Saturday, April 30, 2011

April

What an inscrutable, schizophrenic people we are.
In one moment, we show great care for a species (canis lupis familiaris) we have subjugated and domesticated. We build doggie health spas and salons. We hold comedically elaborate shows to display them. An eccentric widow leaves her entire estate to little Scrappy...
Then we go out and gently murder 10,000 of them. Every day. The ones we don't want. The schizophrenic part? The business of "breeding" new canines is just BOOMING! Hunh? Have we lost our MINDS??
Well...yes. If you meet a dog breeder or "pure bred" purchaser who claims to lovvve dogs, you should investigate their psyche to find what they really love, to which end that dog is merely an expensive means.
Today, i come to tell a tale of the sweetest, grumpiest canine in the world. I don't want to tell you her breed, as that would feel like this conversation:
OSCAR: Bill, have you met my new girlfriend?
BILL: Zowie! Ooh la la! What the hell is she, negro/native american mix? Ohh, they've got a sweeeeet temperament!
But April's stock is interesting, she's a collie/lab/basenji (no curly tail). Often when i tell her story, people think she should be "put down" immediately. You decide.
I take care of April for a friend who works long hours and takes frequent business trips. He's had her for seventeen years, and dotes on her. For most of her life, it's been just the two of them, so she's quite devoted. She's also the queen of the universe, so this devotion has limits. She's generally not interested in idiot humans who want to pet her, including him (she may be mellowing a bit in her dotage, as occasionally she'll suffer one of us to give her a stroke or two).
But she can also be quite the obliging goofball, like when she allows us to balance one of her rope toys on her head. You might come back five minutes later, to find it still there. And when there are suddenly several people she likes in the house...don't tell me dogs can't smile. She beams as she bounces around. She's an irrepressible foodie, often whining in miserable impatience as you make her meal.
She's also the greatest object lesson i've even known in aging gracefully. Would that any of us will face death with even a fraction of her carefree spirit. For the marks of mortality are well upon her. She's stone deaf...but it hasn't made her paranoid, she just trots along. Her sight may be a bit diminished, but she hasn't missed a biscuit yet. Her back legs are pretty arthritic...sometimes she slips backwards on her butt when ascending stairs. Bladder-wise, she has almost no control, but she abides the diapers and showers with reasonable indulgence.
The time i'm most proud of her is on walks. She loves being out and about. Life is one grand sniffiesta! Bushes, food remains...poop is a gold mine, she could waste an afternoon on a nice turd. She gives lots of strangers a sniff too, and even lets a couple touch her. Some people espy her old age, but occasionally she's mistaken for a puppy. At the end of many walks these days, she's so happy about something (Food? Carpe diem? The return of FIREFLY to the airwaves?) that she starts straining on her leash a hundred yards from home. I'll run with her a bit, then let her off leash when we get to our street. She zips ahead, white tail bobbing.
So should she be killed? Me, i'm happy she's around. One more spot of cranky joyfulness in a weary world.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

post-apocalyptic dream

I'm in a grey, post-apocalyptic world. Some series of global natural disasters has struck. All industry and agriculture have died. I'm walking to the city of my family. I pick up a few companions along the way, for no apparent reason. I pass through towns where survivors eke out a living. Hopelessness pervades. Fire drums provide heat and light. I root through some colorful thrift shop clothes someone is selling. I get to the city, and find my family home. All that's left is one sister. I leave the city. I make the same trek months later. The family home is on a dried-out canal, and all the houses have now fallen into the canal. Hopelessness. I wander, and find a hospital. My sister is working there. There's one door labelled "body parts", because they didn't know where else to put them...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

