Tuesday, March 29, 2011

TNG Ep. 14: Angel One

Enterprise searches Angel One, a planet ruled by a woman-only oligarchy, for the survivors of starship Odin, which crashed there seven years before. Angel One makes the Enterprise promise to take any survivors they find off of the planet, as they have been fueling rebellion. The away team has some trouble dealing with the Angel One rulers, it turns out in part because one of the counsel members is secretly aiding the rebels, but the real conflict comes when the Odin survivors do not want to leave with their families, and Data points out that because they are not federation crew, the Enterprise cannot uphold its promise and force them to leave. Meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise suffers from a flu-like epidemic as Crusher hurries to find a cure, and their aid has also been requested in the neutral zone. At the same time, Riker has been smooching on Angel One leader Beata. Angel One gets a hold of the rebels by following their counsel traitor, and sentences them all to death, yet the rebels still refuse to leave. Riker makes a moving speech about martyrdom at the execution ceremony, and Angel One decides to stay the execution in favor of banishing the rebels to a remote part of the planet. If that didn't work, Riker had planned to beam up the rebels against their will. Dr. Crusher finds the cure and administers it to the crew - the away team returns, and they zoom off to the neutral zone.

I like the premise of the world Angel One because unlike other episodes where women's rights, or prejudice, or any other heavy-handed moral is at the center, this one feels more like a true what if. Not that I dislike the moralizing in Star Trek. If I did, I wouldn't love the original series so much. When it comes to feminism, though, this episode could have easily gotten into the ridiculous. It could have presented us with a world where women not only rule absolutely, but rule absolutely well. Instead we're presented with a world that appears as politically complex as our own, and indeed on the verge of major social change. Men's sufferage, perhaps. The current order is even exlained partially by an evolutionary biology of its own, where females are taller and stronger than males.

Ok, ok. I know that the premise is only part of the episode, but I don't often get to applaud Star Trek for its sociology. We're often presented with something interesting on other worlds, but also something simplified greatly in order to fit in the episode along all the action and more finite interpersonal dramas.

And now that I've mentioned feminism, let me say that Riker flirting with the leader of Angel One is hilariously in character and exactly what this episode needed. He mentions that Star Fleet officers have to play nice with strange people all the time. I'd only consider it bastardly of him if you consider him bounc to Troi, which, after she almost married that other dude she barely knew, I say go Riker. (But also go Troi for being right about his attachment to her. It's almost like a self-fulling prophecy kinda deal.)

Um, I guess I should talk about the whole matyrdom thing, which I gathered was a major point of the episode. I'm totally with the survivors on this one, because standing up for your principles does not mean running away. If they had, nothing would have changed on Angel One. And then of course it is a Star Trek episode, so I was fairly sure they wouldn't die. Even so, I actually think that Riker planning to beam them all out against their will was wrong of him. Not that you can really blame him for wanting to save the children and all. But still! He should know he's in a Star Trek episode and have a little faith!

...and everyone lived happily ever after!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Question For Writers: Alternatives to the Evil Monologue

Question For Writers: Alternatives to the Evil Monologue

In the movies, the bad guy often monologues at the end, just in case you or the protagonist missed some important fact from the last 2 hours. Written fiction rarely relies so heavily on the monologue because readers hate to read the same thing two, three, or four times in a novel. Short stories run into the same problem as movies, where a lot happens in a short time, yet I rarely see the monologue there, either.

So, what do you do instead of the monologue? How and when do your characters discover the bad guy's plans? What sort of confirmation do they get that they're correct?

One device you might find useful is to have your character overhear something that other characters are trying to hide from them. Or maybe they find a note, or follow the money trail, or even receive a confession from a minnion. Even for protagonists who have to guess most of their way through the book, you want to throw them tidbits to let them know (or think) that they're headed in the right direction. Even Thomas Covenant sometimes gets to talk to dead people who used to work for Lord Foul.

Feel free to answer/ramble in the comments. If the question inspires a Flash Friday or something similar, feel free to link to your story in the comments and please link back to here on the applicable webpage.

Ready. Set - Anti-monologue device, activate!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flash Friday #7: An Evolutionary Breakthrough

The scientist beamed proudly at the viewer. "I call it... A space whale."

Mr. Devonshire steepled his fingers on his desk as he quirked an eyebrow. "Yes, I can see why. And it eats garbage, correct?"

