Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Year of Hell

Kes warned us about this, didn't she? And yet, here we are anyway, in The Year of Hell.

Voyager boots up its brand new astrometrics lab and they head into Krenim space. They're immediately hailed by a squirrely dude who really just wishes they would leave but can't actually make them. Then something changes. (Hint: It's history) Now the man who hails them is in control--in fact, he overpowers and attacks him. This is just the start of the Year of Hell. Voyager encounters all kinds of trouble. They lose most of their crew. They're forced to separate. Tuvok is blinded and Seven becomes his caretaker. Paris and Chakotay leave to look for help. Janeway is severely burned and permanently scarred. It's heartbreaking and, at the end, it's all gone. History resets and Voyager comes upon the same Krenim man who now cordially tells them to go about their business. And they do. And we're the only witnesses to their trials and tragedies.

  This one has plenty of great stuff. Tuvok and Seven's relationship is a finely distilled, intense exploration of a friendship that seems (in all ways) logical. Janeway is a badass from start to finish but especially when she holds a piece of her own broken ship as a shield, tells The Doctor to expect severe burns, and rushes into the flaming bridge to fix the deflector. Chakotay and Tom's time spent with their attackers is interesting and believable and Annorax is a sympathetic baddie rendered with heart by Kurtwood Smith (of That 70's Show/President of the Federation fame). Year of Hell also isn't without humor--the "elixir of endurance" scene adds a bittersweet tinge to the whole thing.
Watching this one again made me think a lot about the inherent power alternate timelines seem to carry. I've written about them here a few times and they always stand out. The City on the Edge of Forever, The Inner Light, The Visitor, The Year of Hell, and Twilight. You (or I) could make a case for any of these being the most resonant of their respective series. Why is that?

As I mentioned above, at the end of this one, everything is reset. There aren't any real, permanent, physical ramifications. The toll is personal though. What's lost is felt. Sometimes by an individual (the captains in City on the Edge of Forever and Inner Light) and sometimes by us. We're left to remember what these characters have been through, the lessons they've learned, what they did or would do for each other. Seeing the fire-forged friendship between Tuvok and Seven flourish is thrilling and watching it disappear into the void of alternate history is heartbreaking.
I think the point is that, when you get through whatever crazy business made the alternate history possible in these episodes, what matters is the heart. The personal story. We cry because we, too, love Edith Keeler. We cry because we love Picard, his almost-family, his quiet life as a husband and father.
We cry because Jake needs his dad, because Janeway needs her crew, because Archer needs T'Pol and T'Pol needs Archer. We cry because we've seen what could've been.

We cry over the same thought exercise expressed by the (in)famous Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken." It's a uniquely human question. You only get one turn, one chance, one road. You're left with the aftermath of that decision and whether you're happy or sad you still sometimes wonder, What might have been?

Thanks to the wild, wonderful ways of Science Fiction, we (unlike Frost) get to see the other road and, if (alternate) history has taught us anything it's that the other road will just about always make us cry.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Generic Ensign's Log: Scientific Method

Generic Ensign's Log

Stardate: 51244.3

8:23 AM: Up early because I can't sleep because I feel awful. Rang up Samantha to see if she was awake and she was because Naomi's been wailing all night and also because she has a weird rash. Oh, also, I caught B'Elanna and Tom making out in the lift on my way to breakfast but my head feels like it's full of cotton and I just don't even care about their deal right now.

10:23 AM: Went down to sickbay to see if I could get something for this chest/head cold and Chakotay was in there and he looked awful. I mean, I know we've all seen a lot of terrible things happen to people on this ship and I know they always get better and I know we pretty much always forget about it but seriously--Chakotay looked awful. Dude looked like he's aged about a hundred years over night. Also apparently his tattoo goes back over his ear. I had no idea.
12:13 PM: Just saw Seven slinking around looking suspicious.

12:15 PM: Oh crap here comes Tuvok. Something's about to go down.

1:20 PM: Holy shit. So apparently the reason we all feel awful is because a bunch of jerk aliens have been doing medical research on us without our consent and we couldn't even see or detect them. Chakotay looks terrible because someone cranked up his olds, apparently. I went back to The Doctor for this head/chest cold (which is probably really some kind of alien robot parasite crawling around in there) and Crewman Luke absolutely just bit it right there in the floor. Her face veins turned all red and she died and there was nothing anyone could do. She was supposed to come with me and Samantha to the holodeck tomorrow!

3:45 PM: Well, the aliens refused to leave and of course the captain refused to back down. She decided she'd rather run the ship into a couple of pulsars than keep these jerks around. We barely made it out.

6:50 PM: Everyone's on the mend now that the aliens are gone. Well, everyone except me. Turns out my problem wasn't caused by the aliens. Uggh. You can reverse age a guy in about five minutes but I've still just got a chest cold and a fist-full of Mucinex.

Voyager Re-Watch: The Raven

Today's spam email informed me that it was National Coffee Day and that I should celebrate like Captain Janeway. Oh, I already was:

I was actually up a little earlier than usual and I hope this extra waking hour in my day means I'll get more done for the blog. After all, I'm lagging behind. There are about 100 still to go and only 93 days left in the year. I really hate all the time I missed this spring. Oh well. This only means you'll get a more focused, intense reading experience (I can only hope) from here on out!

So I re-watched The Raven. This is one of those episodes that, pretty much every time I watch it, it immediately thereafter vacates my brain. Where does it go? Why won't it stick in there?
Re-watching it I actually thought, this is a pretty good episode, why do I always forget about it? But now here it is, two days later, and I can barely remember it. I think a lot of it is The Raven's fairly quiet, personal nature. The whole thing revolves around Seven experiencing upsetting flashbacks to the time she was taken by the collective. Eventually, she follows a homing signal to her family's crashed ship (The Raven) where she has a bit of a freak out and Tuvok helps her through it before they escape an attack from some grumpy aliens.

