Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, February 29, 2016

Queen of the Clusterfuck

So, those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may have noticed that like, every other week, I'm all, "Sorry, technical issues. Post coming soon." This is because I have the worst luck ever, especially when it comes to electrical equipment and things of a technical nature.
This is due to my being clusterfucked. One thing cannot go wrong. There must be several things that go wrong, keeping me from my intended goal not for a short period of time, but for a much longer period.
Seriously. You can ask Roomie. She is also mildly clusterfucked, though it appears she is not as badly fucked as I am. Together, with our powers combined, we once managed to manifest a car in our living room. Not fucking kidding here. Woke up to find the grill of a Hyundai Sonata where my sliding glass door should be. I don't recommend that activity at all.

Those of you familiar with shamanism will not be surprised to find out that my spirit guide is Old Man Coyote. Somewhere, one of you guys is nodding and quietly saying, "God, that makes so much sense!"
So what's my deal now? Comcrap shut me off. My new job only pays once a month, and Comcast got all Internet Nazi on me when I couldn't cough up the cash quickly enough - "No webs for you!"
"So what's the big deal, Lady Archon? Surely you can just pack your laptop over to someplace else with free wifi, right?"
Only some of the time, friends.
The case on my laptop is cracked in such a way that it makes my internal modem hiccup when I'm someplace other than home. I guess it only likes the wifi I can access from my own couch or something.
"But you can use some other computer, right?"
Kind of? My local library offers computers with internet use... for one hour per day. between the initial viewing, the tangential research done for each episode, and the actual write-up and screen-capture-taking, every blog entry takes me between ten and twelve hours to complete. If I go to the library every night after work for my one hour on the computer... well, I still only get a partially-completed blog entry.
"Can you fix your laptop so you can access other wifi in a different place?"
That was the plan, to get a new case or something once I got paid. But when I asked the guy at Best Buy, I got the sad eyes and a slow shake of the head. The damage to my modem is likely unfixable, and would cost me more than just buying a new laptop altogether. In fact, he told me not to get another laptop by the same company, as that company has fucked up their laptops so much that they will no longer make them soon.
My friend Gimli was with me at Best Buy and asked, "When is your birthday?"
"Not tomorrow," I grouched.

Snagged this panel from one of Neil Gaiman's Sandman books. I find it works
rather well in a lot of these clusterfuck moments.

So that's the long and short of it: I am once again apologizing because of some fuck-up that means that I can't post this week (or for the last two weeks, as it were), and that suck furry tribble balls, especially because today is the last day of Black History Month, and the next episode is super-shitty as well as fucking racist, and I was post this awesome WTF, TNG? post to go with some introspective stuff. I mean, I'll still post it when I get some kind of consistent interwebs back, but it won't be the same. I go back and forth between shaking the machine and yelling "Fuck you, laptop!" and sighing out my old standby, "It is what it is."

Hopefully I will have something more than apologies soon.


Lady Archon

Monday, February 15, 2016

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Three "The Naked Now"

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Three "The Naked Now"
Air Order: 2
Stardate: 41209.2
Original Air Date: October 3, 1987

Picard's Log 41209.2: "Meeting up wit the SS Tsiolkovsky. They've been checking out a collapsing star. But we're getting some weird-ass messages from them in the meantime."

On the bridge, Data has turned on the comm system to talk to the Tsiolkovsky. The woman who answers sounds like a phone-sex operator and she seriously asks if they have "pretty boys" onboard the Enterprise. Everybody on the bridge looks weirded out by her request. She mentions a "real blow-out," and the part of me that changed my brother's diapers growing up cringes. But she's talking about a party, which we can hear going on in the background. Or we think she's talking about a party. Nope. Somebody blows the emergency hatch on the ship, and the line goes dead.

There's kind of a funny moment here where Picard asks, "Are you certain?"
Data turns and looks at him like, "Did you really just question an android?" before Picard answers his own question with "Yes, of course you are."
Oh, yeah. Forgot you were a walking Google. Apologies.
Riker takes Data, Geordi and Tasha with him while Worf reports no life signs on the other ship.
Then we get a cool model shot, and I contemplate all of the stuff that went into creating this little establishing shot of the E flying toward the science vessel, which is near the collapsing star. Green screens and stuff. Awesome.

Our away team materializes in the corridor of the Tsiolkovsky, amid food, clothing and general detritus. They split up to check the ship.

Riker and Data encounter a viewscreen set to the bridge, and sure enough, someone there has blown the emergency hatch, exposing the bridge crew.
"They all got sucked out," says Riker.
This is Data's next line:

Okay, he's right, and Riker agrees with him, but his response comes off as pedantic and annoying. I know it's a Data-ish thing to correct people in that way, but Brent Spiner hasn't quite got the hang of Data yet, and it's not as gentle as Data usually comes off when he does that. ("I believe you mean blown out, sir?") I'm a Grammar and Spelling Nazi because it irritates me when people use the wrong spelling or what-have-you, but I realized after a while that I just sounded like a giant asshole when I pointed out other people's mistakes. No one needs to know that I'm annoyed at their spelling skills. Shut your bitch-ass mouth, Data.
Also, check out that dedication plaque behind Data. It's written in Cyrillic, the only time in Star Trek history where a ship's dedication plaque is written in anything other than English. The Tsiolkovsky is listed as being built in the USSR, which will no longer exist just four short years after this episode airs. But check out the insignia: that's a Federation ship. The US and Russia will go round and round and round for decades over World Wars and Cold Wars and bickering over what kind of government is best, but over here in the tiny corner of the world known as Star Trek, Gene Rod has said, "Hey, Russia. I know we haven't always been buddies, but I feel like we can put aside our differences after a while, and we can all play together in space. I meant it when I put Chekov on the bridge last time, and I still mean it now."
I like that. Good on ya, Star Trek.

Yar calls to say that she's found people in engineering, but they've all frozen to death. She thinks somebody has been messing with the environmental controls. Geordi calls from some crew quarters to report the same. Hellooooo, soft-core porn.

There are half a dozen naked people frozen in the common area of the crew quarters, two more in the bed, and when Geordi pushes on the malfunctioning door of a shower, a frozen girl falls out... but she's fully clothed.
Riker calls Picard. "Eighty people on the ship... all dead."
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "We're getting the info about the collapsing star off the Tsiolkovsky's computers. I want to GTFO, but we can't until we get all the info."

Picard goes down to sick bay to talk to Troi and Dr Crusher about what might have happened to the crew of the Tsiolkovsky.
Holy crap, that's awful. It's like a long-sleeve romper. A fancy-dress onesie. Form-fitting coveralls. The grey washes her out, and they paired it with a terrible hairdo. Now she has some kind of bun adorned red jewels or something. All of this sucks. All of it. I know they wanted to get rid of the "intergalactic cheerleader" look, but this is possibly worse. What's more, we're stuck with this until season two. VOM.

