162: Skin of Evil (1.23)

Synopsis:  Tasha kicks the bucket.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Take some Metamucil first

Review:  Poor Tasha begins the episode by discussing a ship wide MMA tournament she is planning. Not only would this have been awesome for Denise Crosby (who bemoaned the lack of action she had for a security officer), it would have been awesome for us viewers as well.  I am guessing the inevitable Tasha vs. Worf championship showdown would have ended with Worf flat on his back (as usual) and Tasha winning despite displaying no apparent skill.

What we get instead is a black monster who is all things Cthulhu, only not scary.  Tasha gets one of the most anticlimactic death scenes in the history of television.  If we cared deeply for her, then such a death would be moving, and sincere.  But we don’t, so it’s not.  And then we find out she has a prepared holographic speech to give to all of her friends in case she died in the line of duty.  If Tasha’s character had any depth, it would be heart wrenching.  But she doesn’t, so it’s not.  In her speech we find out about all the deep friendships she had with everyone on the crew despite the viewers never seeing any evidence of them to this point.  She tells Data he looks at the world like a child does, which is essentially an epic smackdown of his sexual prowess.  The most telling statement she has is for Worf, saying they are “so much alike.”  Yup, that’s the first season for ya.

163: The Icarus Factor (2.14)

Synopsis:  Riker’s father wants to kiss and make up  (with him, not with Pulaski, whom he apparently kissed and “made up” with a long time ago). Meanwhile, Riker considers taking command of another ship just to get away from his anger.  Worf copes with his anger by engaging in masochism.

Memory Alpha Review:  Read it, or hit yourself with a painstik.  Same result.

Review:  In case you haven’t noticed, not a single episode featuring Wesley has made the countdown yet.  That changes today, though not because of him.

This episode tries desperately to provide emotional depth to two characters while completely forgetting to make it emotional.   Both Riker and Worf are supposed to be angry and resentful, but it never feels real.  Whether that’s the script or Roddenberry’s poor handling of any negative emotion is up for debate, but this is just really ham-handed.  The anger, the outbursts, the make-up sex (in adorable red and blue suits)…it all feels shallow.   A couple of great lines by O’Brien kept me from falling asleep and this episode from showing up last week.

Survivor X, Challenge 5: Bantam Bulwyr

Our challenge this week was to honor the spirit of Bulwyr-Lytton and create the worst possible opening to a novel imaginable.  It has to be believable enough to actually make it to print, but bad enough to make the reader want to stop immediately.  The only rule was to keep it at 50 words or less.  Coincidentally, I came in at exactly 50 words.

The crosscheck by McDuff was as swift as it was sharp, paralyzing Tristan long enough for the black disk that was his nightly ticket to a division one school slide past his reach.  He gathered himself and gave McDuff an icy stare.  This was going to be a long night.

Scoring was on a forced curve, with twenty percent getting a perfect score of five, twenty percent getting a four, and so on.

Spooky: Ooh, I love a good unnecessary definition in this challenge, a la “the black disk.” The “icy stare” is a great eye-roller, and the use of McDuff and Tristan – characters from classic literature – makes this one gloriously amateurish. Plus, the final sentence gives the impression that the entire book might be this one hockey game. Holy shit, man. 4

DK: If you’re wondering, this is the hardest one I had to give. I’m too interested in the topic to grade this higher, and though I love to hate the puck description, there’s not enough else to keep me away from it. 1

There was no inspiration for this.  I wasn’t even watching hockey.  But “The crosscheck by McDuff” just sort of popped in my head and I went with it.  I figured our hero should have the most annoying name possible, so Tristan it was.  I intentionally used a last name for the antagonist and a first name for the protagonist.  “Swift as it was sharp” makes no sense, but it sounds like it’s trying hard to be a cool simile.  “Icy stare” was a lame metaphor that I couldn’t resist.  But my favorite part was what this paragraph actually means. One, our hero views hockey as his ticket into NCAA sports. Yuck. Finally, as Spooky mentioned, the last sentence implies the entire book will be this one game.  Double yuck.

DK, if you want to me to finish this and be my publisher, let me know!

The Vogons also cruised to their fifth consecutive first-place finish.  Go team.

164: Sub Rosa (7.14)

Synopsis:  Twilight is to whale vomit as Sub Rosa is to…

Memory Alpha Summary:  For the love of all that is holy, don’t read two chapters.

Review:   Easily the most ridiculous episode in the entire series run, I can’t believe Gates McFadden was able to keep a straight face through it all.  The sad thing here is that her performance is actually pretty impressive given what she had to work with.  Having an orgasm with a ghost (while also realizing it’s going to be on prime time TV) cannot be easy.