There's plenty to love here. The grumpy aliens I mentioned are an interesting addition all by themselves. Usually Voyager runs into either goodies or baddies in the Delta Quadrant and not a whole lot in between. These folks, while open to Voyager traversing their space, are xenophobic and unwavering in their attitudes about territory and cultural pollution. Janeway plays ball with them right up until they get between her and Seven and then... I don't know... sports analogy something something--anyway Janeway gets some nice badass time and Jeri Ryan gets to have a bit of a stretch as she tears through the wreckage of her character's girlhood home.
All of this is tied together with a raven-themed flashback device. Seven sees DaVinci's flying contraption, sees a vision of a raven, sees her memory of the Borg etc etc. While the device isn't bad at all, it does seem a bit unnecessary. Sort of like it muddies the waters? I don't know. I'll think about it again the next time I'm re-watching these--if I can remember.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Whose Couch Is This? The Sequel.

Man, you guys are the best! A whole bunch of you guessed the first sofa correctly!

It was Tuvix, whose uniform was a clever blend of Neelix and Tuvok's and really made rather a lovely sofa

Here's this week's: 

Good luck!

Friday, September 25, 2015


Today I’d like to thank SciFi just, you know, for being there.

Especially Jack. But, I’ll get to that in a second.

I got teased a lot in high school. Part of it was because I was (and still am, obviously) a weirdo. Part of it was that my dad was a teacher (also a weirdo) and part of it was that people suspected I was gay. Or bi. Or maybe they didn’t really know what I was but they sure called me a lot of names I had to look up online when I got home.

I didn’t really see what the big deal was. So what if I liked guys and girls. Or so what if I liked guys and girls and everything in-between and neither?

Maybe I didn’t see it as something weird because I was brought up in a fairly unconventional way. I was raised by wolves backstage with an actress mom and an artist dad and there were plenty of adults in plenty of kinds of relationships around. Maybe because I’m just an unconventional sort of person because of my Asperger’s brain. And, maybe most importantly, I grew up with SciFi/Fantasy.

In Science Fiction you can be a human who falls in love with a Klingon. You can be a slayer who makes out with vampires. You can be a wizard who’s into other wizards or a witch who marries a werewolf. You can be a Denobulian who has multiple wives--all of whom have multiple husbands. You can be asexual--even if you’re fully functional. Or you can be into everyone and not see the difference. In other words, you can be Jack Harkness.

The first time I was ever made to think in a concrete way about my own sexuality was when I had to apply for college scholarships. When I was just about finished with high school, I applied for a few pro-LGBT scholarships and ticked the box, “Bi.” That was my big coming out party, I guess. I just didn’t think it was a big deal. I also didn’t think it quite fit--it didn’t fully explain what I felt.

A few years later, Torchwood happened. Jack Harkness happened. And something inside of me said, “Yes. That. That there is what I am.” A couple years after that, a friend of mine watched the show and she mentioned Jack Harkness’ omnisexuality/pansexuality.

“Wait, there’s a word for that?”


My head exploded. This meant Jack Harkness and I had more in common than a love of suspenders and a theoretical open door policy. We had the same brand. And this was, and still is, important to me.

I went years and years feeling like who I found sexy wasn’t a big deal--the rest of the world does, by the way. Bi and Omni-sexuals are something most people (gay and straight) don’t really seem to get yet and that’s one of the reasons I’ve never openly talked about that here before. Remember the name-calling I mentioned earlier? Anyway, I ended up marrying an amazing, brilliant, geeky dude but if his same mind had been in a lady or a trans-person or a cross-dresser or a Bolian, it wouldn’t have mattered. And, I think that a part of me not feeling like it was that big a deal is SciFi. It’s characters like Jack Harkness.

I’m only sad Star Trek didn’t do it first. I’m sad they still haven’t. They came close a couple times. There’s Femke Janssen’s turn in The Perfect Mate but even then she was still only into every possible species who also happened to have the requisite bait and tackle. Riker falls for an androgynous alien and Tripp Tucker has a thing for a cogenitor--both of these characters are played by women and terrible things happen to them. Dax is likely the closest they ever came as Dax was neither male nor female. Dax was a worm and Dax’ sexuality sort of followed along with that of Dax’ symbiont. That’s how Star Trek got their first ever lesbian kiss. I’ve written here before about the most perfect relationship of Enterprise that never was and I extend that feeling across all of Trek.

Once, a long time ago, Star Trek was fearless. They tackled sensitive, socio-political issues and gave meaningful representation to minorities. They paved the way for other speculative fiction TV shows to come along and be similarly daring. Buffy, Xena, Farscape, BSG, SGU, and, of course, Torchwood, are just a few of the examples that have featured LGBT characters but Trek still lags behind.

So, again, I want to thank SciFi for being there, for showing all the ways that we can be and live and love. But… Trek? Come on.

Why wasn’t Geordi gay or Troi? Why not Garak or Kiera? Why not have Seven explore her sexuality in a more dynamic way? Why not let Reed and Hayes be together?

Why so many missed opportunities? Why should it have to continue? There’s a new movie on the way!

Why can’t Sulu be gay already? Or... why can’t Kirk be pan?

Voyager Re-watch: Revuslion

Revulsion is the one where the doctor makes friends with a new hologram but then he turns out to be a total jerk. And I don't just mean, "Oh he clips his toenails in the kitchen and always puts the empty milk jug back in the fridge." I mean he murders people because he thinks they're disgusting skin bags full of germs. That's the A story anyway. I'm here to talk about the B story.

