93: Sins of the Father (3.17)

Synopsis: Our obligatory season Worf episode that further reveals how incredibly illogical his species behaves.

Memory Alpha Summary: Killing subordinates for offering suggestions seems short-sighted

Review:  I will never get past how stupidly violent and vengeful Klingon culture is (yet still, somehow well organized and powerful), but one great thing about this episode is that it marks the time Star Trek decided they could do a story arc.  Perhaps the show being more stable in the ratings helped this decision, but it was a good one.

Worf’s brother Kurn is believable and funny, a credit to Tony Todd, the guy who plays him.  The Klingon world is realized in awesome fashion.   It’s just too bad Worf’s culture proves that ‘honor’ is just a talking point for their politicians and really isn’t the driving force behind all decisions.

94: Liaisons (7.02)

Synopsis:  A race that experiences no concept of feelings tries to learn some from our emotionally mature Enterprise crew.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Better than Cruel Intentions

Review:  It’s about time somebody on the crew said something about how ridiculous the formal dresswear for the Federation is.  It’s also about time for Worf to yell and pound his chest.  Oh wait, he does that all the time.  But it’s hilarious here.

Worf: Ambassador Byleth is demanding, temperamental, and rude!
Data: You share all of those qualities in abundance! Perhaps you should try to build on your similarities.

When Worf threatens to rip out the man’s esophagus I cracked up as well.  Dorn really got into it.

As for the main plot down on the planet, the twist ending was all right but not terribly concealed.  It’s not Picard’s best solo moment, but I always love watching him think his way out of a situation.

And, of course, because it’s season seven, the theme of this episode is incredibly similar to that of Allegiance.  The idea machine was broken.

Survivor X, Week 19: The Machine of Death

This week we had to write about the Machine of Death.  It’s a machine that prints out a card, foreshadowing one’s death.  It is never wrong.  The story must also have a title, and that title must be the words on the card someone receives.

YOU

Dave Nguyen took a slow drag from his cigarette, allowing himself to taste the smoke rolling around his cheeks.  He hated smoking.  But he endured it for two reasons.  The first was because he could.  His status afforded him the opportunity despite the world-wide ban on tobacco production.  The second reason was his intense dislike for living.  If smoking shaved seven years off his life, Dave welcomed it.

He inarguably had the most important job a human ever had.  When the fucking scientists figured out how to send a person through time, they also figured out this was a very bad idea.  Even the most minor of changes in the past would have unimaginable consequences, the saddest being erasing the life experiences of every generation affected henceforth.  And in this age of global government, that meant everybody.  Dave’s job was to prevent this from happening.  He was lead investigator of the TTP, the Terran Temporal Police.  If somebody managed to send themselves back in time, he was to follow and terminate their right of existence.

Thankfully, this didn’t happen very often.  There were only two time machines, one in Cape Town, the other in Zurich.  They were highly guarded and required at minimum three people for its operation, and anyone near it had already undergone multiple stages of psychological testing.  The machines were used regularly; international law only banned traveling to the past.  Every so often, a scientist (and one time a politician) couldn’t resist the temptation.  A bribe or two later and Dave had work to do.

Most who went back felt they were doing so for altruistic reasons.  At least that’s what most told him before termination.  The first went back to try and kill Gavrilo Princip.  Dave was at Moritz Shiller’s Café long before his target, thanks to a tip from one of the scientists who helped send him back.  No damage was done, unless you count the perp’s body in the bottom of the Adriatic.  The second who went back decided he wanted to be the first person to see a live dinosaur.  A very generous sarcosuchus did Dave’s work for him.

The Machine of Death—a prize brought back from the future–made Dave’s job a bit easier.  Anyone who worked in or around one of the time machines had to first register and receive their death card.  It helped Dave catch a guy last year whose card read ENOLA GAY.  He found him near the imperial palace in Tokyo.  An interrogation revealed he planned on warning Hirohito.  Dave tied him to a post in an abandoned Hiroshima cotton mill.

Four months ago, a lady who worked in Zurich received a card that said DAVE NGUYEN.  After two days of private deliberations at TTP headquarters, it was decided that Dave would make a preemptive strike.  When Dave confronted her at her home, she quickly resigned to her fate, but asked him if he’d make love to her before she ingested the poison he brought.  She was striking, and due to his work women were naturally afraid to sleep with him.  But he declined, knowing that emotional detachment was crucial to his future success.