Anyway, Crusher can't figure out why the crew of the science vessel might have gone off the deep end. The away team has sent back tricorder readings, but it hasn't done any good. Picard tells her to bring back the away team and decontaminate them, then watch them carefully for signs they might be acting funny, too.
In the next scene, Crusher scans Data and jokes that, "if you were any more perfect, I'd have to write you up in a Starfleet Medical textbook."
He replies factually that he's already in several, and hops off the table.
Geordi hops on, and she scans him, pronouncing everything normal, but asks why he's sweating.
"It's too hot in here, bitch!"
"WTF?" asks Crusher. 
She tells Geordi that she needs to run more tests, then goes into her office to tell Picard that Geordi is being uncharacteristically dickish, and she's gonna keep him for observation.

On the bridge, Riker approaches Data at one of the science consoles and asks for his help. He thinks that because Data is a walking Google, maybe the android can help him figure out that girl Geordi found in the shower, fully clothed.
"I know I've heard of something like that before," he says.
Data agrees to help him, then asks if Dr Crusher thought he was boasting about the textbook thing.
"Probably," shrugs Riker.
"But it's true!" Data protests.
Dude, you know what else is true? When I was three, they filmed a scene of the Terminator at my house. And you know who cares? About the same number of people that care about your textbook thing.
Data is getting on my nerves this episode, and I don't know why.

Data's working at a console that casts a weird green-ish light on him.
Also, skant sighting!

Back in sick bay, Crusher scans Geordi again, then transfers the info to her desktop in her office. While she's gone, he takes off his comm badge and just walks the fuck out. She comes back to find him gone, then rushes back to her office to call security to find him.
Turns out he's in Dr Crusher's quarters with her son. Wes is using some kind of tiny tractor beam to levitate a chair. He then shows Geordi some kind of recorder that he used to tape Picard's voice. When he plays it, the tape says, "Take the helm, Mr Crusher," and other stuff. He figures that, since Picard won't let him on the bridge, he'll just have to use this to pretend. He says he got the voice off the PA system when Picard called people, then altered it to his own purposes. Apparently, he doesn't realize what a creepy fanboy he's being. Also, you know that shit's gonna come up again later in the episode. They never just show you some weird detail like that.
Geordi, who seems to be acting normal, laughs and claps Wes on the back of the neck. There's this odd sound effect that you're supposed to notice.

Then he says he doesn't feel well, and wanders out. Tasha finds him a bit later in the observation lounge, staring out the window. She calls for security to come get him, but he says that he needs help, and that he wants to see like she sees. He takes off his VISOR and touches her face. The sound effect occurs again. They lead him back to sick bay.

Crusher scans him again, and still finds nothing. Troi says he just seems confused, and maybe intoxicated. Picard asks if he's sick, and Crusher replies that everybody on the away team was decontaminated, so that can't be the case.
Have you figured it out yet, friends?
Up on the bridge, Data and Riker are cycling through the computer looking for Riker's clue of "someone showering with their clothes on" when Riker suddenly recalls that he read about it while looking up all of the ships called Enterprise. They pull up the right entry as Picard enters the bridge.
"We found it sir. Geordi is sick with Blatant Episode Rip-off-itis."
"Are you sure?" asks Picard. 
"Yeah," says Riker. "TOS, season one, episode seven, "The Naked Time." Leonard Nimoy turns out a good performance, and George Takei fences in the corridors."
"I see," says Picard thoughtfully. "They've started a brand-new show, and instead of coming up with an original story, they've elected to just steal from themselves, and rewrite the script so that new people are going to sick with an illness that lowers inhibition like alcohol intoxication."

Picard calls Crusher. "So it turns out this is a rehash of something that's already been done, and there's a cure. Do you have Netflix? You can watch it there in your office."
"Awesome," says Crusher. "I can catch it in between episodes of Classic Who."

Troi goes back to her quarters to find Tasha rifling through her closet.
"The hell?" she asks.
"I need clothing advice," purrs Tasha. "Because you wear such beautiful things off-duty."
Oh, is that it? Troi dresses like crap on-duty to off-set the beautiful stuff she wears on her downtime?
"Also, your hair always looks great," Tasha adds. 
O...kay, now she sounds drunk.
"Yeeeaah, that's my stuff," says Troi. "And my reading of you right now is weird."
But Tasha grabs her hand, and there's that sound effect again, of her passing the proverbial bottle of Jagermeister to Troi.

Tasha leaves and Troi calls Picard to report that the security chief now has the illness as well. 
Wes goes to sick bay to float things with his tractor beam for his mother, and she asks him to go back to his quarters so he won't get infected like the others. He agrees, but asks why it's so hot in sick bay. Crushers realizes that Wes has it already, just as Picard calls to see if she has the cure ready.
Meanwhile, people in engineering are making out, and Tasha needs to get a room with this Science rando.

We get a small taste of Ship Disabling foreshadowing when Picard (on the bridge) asks Data how much longer they have to wait while they finish uploading the Tsiolkovsky's data. The android replies forty minutes, and Picard reveals that he's concerned about that star collapsing.
"Naw, we're cool," says Data. "We could still outrun it from here at half-impulse."

Picard calls the chief engineer to the bridge, and after she leaves, one of the engineering flunkies gets summoned to sick bay, again by Picard. Wes walks in with his little do-hickies, greeting and shaking the hand of the flunky who was just called to sick bay. The flunky (Jim) tells Wes that he's been called away, but with the chief up on the bridge, no one will be there to man engineering.
Whut? There's a thousand people in engineering! You can't ask one of them? How is it that the system is set up with one alpha, one beta, and no one else?
"What about me?" asks Wes, as the sound effect plays.
"Hey, yeah," says Jim, and he freaking leaves a fifteen-year-old in charge of the damn warp core.
Wes looks pretty proud of himself, and I swear to God, he stares straight at the camera and breaks the fourth wall.

The Chief of Engineering reports to the bridge, where Picard tells her that he never ordered her up there. A bosun whistle is heard over the PA and Picard's voice says that he has handed over control of the ship to "Acting Captain Wesley Crusher."
"The fuck?" yells Picard.
Then Wes hops on the PA to graciously accept the ship from his recording device.
For those of you not paying attention, Wes is now Kevin O'Riley. He'll take you home again, Kathleen.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 41209.3: "Rehash. Everything you missed in the first half of the show."

Wes, down in engineering with a forcefield around the section he's in, tells drunk peeps on the other side that his first command as acting captain is make it so that dessert both proceeds and follows every meal, which is just a rewrite from Kevin O'Riley's promises of ice cream socials, and could the writers really think of nothing different for Wes to do?
Picard orders Riker and the chief engineer (McDougal) to oust Wes from engineering.
Worf reports that people are being ordered to attend lectures on metaphysics. Data says he overheard a limerick that he doesn't understand.

Picard immediately bellows for security, and there's a funny bit here:
Data: "Did I say something wrong?"
Worf: "I don't understand their humor, either."

Picard gets a hold of Yar, who purrs that she's in her quarters, and busy. Picard tells Data to go get Tasha and take her to sick bay. 
He arrives to find that she's dressed like a Cloud Minder

She starts this awkward conversation, telling him that she was abandoned at age five, learning to fend for herself, and avoiding "the rape gangs." Anyway, she says she lead a crappy life, and now she was wants the D from Data. She asks if he's fully functional, and he haltingly replies that he is, and programmed in multiple techniques, leaving one to wonder when the fuck his creator thought that was going to be useful. Apparently, one does not need to be a hot teenage girl android to be used as a sex robot.