Seven of Nine isn't used to working by herself and she's feeling kind of bored and useless so she asks for an assignment. She ends up working with Harry Kim (of course) and he ends up developing a crush on her (of course) and she... Look, Seven is direct. It's one of the things I love about her and one of the things I identify with.

The Doctor, I think, was intended to be Voyager's Spock/Data/Odo in that his arc throughout the show is an exploration of his humanity. But I think it didn't really work out that way. The Doctor doesn't really need lessons in being a human after the first season--his lessons are more about realness. What it means to have personhood at all, to be recognized as an autonomous being, to live as an individual. You could say all the same stuff about Seven, I guess, but she, like Spock/Data/Odo is more alien. The Doctor might be a cranky smart ass but he's programmed with the same human instincts (and attitude) as Bones. He was "born" knowing how to human. Seven still has no idea. She looks mostly human, she sounds mostly human. Judging by appearance alone, you'd think she'd have it together. But no.

Seven doesn't know how to eat. She doesn't know how to sleep. She doesn't know how to be by herself yet she's not into being around other humans. In most ways, she's less human than the computer program running around sickbay. And that includes, at least by this point, romantic experiences.

So, when Harry dims the lights and sits all cozy-like on the sofa (because he learned to human from John Hughes movies, I'm surprised he doesn't have some OMD going in the background) Seven kicks it into high gear--which is the only gear she knows.

"I see the way your pupils dilate when you look at me."
"Are you in love with me?"
"Oh, uh..."
"Do you with to copulate?"
"Wait, what?"
"Take off your clothes."

This is basically word for word what you'd find in my operating manual under "Sex." It's played here for comedy and I get it. I, like Seven, wasn't really programmed with the ability to human regular-style. How to create an atmosphere. How to get emotional about something so physical. On the other hand, I laugh at things like dimmed lights and candles and cozy small talk. Literally--I start laughing when I attempt this sort of thing.

Anyway, I love watching Seven try to human. It reminds me of my own struggle and, folks, the struggle is real. Over the next few seasons we see Seven maintain her Seven-ness while awkwardly trying to get through her very human world. It's great. It's fun. For me, it's personal.

I only wish it'd been a little more dynamic. That's the next post, though.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Voyager Re-Member: Nemesis

Can you fathom the scarceness of the clock-changes I have left to glimpse the rest of these screen dreams?
I'm doing a "Re-Member" for Voyager's Nemesis. Let's get started:

There's a war on. Known in this planet's weird, sort of old-timey vernacular as The Clash and Chakotay stumbles into it--probably after crashing his shuttle and never mentioning the red shirt Generic Ensign who burned up in the flaming wreckage. How does this keep happening? How many shuttles do that have anyway? Do they just replicate more? Haven't they lost three or four already? Back to it: I feel like Chakotay immediately falls in with some seemingly almost defenseless rebels who've been totally ravaged by some jerk aliens. It's worth mentioning at this point that the rebels look human and the aliens look kinda toothey and cool like... predator. I remember them being kind of predator-ish. Is that right?

So then... hm... So probably then Chakotay is all, "I don't want to help you fight! This isn't my war! My people have a saying--" And then he's cut off because they get fired on and Chakotay gets hurt and he wakes up in one of these villages where everyone's still gibbering away like Chaucer and a little girl hands him a flower necklace ??? and likely says something like, "I pluck-nabbed these pungent blossoms for you." And Chakotay's probably all like, 'Oh thank you. You know, my people have a saying abou--" And then he gets cut off again because the aliens attack and everyone dies and probably he finds the girl's.... doll? I don't know, that seems like something you would do. And he's all sad about it and the human-style aliens probably put a hand on his shoulder and say something like, "My seeing-balls are water-full as are yours, brother. Join alongside us human-types in The Clash." And Chatokay's like, "YES! Oh, by the way, my people have a custom where--" But then they're attacked again and Chakotay has to put all his Maquis skillz to use and I think maybe he nullifies a bunch of predator types.

Ok. So then they run around in the forest for a while, babbling like Beowulf, and finally Chakotay stumbles into.... who would it be? Tuvok and Tom maybe? And he's like, "What? My own cousins and brethren fighting with the Nemesis across the gulf of the Clash!?" And they're all, "Yeah and--" But then Chakotay says, "The fathers and grandfathers from whom I came have full many tellings on this topic..." At which point Tuvok probably does some stoic tough guy stuff and they all beam back to Voyager and Chakotay finds out...
These nice looking human aliens weren't nice at all! They were jerks. The toothey guys were the nice guys and Chakotay fell into the human-types' brainwashing training program! Back on the ship he sees one of the predator guys and super wants to kill him. Is this right? And Janeway's like, "Boy they really had you goin', huh?"

And the The Doctor says something about his mom being a turnip. And I remember legit laughing at that because it always for some reason reminded me of this:

Voyager Re-Watch: Day of Honor

So, this one. Oh man, watching Day of Honor I think I said, "Oh it's this one!" about three times. This is the one where B'Elanna almost goes through with the pain sticks and the blood pudding that the Klingon Day of Honor entails. This is the one where B'Elanna's having a terrible no good very bad day. This is the one where B'Elanna and Tom get stuck in spacesuits and B'Elanna's all, "I love you." And Tom's like, "Cool. Let's hug and pass out."