"Its bigger than the moon! It's capacity far exceeds what you asked for," the scientist blurted. "It can travel between the planets using its solar fins. The space whale can take care of all our space junk problems. And the best part?"

"Frank, you're pausing dramatically again. Please just tell me the best part."

"Well, Bill, the best part is that you only need one!"

"We contracted you to design a garbage-eating space animal that could be replicated at will, depending on the needs of a colony. We'll want more than one."

"Yes, but you'll only need one. The prototype is pregnant."

"Pregnant? But there's only one prototype."

"Correct! But the XXYY genes used allowed the specimen to--"

Mr. Devonshire unsteepled his fingers to raise a hand. "Enough. We asked for a sterile unit."

"I thought it was sterile! This is quite a surprise! A revolutionary break-through!"

"So... This is the good news you came to tell me?"

Frank opened his mouth to say yes, but he sensed that something had gone afoul in their negotiations.

"Terminate it. We can't have moon-sized space whales propogating across the galaxy. We'll never be able to charge the colonists for them."

"But..." The scientist's lip trembled. "You want me to kill Gertrude? And her babies?"

"You... You named the whale?"

Frank nodded. "Her name's on all the reports," he mumbled absently.

"Yes, I know, but I thought it stood for something. Like, uh, Garbage-Eating Replicated... Uh..."

"No!" Frank shouted, startling both men. "Gertrude and her offspring are not for sale!" He ran out of the room, then, leaving only the picture of the space whale blinking on Mr. Devonshire's screen.

The picture wasn't supposed to be blinking. Bill hit a button on his desk. "Debbie? Get security to check Frank's office. I want him brought back here to honor his contract."

"Sir, the department of defense is on the line. Something about the moon getting... Eaten?"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TNG Ep.13: DataLore

It has Data in the title, so you know it's good!

The Enterprise has a few hours downtime and stops at Data's home planet, where several colonists disappeared, which Data remembers almost nothing about. Data shows the landing party where he was found and activated, and there La Forge discovers a hidden underground lab and bunker. Upon exploring the bunker they find creepy child-like drawings and what appears to be a duplicate Data, both of which they bring back to the ship. After the second android is assembled, he calls himself Lore and proceeds to mostly discreetly wreck havock on the ship. Lore explains that the drawings are of a life-consuming crystal entity, which he then secrectly calls to the ship while prentending to be Data. Wesley figures out the ruse, leading to Data being reactivated and fighting Lore in the transporter room. Wesley beams Lore out with the sheilds up, and the crystal being makes haste on its escape.

Ok, I know I said that Haven was the best episode so far, but now I can't decide. My fan girl love of Data says that this episode is even better - or at least equal. We get to see Brent Spiner act twice, and beat himself up! We get to see what Data might have been like if he had human eotions, which it's clear that Lore does. We also learn more about his past, that Lore was created first, then disassembled because he was too mentally unstable and murderous. Once again, the writers deliver on a character-backstory episode. The more I think back on this episode, the more I'm convinced that I loved every instant of it.

"How sad, Lore. You make me wish I was an only child."

And since Lore was so epic, you know there's no way he's gone for good. Even more than Q, he's like the boogie man that aways twitches at the end of the movie, and he always comes back. He's a mass murderer and he's a perfect foil for Data. Even if I didn't remember that he's in later episodes, I'd be expecting it.

Another epic moment: when Data weakly asks his brother for help, having been poisoned by his brother, and while his brother is ranting inanely. It gives Data a sort of innocence. Lore is literally the brother he had wished he had, and most likely the only android of his type or caliber that he will ever see in the crew's lifetime. Is it too much to hope that Lore won't try to kill him? Apparently. In a way that makes Data more alone than he was before, and you can hear it in that plaintive cry, in that last moment before Data's trust of his brother is shattered.

Yes. I really, really like Data.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Question For Writers: Spy or Turncoat?

Say you need a character who is going to do something unexpected, like turn their friend in to the enemy, or suddenly stick up for that guy who's about to be pulverized by the big baddie. Would you rather have a character who has secretly been for the other side all along, or one who changes their mind at a critical moment? Would it make a difference if the character was your main protagonist or antagonist, versus a side character?