Riker and McDougal make it to Engineering to find that Wes has cut off the engines from the bridge, and locked himself in that little room with the engineering assistant, Jim. They can't get anything back online because Jim has removed all the isolinear chips from the system and is playing Jenga with them. One day, I hope to have as much fun as Jim is having here.

McDougal says she can short out the system and reroute it, but it will take a while. In the meantime, Troi has entered Engineering. She calls Riker "Bill" which is a weird "first-season/pilot" thing that I'm filing away with Data grinning at Wes and Spock smiling at Kirk. Weird things that happen because no one has figured out the characters yet. Anyway, he calls her Deanna (instead of the more-formal "counselor") and she kind of gropes his chest and tells him that she can feel the yearning of every person on the ship. He realizes that she's sick and touches the sweat on her forehead, making the sound effect go off. Then he picks her up to take her to sick bay.
"Wouldn't you rather be alone with me?" she asks, followed by this rather creepy question:

What does that even mean? Is it some kind of Betazoid kink?

Dr Crusher loads the antidote into a hypospray and shoots Geordi in the arm with it. It's supposed to work instantly, but he continues to sob that he can't see properly, and she realizes that it didn't work. Riker brings Troi in and puts her on a bed, then hurries to Crusher's office to tell her.
Crusher is trying to figure out what the deal is when Riker rushes in.
"The antidote doesn't work!" she says.
Startled, he grabs her. "What? I just brought Deanna in!"
But Dr Crusher is smart enough to put two and two together. "Wait, you touched her? You're infected now! And you touched me! So I am, too!"
"Aw, crap!" says Riker. "All of the shit is fucked up! No, you can't quarantine me! I have to fix the ship before one of these drunkish bastards blows an airlock or something and we all die!"
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log, supplemental: "Rehash."

Picard calls Wes. "Gimme back my ship."
"Naw, I'm good," says Wes. "Why don't you tell me what you want done, and I'll do it? I mean, you never do the things, anyway. You give the orders, and someone else does them. So you can just have me do them."
Picard attempts to reason with him: "So, hey. You know how you feel weird? You got an illness that came over from the Tsiolkovsky."
Wes is stoked. "You mean I'm drunk?" 
Well, yes. But I have no idea how you went from "you have an alien illness" to "drunk." Then he has the drunkest thought of all.

And ohhhh, the worst pun of them all comes to mind: Wes is drunk with power.
"Sooo, real important that I get the ship back, because we have to tractor the Tsiolkovsky away from the collapsing star -"
"Dude, I'm so down with tractor beams!" exclaims Wes. "I'll do it!" He calls Picard "skipper" then signs off.
The guy at Conn drunkenly stumbles off the bridge as Worf warns Picard that the star is starting to collapse. It's okay, though, because Data said they can get away at half-impulse. Oop, no. They have no engines because Wes has them hostage behind a forcefield, and McDougal is trying to short the system so she can reroute it. Riker has to try to help McDougal get the engines back from Wes, while remembering not to touch anyone. Data is off getting some from Tasha Yar. Crusher is trying to find a new antidote while not succumbing to the illness herself. We have well and truly Disabled the Ship.
Tractor beams lock onto the Tsiolkovsky, and Picard realizes that Wes did it.
The lift opens onto the bridge and a drunken Data stumbles out. I have no idea how the hell he managed to be affected by this, but he's clearly riding high on... robot endorphins, I guess?
"At least you're functioning," grumps Picard.

Picard, startled, tries to logic through this one. "Drunkenness is a human condition. You are different."
"Naw, we're pretty close to being the same," Data slurs.
Crusher stalks onto the bridge and demands to see Picard in his ready room. He follows her in, and she tells him that she has it, too. She'd also really like to hook up with Picard. She doesn't appear to touch him, but they stumble out of the ready room with her uniform top unzipped and tells her "Not now!" before she gets in the lift.
Worf quietly calls Riker to let him know that Picard seems to be infected. Riker leaves McDougal to finish hacking into the E's computer system, and heads upstairs.
The star collapses. A big-ass chunk of something-or-other heads for the ship. McDougal cracks into the system, shuts down Wes' forcefield and rushes into that area. But there's no way she can get all those chips back into place to start the engines and get them moving away. Worf says they have fourteen minutes left, and McDougal says it'll take hours to get all those chips back in place.
"Data can do it," says Wes. "He's an android."
"Cool," says Riker, and he grabs the stumbling Data and shuttles him down in a lift.
Dramatic Music! Commercial break!

Riker's Log: "Rehash of stuff you missed while your mom was making you take out the trash."

Riker drags Data down to Engineering, where Wes convinces him to play a game of "how fast can you unfuck this situation?" Data sits down cross-legged on the floor and begins to place the chips in the right place. Wes puts the front viewer up on a little screen so they can watch themselves die from Engineering.

Data says it's gonna take him too long to get it all done, despite the fact that he's moving at top speed. Riker realizes that he's getting sweaty, and bemoans that he can't get the sickness now, which is weird, because he's had it for quite some time, and gave it to Dr Crusher. Data says that if he had one more minute, he could finish the job. Wes is trying to wax poetic to Riker about his forcefield/tractor beam machine. He created the forcefield by reversing the tractor beam and making a repulser beam. Riker is over all of this shit. he doesn't feel good, he's about to die, and Wes won't shut up about his extracurriculars.
"Oh! I can switch the tractor beams to make a repulser beam!" says Wes. He starts futzing with it, but his head's still foggy, and he can't quite see what he needs to do.
Meanwhile, up in sick bay, Dr Crusher has found an antidote that's similar to the one she got from Netflix, but a little different. She stumbles over to Geordi, who has been her guinea pig this whole time.
"Sweet, that worked right away," says Geordi.
"Killer," slurs Crusher, and she jabs Picard, then herself.
She hands the hypo to Picard and tells him to get his sweet ass down to Engineering.
He does, and walks around in that little space, shooting everyone in the arm.
Data keeps placing chips, Riker keeps worrying, and Wes is finally able to reverse that tractor beam. Only instead of reversing it against the rock-mass-thing, he just reverses it against the Tsiolkovsky, pushing it away and into the mass-thing. The other ship blows up, buying them a few moments so Data can finish.

For whatever reason, all I can hear is the theme music that plays when Popeye eats some spinach, and somehow saves the day by punching something.
However, it did not destroy the mass-thing, which is still coming at them. Data finishes his chip-setting, then they call the bridge, and warp the fuck out of there.
Worf calls Picard. "Did Data save the day?"
"Yeah," says Picard. "Wes, too."

Everyone reports back to the bridge. Tasha marches up to Data and says "It didn't happen." He seems perplexed.
"I think we can have a fine crew, if we can avoid temptation," Picard announces.
Tasha and Data glance at one another, as do Riker and Troi.
And they warp out of there.