This is the one where I just want to robotically mash my hand onto B'Elanna's shoulder (because I'm Seven) and say, "Girl, we've all been there."
"Do you need... a pedicure? I don't know. Is that something women do? It seems like that's a thing."
B'Elanna's character arc is one of my all-time favorites in Trek. It's interesting to think about the cocky, sorta violent, Maquis chick who argued with everyone and everything all the time in the first season and compare her to Third Season B'Elanna. She's the same woman. Just more grown up, more experienced, more open to possibilities.

In this episode she actually tells Neelix, "Maybe being so far away from anything Klingon has changed me."

And I think that's pretty interesting. She's spent a lifetime running from who she is but the more she embraces her weird, aggressive, Klingon side, the more well-rounded and peaceful she is. Her evolution is lovely and believable.

Oh, also there's Tom. Yes, Paris has evolved too. He's not just Voyager's Riker who was already TNG's version of Kirk. He's stopped chasing the Delaney sisters and stopped being such a smart ass about everything. They've evolved together. And they'll continue to do so--as Trek's only truly successful married couple. (Yes, I love Worf and Dax too but we all know how that went down.)
This episode was actually called, "Tears of the Prophets." Not a happy ending.

Bonus Points:
 -I love Seven's sudden burst of humanity here. Her transition into crew member is believable and, for her and me and everyone else, kind of intense. 
-Neelix became a better character after he and Kes broke up. And he's even better here, offering B'Elanna a shoulder/punching bag/weirdly shaped bowl of blood pudding
-Seeing a species ravaged by the Borg is compelling and it makes sense for Voyager to run into them, offer them help and even be taken advantage of by them. To witness their desperation and ultimate humanity is so Trek. I love it.
-Side note: Roxann Dawson was secretly about three months pregnant in this one and, while I wouldn't have any idea what that's like for many, many, many reasons, it seems like shooting in a spacesuit while bobbing up and down on a blue screen teeter-totter contraption must've made for an actual awful day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Scorpion & The Gift

First off, this blog and some of my art was featured over at The Fleet Workshop today! You should go check them out, especially if you're an artist or maker but even if you're just way into Trek and the awesome stuff people can do when they feel inspired by it.

Over the weekend I re-watched Scorion and today I re-watched The Gift and holy crap all the emotions happened.

Scorpion is the two-part season finale/premier wherein they first encounter Species 83439423085 and we find out The Borg are pretty much terrified of them. Voyager sort of stumbles into a way to freak them out and Janeway hatches a plan to team up with The Borg (I know!) so she can get Voyager safely through their space. Chakotay's all, "But my people have a saying..." and Janeway's like, "Nevermind I'm doing this." But then she gets konked on the noggin and leaves Chakotay in charge and he goes back to being all, "I'm telling you, my people weren't wrong about this..." But then Janeway wakes up and gives him the look and teams back up with The Borg and eventually they find out that (of course) The Borg started shit with Species 8324023049X2 and now they're basically just paying the price. Voyager hightails it out of there all broken up and with Seven still on board.

So far, I think this is the strongest Season Finale/Opener for Voyager. It's non-stop action and intrigue without losing the heart and I actually (even though I poked some fun at it) love Chakotay's story about the scorpion and the fox. I also love that he went against Janeway's wishes. They're both right and they're both wrong because there are no right answers in this situation and I like that they played this out.

Additionally, Kes' psychic powers are really turned up to eleven here which leads into The Gift. This is Kes' goodbye to Voyager. She suddenly finds her ability way more powerful than it had been and she can't really control it. She wants to leave to further explore her talents and the scene between Lien and Mulgrew never fails to make me all teary eyed.

I think it's easy (I'm sure I've done it on this blog) to bitch about how Kes was traded in for a shinier model in Seven. That they sent one pretty blonde actress back and got a new one. And that may be true. But today, as I re-watched The Gift, I thought more about Kes, Janeway, and Seven as a trifecta of characters with their own stories and their interwoven relationships. It's sad that Lien left. Obviously. And I've always missed her presence from the later seasons. But I also love what Janeway and Seven have. The relationship between a mother and daughter. It's set up clearly here. Seven comes along just as Janeway loses Kes. Janeway hopes to reach her and shows no fear in facing the former Borg drone. She's determined to have a relationship with Seven from the outset and the relationship she gets is beautiful and wonderful and awesome.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Worst Case Scenario

So, this one time one of the Voyager crew members wrote a holo-novel about a mutiny on board Voyager and then B'Elanna found it and it was basically their Game Of Thrones and then everyone got really curious about who the author was and then (DUN-DUN-DUN) it was Tuvok.
This is one of those episodes that, when it happens, you just sort of facepalm and say, "Of course! Of course this is what would happen." It actually makes perfect sense, every character responds in the way their character would really respond and, on top of all that, it's a good deal of fun. It's not quite a romp. But almost. And, in that way it's sort of better. It's nicely balanced. The last act is all about how Seska got all up in Tuvok's program and decided to fire one last shot over Voyager's bow. This feels, I don't know, just a little bit tacked on but I don't even care. I love that Tuvok and Tom have to work together in a quick holodeck gone awry plot while Janeway and B'Elanna find a way to save them.

Oh, and Worst Case Scenario reminds me of this:

 Also, since we're just about finished with this part of space and we'll never see or hear from poor Seska again, I thought I'd bring out this illustration I did a while back (and forgot to post.) 
Seska doesn't let a little thing like death stop her from getting even.