I don’t hate this episode because it’s a Gothic romance novel.  I also don’t hate this episode because the sci-fi is essentially limited to the sexual slave master being able to travel along a power transfer beam.  I hate it because the characters say the stupidest things ever said in space.

First we get everyone talking about the  “Howard women” and how their green eyes go back 800 years.  We are even given the name of the first woman our slave master raped in the 17th century, and it’s Jessel Howard (and to any woman who thought this episode was romantic: you are endorsing rape and you don’t deserve to have sex ever again).  So we’re led to believe that Beverly was the first female in her entire family’s history that changed her last name when she got married.   I can force myself to ignore subtle plot holes but this one grates on me.

Second, everyone dances around the most obviously gross aspect of this story.  Beverly is essentially fucking her dead grandma’s booty call.  Troi admonishes Beverly, warning her that two people who share a trauma sometimes get together under false pretenses.  Yes, Troi, but you forget to mention to Beverly that this guy just regularly fucked her grandmother.  She even encourages Beverly to read more of her grandma’s erotic journal entries(!) so she can have wet dreams about her grandma’s boyfriend.  What.  The.  F?

165: Cost of Living (5.20)

Synopsis:  Alexander and Lwaxana?  Really?

Memory Alpha Summary:  Yes, you’re just supposed to sit here

Review:  Before we get to the episode itself, I have to say a couple of things.  First, I’m not intentionally picking on season five.  It truly was a great season.  But when an idea failed, it failed hard.  Second, I love Majel Barrett and even Lwaxana when she is written well (as she is in Deep Space Nine).  Obviously, not here.

Cost of Living is an incredibly poorly paced episode.   We are twenty minutes in before there’s any conflict (ship eating parasites).  By then, the conflict feels contrived and too easily solved.  It really does feel like the writers were thinking, “We need to add a sci-fi element here where everyone could die” and put something together in a few minutes.  The Enterprise nearly being destroyed should never be the B-plot of an episode.  However, even if it had been interesting, it couldn’t have saved us from a story about Alexander teaching Lwaxana that marrying someone she’s never met because she’s depressed is a bad idea.

The jokes are obvious and the crazy holodeck characters feel like one is at a children’s party with a bad clown (yeah, I know).  The only part that woke me up was Lwaxana coming to her senses and arriving at her wedding in the nude.  It was that scene alone that skyrocketed this episode from #166 to #165.

Hey, at least it won Emmys for costume-design and makeup.  Apparently garish was the prerequisite that year.

166: New Ground (5.10)

Synopsis:  Federation scientists develop a new method of space travel and decide that the alpha testing stage should risk the lives of billions of people.  And a couple lizards.

Memory Alpha Summary:  1/4 Human, 3/4 Annoying

Review:  So, this soliton wave experiment doesn’t work (surprise) and we learn it will destroy most of the planet it was aimed at (!).  I’m guessing the citizens of said planet did not sign a joint waiver releasing the scientists from liability, but perhaps that’s part of joining the Federation.   Back to the wave, the Enterprise needs to stop it by setting off an explosion in front it.  Since they don’t have time to go around it, they go through it, suffering some significant but not fatal damage.  Just so I understand, this wave does moderate damage to the Enterprise but will annihilate an entire planet?

Unfortunately this couldn’t be explained because Worf was too busy being a deadbeat dad.  In Alexander’s first significant episode, we learn he behaves quite well considering most kids going through what he has (murdered mother, absent father, grandparents who want to shuffle him off) would have reactive attachment disorder.  Yet Worf is ashamed of him.  But to save his bad parenting, the plot forces him to save his son’s life (and the aforementioned lizards); consequently, they both decide they want to be with each other for a while.


167: Violations (5.12)

Synopsis:  An Ullian decides to have his way with Riker, Beverly, and Troi.  But Troi was asking for it–she was showing off her psilosynines.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Come on, you know you want it

Review:  An entire episode dedicated to telepathic rape could have been great.  But when the obvious rapist is so obviously evil the whole episode, it’s just laughable that not a single person on the crew is suspicious of him.  Then when the rapist implicates his own father–who has been acting like a very non-evil dude–they immediately arrest him.  Then the rapist, who has somehow gotten away with his rapes and his general dickery (as he has on multiple planets already), decides to rape Troi some more.   Finally, he physically assaults her just in case the evidence against him wasn’t damning enough.  Thankfully, Data and LaForge have found common sense a paper trail that implicates the obvious rapist, saving Troi and a bunch of would be victims.

However, the truly offensive scene is when Picard proclaims that the Federation has no laws against mental rape.  Seriously, o diplomatic one.  He has allegedly caused direct mental anguish to several of your crew and put them into comas.  I’m sure the legal experts of the Federation could still find a way to prosecute him, so perhaps you shouldn’t extradite him quite so quickly. The severe lack of anything resembling an intelligent or empathetic look into the subject matter is embarrassing.