So, despite the fact that there were some pretty funny moments here, this is not a favorite episode of mine. They straight-up stole a script from their predecessor, altered it just enough that DC Fontana asked to receive her writing credit under a pseudonym, and presented it as an homage. That's... lazy writing, frankly. And people seem torn about where their feelings lie on this one. Wil Wheaton says that Jonathan Frakes initially said this episode was garbage, but in later years, praised it as being "bold" because people were horny in space. George Takei said it was like watching little kids wearing their parents' clothing. I read on IMDB that this episode came about because of a writers' strike, but I couldn't find evidence for that theory. I did find several people calling it an homage, and the director said that this was his favorite episode out of the few that he directed. But most people seem to think the way that I do about it: it's not a good episode, and the writing here was lazy.
Here we have a brand-new show, and there's pressure on them to make it a good one, in spite of the fact that a lot of their audience is angry that the show exists with Kirk, Spock and Bones. They have the opportunity here to expand on their characters and deepen the stories behind them, but instead they rehash an old plot and go for the laugh. In the original (rehash) script, the effects of the illness were supposed to bring us more insight into the characters, but they scraped those bits. Pretty sad considering that in the TOS version, we got to learn some stuff about our main characters. I read one take that said that the TNG was lighter and funnier, and that the TOS version was "heavy-handed." Now, I'm not gonna argue that TOS is not heavy-handed, because holy shit, they hit you over the head with it sometimes. And you certainly aren't gonna find me arguing that the original episode was Oscar-worthy, because it wasn't. But there were some very good moments there, most notably from Leonard Nimoy, who took the opportunity to character-build. Here, we got a short bit on Tasha's background (and she hits in guys, just to prove to the audience that she isn't a lesbian), and we got a smattering of "will they-won't they" between Picard and Crusher, and Riker and Troi.

Bottom line: Meh. Come up with your own scripts, Next Gen.

Bratty and Curie

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy... Something

A few years ago, my friends made these Data valentines, using quotes from the show, and I've been thinking about them ever since, wishing I had a full set to frame and hang up.

Hand-printed, stamped and glittered by Ampersand Dagger,
a collaboration by Serenity Ibsen and Dominic De Venuta.

I don't really like adult Valentine's Day, because someone always seems to feel bad about it - being single when all of your friends are paired off; being alone because your sweetheart has died or divorced you, or you've recently broken up; being upset because you went to a lot of trouble to show someone you care about them, and your partner shrugged and did nothing, or just plain forgot.

The version of this holiday that I do like is the one that takes place around second-grade (age 8 or thereabouts). You make little mailboxes out of shoe boxes and construction paper, and all lessons are suspended for the afternoon so your class can have a party. Somebody's mother brings punch and cupcakes. And everybody passes out cheap cardboard "cards" with their favorite cartoon characters on them. Remember how exciting it was when they came in those little envelopes and they were lumpy, so you knew that they contained a few of those little Conversation Hearts? They didn't taste very good, but you were stoked all the same.

Today's valentines are a bit more savvy. They're designed to come with a bonus prize (often a lollipop of some kind), and come in little kits so you can put them together easily. I've seen ones with pencils as well, and yesterday I spotted a set that came with sticky window clings in the shapes of bugs. (For the record, I like to give stickers, because nobody has has a food allergy to those, and they don't have to be carefully rationed to diabetic kids.) The thing is, even though the valentines themselves have changed slightly, the idea remains the same: everybody is included. Yes, you have to give a valentine to that kid that you don't like, because his name is on the class list. But that's not the only reason why. You don't know that kid, frankly. Maybe he appears to have tons of friends and you think he has it all together, but he secretly doesn't. Maybe he has no friends. maybe his home life sucks. Maybe those goofy little cards really mean something to him, and the fact that he got one from every kid in the class makes him feel good.

I'm going to tell you a story about a time that Lady Archon failed hard at Valentine's Day. It was the sixth grade, and we would all be going to junior high the next year, so you know that Second-Grade Valentine's Day was going to vanish with the wind that next year. This would be our last with the tiny cards and the punch and cupcakes and valentine mailboxes. The party was going about as you'd expect, with the cupcakes and everybody opening valentines and collecting those little heart candies. A kid was walking around with a waste-paper basket, collecting the discarded envelopes, and while I typically change names to protect people, I don't mind telling you that this kid's name was Brad. I did not like Brad, and he did not appear to like me. I tried to stay away from him, because this kid was a grade-A dick. He had something nasty to say to everybody. I wasn't really paying attention to who was holding the trash can, and I made this terrible executive decision: I tossed a valentine in the trash.
I had been going back and forth about doing it, and finally made the decision as Brad stood next to my desk with that trash can. The valentine was from a ginger kid that I had grown up with, and was friendly with, but we were not necessarily friends. The valentines he had selected that year were from a television show that I didn't care about, and in the part of my brain where logic should not triumph, logic triumphed, I justified my action with a Spock-like excuse: all of these valentines would be going into the trash over the next few days, anyway, so why not start culling now? But here's why my decision was a crappy one - I only tossed the ginger kid's valentine. No one else's card met the same fate. I was a bad friend. 
Guess who was paying attention? That dick Brad. He'd watched what I'd done, and secretly removed the card from the trash so that when he made it across the room to what I can only describe as his Dick Clique, he was able to show them what happened, and then yell loud enough for the whole room to hear, "Lady Archon, how come your valentine from Ginger Kid is in the trash?"
I stumbled across the room to take it back, loudly saying something to the effect of, "Oh? How did that get in there?" and being really angry with Brad. I mean, he could have come to me and told me to my face that I was doing this douchey thing, but no. He decided to make it into an event, and embarrass me.

But as crappy as his actions were, mine were worse. I had excluded Ginger Kid from Second-Grade Valentine's Day, the last we would get, and that was inexcusable.
Why had I done it?
Was it because his valentines featured a show I didn't care about?
My best friend's valentines probably featured a show I didn't care about, either.
Was it because he wasn't well-liked, due to his being socially awkward?
I was socially awkward. Hell, at twelve, we were all socially awkward.
Was his valentine worth less than the other kids' in my class? Certainly I appreciated the valentine from my BFF more, because he was my BFF. But what about the ones from the popular girls, whose confidence I secretly admired, but whose attitudes I despised? Their offerings did not go into the trash on Day One, like Ginger Kid's.
And while I was embarrassed and angry at what Brad the Dick had done, and I felt bad about what I had done, notice who I wasn't thinking about? Ginger Kid. To this day, I have no idea what his reaction to the situation was. I have no idea if he even took notice. He might have been looking at his valentines or enjoying that cupcake, engrossed in his activities and not paying attention to my plight. Because, after all, this was about twelve-year-old me and my problems. Me, me, me.

The thing is, it's not about me, me, me. Valentines come in a little box, and they all come with one theme, so there really is no way to customize those cards to the recipient's taste, unless you buy a box for each individual, and who is going to do that? No, the cards a person buys reflects their own preferences. Whether you think so or not, a valentine given to someone else by you is representative of yourself. "Here is something to say that I care about you, and you should think about me when you open it." Each time you sit and leaf through a pile of small flimsy valentines, it's like looking at a bit of each person who gifted them to you.