99 greatest songs

Objectivity be damned. The AOATGAF has spoken.
1) Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
2) Imagine, John Lennon
3) Hotel California, Eagles
4) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Monty Python
5) What's Going On?, Marvin Gaye
6) You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Thurl Ravenscroft
7) Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pink Floyd
8) Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin
9) American Pie, Don McLean
10) Short People, Randy Newman
11) Black Water, The Doobie Brothers
12) Tempted, Squeeze
13) I've Seen All Good People, Yes
14) Liar, Rollins Band
15) Taxi, Harry Chapin
16) I.G.Y, Donald Fagen
17) Africa, Toto
18) Down on the Corner, Creedence Clearwater Revival
19) The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel
20) Free as a Bird, The Beatles
21) Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder
22) In the Air Tonight, Phil Collins
23) Virtual Insanity, Jamiroquai
24) The Logical Song, Supertramp
25) All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
26) Romeo and Juliet, Dire Straits
27) Billy Jean, Michael Jackson
28) Dust in the Wind, Kansas
29) White Lines, Grandmaster Melle Mel
30) Helplessly Hoping, Crosby, Stills, and Nash
31) Yes I Am, Lyle Lovett
32) All You Need is Love, The Beatles
33) The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot
34) Wonderful World, Art Garfunkel
35) Leader of the Band, Dan Fogelberg
36) You're So Vain, Carly Simon
37) Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd
38) Late in the Evening, Paul Simon
39) December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
40) God Only Knows, The Beach Boys
41) Big Bottom, Spinal Tap
42) Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, Jim Croce
43) Afternoon Delight, Starland Vocal Band
44) Closer, Nine Inch Nails
45) Hurt, Johnny Cash
46) Brick House, The Commodores
47) Life's Been Good, Joe Walsh
48) Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd
49) Reminiscing, Little River Band
50) Sowing the Seeds of Love, Tears for Fears
51) For What It's Worth, The Buffalo Springfield
52) Sexual Healing, Marving Gaye
53) Garden Party, Rick Nelson
54) Watching the Wheels, John Lennon
55) A Case of You, Joni Mitchell
56) Low Rider, War
57) Boy From New York City, Manhattan Transfer
58) Signs, Five Man Electrical Band
59) Kashmir, Led Zeppelin
60) Just Dropped In, The First Edition
61) Eminence Front, The Who
62) Have a Cigar, Pink Floyd
63) What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
64) Jack and Diane, John Mellencamp
65) Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
66) Werewolves of London, Warren Zevon
67) Puff the Magic Dragon, Peter, Paul, and Mary
68) Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, Paul McCartney
69) Peace Train, Cat Stevens
70) Don't Stand So Close to Me, The Police
71) Love Shack, The B-52s
72) Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Bob Dylan
73) I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair, George Jones
74) Mama Told Me (Not to Come), Three Dog Night
75) Sail on Sailor, The Beach Boys
76) Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
77) I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor
78) I Want Your Sex pts. 1-3, George Michael
79) Alone Again (Naturally), Gilbert O'Sullivan
80) Steppin' Out, Joe Jackson
81) Love the One You're With, Stephen Stills
82) Don't Drink the Water, Dave Matthews Band
83) No One is to Blame, Howard Jones
84) Still the One, Orleans
85) Crazy, Gnarls Barkley
86) Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty
87) Love on the Rocks, Neil Diamond
88) Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel
89) The Cool, Cool River, Paul Simon
90) On and On, Stephen Bishop
91) Lovin', Huggin', Squeezin', Journey
92) Atlantis, Donovan
93) Mama, Genesis
94) If, Bread
95) Heroin, The Velvet Underground
96) Kiss, Prince
97) Shame, Randy Newman
98) Leave It, Yes
99) Railroad Worksong, Notting Hillbillies

Monday, April 25, 2011

2 dream fragments

I'm at a seamy place, a home or apartment i don't recognize. There are people around. The energy is unfocused and partylike. I'm with Caitlin and Danielle [non-sexual friends i first met when they were teenagers in a children's theater troupe of mine]. I realize everyone is having sex, and pull Caitlin to me with anticipation. I take her shirt off, and am taken aback. Her breasts are inhumanly tiny. Fully developed, but only a couple inches wide. I'm very uncomfortable. I look to Danielle, and realize she's the one to have sex with. I reach around to pull her to me...i know her breasts will be wonderful.
================
I'm in Florida...or a darker, future version of Florida. Scattered members of my Mom's side of the family have gathered, for Mom-Mom's death. I'm at her home. I step out onto the driveway, and Peter [the most gentle, soulful, beloved dog i ever knew] is there in the darkness. He moves toward me frantically, as though in pain. He's hopping on his splayed hind legs, keeping his anus close to the ground. He hops in circles, waiting for me to help. I can see that he has a stool halfway out, which is stuck. Also a hard-on. He's so distressed, but i don't know what to do. My helplessness is misery. I hear voices inside, and realize Aunt Joyce is coming. She'll know what to do, i hope. She does.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Next Generation, season 5

