Eruditorum Press

An entryist coup for your subconscious

Skip to content

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.

15 Comments

  1. elvwood
    October 22, 2014 @ 5:24 am

    Quite some time ago (when they were last on Freeview) my son caught some random TNE episodes that I was watching, and wanted to see more. Knowing that he wouldn't have the time or patience to watch the entire run I decided to put together a cut-down list of the best, skewed slightly towards not-quite-top-tier-but-important stories such as Encounter at Farpoint. My memory of many episodes was hazy, however, so I took as my criteria for 'best' the public ratings on the Kethinov site, which I entered into a spreadsheet.

    As a result of this I can say that Arsenal of Freedom may not be talked about much, but it's certainly well regarded. It comes in third for this season, behind Conspiracy and 11001001.

    Perhaps it's not discussed because it's neither part of an 'arc', nor possessing flaws that can be delightedly skewered? I dunno, this is the only ST site I visit.

    Whatever, I think I want to watch it again now. I hope it wasn't one of the ones I failed to record!

    Reply

  2. Dustin
    October 22, 2014 @ 7:23 am

    "the uncomfortable age gap between Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden"

    McFadden was 38 during Season 1 and Stewart was 47. It's really not that big a deal.

    There were, in these early years, some earnest attempts to take strong counter-cultural stands like these. The arms race, here. Riker's line in "Lonely Among Us" about no longer "enslav[ing] animals for food purposes." But these utopian hints grew fewer as the franchise developed. DS9's human future de-emphasized these contrasts and upped the conflict, but it gained, I feel, characters who felt much more real and interesting to me. For although I'm uncomfortable with many people's insistence on relatability, (which is often used to attack both the idea that fiction should be an excercise in building empathy for dissimilar kinds of people or presenting stories that challenge our conventions about who is like us and who is an Other), it can be a tremendous draw to find, in a story, people whose decisions and fates pull one emotionally into the narrative, to struggle alongside characters whose accomplishments are all the more sublime for their flaws and for the conflicts they survive.

    I think this is the fundamental lasting criticism of this show. What kinds of characters do we want? What do we want our stories to do for us? These modes aren't necessarily opposed, and there are ways of doing each poorly, but while TNG's valuable utopian project was mostly laid aside as DS9 embraced grimdark, at least as much was gained, in some of the best character work the franchise has ever done.

    Reply

  3. Just this guy, you know?
    October 22, 2014 @ 10:08 am

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Love your blog, etc. etc.

    Have you ever covered H2G2? If you did, I missed it, Blogger doesn't seem to have a search, and a Google site search pulls up nothing (not uncommon). I'd love to read your thoughts about the series and its relation to Star Trek.

    Reply

  4. Josh Marsfelder
    October 22, 2014 @ 10:33 am

    Those episodes you cite are interesting to me: With the exception of "Conspiracy", none of them jive with my memories of what mainline fandom considers the highlights for year one. Well, highlight, singular, because the only episode I remember anyone praising from this filming block at all was "Skin of Evil"…

    Reply

  5. Ross
    October 22, 2014 @ 10:34 am

    My recollection is that their canonical age difference is much greater than the age difference between the actors. Something on the order of 20 years. Not that 20 years is per se out of line, especially as Picard's still meant to only be middle aged by the standards of the time.

    Reply

  6. Josh Marsfelder
    October 22, 2014 @ 10:37 am

    Welcome aboard!

    I adore The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The radio series in particular-It's one of my very favourite bits of sci-fi, probably my favourite single sci-fi serial. I've never covered it on this blog, but I've discussed it other places, namely the comments sections of friends' blogs.

    I guess I never wrote about it here because, while it was definitely a formative moment in the science fiction landscape of the Long 1980s, with the exception of this episode it hasn't seemed to have had a huge influence on Star Trek, apart from the occasional in-joke. Maybe I'll write something on it for the book version of Volume 2.

    Reply

  7. Dustin
    October 22, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

    It shouldn't be out of line. The in-character age difference is less than that of Patrick Stewart and Sunny Ozell. Everyone's an adult here and it shouldn't matter.

    Reply

  8. elvwood
    October 22, 2014 @ 9:56 pm

    I never liked "Skin of Evil", except for a couple of scenes – but more on that when we get there. It was at least memorable. Meanwhile, for your delectation and delight, here's the first season rankings I took from that site:

    125 "Conspiracy" – 70.73%
    115 "11001001" – 69.56%
    121 "The Arsenal of Freedom" – 67.65%
    122 "Symbiosis" – 65.64%
    113 "Datalore" – 65.60%
    126 "The Neutral Zone" – 65.47%
    110 "Hide and Q" – 61.56%
    101 "Encounter at Farpoint, Part I" – 59.14%
    120 "Heart of Glory" – 58.42%
    106 "Where No One Has Gone Before" – 56.00%
    102 "Encounter at Farpoint, Part II" – 55.09%
    112 "The Big Goodbye" – 53.64%
    119 "Coming of Age" – 53.33%
    109 "The Battle" – 51.71%
    124 "We'll Always Have Paris" – 46.67%
    118 "Home Soil" – 44.24%
    123 "Skin of Evil" – 42.40%
    103 "The Naked Now" – 42.24%
    105 "The Last Outpost" – 39.80%
    107 "Lonely Among Us" – 37.37%
    116 "Too Short a Season" – 36.06%
    111 "Haven" – 35.38%
    114 "Angel One" – 33.03%
    117 "When the Bough Breaks" – 32.35%
    108 "Justice" – 28.13%
    104 "Code of Honor" – 27.09%

    Reply

  9. Just this guy, you know?
    October 23, 2014 @ 2:13 am

    I think you're right, H2G2 and Star Trek really don't share much in terms of influencing each other – from either direction. I see Hitchhiker's as satirizing Doctor Who more than anything else. I wanted to read your thoughts on it mostly because I enjoy reading what you write.