Bonus Points: 
-Of course I'm going to mention how awesome/hilarious/perfect Chakotay is in this one. What has happened to me? 
-Love that B'Elanna immediately goes along with the mutiny while Paris gets bored being all loyal and crap. 
-Paris and Tuvok make the perfect straight man/funny guy double act. 
-I read online that this was the third season's least watched episode according to ratings and that's an effing crime. 
-This is basically choose your own adventure times a thousand.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Upholstery & Junk Food

Woah! It's Saturday. I can't remember the last time I posted on Saturday. Anyway, I'm here for a very special reason. Way back in 2013 when I was doing My (Actual) Year of Star Trek, it occurred to me that everyone in the Trek verse was clothed in upholstery fabric. I get it. I grew up back stage and I ran a Shakespeare program for over a decade. Upholstery fabric has a better texture, drape and weight than conventional clothing fabric and it's cheaper than high-end costuming stuff:

I really wanted to do a really long post about it and I went about compiling screen grabs of Trek characters wearing couches and curtains but, in the end, I decided it should be a recurring feature rather than a single post. Then a whole year went by without me starting the series. Today that ends!

Here's a couch:
 I've reupholstered it in the fabric from a Star Trek character's costume. Can you tell me who wore it? Here's a hint: This character appeared in a single episode of Voyager. If you want to play the world's most ridiculous Star Trek trivia game, just leave your guess in the comments. I'll post the right answer next week, along with a new couch.

Second item of business:
My husband has a blog now! Hooray! Remember how he came around and wrote a couple of awesome posts? Well now he's doing his own special thing over at Junk Food Jones and you should go check it out.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Generic Ensign's Log: Displaced

Generic Ensign's Log

Stardate: 50912.4

Business as usual. Had breakfast with Vorik and Samantha. Her baby is growing really fast. I passed Tom and B'Elanna arguing in the corridor on the way there. Pretty sure something's going on with them. I keep saying this. No one will listen.

So I was down in Engineering and Ashmore just disappeared right in front of me and then there was some weirdo standing there talking about how cold it was and how bright it was and, I mean, if you ask me, I've always thought engineering was way too dark. Like, dramatically dark. Anyway, apparently Ashmore isn't the first one. Kes disappeared this morning and a few other people have also been replaced. No one knows where they're going.

What is going on?! Like half the crew is gone and now I'm standing here in the cargo bay babysitting all these weird-hat cold guys.

So now there are like ten of us. Plus Chakotay.

Holy crap! Where am I? Oh, there's some weird balls of food here. WTF.

OK so I was talking to Samantha and apparently she and Naomi have been down here since right after breakfast. Then, a lady who looks a lot (I mean, a lot) like that woman who wore a veil and her species aged backward, anyway she told us that now we're going to live in this place forever because they took Voyager. I mean, I guess that's a pretty good way to take over a ship. We had no idea what was going on and by the time anyone realized it, there wasn't much we could do. Well, the Captain is super pissed and she went off with Tuvok, Tom, and B'Elanna to see if they could find a way out. 
OMG. So I was standing here eating food balls and talking to Samantha and Tom and B'Elanna just appeared in front of us and they were embracing like... seriously... like they'd just been about to kiss or something. I've been SAYING that something was going on. Why doesn't anyone ever listen to me!?

Back to normal. I brought some of those food balls with me though. They're delicious.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Distant Origin

When I was in undergrad I went down to see some of my family in North Carolina. I'd recently fallen in love with Anthropology and discovered I had a natural knack for the cultural and physical aspects of the field. Human skeletal identification, kinship charts, societal organization? Awwwww, yeah. That's my bag. Anyway, I told my grandma (a deeply devout Southern Baptist) that I'd changed my major and was really excited about it and her only question/comment was: "They don't teach evolution in that do they?"

I thought a lot about that moment as I re-watched Distant Origin. (Johnny! It's finally here!) This is actually one of my favorites and it's maybe Voyager's most successful allegory-type episode. It follows an alien, reptilian paleontologist named Gegen as he tries to track down the species whose skull he found in a cave (leftover from the episode, Basics) which shares genetic markers with his own species. Gegen's theory is that his species--the Voth--didn't evolve in the Delta Quadrant but somewhere else, far away. The problem here is that his superiors are way into the idea that the Voth not only evolved in the Delta Quadrant but that they have a hereditary claim to that space and everyone else should just live under their thumb (or whatever lizards have). To challenge that notion is to challenge doctrine and that's kind of a big deal to these dinosaur-type folks. Gegen and Chakotay team up to do some challenging but, inevitably, it's of no use.

Since 2015 is already, for some reason, the year I suddenly appreciate Chakotay, I loved him in this one. Robert Beltran does a fantastic job here and his speech to the Voth council is powerful and resonant. I think it's interesting that his character is likely the most spiritual yet he's the one who comes to Gegen's defense. It's a great move, actually, to show how a man of faith can reconcile his beliefs with scientific evidence, to show that doctrine isn't more important than truth. It's also ultimately frustrating (in a good way) because we don't get a Trek-style happy ending. Gegen is forced to give up his position, his life's work, his claims about his species' origins. Everything he believes in. Chakotay and Voyager continue on their way but, before parting, Gegen is given a gift--a small globe--the earth where Gegen's people evolved.

My grandma wasn't interested in reconciling her beliefs with science. After a lifetime spent watching her daily life, her relationships, her decisions as they were influenced by her religion I wasn't interested in trying to change her mind. She didn't want to think about human evolution and no amount of discussion regarding Lucy's footprints, flint knapping, or taxonomy was going change that. Unlike Chakotay, I walked away. Ten years later, my grandma is a very sick woman and her beliefs bring her comfort and solace as she faces what, to her, is not an unknown but the gift of eternal life and peace.

What it seems neither my grandma nor the Voth Minister understand is that, to me, the wonder itself is a gift. Science is the comfort. My skepticism is fueled by curiosity and questions. Studying the most distant branches of my family tree fills me with joy, excitement, almost pride. Our distant ancestors survived, against all odds, and, because of them, we're here now, writing blogs and eating ice cream and asking our granddaughters uncomfortable questions.