Rubbing out the end of the cigarette, Dave’s attention turned to the card he kept taped to the monitor.  He was also required to visit the Machine of Death when he was awarded his current position.  He now wished he had asked never to see the results after they were printed.  He took the card and studied it, as if he thought hard enough about it he could change what it had told him.  One word stared back at him.

YOU

Dave thought he was signing up for an adventure of a lifetime.  But his life became smaller every day.  There were no other travelers in his department, so he was always on-call.  The pressure to prevent unauthorized jumps was enormous.  His brain rarely shut off as he studied each person who worked with the machines, having to assume each one was capable of defection.  But the terminations weighed heavy on his conscience.  Knowing that each termination saved over 13 billion lives did little to quell the guilt.

He thought about suicide every day.  The card forced him to.  But in all the years with the TTP, he never really considered it.  Depressed as he was, one thing motivated him.  He wanted to prove the Machine of Death wrong.

His phone rang, which is to say the device implanted in his ear sounded an alarm.

“Unauthorized jump.  Repeat, unauthorized jump.”

Dave was already heading for the door.

“Who is it?” Dave asked.

“Igor Khitrovo.”

“How far back?”

“Two days, sir.”

“Two days?”

“Yes, sir.”

Dave opened the door to the lab.  Due to the time sensitive nature of his work, living right next to the time machine was a forgone conclusion.  At least they had given him soundproof walls.

He found the director, who handed him his pistol–he refused to keep it in his home–as they walked to the machine.  “Any ideas?” Dave asked.

“None, sir.”

“What did his card, say?”

The director handed him a copy.  OLD AGE is all it said.

“That’s odd,” said Dave as he stepped into the machine.

“Agreed,” replied the director.  “It’s imperative that you bring him back alive.”

“But only one person can come back at a time.”

“New development.  It should work.”  The director attached the armband.

“Since when?”

“Since now.  Do it.”

The director turned around and nodded to the two scientists at the controls.  Dave closed his eyes.  It was easier that way.  He felt a mild electrical pulse run through his toes, heard the usual popping noise, then opened his eyes again.  He recognized his location from the personnel files.  It was Igor’s home.

Most perps traveled to a desolate location, hoping to avoid being noticed or leaving a trail for Dave to follow.  The scientists theorized that short jumps in time had less time variance.  The typical variance was twelve to sixteen hours, but a jump this short would likely have a variance of twenty to thirty seconds.  Perhaps that’s why Igor didn’t bother to cover his tracks.  He was standing just two feet away, leaning against the kitchen sink.

“Hey Dave,” he said casually.

Dave drew his gun.

“I know you won’t kill me.  You’ve seen my card.”

“I have orders to bring you back alive.  You’ll die in a prison cell I’m guessing.”

“Can I say something first?”

Dave stared at him, unflinching.

Igor sighed.  “Will you put that thing down?  You and I both know you’re not going to use it.”

Dave obliged.

“My wife and daughter are upstairs, sleeping.”  Igor approached Dave, obviously not concerned about him.  “In about two hours, they’re going to wake up.  Then they’re going to come down here to eat breakfast.  Marta will have coffee and a bagel with cream cheese and lox.  Yuliya will have waffles, sausage, and orange juice.  They’ll turn on the radio to a station that still plays songs from the fucking Beatles. “

Igor took a breath.  He seemed on the verge of crying or yelling; Dave wasn’t sure.

“And before breakfast is over, a man dressed as a priest will ring the doorbell and force his way in.  He’ll tie my wife to a chair, and make her watch as he rapes my daughter.  He’ll cut them up, hearing them scream in agony as they slowly bleed to death.”

Dave reached back, found a chair, and sat.

“I know you have a job, but I beg you to let me stop this.  Please!”  Igor wept.  “Even if it changes things, it will just be the next two days.  Nobody will know the difference except you.  We can stop this fucker and go back together.”

Dave shook his head.  “I’m sorry, Igor.  I can’t make judgments.”  Dave took a deep breath, but still felt he was suffocating.  “We don’t know what changing the past will do.  Killing this guy could have irrevocable repercussions that you and I can’t begin to imagine.  And if we don’t kill him, he might go next door and do the same thing.  Dammit, I’m sorry.  But you know I can’t let you do this.”