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 6
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 3.0
-Redemption II ****
-written by ronald d. moore
-directed by david carson
The overthrow of gowron can only be prevented by disrupting a covert romulan supply line. Picard is given a fleet for a blockade. Will and data are given commands. Sela reveals herself, while b'etor proposes dishonorable marriage to a kidnapped worf. Guinan's presence lends a nice link to "Yesterday's Enterprise". Data saves the blockade, despite a prejudiced first officer. Worf is given the life of duras' son, and spares him. Less brilliantly written than part 1, and sela is sadly one-dimensional, but the rest is too rich to be denied.
-Darmok ***
A seamless performance by paul winfield (THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE TERMINATOR) as an alien facing a life-threatening situation (and language barrier) with picard. Don't let the subtlety of winfield's work be obscured by all the prosthetic makeup. Stranded together, they must fight to survive and understand each other, and jean-luc finally realizes that winfield's species communicates exclusively through metaphor. If anyone wishes to challenge my rating system, your opportunity will never be more ripe. This one oozes excellence out of every pore (including a non-Hollywood ending, both tragic but hopeful). If you were to design a sci fi series, this is exactly the kind of script you would hope to produce. And they did...with no weaknesses. So why only three stars? Especially following a four-star episode which is objectively inferior? The only answer i can give is that mysterious factor called x. An excitement which defies qualification. Perhaps i'm being too hard on myself. Perhaps there is something genuinely missing here...some more satisfying resolution, character development, or emotional impact. Perhaps. In any case, it's brilliant - including the delightful debut of ashley judd (FRIDA, RUBY IN PARADISE) as ensign robin lefler.
-Ensign Ro ***
Ro laren (michelle forbes - GALACTICA, TRUE BLOOD) is a court-martialed bajoran Starfleet officer freed from prison, just to be part of a mission to quell bajoran terrorism. The Enterprise crew (and command staff) treat her with disdain. She is bitter, and the only one to embrace her is guinan. A fine effort made a little less so by the obviousness of another "evil (and stupid) admiral", being manipulated by cardassians.
-Silicon Avatar **
The crystalline entity attacks a colony where Enterprise is supplying settlers. The Federation's leading authority on the entity (ellen geer - HAROLD AND MAUDE, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) arrives. She is suspicious and hostile toward data, because of lor's association with the entity. They track it, and dr. marr covertly destroys it, as vengeance for the death of her son decades before. The flaw in this one is having a 24th-century human act too much like ourselves. The mechanics of grief would be no different in TREK's time, but the contours of loss would be - it's not credible that any TREK human could be so crippled decades after the fact. In any sane future, we'll have largely cured the horrific loneliness and alienation that plague us now. And...there's a riker flirtation which devolves into unrealistic, leering cliche. Just bad writing.
-Disaster ***
The last episode to air during gene roddenberry's lifetime. In terms of dramatic tension, the Enterprise was sometimes a little too powerful and indestructible, but not here. Quantum filaments pass through the ship, wreaking damage and death. Communications are down, power at a minimum, and emergency bulkheads in place. Will carries data's head through jefferies tubes to fight a core breach. Worf delivers keiko's baby. Beverly and geordi are threatened by plasma fire, and must vent their own compartment into space. Deanna takes an uncomfortable command on the bridge, where ro and o'brien can't agree. Picard is in a turbolift coming free of its moorings, with a broken ankle and three frightened children. There is a dangerous tightness throughout.
-The Game ***
Wesley! Wesley!! Wil wheaton is back, on Academy vacation. Riker brings a video game from Risa, which turns out to be a psychotropic mind-control device. Wesley and ensign lefler realize that something is very wrong, as data is sabotaged and the entire crew comes under alien mind control. Wes saves the day, and gets the girl (er, young woman). Brilliant.
-Unification 1&2 ***
GAME...ON! Sorry, the classic TREK nerd in me just got a chubby. Picard meets sarek on Vulcan, then he and data are sent on an undercover mission to Romulus, on the heels of ambassador spock (leonard nimoy!), who is suspected of defection. They are escorted in a cloaked klingon ship (captained by stephen root - NEWSRADIO, THE WEST WING), disguised as romulans. Enterprise plays cat and mouse inside a galactic junkyard with a mysterious ship, and riker plays the blues with a jaded, four-armed pianist (harriet leider - TORCH SONG TRILOGY, DREAM LOVER). Spock is sewing the seeds of reunification. Picard must tell him that his father has died. The second half loses tightness, and sela is still one-dimensional. But the spock scenes with data and picard are priceless. Classic TREK veteran malachi throne (CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, IT'S A BIRD...IT'S A PLANE...IT'S SUPERMAN!) plays a romulan senator, and daniel roebuck (THE FUGITIVE, ORION SLAVE GIRLS MUST DIE!!!) an agitant. Like a movie, this one's compelling and large.
