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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. EclecticDave
    September 28, 2015 @ 2:25 am

    FWIW I always thought this was a case where the book of the episode was better that the episode itself. I have the impression quite a lot was cut from this one, to it's detriment.

    In the book, IIRC (I will admit it's been a while since I read it), the relationship between Geordi and Scotty gets much more space to breathe. He very much seems to start out being happy to show him around, only to get slowly more and more annoyed as he repeatedly discovers Scotty poking his nose into parts of his engine without being invited.

    Scotty gets treated better as well IMO, I particularly remember the scene in the episode where he almost touches the EPS power conduit before being dragged away by Geordi. On TV he just sort of smiles as if it's nothing, but in the book Geordi makes him understand that he's going to get hurt if he's not more careful and Scotty actually apologies (something that never happens on screen as I recall).

    On screen it gives the impression that Scotty gets fed up because Geordi and others have no time for him as if everyone has suddenly become ageist – in the book it's more clearly presented that he comes to realise that too much has changed and he can't be an engineer anymore that is the cause of his sorrow.

    On a personal note, I very much hope you don't "leave quietly while you still have the chance". I appreciate that your faith might have taken a knock, but if the journey was easy then it wouldn't be worthwhile. I hope you'll stick it out until the end. Also, I quite like reading the ramblings of crazy people – sanity is overrated!


  2. Froborr
    September 28, 2015 @ 2:37 am

    You're not alone. This episode isn't bad, exactly, but it's the Dyson Sphere that makes it. (What other Big Dumb Objects HAVE there been in Star Trek? Limiting it to TV and movies… V'ger, definitely. Maybe the Whale Probe, and maybe the Doomsday Machine, but that's really stretching it. I think the Dyson Sphere is the only one in the whole TNG era!)

    The episode certainly didn't deserve to be in the "five best episodes" countdown that aired before the Series finale, not ahead of masterpieces like "The Wounded," "Family," and "Darmok." (IIRC, it was fifth; the other four were "Yesterday's Enterprise," "The Inner Light," and "Best of Both Worlds" parts 1 and 2. Two out of five is… better than I'd expect from this fandom, honestly?)

    The Dyson Sphere is a major part of the endgame plot of Star Trek Online. It turns out to be part of a reliable means of going back and forth between Romulan space and the Delta Quadrant, and thus serves as the base of operations for the entire Delta Alliance arc. Sadly, you don't get to fly around in it much, but you do get to do a bit of exploring in another, similar Dyson Sphere, and they do an EXCELLENT job of conveying its scale. It seriously screws with your perspective–often your ship feels like it's standing still when it's actually moving at full impulse, because the place is just THAT HUGE.


  3. Froborr
    September 28, 2015 @ 2:42 am

    As for picking up and leaving, well… I would miss this blog a great deal. On the other hand, I understand how you feel; my mounting contempt and distaste for the bronies is one reason I stopped My Little Po-Mo with season 4. If writing this blog is hurting you, there's nothing wrong with taking a break or quitting outright. What you've done already is monumental, and there is value to be found even in unfinished work.


  4. K. Jones
    September 28, 2015 @ 5:39 am

    My initial, gut-reaction would also be to say that the Dyson Sphere is a wild concept deserving of its in-depth storyline (you do an ancient Dyson Sphere, you've GOT to introduce us to some civilization living on the inside). The Sphere on top of the Scotty episode means whatever this episode does, it's pulling double duty on concepts better left separate so they can breathe and be explored in their own right, rather than as two parts of an inferior whole.

    But there's something to it that I really like that has everything to do with Scotty's relationship to the sphere. And that's a little dash of space magic. From the outset, before "let's do: agism" kicks in, they encounter a legendary object – something Impossible, and what's more, a "legendary figure" from an older odyssey, who has survived by doing something Impossible.

    The episode starts with awe, not reverence. It certainly devolves into reverence by the time they work through the tropes and get to the recreation.

    There's other oddities. We have Scott being a man out of time, left behind, mere weeks after his actual last hurrah where he got to have the "last action hero moment" of the entire original series run. A second last hurrah. An inferior last hurrah. (We used to talk about when it came to Original Series odd-pairings, and one of the reasons Undiscovered Country feels good is because it splits into the Kirk/McCoy pairing … which allows us to get some Spock/Scotty (and Spock/Chekov)).