Sometimes I wish that, ten years ago, I'd been more like Chakotay. I wish I'd defended my position with a calm resolution. But I don't think I could have. And I don't think it would've made a difference even if I had. And I guess that's why, as much as I love, Distant Origin, it also always made me sad.

Bonus Points:
-Tom and B'Elanna are on the road to hooking up here and I love it.
-This episode is firing on all cylinders: the writing, acting, makeup, and design are all on excellent.
-The early scenes where Gegen and his assistant are spying on Voyager's crew are fantastic
-BYOB = Bring Your Own Bat'leth  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Real Life

Family's a weird thing. I realize that telling other people your dreams is a pointless endeavor--nothing makes sense because the narrative structure isn't there--its emotional power is only evident to the person telling it. Still, this is my blog and I do what I want. Last night I had a dream. There was a flood, wild and domestic animals escaping from said flood, and I was paying my dad a visit. As we were trying to escape encroaching water, my dad insisted we take my (still-alive) grandpa's freshly cut gravestone to him so he could read it. I argued. Eventually I read the gravestone and realized that my grandpa was not still alive. The needle dropped and suddenly there was a dramatic soundtrack to my dream and the words on the gravestone matched the lyrics in the song. I broke down crying. Then my husband woke me up. I was still crying. Real, physical tears.

I don't think that's happened since I was a little kid.

In actuality, my grandpa died almost a year ago. And, in real life, I paid my dad a visit almost a month ago. While I was there we saw my grandpa's grave. The song was a discombobulated version of a pre-release from Josh Ritter's new album that I've had stuck in my head for several days. I know where all the pieces came from and, in my real, awake life, I understand that, under the surface, I've been thinking a lot about family and how things just don't really seem to work out, how it's both easier and harder for me to be a long way away.

 In the third season episode, "Real Life," The Doctor decides he ought to experience the same crap I've been dealing with but he's not very good at setting it all up. He creates a holodeck family for himself but it's all very Leave It To Beaver and everyone is delightful, intelligent, and articulate--and of course they all revere him. When B'Elanna and Kes come over for dinner they immediately point out how rosy everything is and B'Elanna offers to make his program more realistic. Now The Doctor's wife is a busy professional who doesn't have time to cater to his every whim. His daughter is a high-achieving but temperamental all-star and his teenage son is way into some dangerous Klingon stuff. Now The Doctor's family life is full of spats and shouting and accusations etc but then his daughter breaks her noggin playing Pereses Squares and The Doctor leaves the program behind at the moment when they need him most.

I get this. The way I'm wired, I have a tendency to shove anything that's too emotional into its own tidy place (sometimes this is that place) until it's stale enough that I can deal with it (which is maybe never.) Family stress is hard to logic away. It's hard to quit your family and I don't want to even if I could. But I also can't go around dwelling on it and/or not dwelling on it. Eventually I have to have those emotions I don't want to have and sometimes they get shoved into my dreams because dealing with this stuff is just part of life.

That's what The Doctor learns too. After trying to forget about his experimental family and all of their holo-problems, he realizes (with help from Tom Paris) that this is all just part of life and if he tries to push those emotions away, he'll never really deal with them so he goes back and faces the death of his holo-daughter alongside his family. The needle drops. There's a dramatic soundtrack. Everyone cries.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Before and After

I love the idea of getting unstuck in time. My favorite novel is Slaughterhouse Five. And while, Kes' adventure isn't really very much like Billy Pilgrim's, there are some similarities. Acting as a tourist in your own timeline, the confusion of seeing your life play out without context, the loss of control (or loss of the delusion of control) of one's day to day life. I guess I saw this episode well before I found Vonnegut's famous novel but, when you're unstuck in time, does it really matter which came first?

To catch you up:
Kes wakes up as an old lady (she's nine) in the future and The Doctor is telling her she's his BFF and her grandson is there and then she zaps back to a few weeks prior, at her b-day party, where she sees her daughter (a grown woman married to Harry Kim) and her husband (Tom Paris) and she realizes something weird is going on because she doesn't know any of these damn people. She keeps zapping backward, along her own timeline, trying to figure out what's happened to her, who she is, how she fits into this whirlwind and we see one possible timeline for Kes in reverse. Eventually she quits zapping and we get our regular Kes back, with all the memories of her unstuck-ness, in tact.
Before and After is a pretty powerful episode. Of course, Trek has a long, long history of Alternate History/Future Tear Jerkers and, while this one might not have the heart-ripping brute strength of The Inner Light, I think that's only because of its more ponderous, more mysterious nature. This episode is as much about Kes solving a problem as it is about what might have been. In The Inner Light, Picard knows who he is but eventually gives up on trying to get back to his starship (and it's a beautiful moment when he does) but Kes starts out as a blank slate. This episode is as much about figuring out who she is as it is trying to "get back." She doesn't really even know what she's getting back to. But, each time she jumps, she learns more and more about her family, her crew, her life on-board Voyager, and she knows she has to find a way to get that life, that crew, that family back. We're just along for the ride.

Of course, one of the most provocative things in this episode is only barely mentioned. The Year of Hell--in which Janeway dies (along with a fair part of the crew) and everything changes. It's such a brilliant idea and one that ultimately does pay off--though maybe not in the way one would expect.

This is the last great Kes episode before her departure in The Gift and I'm so glad they did it. Jennifer Lien is amazing in this one and she really was just beginning to come into her own as Kes.