At least Worf got to remind everyone that Klingons do not allow themselves to be…probed.  Michael Dorn—you deserve every penny you’ve made for being able to deliver that line with a straight face.

168: Too Short A Season (1.16)

Synopsis:  Insane Admiral #1 negotiates a hostage situation (that he helped create), hoping his terrible makeup will scare off his adversary, or at least fall off and make him younger.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Just one dose.

Review:  While The Next Generation is one of my favorite shows, there are a handful of episodes that Gul Madred couldn’t get me to admit I enjoyed.  When trying to decide which one to rank in the bottom spot, I thought about how each of the episodes in that handful make me feel.  Some evoke annoyance.  Some irritation.  Some even deserve the double facepalm.  But in each of those cases, I felt something.  Too Short A Season fails for forty-two minutes to make me feel anything.  No humor.  No tension.  I could not even get worked up about how irrational Ponce de LeAdmiral was acting because I didn’t believe a single thing any character said.   And there was a lot to be said, as the climax was talking, talking, and more talking.

In other words, boring on top of boring.

Survivor X, Challenge 4: What Was That You Asked?

We had another team challenge this week.  We were given 19 statements and we had to find what question or comment prompted those responses.  So our team came up with a slew of responses and then voted on which ones stuck.  The judges picked their favorites from each, for a total of 38 points.  Our team, Nibbish & His Vogons, cleaned up by getting 20 of the 38 available points, leaving 18 for the other two teams.  You can check out the post to see the results.  Below are my submissions that were voted in by the team.

Okay, but it’s twice the cost for full sevice.

Could you change the other half of my oil, please?

One point from DK

A slide rule, an apple and a piece of the Blarneystone.

Only one Plinko chip? What items did you have to guess on?

One point from DK

It was my video game knowledge that saved my life.

Mr. President, you did a barrel roll?

One point from Spooky

Peer pressure makes a (guy/girl) do stupid things.

Why the long face, Benito?

No points

It was going so well until he slipped.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

One point from Spooky

So, I didn’t get a unanimous vote on any of mine, but I got our team four points, so I’m happy.  I’m also happy our team has finished in first place every week.  I’ll end this post with my favorite of the week from our team.

I guess that’s the one good thing about visiting a KKK complex.

We haven’t lost a basketball game there in 12 years!

Star Trek: TNG Countdown FAQ

The countdown begins in four days.  Here’s the obligatory FAQ.

1.  Why?

This past summer I had an internship that required me to be on the road over two hours per day.  I bought an MP3 player to help dull the monotony, but I knew I didn’t want to listen to just music either.  So I decided to convert the TNG episodes to audio files and listen to them on my drive each day.

2.  But why the countdown?

I’ve seen a lot of TNG lists floating around the intertubes.  Top tens and top twenties.  Also, several people have written their individual reviews of episodes.  Many have started blogging about each episode, starting from the beginning, but then petered out before they were finished (e.g. Wil Wheaton, who is mind-blowingly hilarious but stopped after half of season one).  I found that unsatisfying.  So while I listened to the episodes, I decided to take notes.  I thought it would be more fun to share those notes in countdown style.

3.  A lot of Star Trek is also art, costumes, and special effects.  How can you rank them without watching them?

I’ve watched each episode at-least a half-dozen times or more, so I know what they look like.  But it’s amazing how much you miss while being dazzled by all the visuals.  Nuances in conversation are much sharper without the eye candy.  Preparing this countdown has helped me appreciate some episodes more and other less, and I believe part of that is how I took them in.

4.  What’s the format going to be?

Rank and Episode Title, of course.  Then I will more or less simply critique each episode while hopefully being entertaining.  What you will not find:

a)broad summaries of each episode.  I’ll link to Memory Alpha if you don’t remember.
b)nitpicks of minutia–like continuity errors or Data saying a contraction–unless it’s relevant to the plot or character development

5.  How often will you post?

Every day, Monday through Friday.  Promise.

6.  Are you ranking the two-parters together or separately?

For me, the two-part episodes are really feature length episodes artificially split into two parts.  Thus, they will get reviewed as one episode.  So, instead of a countdown beginning at 176, it begins at 168.

7.  I can’t believe you rank ______ that low/high!  Can I laugh and point at you?

Go right ahead.  I just ask two things.  Don’t be an asshole, and try not to get worked up if something is ranked #138 and you think it should be #136.  I didn’t agonize too much over the positioning after a certain point.

8.  Anything else we should know?

Yes.  I do not rank Shades of Gray last.  And you may ridicule me every day until it appears on the list.