Fast forward decades later, and I'm attending Prestigious Art School in Beautiful Downtown [City]. Every day, I go across the street to [Large Chain Grocery Store] to buy my snacks for the day, sporting my art school hoodie and my Tom Baker-length Gryffindor scarf. I use the self-checkout most days (the BFF of the introvert). That particular Valentine's Day, I was checking out with my string cheese or whatever, and I see the self-checkout attendant approaching me, even though my register thing isn't going full-Landru (as they are wont to do).
"I bought my daughter a box of Harry Potter valentines," she says, "and I see you in here every day in that scarf, and I always look forward to seeing you. I thought you might appreciate this."
And she hands me a Second-Grade valentine with Harry, Ron, and Hermione on it.
I was so stoked to get that valentine. It wasn't filled out or anything, because she didn't know me. I was just some girl in an HP scarf, and she thought I was neat enough to give me a valentine. In turn, that made me feel neat enough to get a valentine.
Did I throw it away on my way out of the store? Nope. Not even the next day. I carried it around in my purse for months until it fell apart. And I felt good every time I saw it in there. Some stranger just decided to give me a valentine to be nice. She got something out of the giving, and I got something out of the receiving. It's a pretty awesome thing.

So what does Second-Grade Valentine's Day have to do with Star Trek?
But also, everything.
Star Trek, like Second-Grade Valentine's Day, is inclusionary. Black, white, Asian, differently-abled - everybody gets to go on the ship and have adventures in space. It's not just for a few select people. Everybody gets to participate and do a job and work together as a team to make everything better for everyone else.
What's more, the stories I included here can be illustrated by two very important Star Trek characters. Spock and Data (as well as Odo and Seven of Nine) are "mirrors of the human condition" and are specifically placed amongst the ranks of the main characters so that we as a species might watch the show and reflect on own thoughts and feelings on the matters discussed, via these people. Each has their own struggle to grapple with week after week in conjunction with their humanity. Spock, as a half-human, must figure out how to integrate his two halves while remaining true to himself as a whole. Data strives to be human despite his limitations of not being able (at first) to process emotions or understand the more irrational parts of human nature.
Twelve-year-old me tried to Spock the hell out of that situation, going so far as to try to legitimize my crappy behavior with logic that didn't add up. I deserve a nasty lecture from Bones, and a Rand Face.

"That was super-shitty of you, Lady Archon."
I agree, Rand. I agree.

In the second story, my benevolent self-checkout girl became the embodiment of Data, willing to give a valentine to a stranger simply because she noticed and appreciated some aspect of that other person. It's that notice and appreciation that does wonders for another human being, even in small amounts. Both Spock and Data might have found this phenomenon worth studying, but for different reason. Spock might ask "why was this done?" while Data would be looking for "how might I achieve this?" At one point in TNG, Leonard Nimoy guest-stars as Spock, and the two characters have an interesting discussion comparing and contrasting their takes on the matter of humans and how to deal with them. It's not only a fascinating discussion between the characters, but a great look at two actors who have clearly studied those characters and determined how they should be best played.

Neither Data nor Spock's reaction is good, bad, or better than the other, and both have their places in the universe, but Data's is more situation-appropriate. For me, at least. My advice to myself? Dial down the Vulcan, and dial up the android. Notice others, but in a less clinical way. Understand how they function in the world, what makes them tick, what characteristics you admire in them. Then let them know.

A few years ago, I decided to emulate Self-Checkout Girl. I decided that I would give Second-Grade Valentines to my adult friends. I never quite thought of it in time, except this year. I put out the call two weeks early: would any of my grown-up friends like a cheap, little kid valentine in the mail? I got a number of responses, and though it might be suspected that I would get more females than males, the opposite was true: twice as many males than females needed to hear that someone cared. Sure, I got some responses along the lines of, "Sounds fun! Send me one!" but I also got a few that said "going through a rough time, could use something nice like that." One recipient was still reeling from a friend's suicide. Another had just lost her long-time companion. The thank-yous have been trickling in as the mail has arrived. A kitten sticker or a Spiderman card cannot mend a broken heart, but for one moment, they each got a small sigh of relief. 
Somebody appreciates that I exist.
Somebody cares.
And it was nice to provide that.
Next year, I will be buying more valentines.
Because on Second-Grade Valentine's Day, everybody gets to participate.

Monday, February 8, 2016

ST:TNG Season One, Episode One, "Encounter at Farpoint" (Part II)

ST: TNG, Season One, Episode Two, "Encounter at Farpoint" (Part II)
Air Order: 1
Stardate: 41135.7
Original Air Date: September 26, 1987

(Majel Barrett computer voice) "Last time on Warp Speed to Nonsense:"

We got a new captain and new ship, set about a hundred years or so beyond TOS, and they're heading to Farpoint Station to not only check it out and pick up some more main crew members, but to also figure out what the "mystery" behind the station is. Along the way, our new captain, Picard, is sort of taken hostage with the second officer Data (an android, though not of Andrea proportions); Deanna Troi, the ship's counselor; and Tasha Yar, the chief of security. They're put on trial by some doucheweasel who says his name is Q (race by the same name), and who just happens to be omnipotent. Q says they must be convicted and punished for crimes by the human race, which is violent and savage. To put Q off and save them, Picard tells Q to watch them at Farpoint and see if he still thinks they're violent and savage. Q agrees. The ship reaches Farpoint Station, and already the first officer Will Riker and head doctor Beverly Crusher have noticed that Farpoint Station seems to be haunted by a benevolent spirit or something.
The ship does some fancy stuff, and just to connect this new Star Trek with the old, there's a brief scene at the end of the first part where De Kelley walks through the new ship in very-old-man make-up.
For the full review, click here.


Picard and crew are in good spirits as they wish the USS Hood, Riker's previous ship, a good journey. the Hood leaves orbit, and Dick of the Year nominee Q shows up again, this time as a floating head in space. (Star Trek is so fond of floating people and body parts in space. Nothing says "Look! Magic!" quite like someone featured on the wrong side of the viewscreen.)

Hey, I learned a new word! "Dilatory" means "slow to act" and is probably
connected to the slang term "dilly-dally." Thank you, "Douche Presents a Word
of the Day"!

After he disappears, Riker complains about being watched every moment by Q. Clearly, Riker has never worked retail. Picard feels like Q will at least learn who humans truly are.

Picard's Log 41135.8: "So we have 24 hours, and 11 have passed without anything shitty happening."

Wait, what? The entirety of the first half of this episode took place within the same hour (41135.7), which is nuts when you think about it, but I guess there was some overlap of how things were laid out: Picard decides to separate the saucer section from the drive section, several crew members are put on trial. We know that little to no time passes while they are in the courtroom, because Colm Meany (still lacking a name) seems to have not noticed that they were gone. Time ran differently where they were. Okay. Riker gives a log entry with the same exact date and time about his experiences at Farpoint Station. He then boards the ship, rejoins the two pieces, and Data escorts the 137-year-old Admiral McCoy back to the Hood.
So how can Picard give a log entry 11 hours later when the time entry is only one hour later? I thought maybe the "new and improved" stardates ran things differently, with the number behind the decimal not indicating the passing of hours like in TOS. But I fed both dates through the stardate generator and it only came up with the difference of an hour. Maybe it's just wibbly-wobbly.