-A Matter of Time ***
Fun fun fun. Matt frewer (MAX HEADROOM, THE MEANING OF LIFE) plays an historian who appears in a 26th century timeship, collecting stories and artifacts. He turns out to be a New Jersey charlatan from the past, who stole his ship.
-New Ground ***
Deadbeat dad, chapter 2? As Enterprise assists on tests for an engineless mode of interstellar travel, worf's mom returns alexander (the TREK debut of brian bonsall - FAMILY TIES, MICKEY'S 60th BIRTHDAY), saying he's too much to handle. He continues to lie and bully, so worf decides to ship him off to a klingon school. Deanna intercedes, talking worf through his emotional minefield and the abandonment issues alexander may be facing. Most of troi's screen time revolved around being an empath or lover, not her actual job, but this is some of the best work for marina and michael in the entire series. He decides to have alexander stay onboard. Yes, the alexander factor is one of flaccidity and foreboding, but if you can look past that there's some lovely stuff here.
-Hero Worship ***
Data rescues a boy, the sole survivor of a starship disaster in which all other hands were lost, including his parents. Traumatized, the boy starts to assert that he is an emotionless android too. Troi has data encourage this. The strength of this one, aside from lovely performances by spiner and guest joshua harris (DALLAS, FALCON CREST), is how it touches upon something from which no cultural or technological advancement will ever protect us - instant, horrifying tragedy. TREK writers didn't always perfectly capture how human nature will be different in the future they paint, but this kind of loss will be with us forever. Funny and heart-rending.
-Violations **
As Enterprise transports members of a race of mind-probing memory historians, deanna, will, and beverly fall into comas. Deanna recovers, but can't recall anything. A mind rapist is on the loose. This one has potential, but doesn't come together - the only notable moment is a memory flashback of jean-luc showing beverly jack's body.
-The Masterpiece Society ***
Enterprise visits a genetically-engineered biosphere society facing a natural cataclysm. Their social fabric is so specific and interwoven, it would be shattered by any disruption. Deanna has a touching affair with their leader (john snyder - THE WARRIORS, K-9). Geordi has a touching friendship with their lead scientist (TREK guest extraordinaire dey young - SPACEBALLS, YOUNG LUST), who ultimately asks picard for asylum, along with dozens of others. Plus some fine ron canada (THE WEST WING, BOSTON LEGAL, and another TREK recidivist). Touching and thoughtful.
-Conundrum ****
-written by barry m. schkolnick
-directed by les landau
An alien vessel selectively wipes the memories of the crew, and disables the ship's memory files. They find mission orders which tell them to destroy an alien base. Worf assumes his sash means he's in command. Unbeknownst to them, there's a stranger in their midst, commander macduff (erich anderson - UNFAITHFUL, NYPD BLUE). Files reveal him as the exec (why he didn't make himself captain, is anybody's guess). The crew struggle with whether to go through with their orders, especially when the base is discovered to be almost defenseless. Raise your hand if you buy worf's refusal to fire, at the moment of truth. Crewmember kristin (liz vassey - THE TICK, TWO AND A HALF MEN) is achingly beautiful. Troi and riker sense their spiritual connection, and he beds ro. Action, humor...brilliant.
-Power Play **
A lost Starfleet vessel is found crashed on an inhospitable alien planet, 200 years later. Energy beings possess the bodies of deanna, data, and o'brien, and take hostages in ten forward. They claim to be the ghosts of the Essex, but turn out to be disembodied prisoners trying to free all the members of their penal colony. If you can overlook data being possessed just as an organic would be, and the immorality of Starfleet officers just abandoning helpless prisoners who've been abandoned by their captors, it's a fun ride.
-Ethics **
Ethical dilemmas that don't feel manufactured. Worf's spine is crushed, and he asks riker to assist him in the klingon suicide ritual. By following the dictates of his culture, is he acting cowardly in abandoning his son? A visiting surgeon wants to try an experimental procedure likely to kill worf. Beverly balks. Despite some fine moments, the alexander factor isn't the only soggy noodle in this entree.
-The Outcast ***
A lovely classic TREK feel, and one of the best poker scenes ever. The Enterprise helps an androgynous race investigate the disappearance of a shuttle. Their culture has an underground who tend toward gender-orientation, but transgressors are vilified and surgically/psychologically "corrected". Riker and one such (melinda culea - KNOTS LANDING, THE A-TEAM) fall in love. The parallels to homosexual persecution couldn't be more spot-on. Despite an occasional lack of sophistication in the writing, this might be four stars if the producers had cast a male as his leading lady, as frakes wanted.