Both ways can get the OMG factor. Both can have the reader re-examining the character's past actions for clues. But one represents a change in the character, and another a change in the circumstances. One is the character saying "I was wrong to build this popsicle stand in the middle of the diabetic unit" and the other is the character saying "time to blow this popsicle stand. With bombs."

Feel free to answer/ramble in the comments. If the question inspires a Flash Friday or something similar, feel free to link to your story in the comments and please link back to here on the applicable webpage.

Ready. Set. GO.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jealousy is in the Eye of the Firstborn

NEWS FLASH: In case you haven't heard, we found out the sex of the baby due in July! It's a boy!

The other day my husband, C, and I were visiting a friend who was in the process of moving. Our friend had her infant with her, and of course I had C, so I was happy to watch the two children while my husband helped her move a few things. The three of us went out on the balcony, which thrilled C and kept him away from all the cleaning chemicals and heavy objects carried by lumbering husbands.

Now, spending time with an infant invariably gets me to thinking about our baby due in July. Spending time with my friend's little girl gets me to hoping that my next child will be as easy going, or at least more easy going than C was. And, of course, being with an infant obligates one to coo and tickle their cheeks.

At first C was as excited as I was about this small human. He loves to point at things and have me name them, so he pointed at the baby a couple of times and I excitedly informed him, "Baby!"

Click to wook at dat wittle smile!

But of course the baby wasn't going anywhere, so as soon as he figured that out, his attention drifted to other things, such as his daddy walking below on the sidewalk. My attention, however, kept lighting on the baby, and C soon noticed.

Confused, C kept looking at the infant, and then at me. His brain was desperately trying to make connections that its just not old enough to make. Why is mommy talking to that baby? Why is she NOT talking to me? My world is upside down!

I sensed trouble, so I sang a couple of kid's song that I figured would entertain them both. I concluded with the Itsy Bitsy Spider because it is C's favorite, but it was too late. When I looked from the baby to him, I did not see a smile. Oh no. I saw the pouty lip.

C never uses the pouty lip! He'll whine, he'll cry, but he rarely sticks that lip all the way out. And let me tell you it is adorable. At least, it's adorable for spans of a second or so, and thank goodness, the poor boy smiled when he saw me looking at him again. We were only there with his rival for a handful of minutes after that, so let me assure you that C survived the encounter with ego intact. Unfortunately that brief frown was a glimpse into the future. I'm going to see a lot more of the pouty lip, and probably more whining and crying, right after his younger brother is born. I'm trying to store up extra patience ahead of time. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

TNG Ep.12: The Big Goodbye

When I saw the preview image for this episode, I thought I was seeing mobsters. It turned out that I was seeing the slightly less exciting private detective and cops, and that's when this episode stopped reminding me of "A Piece of the Action" from TOS. Ah well.

The Enterprise is on a mission to greet very picky insect-like aliens so that they might join the Federation. Picard is stressed out about having to learn a sentence or two in their strange language, so he takes a break gallivanting on the holodeck as a 1930s private eye. While he and other crew members are in the holodeck, the aliens send a probing signal that accidentally turns the holodeck pyscho. Picard and others are trapped there, and the safeties are turned off, both of which they discover when some historian crew member we've never met before is shot in the abdomen. While Picard is unavailable, Riker angers the aliens by not being Picard and by being totally insensitive. Wesley and Geordi eventually fix the holodeck, everyone escapes, and Picard greets the aliens to their satisfaction. Mission accomplished.

This episode was very disappointing. The biggest problem with the story was the pacing. All the major plot points were reasonable, and many were even interesting, but the pacing killed a lot of the potential suspense. Mainly, we learn that holodeck has gone bonkers, but Picard and co. don't learn the danger they're in until a few minutes before they escape. Picard spends a good deal of time being interrogated without even realizing that he's in real danger. Sure, Picard and co. are held hostage briefly by the mob after they've learned that they could really die, but they don't have to think their way out of getting killed. In fact, Picard goes right to trying to tell them the truth, which naturally they don't believe, and he doesn't even offer to use Data's super strength to prove it. Now that would have been cool. "Data, lift this desk." And then what would Data have done with that desk? Thrown it at them. I should write Star Trek episodes.