Igor’s body went limp as he lowered himself to the floor.

Dave approached and knelt beside him.  He grabbed Igor’s shoulder and leaned in.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered, as he reached for the armband with his free hand.  He heard a loud pop.  Before he could turn around, he felt a pistol jam up against his neck.

“I’m sorry, too,” said the voice behind him.

Dave Nguyen recognized the voice.  It was his own.   In the second before the bullet scrambled his brain, his depression lifted.

Spooky: Oh, hot damn. Dave did the right thing. God help me, I didn’t see this ending coming, although given the circumstances, I possibly should have. In a week full of incredible concepts, this one still stands out.

DK: Another really cool idea, and Dave is another great, sharply drawn character here. I have to admit I didn’t fully understand what was meant to have happened to bring Dave into position to kill “himself”, but regardless, the time travel aspect fits together well with the premise of this challenge.

I had other ideas, including a minister bringing an MoD to prisoners on death row, and also a person that was the Machine of Death.  While none of my concepts were drawn out, it appears John and Brooks had somewhat similar thoughts.

I actually settled on the title of this story before the concept.  Then time travel.  Then I felt Dave might kill himself because he was forced to do things that were for the greater good but made his heart break.  But it wasn’t until I was halfway through the story that I had the idea of him having to back in time to kill himself, to save himself from allowing Igor’s family to die.  Of all the time travel stories I’ve seen, I’m not sure someone’s done that.  I would love to see it visually, too.  Dave shoots himself, and they both disappear immediately.

One mistake wasn’t caught by the judges.  I said Dave had to get a death card as part of the hiring process for his job, yet I already established he had been lead investigator of the TTP before the Machine of Death was found.  Whoops.

I didn’t win immunity, but the winner was very deserving.  This competition has made me a stronger writer, and a good deal of that is being able to watch other great writers do their work.

 

 

95: The Chase (6.20)

Synopsis:  The Alpha Quadrant almost turns into The Brady Bunch.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Maury Povich would have a field day.

Review:  Now this episode is sci-fi at its most complex.  In a very scientific and, frankly, cool way, we discover why most of the species the Enterprise run into look very similar in shape.  They are all descendants of an ancient species, of course.  Unfortunately, the writers painted future Star Trek writers into a corner, as many species in both the Gamma and Delta quadrants also just happen to look like humans.  But it doesn’t negate what they did here.  It’s really not that terribly moving of an episode, probably because it is so deep in discussions about DNA.  But it was cool to see the Federation’s three primary enemies all in one place “working together.”

96: Elementary, Dear Data (2.03)

Synopsis: Pulaski questions Data’s mystery-solving cajones, and Geordi tells the computer to beat Data.

Memory Alpha Summary:  The series, as they say, is afoot

Review:  The first episode with Professor Moriarty is solid, if really slow.  It only picks up once Moriarty appears, who is played brilliantly by Daniel Davis.  There’s not much conflict here, especially since it becomes clear early on that Moriarty is more interested in leaving the holodeck than harming anyone.  But at least he was able to tell Pulaski that he planned on filling her with crumpets all while keeping a straight face.

97: Hero Worship (5.11)

Synopsis:  Another orphan boy with typical child-acting skills for the crew to save and psychoanalyze.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Data proves to be a better father than Worf

Review: It’s fun to watch Data interact with this boy who is imitating him.  Also, Troi doesn’t do too terrible of a job explaining his condition and prognosis to the rest of the crew.  The final countdown, when Data saves the day by hypothesizing that the Enterprise must drop its shields in order to save the day is kind of fun, although no technobabble explanation is really given as to why his theory works other than “the other guys didn’t do this, and they died.”

I love when Timothy said he destroyed his previous ship, The Vico, when he fell and his arm hit a control panel.  The Enterprise crew explains to him that there are safety protocols in place so this doesn’t happen.  If that’s the case, how come Wesley amongst others were able to overtake the ship the first couple of seasons without using command codes?

98: Identity Crisis (4.18)

Synopsis:  Geordi is close friends with a woman and doesn’t fall in love and blow it.