Picard and Riker are in the captain's ready room, discussing Farpoint. Riker is frustrated because he can quite coincide the weird magic of the place with what he knows. He thinks they traded surplus geothermal energy for the supplies needed to build the station to the Federation's needs. He can't shake the feeling that there's something off about the place, but Picard thinks it's innocent. They plan to beam down together to meet with Zorn the Mystical Cult Leader.

On their way to the transporter room, Picard tells Riker that he's asked the ship's counselor to join them on this mission, and when Deanna Troi shows up, she speaks to Riker using telepathy and calls him Imzadi. They exchange a stilted, formal spoken greeting, and Picard asks if they've met before.
"Um, yeah," replies Riker.
It's more awkward than a British sitcom.

They beam down, and we briefly see that the town next to the station is kind of crummy.
Groppler Zorn is polite, but bluntly demands to know if Picard brought a Betazoid along to read his thoughts. Troi tells him that she cannot read his thoughts, as she is only half-Betazoid, and can only sense his emotions. She adds that her father "was a Starfleet officer," which I guess sets up that Betazoids do not join Starfleet? Okay.
Picard tells Zorn that starfleet is interested not only in Farpoint Station, but that they'd like to see if Zorn's people, the Bandi, want to build them stations on other planets.
"Noooooo," says Zorn. He's kind of a dick about it, too. When Riker offers to trade them something in exchange for their architects and engineers working for Starfleet, Zorn gets kind of nasty, and says they could always work with the Ferengi instead of the Federation.
Troi gasps like Zorn kicked her under the desk. She says that she isn't sensing anything from Zorn or his people, but that she's getting pain, loneliness, and despair from some entity close-by.

Picard asks Zorn if he knows what she might be referring to, and Zorn gets irrationally angry, yelling that he doesn't know, and that this is all very unproductive. Picard and Co. decide to leave. Zorn yells back that the Ferengi would think this place was awesome.
"You can't come to my birthday party!" he calls after them.
Dude, what an asshole. This guy is like Bem, where they've set him up at the beginning as such a complete wank, that even when he gets his comeuppance and turn-around moment at the end (which is kind of inevitable), you don't actually feel for him. You're just kind of glad to see him gone.

"Wow. Fuck you," replies Picard. He suggests that the Ferengi eat their enemies, and the trio leaves.

Back on the ship, Riker is trying to find Lt Commander Data, and enlists the help of some nameless ensign. (We briefly see the Vulcan science officer again.) The smiley ensign tells Riker that he must be new to Galaxy-class ships. Bitch, why are you so high and mighty? This is a new ship, and a relatively new class of ship, which means pretty much everyone you encounter is going to "be new to Galaxy-class ships."
Anyway, she takes Riker over to a panel, which lights up a diagram of the ship, and addresses it like Scotty tried to address an ancient Apple desktop. Then she asks the computer where Data is located. It gives his location as being in a specific holodeck location.(And given that they have to have a number-and-letter system for numbering their holodecks, there are quite a few of them.) The computer then points him in the right direction. 
Yeah, yeah, I get it: using the term "Galaxy-class starship" and explaining how the system works is exposition for the audience.

But get this - when he thanks her and walks away, the ensign kind of mad-dogs him, then checks out his ass as he walks down the corridor away from her. WTH?

Riker enters the holodeck suite and finds himself in some kind of rain forest. There's a moment where he's standing on the path in the middle of the forest, and the door to the holodeck has yet to close. The green screen on the holodeck door, with the corridor behind it, is a little too sharply focused to make the special effect seamless, but it's a nice touch all the same.

Compare it with TOS' season two, episode one "Catspaw," where a similar attempt was made:

Remember when we last saw the holodeck? It was in TAS, and the Enterprise had trapped Uhura, Sulu and bones inside and nearly froze them to death as some kind of sadistic computer prank. I'm really glad they decided to keep the holodeck as a cool recreational activity. Some of my favorite episodes of this franchise take place in the holodecks. 
By this time, they've been around for at least a hundred years (maybe more), and this can't be the only place that Riker has encountered one, so why is he so surprised when he steps through the door, then again when the door closes and disappears behind him? I know this is all supposed to be expository, so the audience can learn with our characters about this new-ish world, but c'mon Star Trek. You can character-build better than that. Write your bible before your pilot and let your actors know when they should and should not be surprised ahead of time. I'm assuming here that they're assuming that this audience probably did not watch the animated series, and would be unfamiliar with the holodecks, but it doesn't make any sense that Riker should be as well.

So Riker steps his way across a stream and up an embankment, following the sound of someone whistling "Pop Goes the Weasel." He sees Data leaning against a tree, and when the android fails to get the tune just right, Riker cheerfully finishes the song for him.
Data reacts... with a bit too much emotion here. "Marvelous how humans do that."
It's a bit out of character for him, but it's less a weird slip-up, and more a question of the writers and actor simply feeling out the character, like when Spock smiles and sort of jokes with Kirk in the first episode. It seems out of place, but only because we've come to know this character so well over the years, and this is just a very early version.
Riker tells Data that the captain wants him for an away team to the surface, and Data responds a bit more in step with what we have come to expect of him:

They chat a bit about Data being an android, and how humans are sometimes bothered or prejudiced about the fact that he is a machine, and he volunteers the information that he'd rather be an imperfect human. Riker jokingly calls him Pinocchio.
The show decides to explain holodeck technology a bit better to the audience, again using Riker as the threshold. Data explains that much of the vegetation and rocks are real, and that it functions on a similar level as the transporters. He says they are close to the back wall of the holodeck suite, and to demonstrate, he throws a rock, which then hits something invisible and solid, and the picture behind them pixelates.

Wesley Crusher runs into the simulation, calling to Riker how awesome the holodeck is, but he slips on a rock and falls into the stream. Data rushes down and grabs Wes out of the water and holds him overhead with one hand. I know that's supposed to be a friendly smile from Data, but damn. No thank you.

In the next scene, Wes goes down to sick bay to hassle his mother while she works. He really wants to see the bridge, but Picard has a standing order about kids on his bridge.
"He's kind of a pain, right?" he asks.
Wait, where did that come from?
"No, your dad liked him," she replies, seriously trying to get some work done.
He wears her down, and she ends up telling him she'll see what she can do.

Down on the surface, we see that our away team consists of Riker, Data, Troi, Yar, and Geordi. They decide to split into two groups, and Troi suggests that she and Riker explore some subterranean tunnels. He rejects this, and assigns her to do it with Yar and Geordi. Riker and Data will check things out, top-side. Troi looks mildly annoyed that Riker brushed her off, but it's not a weird "hoping to get him alone to make out" thing. She seems more irritated that he dismissed her out of hand.
The thing is, pairing Troi, Geordi and Yar was actually a pretty idea. if you need to suss out if something weird is going down in some tunnels, you send in the chief of security, the guy whose "eyesight" can tell you the chemical composition of whatever you're looking at, and the counselor who can sense emotions. They're only down there for a few minutes before they call Riker to report that the walls are weird. Riker asks about Troi, who says she's got herself shielded, because what she felt in Zorn's office was creepy and overwhelming. He asks her to go ahead and feel it all, and she starts sobbing

Riker and Data beam down to them, and Riker apologizes to Troi and tells her to close her mind again.