Bonus Points:
-The Doctor has a few names in this one, including Van Gogh and Mozart
-I love that they kept the Okampan language consistent: Elogium/Moralogium
-Love the Tom/B'Elanna stuff here
-Neelix is a security officer in the future and he looks great in gold
-All the Janeway/Kes stuff in this one is fantastic

Friday, September 11, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Unity, Darkling, Rise, Favorite Son

Hooray for episode dumps! Man, the number of episodes I've watched this week really reminds me of the original Year of Star Trek. It really takes me back... and makes me a bit twitchy to be honest.

Anyway, over the last couple of days I watched a stretch of interesting episodes. Chakotay, The Doc, Tuvok/Neelix, and Harry all had a chance to shine and, while I like all of these episodes just fine, I don't mind throwing any of them in an episode dump.

Ok, so in this one Chakotay and some Generic Ensign (but not the Generic Ensign, obviously) are wandering around in a shuttle doing some charting in the Necrid Expanse when they land on a planet transmitting a distress signal. When they're attacked Generic Ensign bites it but Chakotay wakes up in the care of a really pretty lady who also happens to be a recovering Borg. (She was taken at Wolf 539, which I think is a nice Easter Egg-type bit of info) Anyway, this one's a nice Chakotay episode and his relationship with Miss Borg, while quick, is meaningful (thanks to Chakotay's short-term Borg implant) and I guess maybe it helps him sort of get over Janeway a bit.
Additionally, Unity is the first episode I can recall that expands the Trek mythology to deepen the Borg's identity--a sophisticated, highly-connected community. Yes, they may strip away your identity but if you ever left, you'd soon feel the loss of your giant machine family. (As we'll soon see.)

You ever read a book or study someone from history and think, "Gee, I wish I was more like them." Well, that's pretty much what The Doctor does here. Except he also has the ability to graft parts of holo-versions of others' personalities onto his own. And then he goes around murdering the crap out of Kes' new boyfriend. Eventually Kes/B'Elanna fix him and they can all go about their merry way, never mind the consequences. This one is, as you'd expect, a great opportunity for Robert Picardo to flex his acting muscles and he's effectively menacing and creepy as FrankenDoctor.

Tuvok has always had it out for Neelix whether he admits it or not. In Rise, they have to come to terms with their uncomfortable relationship. Neelix goes about trying to impress Tuvok and Tuvok goes about being disagreeable and dismissive. Eventually Tuvok finally comes to realize that Neelix isn't a disposable idiot with nothing to give but a valuable, intelligent member of the Voyager's crew. Basically, in this scenario, Tuvok represents every reluctant Star Trek fan who hated/hates Neelix except that Tuvok eventually begrudgingly accepts Neelix.

Favorite Son: 
So this is the one where Harry finds out he's not a lowly ensign who can't even keep a holo-girlfriend but actually a super important part of an alien society with a million potential girlfriends/wives/soul-suckers. This one's kind of a mess. And, reading about its background, that makes sense. Originally this one was going to be played straight--no life-sucking honeys. Harry was going to be an alien for the rest of the series and would have to deal with his new, dual identity forever. But then I guess someone was like, "But we should have a million ladies with sexy times!" And then someone else was like, "Ok but we can't let it be too sexy, we need to be time-slot-appropriate." And then someone else was like, "Also, how about let's just reset everything again at the end so it all goes back to normal." It's a shame. I'd have loved to see the original idea played through. As it is, Harry never gets very much character development even though it seems like he has a lot of potential.

Quick Note: I'm now on Tumblr. I put fanart and original art and that kind of thing over there. So... go follow me. If that's the kind of thing you're into.

Hey Look: I was in Vegas two years ago!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Blood Fever

I have a lot of feelings about Blood Fever. Mostly, my feelings all have to do with this one being hot. Steamy and sexy. I can't help it. Even when I was a kid I loved the sweaty, feisty, sex-crazed nature of this episode. If you're not familiar, here's the deal:

Ensign Vorik (Vulcan dude, remember?) has been kind of into B'Elanna for the last few episodes and now he declares his undying... whatever Vulcans have... for her and tells her she's his mate now what with him having the Pon Farr and all. He grabs her and B'Elanna's all, "Step off!" and then she knocks him out. Later on, she, Chakotay and Tom are all messing around on the Planet Hell Set and she starts acting kinda loopy. And by loopy I mean, "in need of the sexy time" but also, "crankier than usual about everything." Between The Doctor and Tuvok, they put together what's happened.

B'Elanna has psychically contracted Vorik's Pon Farr. She ends up selecting Tom Paris as the most appropriate candidate for sexy time and he, over and over, refuses her advances until, finally, Tuvok is all, "If she doesn't do the deed, she'll die." And now Paris is all, "Ok--if I have to." But then Vorik shows up and challenges Paris to fight for B'Elanna and B'Elanna's all, "I'll take your challenge myself!" Which is good because obviously Paris was going to lose that fight. Anyway, B'Elanna wins and they all go back to Voyager.

I love this one for so many reasons. I love that it's a B'Elanna-sode. I love that she--who always struggles to keep her intense, Klingon emotions in check--is the one who has to undergo the Pon Farr. I love Roxann Dawson's performance. I love how aggressive she is.  We've seen Klingon sexiness before in TNG (remember Worf saying, "this is sex" and everyone kind of grimaces (except me)?) and DS9 but now we get it from a woman--which is lovely and fresh and nicely handled. I love that she pursues Tom instead of Chakotay (who it seems like the writers were shipping in season one) and I love that Tom rebuffs her advances time and again because he knows she isn't herself. I love that they finally get a (beautifully lit) first kiss!

