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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.

9 Comments

  1. Ross
    September 21, 2015 @ 10:28 am

    Only thing that ever bothered me about Time's Arrow is that, once we've established that Spare Head 2 is still functional, there's never any justification given for why they didn't try plugging it in right away. Not even a bullshit fakey answer like "But that would violate the temporal prime-time directive!"

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  2. Josh Marsfelder
    September 21, 2015 @ 12:03 pm

    Didn't they though? As soon as the crew sans Captain Picard is back in the 24th century, the first thing Geordi does is tell us he's going to go to engineering and see about reattaching the spare head.

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  3. Ross
    September 21, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

    Yeah. What I mean is that they don't even mention the possibility of doing it back in part 1. It seems like the very first thing anyone should have said upon discovering it is, "Hey, can we plug it in and ask it what happened?" But they don't even mention it until they've been to the past and back.

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  4. Josh Marsfelder
    September 21, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

    But Data wasn't decapitated yet? I kind of thought his circuitry was unique and needed to be self contained to function. Although I guess in "Disaster" his head functioned independently of his body, didn't it?

    Maybe the electronics were too old to work properly until Geordi spent time working to repair them.

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  5. Ross
    September 21, 2015 @ 3:06 pm

    Basically what bothered me was that they never even mention it. There's no scene where someone says, "Can we try switching it on?" and Geordi or Capitated-Data says, "No because reasons." Everyone just takes it for granted that the head can't be used, until they've got a handy headless body, whereupon, again, without any real discussion, they just plug in the spare head and it works with comparatively little trouble.

    A big part of the reason this grated on me was that they made such a big deal in part one out of how finding Data's head meant that Data was doomed to REALLY TRULY DIE FOR REALS, which is completely undermined if the reveal is "Well, not so much 'dead' as 'switched off for a bit, trivially put back together later'"

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  6. K. Jones
    September 22, 2015 @ 1:34 pm

    As true as that strange bit of plothole logic is, there might be something to the notion of "Android Death" being as circular as the bootstrap paradox of the episode. I mean perhaps Data can die, and perhaps in doing so he'll lose the "spark" of having been there for the events that he experienced.

    But really, couldn't somebody just re-upload his memories into a compatible computer system?

    Of course they could. Which is of course exactly what he does in Star Trek: Nemesis, as well as I think Brent Spiner's posit that perhaps Data could become the computer/voice of the Enterprise at some point. Will he lose his soul? Maybe, yeah, maybe. The most comparable scenario was with Ira Graves, who definitely lost his soul in translation – though it's hard to say if he had one in the first place.

    But of course the entirety of Star Trek II, III and IV indicate to us that a "mind transfer" into a fresh new body wherein your soul is retained and you're effectively the same person on the other end is indeed possible. (Or does it only work because Spock effectively has the same body, rejuvenated by Genesis?)

    I'm losing my original point a bit I suppose. But if Data is a lifeform (we believe he is) with a consciousness (we believe he has) he is still certainly a different sort of life-form, and based on everything we know about him, and well, computers now, he must certainly be something of a modular, adaptable lifeform, far easier to perhaps resurrect after death than an organic sentient biped would be, and with a memory that could possibly be salvaged to some degree.

    Anyway, Data's head still being operative after a 400 year dusting doesn't just run counter to the question of mortality last episode, it essentially either invalidates it or tells us that unless he's utterly obliterated, Data will be very long-lived indeed.

    Unless he's utterly obliterated.

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  7. K. Jones
    September 22, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

    I think my initial Part I post mostly covers how I feel about Time's Arrow Part II. But just in reference to the specifics of this episode, I do like that the two-parter status gives them a bit of room to stretch their legs with the plot here. It's not a terribly complex plot, but compared to like, Redemption, it's positively labyrinthine, and the extra beats allow the writers and actors to never lose the audience. There's always a reassuringly quick briefing from the Enterprise crew summing up the whole scenario, describing the phenomenon simply and succinctly.

    There are a couple of other specifics. Here we find out that counter to the usual utopian conflict resolution, these Devidians are pretty utterly irredeemable. These are spectral phantasms feasting on the Federation's roots, yes, totally demonic beings, utterly unsympathetic. They're probably a Temporal Cold War sleeper cell in hindsight. And for daring to try to eat Star Trek's soul, events are set in motion (Guinan front and center, naturally) that just annihilate their cell or race or however many there are of them in that region of Planet Hell.

    The last thing is just the notable time gap – of course this episode comes after the summer break, and we aren't meant to believe that the Enterprise crew were in San Francisco too terribly long because there was cosmic time collapse doom to think about, but they certainly had time to get period costumes, rent an apartment, become uncomfortably familiar with the landlady, Data had time to build large devices, Twain had followed him around a lot and put out inquiries. Suffice to to say that while history hung in the balance, it does seem like the Enterprise might've been stuck waiting orbiting around Devidia for a week or more while the crew gallivanted around the Past.

    Outside forces gnawing at the roots of the Enterprise's world tree have been taken care of. The witch's destiny is assured. Promises made in some of Guinan's first appearances have been alluded to if never quite been brought to the forefront. But a few threads from Season 2 (and some small beats from Season 1) have been sewn together. If it hasn't been a myth/arc it's at least been a long-running set of undercurrents that've bubbled up a little bit.

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  8. Josh Marsfelder
    September 22, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

    "There are a couple of other specifics. Here we find out that counter to the usual utopian conflict resolution, these Devidians are pretty utterly irredeemable. These are spectral phantasms feasting on the Federation's roots, yes, totally demonic beings, utterly unsympathetic. They're probably a Temporal Cold War sleeper cell in hindsight. And for daring to try to eat Star Trek's soul, events are set in motion (Guinan front and center, naturally) that just annihilate their cell or race or however many there are of them in that region of Planet Hell."

    Ooh, I like this. I like this a lot.

    I mean, I like everything in your comment. I like everything you post. But I'm a big fan of that theory and the direction it's pointing 🙂

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  9. Daru
    October 8, 2015 @ 6:26 pm

    This is one of my favourite stories too, in fact also one of my favourite two parters. There feels like there is a lot of joy in the execution of the storytelling which always makes a big difference for me.

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