Picard is on the bridge when the lift opens and Dr Crusher gets out.
"The fuck?" he asks when he sees Wes standing behind her.
She tries to get around his rule by playing semantics, saying that her kid came upstairs with her on the lift, and that he's still... in the lift. Then she points out that they've met, but that he hasn't seen Wes since Picard brought home her husband's body. The captain awkwardly offers to let Wes onto the bridge and sit in his chair. But then he's shown up when Picard tries to tell him what everything does, and Wesley begins talking over him.

Picard gets pissed, and the perimeter alarm goes off. Wes and his mother make a quick exit. A ship is actually pulling up to orbit the planet, and no ships were scheduled to be there at that time. Nobody knows what it is, and it isn't answering hails, so Picard orders Riker and Co. to beam back and he calls Zorn.
"Who is this new ship in orbit?"
"Dunno," says Zorn. "Nobody else is scheduled to be here."
"Bitch, did I ask who was scheduled to be here? Is it the Ferengi?"
"Actually... we haven't talked to them," admits Zorn.
The weird new ship scans the E.

Down in the tunnels, Riker is concerned that Troi has not closed herself off from the entity that she was sensing, but now she tells him that she's closer to an answer. The entity doesn't want them contacting the E.

Worf tries to scan the other ship, but the sensors just bounce back. Then the ship starts firing at the surface, only it's very specifically not hitting the station, only the old Bandi city. The empty, empty Bandi city. It appears, with this city, we've had a visit from our old friend Budget. "Yeah, there's no money to hire extras to run from those explosions. Just say a lot of people died in the attack."

The away team rushes through the tunnels, making their way to the surface. The tunnel walls become stone again near the entrance to the Bandi city. They're rocked by the explosions above. Riker tells the others to beam back up to the ship, that he and Data are going to check things out. Troi objects on the grounds that they could get hurt, but he barks at her to follow orders. She acquiesces, and apparently, the stone tunnels are not blocking their way back to the Enterprise, because Yar, Troi and Geordi are able to beam back to the ship.
Groppler Zorn is desperately calling the E, begging for their help.
Riker and Data reach the surface and call Picard. Riker says that the city is being hit hard and that a lot of casualties are likely. This might seem more probable if there were actually any people in the city.
"I think we should illegally kidnap Zorn," says Picard.
Riker responds, "Sounds like a plan."
Picard turns to Troi and asks her for moral guidance. "Well," she reasons, "technically, the Bandi aren't allies, and they don't really fall under the Prime Directive."
Picard nods and tells Yar to lock phasers on the alien ship. Not fire, just lock onto it.
Guess who shows up?

"Why are you getting on my case now?" demands Picard. "Locking phasers on a potential enemy is a standard safety precaution."
"You don't know what that is," argues Q. "Also, you're worrying about firing on this ship and not about the people on the surface who are hurt and dying."
Picard calls Crusher in sick bay. "Are you ready?" he asks.
"Totes," says Crusher. "My team is ready to beam down to provide aid."
Picard has this convo with Crusher while he stares down Q. It's like when your cat looks you in the eye while taking a shit on your favorite Persian rug.

Picard gives the order to move the E between the city and the alien ship, but the controls refuse to work.

Downstairs, Riker and Data find Zorn sobbing in his destroyed office. He claims he has no idea who is doing this to his people, and Riker shrugs and says, "Cool. We'll just go, then."
He stops them with a frantic, "Maybe I can explain some stuff."
Geez, the more contact we have with this guy, the more convinced I am that he has a secret stash of Kool-Aid in a wide variety of flavors.
But before he can "explain," he's mysteriously beamed away.
"Um, he's gone," Riker tells Picard.
"Ha! You don't even know who took him!" crows Q.
Troi says that she now senses a lot of "satisfaction" from another entity, one that's closer by than the entity on the planet.
Q makes fun of them some more, and Riker and Data beam aboard, entering the bridge. Q thinks Riker should lead an away team to the other ship.
"That's nuts," says Picard. "We don't know what the hell we'll find over there."
"No, I wanna go," argues Riker.

Q vanishes, and Picard leaves the bridge to go to sick bay to talk to Dr Crusher.
"Y'all, I'm sorry for yelling at your kid, and for not coming to sick bay to welcome you to the ship. Also, your kid knows his shit."
"Cool," says Crusher. "We're good."
"Okay, awesome. So, um, if you want to transfer off of this boat, I'm okay with it," he tells her.
"You want me to transfer?" she asks, surprised.
"Well, no, but I don't want to continually remind you of when we last met. Cuz, you know, I brought your husband's body home."

"Who says I was assigned here?" she demands. "I asked for this post, you asshole."
Great, Picard. Apologize, then piss her off.
"Oh. Okay. Great. Then, um, welcome aboard, and ... yeah." He leaves awkwardly.

Riker beams over to the mysterious alien ship with Troi, Yar and Data. Surprise, the corridors of this ship are the same kind as the ones in the underground tunnels on the planet's surface. Troi says the entity she senses is hella pissed. Yar asks if it's pissed at them, and she replies that it's directed at the Bandi people. They continue down the corridor until they come across Zorn, suspended in some kind of energy. He's screaming at the entity to stop torturing him. He's also screaming that he doesn't know what the alien wants. Troi says that isn't true, and he totes knows what it wants. They shoot phasers at the energy that's holding Zorn, and he falls to the floor.

Picard can't raise Riker. They can see the alien ship doing something weird, and he wants to beam them back, but now he can't raise the transporter chief, either.
Q reappears on the bridge in a Starfleet uniform. "Ha! You're so screwed!"
"You need to let me help my people," Picard pleads. "Come on. I'll do whatever you say."
"Okay, cool," says Q.
The away team, with Groppler Zorn, reappears on the bridge.
"Yay, you'll do whatever I say!" smiles Q.
"He's full of shit," says Troi. "He didn't beam us back. That ship is alive. It beamed us back, and you don't owe him anything."
Q continues to taunt them, but Picard and Riker decide that interrogating Zorn is the best course of action.
"The tunnels under your city are the same as on that ship," says Riker. "Care to explain?"
"Yeah, and why was whatever it was torturing you?" asks Picard. "Is it revenge for torture you committed against another creature?"
Cult leader Zorn chooses to preface his answer with this:

Raise your hand if you believe him. What, no one? I'm shocked.
"It was injured, and we helped it!"
Yeah, you look super-trustworthy, dude. Do you also have 8.2 million dollars to wire me from a Nigerian prince? Of course I'll send you my bank information!
Picard seems satisfied that he got any kind of answer out of Zorn, then tells Tasha Yar to rig up an energy beam.
As they watch the viewscreen, the other ship flips over and transforms into something akin to a space jellyfish.