I love that, when Tom finally agrees to mate with B'Elanna, it's aggressive and sexy and fun--until Vorik shows up. And, of course, I love that B'Elanna took him on herself. That, in spite of everything she was going through, she was her own champion.
Notice the Tank Top of Badassery
The idea of being fearful of exploring one's own identity, being at odds with oneself, is something that's been there since the beginning when Leonard Nimoy made Spock's bi-racial/bi-cultural/intellectually a-typical struggle so tangible. Dawson's continued portrayal of B'Elanna's internal struggle throughout Voyager is similarly resonant. She is a Klingon, a human, a scientist, an ex-cadet and ex-rebel, an officer, a woman. She's simultaneously proud and afraid of herself. She's constantly trying to keep from boiling over and letting everything inside of her out and, in Blood Fever, we (and Tom Paris) see that what's inside is actually pretty damn awesome.

Bonus Points:
-This one was directed by Andrew Robinson aka DS9's Garak
-Love The Doctor's confidence in his holo-sex-bot and love that his solution ultimately fails

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Fair Trade, Alter Ego, Coda

Well, it's about time for an episode dump. Basically, my goal is to watch all of Voyager in 2015. That doesn't sound like too big a deal. And, really, it's not a big deal. The watching, anyway. I can watch several Voyager in a row and not tire of it but then I have to go write a post about each of the episodes and then I start feeling all this pressure about it because I want to make it good  and I want to say something original or whatever. But, the thing is, between family drama, family illness, medication induced depression, launching my second novel, prepping my third, and writing a whole other big, crazy project, I do get a bit bogged down. There are 114 days left of 2015 and (before this post) 116 episodes left to watch and write about so, like it or not, sometimes I'm just going to have to do an episode dump wherein I write about several episodes at once.

Here we go, then!

Fair Trade: 
Ok so in this one, Neelix is feeling super down in the dumps because Voyager is pulling into a part of space that he's super unfamiliar with. He hopes to improve his situation by buying a map of these here parts from a sketchy Talaxian he used to be in league with. The old friend betrays him, Neelix gets in way over his head, and he has to come clean about the whole ordeal and ends up scrubbing conduits or something as punishment.

I feel like this is one of the episodes where the Neelix character really begins to come into his own. He's no longer dating Kes (which they didn't show but I sort of feel like their break-up in Warlord was at least partially for realsies) so we can't rely on him to be a shitty, jealous boyfriend. He's not particularly annoying. He's just trying to make sure he still has a place on Voyager once they head out of his old stomping grounds. He's sympathetic and, in the end, he stands up and does the right thing, even when it means taking a huge, personal risk.

So this is the one where Tuvok steals Harry's holodeck girlfriend and she gets way possessive of her new Vulcan playmate and holds Voyager hostage. Ultimately it's about a lonely chick in a spaceship who's been doing way too much facebook snooping.

Alright, anytime Harry gets mopey over a girl I sort of switch off. First of all, whatever happened to Libby? Second, whatever happened to whatsherface Delaney Sister? This dude has always got it bad for someone and I guess that's kind of the running joke--especially when we get to Seven. Anyway, this episode is sort of a cross between the time Geordi totally lost it for the holodeck version of some science lady and the time some weirdo in a castle wanted to make Hoshi his princess. Actually, you know, I that castle weirdo had a super long lifespan, didn't he? He and this lonely snooping chick should totally hook up. I'm shipping them now. It's official.

Janeway bites it. And then she bites it again. Then she gets the Phage and she bites it slowly. Then she sees her dad who bit it a long time ago and she's all, "I'm not convinced I've bitten it!" And then he's like, "Oh, actually I'm an alien." And she's all, "Go back to hell, you coward!" That last line is real and she delivered it with the same exact intensity as Inigo Montoya when he uttered the famous, "You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

Anyway, I really like this one. It fits nicely in the classic mind-bender trope Trek episodes and I like the "what's really going on here" type of psychological mystery. Janeway is the perfect character to pull this off too. I feel like she's the very last person on Voyager to buy into her own demise. Janeway's totally committed to dying on her own terms and no alien-ghost-dad is going to convince her otherwise.

-Bonus Points for Chakotay's raw emotion at Janeway's death. Those are some legit acting chops right there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Macrocosm

I'm here today to talk about a tank top. Seriously.

As a kid who happened to be a girl and also happened to be way into SciFi, tank tops made a big difference to me. Well, not so much the tank tops. The women in those tank tops. BAMF Ladies is what I'm talking about. (Actually I have a post coming soon all about BAMF Lady TV Shows!) These chicks hold their own wherever they go. They're usually something/something/badass.

Like: mom/waitress/badass:

Or, mom/warrant officer/badass:

Or, heiress/archaeologist/badass:

The tank-top-wearing badass chick continued to be a staple throughout my childhood and teenage years and into the present with chicks like Trinity, Starbuck and, Tank Girl--women who were everything to me.

So it shouldn't come as any surprise that Captain Janeway--my captain--is listed among these awesome, do-it-yourself, take-no-prisoners, brilliant/interesting/badass chicks:
gif courtesy: Star Trek Gifs
Janeway's a Starfleet Captain/Scientist/Badass and she's here to mess up your day--if you're a giant virus that's got way out of hand.

Macrocosm is pretty much Die Hard in a spaceship. One person finds themself in a claustrophobic, hostile situation and has to save everyone without any outside help, using only their brains (and their gun.) John McClane did it--in a tank top. 

And, while I love Die Hard and McClane, I always loved these chicks more. John McClane is a cop. His whole deal is that he's a tough guy who saves people. These chicks are moms and scientists and archaeologists and explorers who step up because they can, because they care about the people who need them, because they don't need a guy in a tank top to save them. They have their own tank top. Their own mission. Their own victory. 

And so do I. 

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