-Cause and Effect ****
-written by brannon braga
-directed by jonathan frakes
The stuff of childhood nightmares. Enterprise is caught in a temporal time loop that always ends with the ship's explosion. Tight and fun, with poker games and picard/crusher zip. They must find a way to send a message to themselves in the next loop. In one of the most needle-moving cameos in TREK history, kelsey grammar (FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS) is perfect as captain of a ship that's been stuck in time for the better part of a century.
-The First Duty ****
-written by ronald d. moore, naren shankar
-directed by paul lynch
At the Academy, wesley is involved in an accident that claimed the life of a cadet. Their squadron was attempting an illegal maneuver, and the survivors, led by nicholas locarno (robert duncan mcneill - VOYAGER, SHARKY'S MACHINE) agree to a pact of silence. The Enterprise gets involved in the investigation. Ed lauter (THE LONGEST YARD, B.J. AND THE BEAR) plays the dead cadet's father, and ray walston (MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH) adds crotchety gravitas as boothby, the groundskeeper who once mentored picard. Jean-luc discovers the deception, and confronts wes. So tight it hums.
-Cost of Living ***
Lwaxana and alexander - cataclysm casserole! Yet somehow here, not. She's preparing to marry a man she's never met, and alexander is fighting his father's discipline as deanna tries to mediate. Lwaxana spirits alexander around, playing games, taking mudbaths, and encouraging his rebelliousness. Her loneliness is touching, and she gains as much from their time as he. She sabotages her wedding by appearing naked - yay! Can you spot the uncredited dustin diamond (SAVED BY THE BELL's screech)?
-The Perfect Mate ***
Famke janssen (X-MEN, GOLDENEYE) plays an empathic metamorph bred to become the perfect woman to whichever man she is with. For a screen debut, not bad. In an all-too-rare trekslap at monogamy, she's the only woman to ever kiss both captain and first officer. Due to some ferengi malfeasance (another turn for max grodenchick - THE ROCKETEER, BARTON FINK), she comes out of stasis early and imprints on picard instead of her intended mate. The effervescent tim o'connor (BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, NAKED GUN 2 1/2) is her chaperon.
-Imaginary Friend **
A lonely child aboard Enterprise is shocked when her imaginary friend comes to life. "Isabella" gradually grows frightening, and is finally revealed to be an energy alien orchestrating the death of the crew because they are cruelly restrictive with their children. Picard must convince the alien that this treatment is only a manifestation of love.
-I, Borg ****
-written by rene echevarria, jeri taylor
-directed by robert lederman
A borg drone is rescued from a crash. During a fencing session, guinan drills picard with the folly of his mercy. He plans to send the borg home with an implanted paradox that will disable the collective. Beverly, then geordi, then finally guinan raise ethical objections, as the drone "hugh" begins to manifest a personality. A nuanced performance by jonathan del arco (THE CLOSER, THE MAMBO KINGS) - humanizing a monster, in the best TREK tradition. In the end, hugh voluntarily returns home, in order not to imperil his new friend geordi. The initial heartlessness of both guinan and picard may be a bit overwritten, but the structure and chemistry of this episode are seamless. It's also fascinating to contrast the treatment of hugh, with how Voyager dealt with seven. Brilliant sci fi.
-The Next Phase ***
Geordi and ro are in a transporter accident aboard a damaged romulan ship, and they become cloaked. She tries to convince him they're dead, but he figures out what happened. As plans proceed for their memorial, they must contend with a cloaked romulan, and find a way to return to normal space. Rich and rollicking.
-The Inner Light ****
-written by morgan gendel, peter allan fields
-directed by peter lauritson
Touching and exquisite - the least overt four-star TREK ever, rendered almost entirely in gentle human tones. Picard is rendered comatose by an alien probe, and wakes up in a stranger's identity on a world he's never known. He lives forty-five years surrounded by friends and family, reawakening on the Enterprise after only twenty-five minutes. The probe was a dying species' last gesture of remembrance. Stewart's performance is grand. Margot rose (HOLLOW MAN, 48 HRS.), richard riehle (OFFICE SPACE, FERRIS BUELLER), and patrick's real-life son daniel (DETONATOR, THE PROGRAM) are superb.
-Time's Arrow, pt. 1 ***
Twain TREK! An ambitious, enjoyable, over-the-top effort guilty of only minor overreaches in the writing. The discovery of data's head in a 500 year-old Earth mine leads to predatory aliens and accidental time travel. Alone at first, data enlists the aid of guinan, who is (was) a 19th-century San Francisco socialite. Jerry hardin (MISSING, THE X-FILES) plays the interfering, prickly clemens beautifully. Plus DS9's marc alaimo as a delightful saloon poker player.