On another note, Riker apparently has no diplomatic skills whatsoever. The aliens must have been feeling gracious that day, because I think that even I would have fried his butt for being so rude to me. I'm not sure I'd call this a flaw in the writing, since it matches some of the other stupid things Riker has said in other episodes. If snarkiness is needed, like with Q, Riker's the man to call. Finesse? Let's just say he's not ready for the captain's chair just yet.

In comparison, Picard handles the mission well. I liked the bit at the beginning when he's going over the strange alien pronunciations. Even though he fubs the holodeck hostage situation, you can still believe that this is the same experienced captain who convinced Q not to kill us all. He's also willing to learn a few ridiculous-sounding alien phrases for the sake of diplomacy. It's not often I praise Picard, so enjoy it.

I still hold that this episode would have been 100% better if Data had thrown a desk at someone.

But there's hope on the horizon... I see that the next episode is entirely about Data!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Question for Writers: Well-knit Group or Complete Strangers?

Say your characters have to go on a long trip together. This could be your opportunity to force characters together who'd otherwise never stick around each other, or your chance to go all soap opera on some characters who thought they liked each other. Strangers might learn that one of them is a serial killer, while friends might learn that the village idiot isn't such a big dummy afterall. All while facing starvation, cabin fever, etc.

What it comes down to is, which group would you rather screw with?

Feel free to answer/ramble in the comments. If the question inspires a Flash Friday or something similar, feel free to link to your story in the comments and please link back to here on the applicable webpage.

Ready. Set. GO.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Flash Friday #6: My Kingdom for Her Heart

They appropriate our livestock, our seed, and even our precious metals, but we don't care because the aliens are beautiful. Seeing one talk on a vid is like hearing God answer your prayers. Standing in one's presence is like communing with the divine.

I hear we're repulsive to them. Less suave members of their race have spoken about it at length, comparing their revulsion to our revulsion for insects and frogs. Yet when they call us these things, it is still the lips of gods that say it, and most of us cannot be mad. Instead we hear a glimmer of hope because, after all, not all humans are repulsed by bugs.

I want to tell you to resist. I want to tell you that we can take the Earth back if we can shed this glamour from our eyes and find our true selves.

Instead I will tell you that recently I stood in their presence. She had come to ask me about my murmurs of dissension, about the cynicism with which I had infected my fellow miners. Miners understand darkness better than anyone. We can hold on to our hateful and suspicious thoughts longer than those who walk on the surface under the constant glow of They. That is why she came to me, to make my knees tremble and buckle in her light. I answered her questions. I would do anything for her.

Have you heard the rumors that They sometimes lay intimately with our lowly kind? I have been told to tell you that it is true, and that it is worth more than all the Earth's pitiful sheep, corn, or gold. That is my new message.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

TNG Ep 11: Haven

Surprise! Counselor Troi has a fiancée (Wyatt) and he's come to marry her. Troi thought that her old vows had faded into oblivion, but both sets of parents are set on the arranged marriage. The Enterprise agrees to host the wedding and Troi goes along with it because she says Riker isn't willing to put her above being a star ship captain some day. Riker pouts because it's true. Wyatt and Troi are getting along well despite their parents' squabbles, when suddenly an ancient ship of plagued humanoids shows up. Wyatt recognizes a woman on board as the woman of his dreams (literally) and the wedding is called off when he beams himself about, exposing himself to the plague.

I have to say that this is my favorite episode so far*, excluding the two-parter opening, which can't fairly be compared because it's twice as long. This episode was awesome because of the character interaction. We get to see Riker pout and Data make fun of drunk people ("Please, continue the petty bickering!").

Normally I would think I'd hate an episode that was all about Troi, but the writers show once again that they know how to delve into a character. Troi shows marvellous poise when dealing with her little-known fiance, then reasonably throws a fit when her mother is causing a scene. She deftly ignores Riker's pouting, telling him straight out why she's not cancelling the wedding for him, and giving him a fair chance to object. Since she's a Betazoid, she also doesn't freak out about dream-woman. It's also nice to see how utterly annoying her character would be if she were like her mother, an eccentric woman who expects others to suck it up when she offends them. It really makes you feel like all her stupid lines previously aren't the character's fault, like the character is a distinct entity who is unfortunately sometimes over-taken by terrible writers.

The ending was a bit touching, but not over done. Troi's a little emotional because she was getting along with her future husband pretty well, but it's like she doesn't forget that she essentially just met him.

