness it for their ongoing "running out of gas" problem. Instead, the energy takes over the holodeck (with Harry Kim, of course) trapped inside. The only one who can go in and save the day is another holo-person. Namely, (or, er... not namely) The Doctor. What ensues is the character's first away mission and his first big character development episode--oh, and a lot of fun. In the end, The Doc saves the day, kisses a girl, and successfully makes first contact with an alien species. 

Obviously, I love this one. The Doctor is one of my favorite characters in all of Trek and one of the things that irks me most in early Voyager is the way The Doctor is treated. Granted, his mistreatment is pretty understandable. For people who inhabit the Trek-verse, holo-characters aren't people--they're objects. They're used to tell stories or help solve problems or, in the case of Reginald Barclay, to ease one's social awkwardness. But, they don't have rights or quarters or families or friends anymore than a tea kettle does. Of course, The Doctor is different--the rest of Voyager just doesn't know it yet. This is the episode makes the wheels of change creak to life. 

But it's not just about the way the crew begins to see this character differently, but also the way that The Doctor begins to come into his own. He accepts his first away mission in spite of the fact that he was never intended to serve as more than a short-term solution to emergencies. He has had to learn and grow so much already and now he's thrust into a difficult, dangerous, and important mission. If he fails, Harry Kim (and the rest of the crew for that matter) could perish but he faces down his doubts and carries out his mission with the grit and heart of any trained Starfleet officer. 

He sword fights. He experiences the rush of a fleeting romance. He confronts a monster. He walks away a more interesting, more thoughtful, more well-rounded person. 

Bonus Points: 
-This episode is packed with Beowulf stuff. 
-Freya the shieldmaiden begins as a somewhat ridiculous and flat character but rounds out by the end, even describing the way she has always hoped to die. 
-This nice line from Freya to The Doctor, "Do you know what it's like to be alone among many and unable to speak your fears," is quite nicely done. 
-"Schweitzer, a hero's name!"

Friday, February 6, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: State of Flux

So I always take notes during these episodes but I've been working like crazy the past two weeks and this is literally the only thing I wrote down last night whilst watching State of Flux:

I promise I did watch the whole thing. I just happened to have some extra work fall in my lap this week and I really had to bust my hump to get everything done. So, as it happened, I was working in Photoshop the entire time this one was on the TV and I pretty much forgot to take notes. Also, yes, I write my Star Trek notes in a Text Edit document because it sucks up less memory than anything else. Photoshop, remember?

Ok, this episode is basically Seska's big "I'm A Baddie!" Celebration. It seems like there should be a name for that. In my head it's like a QuinceaƱera or Bar Mitzvah or Upanayana. Like she should get a sash or knife or a cake or something and everyone should stand in a circle and say the shittiest thing Seska ever did to them. Of course we all know know who'd win that contest:

My biggest takeaway from this episode is that poor Chakotay probably shouldn't have been given command of a Maquis vessel. This guy is just way too nice. I mean, Tuvok infiltrated his ship. Seska infiltrated his ship. His ship got destroyed. He ended up being Number 2 to some whole other captain in some crap part of space and he can't even eat stolen soup anymore. Bless his heart.

Actually, I think it's really smart that Chakotay voices his concerns about this whole, "Am I an idiot?" thing with Tuvok who pretty much says, "You're not any dumber than the rest of your dumb species."
In a lot of ways, Chakotay's had his world turned on its ear more than anyone else. He was in charge of a wild band of outlaws. He was beating down doors and Robin Hooding the crap out of the Federation. Now his girlfriend is a Cardassian and she's giving him crap about his animal guide. How did it come to this?
Oh yeah.
Anyway, Seska is a 100% badass in this one. Obviously I knew she was the baddie but it was great to re-watch State of Flux with that knowledge so fresh in my mind. The set up of Red Herring Carey is really nicely done and the true villain is withheld until the very last minute. Seska goes on to become an even bigger thorn in everyone's side (especially Chakotay) and I can't wait to see it all unfold.

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