Memory Alpha Summary:  And that’s not even the identity crisis

Review:  A plodding episode that it short on excitement but still has some sweet special effects.  The best part is Geordi running simulations on the holodeck and slowing figuring things out, simultaneously creeping himself out.  But I wasn’t moved at all by the ending.  I never truly bought this deep friendship Geordi had with this woman from years back, and the climax where she saves him is painfully slow with obvious dialogue.

99: Qpid (4.20)

Synopsis:  Q comes back to taunt Picard, as does his ex.

Memory Alpha Summary: Picard of Thieves?  Steal from the Ferengi, give to the…nah, I got nothing.

Review:  A really silly, pointless episode that is pretty good fun anyway.  The beginning is a bit dull, plodding, and pedantic until Q arrives and reminds Picard that he’s dull, plodding, and pedantic.  And Vash’s whining is wholly unbecoming of her and I don’t blame Picard for being annoyed.

Nottingham is where it’s at.  Costumes, fighting, the whole works.  I just wish the two actors who actually were trained in swordfighting (Gates and Marina) were allowed to do so instead of fighting with clay pots.

A huge laugh out loud moment goes to Worf.  It’s sad he’s used for one-liners in most episodes, but this one was worth it.

Sir, I must protest!  I am not a merry man!

Survivor X, Week 18: Triumph of Tragedy

With seven players remaining, there is no such thing as an easy opponent.  Everyone left could get published and I’d buy whatever they wrote.  This week we had to write a fictional story about a real, historical tragedy in history, and the character who goes through it.  It was our choice whether or not the protagonist lives or dies.

Sitting up in the hospital bed, he first noticed the IV protruding from this left arm.  He then noticed a baseball resting on the tray beside his bed.  An instinctual impulse to grab it led to an unfortunate series of shockwaves, knocking what little wind he had out his lungs.  Unsure why he was here, but sure he needed to see that baseball, he took more a measured approach on his next attempt.  Slow and steady won the race this time, as the tip of his middle finger was able to roll the ball off the tray and onto his lap.  There was writing on the ball, the first letter barely smudged.

YOU LUCKY GUY, JACK!

Jack?  Was that his name?  It didn’t ring a bell, but neither did anything else.  In fact, he had no idea why he was here, or why he was in so much pain.

Below the compliment was a signature.  It took him a bit, but the name came to form.  He heard a stranger’s voice—his own—sound it out.

“Candy Maldonado.”

He remembered.

***************

“Fucking ay!  I managed to score you a ticket and you don’t show up until the 4th inning?”

“Sorry, man,” he said, annoyed.  “I was with an important client.  And you know how traffic is this time of night.”

“Pfffttthh.  You’re missing a good one, too.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Reuschel’s retired nine straight, and Uribe scored last inning to tie the game.”

“Awesome.”

He disengaged from his friend and surveyed the field.  There was a runner on first.  He couldn’t tell who.  He heard the crowd react.  It was a wild pitch.

“Go go Mitchell you shithead go!”

So it was Mitchell on first.  Now on second.  He turned to his friend.

“You know, I don’t think he heard you.”

“Lighten up, dude.  It’s just a…oh shit, look out!”

He turned around in time to see a foul ball hurtling towards him.  He raised his hands up in defense.

****************

He looked at his hands.  They appeared fine, quite unlike his right leg, which was in traction.

He looked at the ball again.

“Nice catch!”  He looked up to see a doctor approaching.  “So, how are we doing?”

“Fine, I guess.”

“Who’s the current President?”

He racked his brain.  “Reagan?”

“No, but you’re closer now.  Last time I asked you said Ford.  Okay, well, your vitals look good.  Nurse tells me your pain has subsided.  Lookin’ good.”

“Doc, do I have amnesia?”

The doctor sighed.  “Too soon to tell.  It could be the anesthesia from the surgeries, but it’s unusual for a patient to not remember their name.  Still don’t?

He shook his head.

“I’m not too worried yet.  And hey, if you don’t get your memory back, maybe you can play center field next week.”

He hated funny doctors.

“So how’d you get that autograph, anyway?”

He remembered.

*******************

Flying down the road, his mind wandered.  He wished he could go straight home.  But he had to fly out to Seattle in an hour for another client and wouldn’t be back until Tuesday.  Even worse, he was out of gas.  The next exit had a Shell station.