I mean, there's always Riker, right? Noooooo!

*even though Wil Wheaton isn't in this episode

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Question for Writers: Canine or Feline Sidekick?

If your protagonist had a sidekick or familiar, would you rather they had a feline or a canine? Would the animal be your typical house pet, or something bigger? Or even something modified - smarter, cybernetic, humanoid? If so, what animalistic qualities qould they keep?

What would make them a good/bad sidekick? Would the relationship benefit your protagonist or their sidekick more?

Feel free to answer/ramble in the comments. If the question inspires a Flash Friday or something similar, feel free to link to your story in the comments and please link back to here on the applicable webpage.

Ready. Set. GO.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

TNG Ep 10: Hide and Q

Whoopee! A Q episode is always one full of some kind of entertainment! At least for Q.

Q interrupts an important rescue mission to play games with the Enterprise crew. Over their protests that he go the frick away, Q pits the bridge crew, minus Picard, against furry humanoids with phaser-shooting rifles. Q threaten's Tasha's life briefly, but gives up on that after seeing a heart-warming moment between her and the Captain. Finally, he gives Riker the power of Q and offers to make him full Q. Picard wagers with Q privately that if Riker refuses, Q has to leave them alone forever. Riker eventually saves everyone by Q-ing them back to the Enterprise. Picard makes Riker promise not to use his Q power again if he intends to refuse Q-dom, which then prevents Riker from saving a little girl on their rescue mission. Q returns to the bridge; Riker offers to give everyone on the bridge a gift. Trouble is, no one wants his gifts: Data doesn't want to be a real boy, Worf refuses to have sex with the random Klingon Riker procures, and Wesley doesn't want to skip 10 years of his life just to be older. Riker decides not to be Q afterall, and Q's contemporaries make Q vanish from the bridge.

First off, kudos to the Enterprise crew for treating Q like the uninvited party-crasher he is. The problem with that is that this party crasher has god-like powers, and he pouts. I don't know if I could look Q in the face and tell him that I'd *maybe* give him the time of day *after* my rescue mission. There'd probably be more pleases in my refusal - at least the first time, before he told me that people burning to death doesn't matter because there are always humans dying and suffering somewhere. Sheesh, with that kind of philosophy we'd be like - well, like Q, I guess.

I do like how, after all his bullying, we're shown that "Q" isn't top dog of "the Q," and that some of those top dogs are a bit more honor-bound. But don't let me get ahead of myself like that.

Riker does two dumb things in this episode. The first is that he doesn't Q them all to the ship once he learns that he really does have Q powers. Instead he sits back and watches as Wesley and others die (sorry, but I only remember Wesley, teehee). The second is when he makes his promise to Picard without fully realizing the implications. Um, duh? The first thing I thought of when Picard laid out the promise was that they were about to be on a rescue mission where Riker could theoretically Q everyone to safety/life/whatever. But Riker holds that dead little girl like he just realised that fact. Also, he tells the other colonist that he could bring her back to life, but won't. That seems pretty cruel, but we'll chalk that up to it being an emotional moment.

One other weird thing about that rescue. Picard says at the beginning of the episode that there are hundreds of colonists to rescue, yet they only show us one scene with a handful of people. K? I guess the rest either died or weren't worth showing, or both.

Anyway, the end of the episode is cool. You know that Riker will refuse because he's too important of a character to become god in episode 10 of 178, but you don't know what's going to convince him. Having him offer Q-gifts is awesome because that's exactly what I would do with that kind of power. It's also an interesting take on "be careful what you ask for" which has always been a favorite theme of mine in any story. Riker doesn't go crazy with his gifts, either. He doesn't offer to make anyone super rich/powerful/famous, but rather his gifts are the sort that people truly would desire in that secret place in their heart, at least until it's actually offered to them. I also liked what the characters said when they explained their separate refusals. My favorite was Worf saying that the random Klingon woman was from a world he'd chosen to leave behind, and who has time for sex, anyway? Haha, but seriously, sometimes you take that fork in the road and wonder about or desire part of what you could have had down the other path, but not enough to actually go back and change it.

And, of course, Wesley's was the best because it's a parallel to Riker's own predicament. "I'd rather get there on my own," thank you very much. When the Q said humans would develop god-like powers, they DID mean in my lifetime... Right?