Gahncai: GRAHH!
Gahncai: It’s open! Looks like there’s an old ash chamber on the other side!
Rulah: Blaze!
Poop Corner: Fwoosh!
Flaming poop goblins: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!
Rulah: While they’re distracted, get Ularon. I’ve got Bria. Follow me into the gap!
Gahncai: You don’t have to tell me how to retreat from burning poop-goblins into a volcanic gash with half a party. This isn’t my first dungeon crawl!

Last Time, on this comment: Garak has lots of context, but no agency. He is a very big archetype, but he isn’t relatable. He’s fuckin’ consistent, but his character arc only twitches slightly upward in the last scene of the damned series.

And now, the conclusion:

Garak is efficacious, don’t get me wrong, he gets shit done. But given that his motivation is to GET BACK TO CARDASSIA, he’s fucking god-awful at it. Not in that he refuses to shoot people or slit throats to get what he wants–though he’s inconsistent at that (like when he lets the Cardassians go in “Cardassians”). No, this genius, wheels-within-wheels mastermind doesn’t come up with a single fucking plan to get himself back to Cardassia. He lives at the pivot point of the fucking galaxy and sits there hemming trousers while looking across the Promenade at Quark who’s swimming in the opportunities available. The one time he has a chance in hell of getting back into the good graces are after he panics, blows up his shop, and then stumbles ass-first into boss-daddy’s half-baked return to glory.

He does have internal conflicts that he struggles with Garak has a conscience and he fights it. He’s a smart enough man to see the benefits of Federation society and the flaws of Cardassian society. So much so that after a certain point he doth protest too much when he says the opposite. It’s great stuff.

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This is a reddit post that I went all-in on so now it’s also a blog post.

Quality is subject to taste, so “best character” is subjective. Despite a literal interpretation which implies an objective truth, each person’s best character is actually their favorite character. Changing someone’s mind on this isn’t a matter of debating established fact; it’s a matter of contradicting what fundamentally appeals to someone and even if you’re invited, it’s a presumptuous thing to do.

But if we imagine that there’s an objective basis for character quality, we have to separate it from the subjectiveness of writing, acting, and directing, insofar as those things do not affect how effectively the story expresses the character’s qualities.

A quick search around the internet doesn’t reveal much about objective measuring of what makes a good character. This means that the internet hasn’t quite reached ‘peak internet’ yet, but it also means that this discussion requires creating broad versions of what measures do exist and then applying them to Star Trek characters.

Agency versus Context

Characters have agency, a place within the story that drives them to interact with the story. Neelix is considered a flawed character because he doesn’t have a place within Voyager’s overall story. He’s crammed into whatever space fits and suffers because of it. Captain Picard, however, fits into the specific story of “Best of Both Worlds” very well in that he’s a natural choice for the Borg to target and he has goals and the agency to move towards them. Even after he fails and is assimilated, he still fights the Borg, even if that fight is a simple as a single tear.

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Honestly, “Identity Crisis” is so solid it’s hard to talk about. In retrospect, we spend a lot of time nitpicking here, but at least we didn’t talk about using Troi more.

The thing about “Identity Crisis” is that it’s an episode which has some of the series’ most intriguing unanswered questions. I don’t mean that in terms of not explaining motivations which stretch our understanding of how the universe works (“Why did they do that?”), but instead it asks us to build on the universe with the implications of its story (“What kind of life form would reproduce like this?”).

Speculation from the hip is that a once-sentient species wanted to hide themselves. It’s frustrating that The Next Generation almost completely abandons the incredibly common phenomenon of advanced, destroyed civilizations. You see hints of that in “Future Imperfect” and “The Last Outpost,” with Barash being the last of his people and the T’kon Empire being destroyed, but it’s still very rare.

There’s another one of my Pax Americana rants in there, I’m sure, but the idea that these people made themselves into invisible monsters to preserve their peoples’…??? in the face of…??? tickles all of my cool story senses

The Beige and The Bold is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcasting platforms. It updates Sunday nights at 12:00 PM ET / 11:00 PM CT.

The last four episodes of The Beige and The Bold are also available to add to your Stellaris soundtrack via Steam Workshop Mod. The mod also includes one 17 to 01 track and a rough copy of next week’s episode.

Bria: They got me!
Rulah: Give me your ridiculous sword!
Bria: It’s a broadsw-
Rulah: Gahncai! Break the wall!
Rulah: Frenzy.
Goblin Leader: Charge!
Goblin: SHAH! SHAH!
Rulah: What, Gahncai!?
Gahncai: Sorry. I was waiting for Ularon to tell me it was a bad idea.
Bria’s Broadsword: S L I C E
Goblins: Skree! Skreee. Skreeeeee…
Goblin bodies: Thump. thump. thumpthumpthump.

There are so many thing this episode does almost right. I mean, I love it. It’s the kind of ensemble show Star Trek: the Next Generation can be and that is when it’s at its best.

Maybe it’s just me, but as I get older I see a more paternalistic/authoritarian ideology behind the love of Picard. He’s the sort of morally pure authority figure that justifies his position as the Enterprise’s “ultimate decider.” Even his open leadership style is an example of him allowing others to speak.

I see the obvious advantages of having a single person making executive decisions in crises. I also get having someone decide what is and isn’t a fruitful avenue of solving a problem before it’s a crisis. It’s only when an episode feels so right because it gets out from under that that I feel something’s amiss with the status quo.

Am I on to something here? Is there a quieter message at play about the link between moral purity and power in Captain Picard? And to a lesser extent, Data?

The Beige and The Bold is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcasting platforms. It updates Sunday nights at 12:00 PM ET / 11:00 PM CT.

Rulah: You idiots and your stupid bet are going to kill us all!
Bria: If Ularon was awake, he’d be abhorred.
Rulah: Only because he’d want to be the one to point out that goblins—
Goblin: Shah!
Goblin Sword Held by Rulah: Hsssss
Goblin: Skree!
Goblin Swordsman: Shah!
Swords: Clang!
Rulah: Shatter.
Swords: Shatter!
Rulah: Hrah!
Goblin Swordsman: Skree!
Rulah: —are going to kill us all BECAUSE OF YOU IDIOTS AND YOUR STUPID BET!