Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TNG Ep. 50: The Ensigns of Command

Hey, the name for this episode comes from a line in a John Quincy Adams poem. So says Wikipedia.

The Enterprise rushes to rescue a lost human colony from the cold-blooded Sheliak. Data, the only one of the crew who can withstand the planet's atmosphere, is tasked with convincing the colonists to leave. His efforts are met with opposition as the leaders of the colony argue for staying and fighting the Sheliak. Data does make one friend, Ard'rian, who attempts to help him. Meanwhile, Picard stalls the Sheliak until he finds a loophole in their treaty with the Federation. The loophole allows the colonists the time needed to evacuate. Data finally convinces the colonists by showing them how powerless they are against advanced technology. Facing certain death as the only alternative, they agree to leave the planet.

As far as episodes staring Data go, this one was not one of the best. Perhaps its the well-intentioned woman following him around like a little puppy. Perhaps its because we're a little too sure that Picard will succeed in getting more time from the Sheliak. Perhaps it was just too predictable. Seriously, they get to save every one? No one is stubborn enough to be left behind, just for the principal of the matter? These colonists aren't nearly as difficult as some of the other people that the Enterprise has tried to help.

I do like the idea that the Federation has a treaty with aliens that can barely stand their existence. I also liked the role reversal - that Data would have been the best person to quibble contracts with the Sheliak, and Picard would have been the best person to convince the colonists that they should leave (or perhaps Riker) but because of the poisonous atmosphere, both must try to do the job that they are less suited for. It's kind of like handing Picard an iron bar to bend in half, and handing Data a puppy to pet and play with - oh, wait, Data did get a sort of puppy. Only, if she had been a real puppy, he might have known what do to with her like he knew what to do with the kid in "Pen Pals" back in episode 41.

So, Picard finds the loophole and Data blows up an aqueduct to show the colonists how pathetic they are. Next.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

TNG Ep. 49: Evolution

Wesley accidentally releases nanites on the Enterprise. They then become self-aware and nearly destroy the ship before Data can establish communication with them. The Enterprise is also harboring a scientist who atagonizes the nanites out of fear that they will interfer with his research aboard the Enterprise. He nearly gets himself killed, but after Picard offers to bring that nanites to an unoccupied planet, every one goes on their merry way again. Wesley feels ashamed for his part on the near-disaster. Crusher has returned, and several crew members have been promoted since the end of the second season.

Dr. Crusher is back! Eee!

Ok, I had to get that out of the way first. I never hated the other doctor, but she was never Dr. Crusher, and I like the idea of the mother-son relationship being part of the show. I'm sure that has nothing to do with my having children myself, or that they're both boys. I'd apologize for the tangent, but actually, this episode is mostly about Wesley, the fact that he's growing up, and what that means for his relationship with his mother.

Every one has those mistakes that turn out to not only be really dumb, but really important. For instance, when I was young I accidentally broke a car windshield because I was throwing rocks up into the trees, trying to get a toy down. Yes, I was old enough to know better. I was also old enough to know that the broken windshield was a big deal. That was the day I learned what it really means to tell the truth even when you really, really don't want to. But even if you learn that lesson at a young age, sometimes older children (and adults) convince themselves that they can fix the problem on their own before they have to tell any one. It feels like it should erase the mistake, as much as a mistake can be erased.

The problem, then, can come when you can't fix the problem yourself. It's the big mistakes and the important mistakes that suffer the most from this. They're also the ones that you most wish that you could erase. Stupid reality. Stupid nanobots, eating the ship and becoming sentient.

Wait, take that back a step. It's totally awesome that they become sentient, and Wesley can almost take credit for that. If he'd invented sentient robots without the big mistake looming over his discovery, we'd have to hate him, but as it is, we see that he does have flaws that are't totally annoying. Must be why his mother keeps him around, eh?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TNG Ep. 48: Shades of Grey

Riker contracts a virus that feeds off of endorphines. To treat him, the Enterprise must stimulate his neurons to relive bad memories. Crappy montage follows.

You've got to be kidding me. This is the season finale? It was painful even to write the episode summary. This isn't what I would call an episode at all. This is what I would call "we ran out of money but have contracted to produce one more show."

If you haven't watched this episode yet, don't bother. It's nothing more than a collection of clips from previous shows, and Troi complaining about Riker being in danger.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

TNG Ep. 47: Peak Performance

The Enterprise crew trains in a simulated battle using the Enterprise and an old Federation ship, the Hathaway. Riker faces off against Picard, commanding the Hathaway, which is sorely outdated compared to the Enterprise. Riker, with Wesley and Worf's help, tricks the Enterprise into thinking a Romulan ship has appeared, and scores a hit while the Enterprise is distracted. Then a real Ferengi ship appears, and, seeing two Federation ships apparently fighting, tries to take the older Hathaway which they assume must hold something valuable. The Enterprise's phasers are stuck in demo mode but the Hathaway crew uses warp drive to make it look like they've been blown up. Then they cause a phantom Federation ship to appear, and the Ferengi flee. During all this commotion, Data faces off in a game of Strategem against an alien advisor, Sirma, who came to help with the Enterprise's training. The first time, he loses, which sends him into an existential crises. At the end of the episode, he beats Sirma by playing towards a draw instead of a win, causing Sirma to get frustrated and give up.

This episode was designed to erase any dislike you might have still had for Riker. Here we get to see why Picard not only puts up with him, but actually likes him. He's not an immature Picard clone, which would be boring, yet he still has that captain-y potential. He knows how to improvise.

And Wesley knows how to cheat. Yeesh, I wish the writers would decide which way they want to go with his character. One episode he's all gooey-eyed for a girl who just happens to be his age, and then in this one he's treating a simulation as seriously as if it were the life-and-death situation it mimics. Good thing, too, since it turns into a life-and-death reality. Any one see that coming? I did, but I was glad for it, because otherwise this episode would have felt a little too unimportant. Like, blah blah Riker wins.

Oh! Except that we did have Data figure in as a side plot. I suppose if he was a main character in every episode, I'd get bored of him... right? Side plots are good! The writers are convincing me more and more that Data is more than a smart machine. As such, it's appropriate for him to learn what all humans must learn, which is that it's possible to perform perfectly and still lose. Sometimes there is no right answer, or there's more than one. Amazing how that relates to the main plot, too, because Riker's always looking for that other right answer that nobody else sees. What a coincidence, that the two should relate!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

True Artists

True artists can inspire you with the oddest things, such as a kid's TV show.

Everyone who helps produce the Backyardigans must love their job, and it shows. Each show has a musical and dance "theme" and each song helps tell the story of the episode, which in turn is often a take on a well known story such as Zorro. So, you might end up with a hippo singing a song that sounds like "Be my Baby" and talks about escaping from a dungeon. And the animated dances? Dance moves performed by real dancers to aid the animators. This blows my mind.

If they can make an episode where aliens use pancakes to power their ships, I can write about anything.

If my roommate can make a quilt that looks like the embodiment of halloween, I can finish that 30k novella.

If people can sneak out at night and crochet over parking meters, I can submit my work to publishers - and get published.

What inspires you?