Monday, April 18, 2011

billionaires for millionaires

I attended a protest today, right here in Jersey City. Sponsored by MoveOn.org, it was held outside a Wells Fargo branch, in protest of the fact that many of this country's biggest corporations exploit loopholes to avoid paying any taxes...in the case of Wells Fargo, that's five billion dollars. Teachers are losing their jobs, social services are being slashed, the middle class is disappearing, and corporate America is having a party. We're talking to you, G.E., Exxon/Mobil, Bank of America (hissss), Chevron, Boeing...the list goes on and on. Here's Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, to tell you about it:
http://tucsoncitizen.com/view-from-baja-arizona/2011/04/17/10-top-corporate-freeloaders-in-america/
I don't want to say the protest was underattended. But if the decibel level of a crowd measurably increases when one more voice shows up...well, i'm loud, but i shouldn't be that loud.
It was a good experience though. Good people. And despite the serious intent, there was time for fun. There were three fellows on the edge of the crowd dressed in tuxes, heckling the speakers. At first, i thought they were actual corporate reps. Then i looked closer. They had dollar-sign ties, blingy chains, cigars, and martini glasses. They addressed the crowd at one point as members of Billionaires for Millionaires, and they were hysterical. With names like Philip Maipokets and Filmore Barrels, they were absolutely talented. They were off-script, deflecting the heckles of the crowd, and never missed a beat (unless that one heckler was a plant...hmmm). But whatever, they were brilliant.
The only point i disagreed with was the movement to keep gas prices down. Ixnay that. We need to double gas prices. Triple them. More. Only when gas becomes so expensive that American business and consumers can no longer afford the road, will we sever our addiction to fossil fuel. So what can be done about the corporate freeloaders, aside from making as much noise as we can with our representatives? Hit 'em where it hurts, in the pocketbook. A couple of selective nationwide boycotts - let's say G.E. and Carnival. Over the next year, let no patriot in this land buy one single G.E. bulb, or take one Carnival Cruise.
Spread the word.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

dear nephews

Dear nephews,
As you walk through life, everywhere you turn someone or something will always be there to tell you what you should FEEL, what you should THINK, and what you should WANT. Most of the time, these messages come without words. We transfer our attitudes about everything around us to those we are with, without opening our mouths. You've probably not had many talks about elevators, yet you know something about the elevator-attitude of everyone you've ever shared one with. You have been absorbing values from the people and images around you since the day you were born. Those values are now "you".
Here is some of what you've absorbed.
You should go to college to get a job to work at least eight hours a day five days a week to get as much money as you can until you're sixty-five, then you get a few years off before you die.
This is NONSENSE.
If you convince the most beautiful women you ever meet that they should have sex and babies with you and no one else, you will win the game of life.
This is NONSENSE.
The first thing that people will always want to know about you is whether you're in a romance.
This is NONSENSE.
Some people think Star Wars is better than Star Trek.
This is NONSENSE.
Now, would you like me to tell you what isn't nonsense?
I can't.
The only person who can tell you what isn't nonsense is you. The hard part is finding "you". Your voice, your feelings, have been buried by what your family and friends have been pouring into your head since you were a baby. Most of what your family and friends know, they learned from a TV commercial.
It takes some people five years to find their own voice. It takes others fifty. Most people never find it, because most people never look for it.
You've probably noticed the idiots in this world. They're hard to miss. What you may not have noticed is that the people who seem like they're not idiots...are also idiots. Every single one. Especially me.
And that's not nonsense.

love,
Uncle Buddy

grace, M

WOMEN 58-59
GRACE
One of the mothers from the children's shows i did on Sanibel. She had been unhappily married for fifteen years and divorced for one, and was raising two kids alone. She didn't make a strong first impression, but i gradually and sweetly fell for her. One time in the darkness backstage during a show, she stood nearby while i sat with a couple little bundles of joy bouncing on my knees. I gently reached out and rested my hand on her hip for a few minutes. Breathtaking. I wrote her poetry, we went out once or twice…but she wasn't ready. Or i had bad breath.
M
Another bittersweet moment. Beautiful soul, worldly, a dancer. I was quite attracted to her when we met, but a friend of mine was courting her. During a chance encounter at a gas station, i almost told her how i felt. Out of consideration for my friend, i didn't. A year later, not long before their wedding, she asked whether i remembered that day at the gas station. She said she had wanted so much to tell me how attracted to me she was. And the beat goes on…

