Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reading Guide

Longtime Vaka Rangi readers may remember that I have a small tradition of making episode guide/reading list posts whenever I finish covering Big Eras of the project. The hypothetical situation is that someone who is new to the show and yet for some reason *doesn't* want to marathon binge-watch it as is the standard way of consuming TV these days could theoretically be interested in my recommendations for the best stories so as to emphasize the cream of the crop while avoiding filler and missteps. Each entry has a link to my essay on the story for those who might want to revisit them.

I first did something like this when, following a joke Kevin Burns made to me about Futurama, I was challenged to find "20 Good Episodes" of the Original Star Trek. TOS fans will likely be annoyed as there's probably more episodes from that show one could recommend (and I *still* would have chosen different episodes after publishing Vaka Rangi Volume 1), but I wanted to limit myself to 20 following the conceit of the game so I was far harsher in my choices than I might otherwise have been. I didn't do ...

The Proverbs of Hell 11/39: Rôti

RÔTI: Roast, specifically roasted game birds, but in this case likely a straightforward case of “and now we arrive at the big centerpiece courses.”

HANNIBAL: Someone who already doubts their own identity can be more susceptible to manipulation.Dr. Gideon is a psychopath. Psychopaths are narcissists. They rarely doubt who they are.

DR. CHILTON: Tried to appeal to his narcissism.

HANNIBAL: By convincing him he was the Chesapeake Ripper.

DR. CHILTON: If only I had been more curious: about the common mind.

HANNIBAL: I have no interest in understanding sheep. Only eating them.

One of Hannibal’s more bluntly callous secret confessions. Its unusual viciousness is probably explained by his understandable frustration at having to relate in any way, shape, or form to Chilton. Also interesting is the selection of animals for the metaphor - a departure from the show’s default choice of pigs that flags the particular disdain with which Hannibal holds Chilton.

DR. CHILTON: I thought psychic driving would have been more effective in breaking down his personality.

HANNIBAL: Psychic driving fails because its methods are too obvious. You were trying too hard, Fredrick. If force is used, the subject will only surrender temporarily.

Hannibal is, of course, obliquely ...

The Lie of the Land Review

Let’s start with the mid-episode twist, i.e. the point where any hope that Toby Whithouse was going to do anything other than Whithouse all over the damn floor died. At this precise moment, a ton of threads that have been going on for a while are converging. Most immediately, we’re doing the trailered regeneration. We’re also at the climax of the trailered “the Doctor has joined the monks and Bill stands against him” plot, which is the hook this episode was previewed on since the initial Radio Times summaries. And, of course, we’re at the halfway point of the climax of the ballyhooed “Monk Trilogy,” resolving fully three weeks of storytelling. What do we get, then? A scene in which a room full of people literally cracks up that we fell for any of it.

It’s not, obviously, that I mind narrative substitution. I mean, I coined the phrase and all. But the substitution has to actually mean something instead of just being an empty placeholder. The point of narrative substitution is that the second narrative critiques the first one. It’s not just chucking out a plot because you’re bored with it and laughing at the audience for ...

The Corbynite Manoeuvre

Okay, first let me apologise for the paucity of long-form written pieces here at Shabgraff lately.  Normal service will (hopefully) be resumed fairly soon, or a proper announcement of some new normal will have to be made.

Next, let me remind you all of the existence of two new(ish) podcasts featuring me. 

There’s a new episode of Oi! Spaceman, in which I join Shana and Daniel to – for reasons that now elude me – talk about ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’. HERE.

And there’s a bonus mini-episode of Wrong With Authority, featuring myself in conversation with Daniel about the 2007 David Fincher movie Zodiac. HERE.

We may do more of these (comparatively) short extra episodes in future, with just a couple of us chatting about a movie outside our main sequence.  We’ve decided to call them Footnotes.  Because we’re just so damn cute.

On the subject of podcasts, there are some great Shabcasts coming up, including another Drunken Whocast (which seems to be genuinely becoming a new regular thing) and a fantastic chat between myself and Sam Keeper of Storming the Ivory Tower on Star Wars, Rogue One, etc.  We talked about, amongst ...

Eruditorum Presscast: The Pyramid at the End of the World

The podcast for The Pyramid at the End of the World is up for your listening enjoyment. You can download it here.

Myriad Universes: Ill Wind Part Four

The Mestral is stunned, but not for long.

Rav implores that he only wants her “safe” (which the Mestral quite aptly reads as “tame”). He claims he's trying to protect her from the factions trying to assassinate and usurp her. But the Mestral sees right though his ploy-He's working for one of the other factions, and they're trying to use her own feelings of love and loyalty to cloud her judgment. And she can play the same game: Having directly threatened her, Rav must be arrested and tried, and the only way for him to escape sentence is to kill her. Which she knows he won't do, because he loves her.

The Mestral covertly opens an audio channel to the Enterprise, and, by cleverly rephrasing an exposition recap into a challenge (“You used that phaser on Venant, Rav, but you won't use it on me...So you may as well put it away”), she manipulates Rav into revealing his plan to the Enterprise crew. He knows he can't shoot her and that she won't back down, so he and his co-conspirators are planning to kidnap her and bring her back to Eldalis where ...

The Proverbs of Hell 10/39: Buffet Froid

BUFFET FROID: Literally “cold buffet,” referring specifically to a charcuterie platter of thin-sliced meats. In this context, a joke about Georgia Madden’s shredding skin.

It goes without saying that there is a strange unreality here, but this is presented very differently from how Hannibal usually proceeds. It’s never before had to conjure a disposable POV character just to kill her off a few minutes later. Part of this is the peculiarities of Georgia Madden - she’s unsuitable to be a POV character herself, and there’s only one other choice. But a more basic reason is that this is the opening of a horror movie, with Madden being positioned as something that comes at the show from an odd angle She doesn’t quite belong in this series. Unlike with “Œuf,” a previous case of a killer of the week who’s not quite right for Hannibal, this is something the show is at least conscious of  this time.

Timeline of events.

  • May 2013: “Buffet Froid” airs.
  • July 2013: Steven Moffat casts Lars Mikkelsen, brother of Mads Mikkelsen, in “His Last Vow”
  • February 2014: Moffat writes “Listen,” featuring a monster that grabs your ankle from under the bed.

I leave ...

The Pyramid at the End of the World Review

A recurrent and to my mind fascinating theme of Peter Harness’s Doctor Who work has been its distinct hostility to democracy. Kill the Moon hinges on the flagrant disregard of the expressed wishes of humanity, while the Zygon two-parter ultimately endorses the existence of unelected guardians who lie to people in order to keep them under control. I should stress, if it’s not obvious, that my fondness for this is not straightforwardly a quasi-neoreactionary rejection of democracy or endorsement of dictatorship - rather it is specifically the extent to which the episodes themselves seem conflicted on this. It’s a bit of grit that complicates the show’s default ethos of liberal centrism - something that extends naturally out of its embrace of rebelliousness and dissent, but that the show usually avoids having to look at head-on.

So it’s not especially a surprise that Harness, writing in the heat of 2016, turns in a script that is more explicitly about the terrible decisions that humanity makes than ever before. This time there is no undemocratic savior to be had. Indeed, there’s not a savior of any kind - the bad decision is taken and the bad guys win. The Doctor’s scheme to stop them is ...

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