Eruditorum Press

That’s not the voice of god, that’s just a ring modulator

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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.

8 Comments

  1. tom harries
    May 3, 2015 @ 11:27 pm

    I really must sit down and watch some of these! That's why I rarely comment on this enjoyable blog; I just haven't had the time! I do remember liking this a lot.

    However, I have had the time to finally watch Raumpatrouille, once I'd got the subtitles to work. What a really charming show! I can kind of see the militaristic critique – putting the heroes of a German show in all-black uniforms wasn't the smartest idea, for a start – but it's clearly meant to be a rejection of formal military behaviour, at least within the confines of an action-adventure show.

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  2. K. Jones
    May 4, 2015 @ 7:58 am

    I go right there with the Too Short A Season comparisons, too. This is a banner episode for Picard, and not just Picard, but "Picard-as-an-Everyman". This episode isn't just about O'Brien's backstory, it's about Picard's generation – the generation before the Next Generation. They aren't Kirk's generation, but they're also not Riker's generation. And men of that era it seems can go either way. Picard has been saved by the Enterprise. Had he continued on the Stargazer he could very well have taken a path similar to Maxwell's path, becoming "another aging Kirk". But he didn't. Instead of inspiring his young crewmen to follow him … he somehow switched on, and really, Picard proves here that it's his young crewmembers who inspire him (which then of course becomes a recursive loop).

    And O'Brien, the sort of overlooked everyman of the crew, not even an officer, is the one who does the inspiring. You can see it everywhere – Riker's despondency in the face of having to hunt down not just "A decorated Starfleet" because of loyalty (the wall of red?) but because he's discovering another one of his heroes isn't what it's cracked up to be. Riker has already of course cast away the trappings of Kirk-ishness that could have haunted him in favor of the Shatnerishness that was the best parts of Kirk. But here's another shedding of that TOS baggage. Although given O'Brien's miraculous pulling off of a transporter trick, we're firmly moving him into "this Generation's Scotty" territory – the foundation and birth of DS9. An ending, and a beginning. Another recursive loop. (Geordi is amazing, but he was never, and indeed never needed to "fill Scotty's shoes. More on that later, when it's totally obviously appropriate.)

    And of course, we've got Marc Alaimo.

    Masterclass stuff. My absolute favorite episode of TNG. And it doesn't hurt that a little Irish heartstring tugging occurs, or that the moments where O'Brien is confronting his own base instincts actually give me a hollow pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat, some of the only moments in all of fiction/entertainment that I'll tear up a little for (and again, something that hasn't happened in TNG since Picard's talk with Guinan in "The Measure of a Man" … and won't be seen again until "Cardassians".)

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  3. K. Jones
    May 4, 2015 @ 8:02 am

    Actually I'd be remiss not to at least remark upon the fact that The Minstrel Boy gets to be a rare but appropriate leitmotif for O'Brien. Thinking about the lyrics themselves, and what we know about him, it's a pretty close comparison. We know he's a musician – he mentioned the cello and has been seen playing in crew performances (I believe already by this point). And yet, verily we learn about Setlik 3 – the "ranks of death" personified.

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  4. John Biles
    May 4, 2015 @ 5:39 pm

    Let That Be Your Last Battlefield deals with racism and racial conflict in TOS, by presenting the last two survivors of a long ago such conflict, still unable to overcome it or explain their hatred in a sensible way to the TOS crew.

    It doesn't know what to do with this and has all the problems Season 3 tended to have, but that was the first time they dealt with it.

    (And Nichele Nichols and DeForrest Kelly both pushed for a proposed episode with a planet where you had the old south… ruled by blacks with white slaves, which either could have been brilliant, a disaster, or both at the same time.)

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  5. K. Jones
    May 5, 2015 @ 11:37 am

    Last Battlefield is notable in that regard, but I feel like it deals more with the superficial idiosyncrasies of racism – kind of the surface silliness that to an outsider might look incredibly foolish.

    What we see with O'Brien and Maxwell are the very real root reasons for why these things manifest in humans in the first place, and the difference between the introspective O'Brien being able to look inward and confront it, versus the extrovert Maxwell who looks outward to try to find his answers, and ostensibly shows us what denial, rather than confrontation, will do to you over time.

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  6. Ross
    May 5, 2015 @ 1:00 pm

    Last Battlefield is kind of self-defeating in that regard, since it sort of encourages the viewer to pat himself on the back and say "So as long as I'm not that racist, we're all good."

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  7. Daru
    May 5, 2015 @ 9:06 pm

    "In any other context, this would have been seen as an inarguable and unmistakable retcon-No, a reboot, and yet Star Trek being Star Trek we're not permitted to read it that way even though this is blatantly what it is. But there's nothing stopping us from reading it this way here and now, so this is what we're going to do."

    When I was younger and watching this for the first time I was really into the space battles and conflict, darkness, etc. But now episodes such as these and dat's Day are the high points for me and I was so happy when I read those lines at the end of this essay, as memory and the imagination are some of the most potent forces we can draw upon to create the new stories we need.

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  8. K. Jones
    May 6, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

    I'm not sure how much I can extrapolate from it, but I think it's both telling, vital, and important to my love and reading of both Data's Day and The Wounded where they are placed, which is together, almost as a pair. I appreciated the consistency and world-building of introducing Keiko and elevating Miles one episode, and for a plot to pivot on that added weight in the very next episode.

    The Wounded is what I'd consider the best episode of TNG, and while my second-favorite probably vacillates, Data's Day tends to come into the picture not just because of its own merits, but because these two are like a package deal, and I rave about it all the time, but I like nothing better than when we get a run of good episodes.

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