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All posts for the month March, 2019

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. https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1660256436

Bria: They got me!
Rulah: Give me your ridiculous sword!
Bria: It’s a broadsw-
Rulah: Gahncai! Break the wall!
Gahncai:
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.
Rulah: BREAK THE FUCKING WALL!

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!

Sometimes, a story–whether it’s a movie, a book, or an episode of television–is so bad you don’t know where to start. Sometimes it so so bad that you can start at the start and ride it all the way through to the end.

If that wasn’t clear, “Galaxy’s Child” is one of those stories. When the episode literally says the lesson, but then rewards a character for refusing to learn that lesson, your Aesop is broken.

I can’t think of an episode of The Next Generation where the illustrated lesson is more at odds with the actual words people are saying. Sure, some episodes contradict later episodes–“Journey’s End” and Insurrection pitting obedience versus principal, “Sarek” and “All Good Things” confronting aging versus respect, and “The Price” versus literally any episode where Riker is a petulant child because Troi is getting some.

Guernica is the Spanish town where Francisco Franco bombed civilians with German help in 1937, just prior to WWII. Picasso famously painted a mural of it.

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

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. https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1660256436