    But I want to digress for my last bit, because Scotty is essentially my favorite TOS crewmember and Doohan is wonderful. I think this episode obviously skews toward being another "from the guest's point-of-view" example, where perhaps the ostracism they're depicting is meant to heighten or exaggerate Scotty's anxieties and force us to sympathize more with him. And any episode that can make us think LeVar Burton's Geordi is being a bit harsh must be working incredibly hard to do so.

    It could have been Picard-centric, as we can always use a reinforcement that Picard's placement is transitional, and that men of his generation find themselves at a point where they are choosing to be the latter day incarnations of the previous generation, or the ever-evolving forebears and mentors and students of the Next Generation. It could be reaffirming for him to learn that even a stalwart of the Old Generation like Scott, out of time, is willing to dive into progress and learn from the younger people.

    Anyway, seems obvious in hindsight, but my retroactive self really wishes the "Scotty Episode" had O'Brien and Barclay in it. Particularly after Realm of Fear. It should've been a big old Engineering jamboree. Especially O'Brien, because he proves to be far more of a spiritual successor to Scotty.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    September 28, 2015 @ 5:49 am

    Incidentally, the team said what they thought was most interesting about "Relics" from a story perspective is that you couldn't pick two characters who were less alike then Scotty and Geordi despite both being engineers: They felt Scotty was an engineer at heart and Geordi was just moving up through the ranks.

    I obviously don't agree with this, but it's worth bringing up because, as you said. Miles O'Brien is a lot more similar to Scotty. Which is probably the precise reason he's not in this episode, because then there wouldn't be enough precious "conflict".

    Although also probably because Colm Meany was busy filming "Emissary".


  6. Kevin Carson
    September 28, 2015 @ 8:08 am

    I've got to read Stapledon. That quote is amazing!

    Sorry to see your Twitter is gone.


  7. Josh Marsfelder
    September 28, 2015 @ 8:27 am

    …Is it? That's news to me…

    I discovered Star Maker researching the Dyson Spheres for this post-Turns out this book is where Dyson himself claimed to have gotten the idea. It's been cited as possibly the greatest science fiction novel of all time by a lot of big name sci-fi writers, and it's not undeserved.


  8. K. Jones
    September 29, 2015 @ 11:01 am

    I couldn't help noticing on my "more episodes" listing that Chain of Command is getting pretty imminent.


  9. Daru
    October 15, 2015 @ 10:30 pm

    Wonderful post Josh. I know how it feels to be a a relic in terms of the kinds of media products I love and the ways I love them. I was a huge lover of Doctor Who, until in the 80's the 6th Doctor basically said 'hello' to his companion by trying to strangle them. I gave up after that. I never came back to the show until is was re-launched in 2005, I never read any of the Wilderness Years books or connected with any Who apart from the TV Movie which did little for me when aired. Really the show had died for me, and I never have really felt a part of the group of people who say that they never gave up. Well I did and I was so glad that the show changed and moved forwards.

    The ridiculous thing is that there there are so many out there who seek to identify themselves as Gatekeepers, to bar people like ourselves from the self-identification of 'fan'. I don't know what kind of control they seek, but the results of their actions is joylessness.

    And joy, that is the most important thing in terms of the media, art, music, toys, whatever it is that we love. The ability to share inspiration is so important, and for me that is what you share here.

    So fuck them and leave them alone in their joyless, dark closed sphere.

    This episode I love deeply, not because of Scotty – though I do love Doohan, as my father continuously shared TOS and the movies with me – but it's the Dyson Sphere that is the huge star and reason for the story for me, so much that they could easily have jettisoned Scotty in my head. I adore such visions and objects so much that I obsessively read about Dyson Spheres and such things in my teens and twenties.

    So for me this episode is a thing of beauty for the Sphere and the magic of such inspiration held in that cosmic circle.


  10. Daru
    October 15, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

    Yes, brilliant quote from Stapleton! I want to read that too.


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