Barefoot in the Park

THEATER 48
-summer 1999
Jason asked whether i was interested in reading for a play to be performed in a new dinner theater in Bonita, about twenty minutes south. He'd been asked, but was too busy. I met the director, Michelle Moran, and she offered me the lead role of Paul. She couldn't promise any money unless the show sold really well. I was hesitant, but signed on because the part was too good to pass up (for all my experience, i hadn't played many romantic leads). It's the Neil Simon comedy about a couple moving into a tiny New York apartment, who go through a compatibility crisis in their first week of marriage. I often biked to rehearsal, well over an hour away (i had also biked to Sanibel rehearsals). I got along with Michelle. She was also busy as restaurant manager. We performed in the Flying Fish Cafe, on the ground floor of the Rooftop Restaurant. It was at the tip of Bonita Beach, right on the water. It was fancy, and in rehearsal we were sometimes brought wonderful food. It was a fun group. Sarah Cobley, a theater student at Edison College, played my wife Corey. She was bright and perky, and we had nice comedic chemistry. I was attracted to her a bit, but she was always a little standoffish offstage. Lee Meyers played Corey's neurotic mother, and her husband Joe was our eccentric neighbor Victor Velasco. He did a credible Hungarian accent, and the two of them were a pleasure, onstage and off. Sal Pedone played Harry Pepper, the phone man. Great comedic presence. I thought he could have picked up his cues a touch quicker, but the audience loved his scenes. The audience loved the whole play. The county's top reviewer, Maureen Bashaw, wrote that she'd expected a yawner, but Sarah and i played the parts as though they'd never been played before. Michelle was dating the restaurant owner, Ron - a genuine, good guy. They treated Sarah and i to a fancy dress-up dinner at the end of the run. It was all a sweet, sweet experience. Michelle was able to pay me a little when i agreed to run a summer theater camp with her. We had about fifteen kids, and they were wonderful. I abridged a version of Simon's FOOLS as their final project.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Voyager, season 4