    I've seen, read, or listened to nearly every piece in the Hitchhiker's canon and I think my favorite bit of it is the 6 part TV series from '81, which entertains me almost solely because of the sheer strangeness of itself. It's derided by the community and anybody with half a lick of taste, but man, every time I hear that theme music, I just get all giddy. (Which reminds me to find it and make it my ringtone.)

    Reply

  10. Adam Riggio
    October 23, 2014 @ 2:57 am

    To some degree, everyone working in sci-fi (or inventive fiction in general, really, across any media) has ben influenced by Douglas Adams and the Hitchhikers Guide. But I find that it's very difficult to weave that influence directly into one's work, for a very simple but unfortunate reason: Douglas Adams was a fucking genius, and even he suffered from burnout at the incredible density of his own style.

    Phil Sandifer discusses this in the TARDIS Eruditorum when he covered Doctor Who's Graham Williams era, particularly when Adams himself worked for the show. The style is so thick with referentiality, metaphor, allusion, parallelisms, and socio-political commentary while the writing is explicitly a series of jokes so rapid-fire that it would make a Marx Brother tired. It's always been pretty much only Douglas Adams who could do that style well.

    As you've described in previous entries, TNG offers its own host of idiosyncracies that make it difficult to write for. I doubt even Adams himself couldn't have thrown his own style into the mix. Even at the most successful, his early years TNG draft wouldn't have been ready for air until the last season of Enterprise.

    Reply

  11. Josh Marsfelder
    October 23, 2014 @ 12:22 pm

    This is highly intriguing to me.

    I'm stunned, though pleasantly, to see, "Symbiosis", "11001001", "Arsenal…" and even "Neutral Zone" so high and "Skin of Evil" so low. I'm disappointed in the placings for "Farpoint". "Last Outpost", "Lonely Among Us", "Too Short a Season" and "Haven", though not surprised. I am surprised at how middling "Big Goodbye" places, however.

    Reply

  12. K. Jones
    October 27, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    Arsenal is great. It really felt like they'd finally hit their stride. So of course the rug gets pulled out from under them soon after.

    That rankings list is also fascinating. I'm pleased to see Arsenal, 11001001 and Neutral Zone, and even Symbiosis near the top. But Hide and Q's and Datalore's and even Conspiracy's placement baffles me. And then to have Where No One Has Gone Before middling, Big Goodbye middling, and then Home Soil and The Last Outpost in the dust-bin is just shameful, really.

    Well … Datalore's fan-favoritism I can at least understand. It's Brent Spiner doing double-act TOS style Trek. Data is a truly wonderful character but I feel like he (and Lore) probably holds special appeal to the kind of techno-junkie fans that have been talked about here and there. I get it myself – I'm personally more of a "fantasy-as-allegory culture junkie" but I understand why the mechanically minded computer programmer fans might en masse adore everything Data.

    Honestly as much as I really enjoy Arsenal of Freedom, it was less because I noticed any kinship with other satirical material and more because I noticed how on-the-nose it was both as a mockery of the Reagan-era Military Industrial Complex but also at how well it works now, even just as would apply to my own household. The moral bankruptcy, the emptiness of salesmen, of institutionalized business, represented perfectly by you know … a hollow man. A hologram salesman. The Whatever Empire is dead … but somebody's still probably out there making a profit.

    This episode should have been a two-parter with Last Outpost.

    Reply

  13. Josh Marsfelder
    October 27, 2014 @ 3:57 pm

    "Data is a truly wonderful character but I feel like he (and Lore) probably holds special appeal to the kind of techno-junkie fans that have been talked about here and there."

    There's that angle to be sure, but I think a lot of Data's fan-favouritism comes from the predominently female fanfic and fandom community, and they're not necessarily technofetishistic. Look at how Geordi/Data has always been the most popular pairing in TNG fandom. On Tumblr, TNG fans obsess over Data all the time: I think a lot of people relate to his awkwardness, find his childlike naivete charming and adorable and really have a thing for Brent Spiner's acting. Which is understandable, even if I don't really share that affinity.

    "Honestly as much as I really enjoy Arsenal of Freedom, it was less because I noticed any kinship with other satirical material and more because I noticed how on-the-nose it was both as a mockery of the Reagan-era Military Industrial Complex but also at how well it works now, even just as would apply to my own household. The moral bankruptcy, the emptiness of salesmen, of institutionalized business, represented perfectly by you know … a hollow man. A hologram salesman. The Whatever Empire is dead … but somebody's still probably out there making a profit."

    Absolutely. It's not just excellently done satire, it's excellently done satire that connects really well. I shudder a bit at your suggestion that the satire might be applicable to your own home life, but I can empathize to an extent.

    Reply

  14. Daru
    November 19, 2014 @ 11:03 pm

    Personally I never found the age gap uncomfortable, I've had partners who were much older than myself. Works for me.

    Reply

  15. Daru
    November 19, 2014 @ 11:08 pm

    The scenes between Picard and Crusher are beautifully portrayed by the actors here. This is one of my standout episodes also, and I adored the in interplay between Stewart and McFadden. This is another one that I want to revisit again.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.