"Hey, that's it!" says Troi. "It wasn't one creature I was sensing - it was two!"
"So that's it," says Picard. "You guys captured another one of these things, and you've been torturing it. Good job, dipshit."
"Wait!" says Zorn. "It'll kill my people!'
"Yeah, okay," replies Picard. "We'll send a message down to the surface for everyone to vacate the station."
"No way," Q eggs him on. "You should let them die."
Picard ignores him. "They're a mated pair," he guesses.
There's this weird moment where Troi is shown with the space jelly behind her on the viewscreen, looking surprised, then there's a shot of Riker that's similar.
Yes, Star Trek, we get it. Riker and Troi were once a mated pair.

"Aw, that was too easy," complains Q.
Picard tells Yar to aim the energy beam at the station and let the creature under it take as much as it wants. Clearly, he intends to nurse the creature back to health.

Yes, Q. You are the humblest of peen-holes.
"Your station is about to disappear," Picard tells Zorn.
That little weasel whines that they never meant to hurt it, that they offered it energy, which their planet has plenty of.
But Picard is fucking over Zorn. "You guys only gave it enough to keep it alive so it would give you what you wanted," he yells. "Fuck you. We don't need your stupid station, and you don't, either. Build things like real people do."
The station on the surface disappears, and a jellyfish-thing rises out of the earth.

The jellyfish floats up to the other, and they briefly touch tentacles before floating away. Troi reports that the jellyfish are hella happy.

As they leave, Picard turns to Q to demand that he leave.
"We passed your test. Get the fuck off my ship."
"Yeah, well, you guys are lame," replies Q. "And I'm only gonna go because I want to. But I'll totes be back."
He disappears.

Picard's Log 41174.2: "So I told the Bandi people how they should rebuild Farpoint Station, but I told them that this time, they actually have to build it, and not just kidnap some energy-matter converting alien creature to do the work for them."

The E is getting ready to leave orbit, and Riker tells Picard that he's wondering if all of their missions are going to go that way.
"Naw, I'm sure they'll be more interesting," quips Picard.
And they warp off into the distance.

So, not a terrible start. Not fantastic, but not terrible, either. Once again we find ourselves at the first episode of a longer-running series, and knowing what we know of the characters at a later time, we can see a bit of the progression that will occur. 
Not much will change with Riker or Yar, but Data will become much more subtle. I feel like Data started out very much in the same vein as Spock, emoting a bit too much for the guy we come to know a little further on. Right now he moves too smoothly, smiles a bit too much, but you can see the seeds of who will be soon enough. Brent Spiner will develop the almost-imperceptible android-stiffness that spells out the difference between Data and others. These are also things that earlier Star Trek androids lacked, but I chalk it up to Spiner being able to spend seasons working on Data, while the actors who portrayed Reyna and Andrea did not. Of course, we were told from the get-go that Data is an android, and we were supposed to be surprised when those other girls turned out to be machines. Data is allowed to act a little strangely in comparison with others.
Worf feels like a blank here. We don't really know anything about him, beyond the fact that he's a Klingon serving in Starfleet in some capacity. From his position on the bridge, we can gather that the Klingon Empire and the Federation have at least come to some uneasy truce, if not outright friendship. They appear to have set things aside based on The Motion Picture, but here we get some proof. It's really rather fabulous. TOS Klingons were most just adversaries in bad make-up. Film Klingons presented a mixed bag. TNG Klingons turn out to be cool people with a rich, varied history. I freaking love post-film Klingons.
Geordi LaForge is in the same boat. The VISOR has been explained, but not much else. He's mostly just a blind dude whose disability is a boon in certain situations. Fortunately, we're gonna get a lot more out of him than that, otherwise he would just be the guy whose wheelchair came in handy when he and two of his friends needed to cross some hot coals. "Let's just climb onto the disabled guy's chair and roll across."
Picard is also due for a bit of growth. This episode mostly marks out how he is different from Kirk. He's less likely to jump the gun on things, more likely to carefully consider his options. he's got a temper on him, no doubt, but they automatically set him up with some flaws when he admits to Riker that he isn't good with kids, and then he fumbles his meet-up with Dr Crusher.
Wesley Crusher was actually set up pretty well. What do we need to know about him? Dude is enthusiastic about space travel, this ship in particular, and wants real badly to be everybody's friend. He'll have some dick moments later on, but his basic demeanor here isn't going to change a whole lot. He's the kid brother who just really wants to join you and your friends in your game.
Dr Crusher is kind of also a blank slate. She's Right on Top of That, Rose when it comes to her job as chief medical officer, and she has a soft spot for her kid, but what do we mostly know about her?

Troi is on her way to becoming more subtle in her abilities as well. This episode, she often responds to her sensing emotion by having that emotion herself. While this doesn't disappear completely, it will be less obvious going-forward. Her relationships will prove to be rich and complex, which I like. One doesn't always consider how the counselor feels, but their lives are typically just as messed up as the rest of us. She'll also receive a number of make-overs, some of them terrible. In this episode, the producers correctly described her as looking like "an inter-galactic cheerleader."

While we covered the standard pants-based uniforms, let's take a quick look at a season one oddity, the skant. The skant was designed to be a play off of the original series mini-skirt tunics that all of the women wear, only in this case, it is available to men and women alike. Troi is wearing hers in this first episode, and we'll also see it on Yar (oddly enough). The thing is, the skant will disappear at the end of season one (along with that goofy piping that I hate), but only in the regular crew uniform rotations. The skant will return in future seasons... as the dress uniform for officers. It'll be paired with tights, and Riker and Picard will bitch mightily about them. It's good fun - join us!

Fun Facts:

- Lady Archon's first cat was Bratty's sister, a little black hauspanther named Imzadi. Sometimes being called Zim lead others to ask if the cat was named after the cartoon Invader Zim, but no. Lady Archon is far nerdier than that, and frankly, she totally ships the Riker-Troi ship. She also did not intend to end up with multiple cats named after Star Trek characters. (Though in her defense, it was Roomie that named Uhura and her brothers, Kirk and Spock.)

- Remember back to The Motion Picture when new characters Will Decker and Ilia were added to the crew, and their backstory was that they had had some kind of a love affair on her planet that ended abruptly? And that they hadn't encountered one another until they ended up serving on the same ship? Star Trek liked the idea of the human-Starfleet-officer-and-beautiful-alien-hook-up so much that they repeated it here with Will Riker (way to stretch yourselves, writers) and Deanna Troi.
- Patrick Stewart was approached for the part of Picard after he was overheard giving a university lecture on theater. Gene Rod disliked the idea of a bald captain, and Stewart was forced to audition in a hairpiece. (The hairpiece's name was George, and had to be flown into LA from his home in Great Britain.) After Stewart and others read for the part, Stewart was asked back in to re-read. He had already taken off the rug, so he read without it. Gene decided that he liked Patrick better without it.


This week's tea is one that I found on clearance and went, "What? Clearly, I need to buy this." It's Watermelon-Lime by Celestial Seasonings, and it's very obviously a summer tea, because who drinks watermelon anything in the winter? I was actually pretty hesitant to try it, as warm watermelon sounded like death warmed over. I thought it might make a delicious iced tea, and it does give instructions on how to brew it iced as well. But I drank it warm, and it turns out that a warm watermelon-lime tastes like raspberry. It was actually not bad. I'm looking forward to making it as an iced drink, but the warm version was surprisingly okay.