As he squeezed the pump, his mind raced.  He’d need to double-time it to the airport if he didn’t want to hurry inside the terminal.  And then there was presentation he didn’t know how to finish.  The gas pump was unbearably slow.   He looked at the man at the next pump over, who also seemed a bit impatient.  The man caught him staring.  Oh, shit!  He recognized him.

“Um, hi.  I don’t mean to intrude, but is your name…Candy?”

The man flashed his white teeth in a broad smile.  “It might be.”

“Wow.  Well, uh, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”  He extended his hand.  Candy shook it.  “Hey, I caught a foul ball you hit tonight.”

“Really, man?”

“Yeah!  Would you autograph it for me?”

“Heh.  Sure thing, man.”

He practically threw open his passenger door and found the ball.  He couldn’t believe his luck.

*********************

“Hey you, wake up!”

His eyes fluttered several times before he opened them.  The voice appeared to come from a pretty woman standing over him.

“Nurse?”

“No, silly.  It’s me.  The doctor said we could finally see you.”

“Oh…”  He looked her up and down.  Nice body, too.

“So! Just look at the mess you got yourself into.  You’ll do anything to get attention, won’t you?”

He said nothing.  Turning his head, he saw someone else on the other side of the bed.  A young man, maybe ten or eleven.  He squinted his eyes.  Nope.

“Oh,” the woman said.  “The doctor said you might…”

“I don’t remember.  Who are you?”

“I’m your wife, Denise.”  She choked back tears.  “And this is your son, Jack.  Oh Michael…”

He looked at his son, hoping beyond hope he’d remember.  He picked up the ball.  “I guess this is for you.”

***********************

The trip was a success.  Michael had secured another client, and he had an autographed ball for his son.  As he cruised down the Nimitz Freeway, he turned on the radio.  The legendary voice of Jack Buck greeted him.  He grinned.  Sure, the Giants were down two to nothing, but they were at home now.  And Garrelts was pitching.

A loud thunk jolted Michael.  He wondered if he hit something. Turning his focus back to the road, he looked ahead.  The southbound lane of I-880 was above him.  And now it was falling.

Spooky: I have no idea why it took me so damned long to figure out what was going on here – I know a boy of about 14 died when he was hit with a foul ball a few decades back, but given that I knew the players mentioned here, I should have come up with it (this is the earthquake during the 1989 World Series, for the uninitiated). I loved the story’s construction, told effectively out of order, which fit the theme of the victim’s confusion. This was another astonishingly strong week, Survivors, and I’m left clueless about where Immunity should go.

DK: Yeah, of course I have a soft spot for baseball. I was too young to experience following this event when it happened, but as a piece of baseball history it’s pretty satisfying in a story form here, and these flashback intercuts are also pretty effective for unpeeling the way Michael’s situation took place.

Once again I wrote something that turned out better than I thought it would.  From the beginning I knew I wanted our hero to have an autographed baseball for his kid, and shortly thereafter I threw in the flashbacks.  My biggest decision was whether or not the player would be from the A’s or Giants, and which one at that.  I decided on the Giants, as I hated those A’s teams as a kid, and even in retrospect many of their batters don’t have solid reputations.  Matt Williams or Kevin Mitchell were more recognizable, but I felt their names were too boring.  And if I’m a kid?  I want the autograph of the dude with the awesome name.  I loved Candy Maldonado when I was a kid and I barely saw him play.

I didn’t win immunity, but I’m not dissatisfied.  The competition is really amazing.  And this week’s winner made Spooky hug his daughter.  Here’s hoping there’s no earthquake in Phoenix this week.

100: The Loss (4.10)

Synopsis:  Troi goes blind, becomes a raging bitch, becomes whole again, and then nice again.

Memory Alpha Summary: As if she had much empathy to begin with.

Review:  While nothing in this episode feel disingenuous (in fact, it really is a hard and honest look at what it’s like to be disabled), I just don’t care about Troi, so I don’t care about her plight.  The scene that really makes this episode not suck is when Riker confronts her, calls her aristocratic and a control freak. Granted, this is also the same guy who pouted every time Troi had the nerve to date someone in the first three seasons.  They really were made for each other.

Money Quote (after Riker hugs a very depressed, isolated Troi)

“Is this how you handle all of your personnel problems?”

“Sure. You’d be surprised how far a hug goes with Geordi…or Worf!”