Was dumping kes justified? How would the show have fared had harry been cut instead, as intended? Or neelix, which would have been the most sensible choice? It's a cop-out to suggest that the writers couldn't have moved kes' character arc forward - they had already taken the one absolutely necessary step, of disentangling her from neelix. It's all rather unfortunate...yet no one can deny that the final seasons were better.
FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 4
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 3.1
-Scorpion, pt. 2 ****
-written by brannon braga, joe menosky
-directed by winrich kolbe
A bit less big-screen than part 1, but still...tight and nasty. The alliance with the borg fractures when janeway is incapacitated. Chakotay countermands her orders, after realizing that the borg started this war. Species 8472 suffers a defeat through Federation/borg nano-weapons. Voyager escapes both adversaries, with a drone who becomes separated from the collective. Welcome to our universe, 7 of 9.
-The Gift ***
Seven violently resists her humanity, as the doctor removes many of her implants. Do the writers soften her automaton-like quality a bit unrealistically soon? Kes's psionic powers increase so rapidly she becomes a danger to the ship, and turns into (pure) energy. There are nice moments, but a slightly funereal quality pervades, perhaps fed by the actors' conflicted energies.
-Day of Honor ***
B'elanna decides to honor her klingon heritage, by embracing masochistic rituals. Then she chucks the idea. Then regrets it. An accident forces the warp core to be ejected. She and paris chase it in a shuttle, but end up adrift in damaged EV suits. The cinematography is beautiful...and while the image of them suffocating together is the high point of their romance, it has much greater resonance in the abstract, as a metaphor for all romance in our repressed culture. The image of two lovers trying to connect through space suits is so horribly apt. We fumblingly try to love and be loved, but are so completely walled in by the fears that most of us can only begin to unravel, that virtually no lovers are ever able to peel off our "suits".
-Nemesis ***
A fine episode - and a missed opportunity. Chakotay crashes onto a war-torn planet, and soon identifies with the soldiers he's fallen in with, fighting alongside them (not realizing he's being brainwashed as a form of military recruitment). All too often, the universal translator produces aliens who sound exactly like us. Here, we hear words and syntax which feel more alien - a nice touch. What's needed however, is much greater punch. During the morning attack on the refugee village, chakotay should have been forced to watch the village girl being raped. It would have made his transition into bloodthirsty killer much more convincing. Everything else about the episode is spot-on, especially the tapping into our "ugly" bias by having the "nemesis" look bestial (dead ringers for the aliens from PREDATOR, actually)...when in point of fact they may have been the conciliatory, aggrieved ones. Even an implied rape would have added the necessary touch. Shame on whomever was minding the store - you, director alexander singer?
-Revulsion ***
Responding to a distress call from a ship with one nervous survivor (a hologram), torres and the doctor try to help. The rest of the crew weren't killed by outside forces, however. The damaged hologram became a germophobe, killing all aboard. He tries to kill torres, and convince the doc to run away with him. A disturbing performance by leland orser (ALIEN: RESURRECTION, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN). Meanwhile, harry is assigned to work with seven, and develops a crush on her. Her analytical response is classic.
-The Raven ***
After experiencing disturbing hallucinations, some of seven's removed implants regenerate, and she goes AWOL, in pursuit of a borg signal (or is it?). She discovers the wreckage of the vessel in which she lived as a child. If you're inclined to think that jeri ryan is a gratuitous, talentless joke, take note of the scene in which she eats solid food for the first time in twenty years. She's captivating, and ever so subtly funny.
-Scientific Method ***
Bizarre medical conditions arise shipwide. Seven and the doctor discover out-of-phase aliens performing experiments. Her presence feels seamless, and her chemistry with the doctor begins to germinate. The first time it feels like she's always been there.
-Year of Hell 1&2 ****
-written by brannon braga, joe menosky
-directed by allan kroeker, michael vejar
Voyager gets caught up in the efforts of an alien ship trying to restore a lost empire by eliminating entire species from history. The ship exists outside time, and has been on its mission for 200 years, led by the obsessed annorax (kurtwood smith - THAT 70's SHOW, STAR TREK VI). A fine turn is also rendered by john loprieno (ONE LIFE TO LIVE, DEATH OF A PRESIDENT), as the loyal but conflicted first officer. Relentlessly attacked, Voyager's damage is stunning: people die, tuvok is blinded (a curious choice for a species with an extra set of eyelids), entire decks explode, and the hull is partially ripped away. Chakotay and paris are kidnapped, and Voyager is abandoned, except for the bridge crew (and, um, the morale officer?). Mulgrew, all reckless grit, has never been better. There's a scene between her and tuvok that evokes the classic. Part 2 is more cerebral, as annorax makes chakotay understand his vision. Janeway crashes Voyager into the timeship, wiping its existence from history and restoring all as it was. Blistering...and more importantly, the proper way to invoke spiritual discussion in a TREK product (as opposed to the inappropriate clumsiness of both DS9 and chakotay). Annorax argues that time is somehow "alive", and janeway makes the same claim for Voyager itself. We cannot conclusively refute those claims, and more to the point, they can (and will) be pursued scientifically. 
-Random Thoughts ***
On a planet of telepaths, b'elanna is arrested for thought-crime. Tuvok discovers a black market for violent thoughts, in this apparently crime-free society. Had they been able to pack a little more punch into the deepest images of tuvok's mind, this could have gone to a whole 'nother level...as it is, he single-handedly elevates this from two stars.
-Concerning Flight ***
John rhys-davies returns! Voyager is mugged, losing a computer core and other technology. They track their possessions to a trading outpost where the da vinci hologram is still running...and working for a new patron, thanks to the doctor's mobile emitter.
-Mortal Coil ***
In what feels like an apology for the DS9/chakotay mumbo jumbo, neelix experiences a crisis of faith after being dead for eighteen hours. He found no "Great Forest"...only nothingness. There's no feelgood backpedaling either, as he eventually ends up on a transporter pad, trying to beam himself into space. The episode flirts with brilliance, but goes out with an ending that glosses over the needs of someone with post-traumatic stress.
-Waking Moments ***
The crew are assaulted and trapped in their dreams by an alien race who have foregone waking life. Thanks to his training in lucid dreaming, chakotay is the only one left awake, and fights the invasion with the doctor...never quite sure whether he's still dreaming. How can you go wrong with a naked tuvok, and seven snogging harry?
-Message in a Bottle ****
-written by lisa klink
-directed by nancy malone
The best TREK can put a goofy smile on your face. Voyager discovers an alien signal array that has accessed a Starfleet signal. The only data compressed enough to be sent back is the doctor's program. He finds himself in the alpha quadrant aboard the prototype vessel Prometheus...which has been captured by romulans commanded by rekar (judson scott - THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE X-FILES). Enlisting the aid of a patronizing EMH mark 2 (andy dick - NEWSRADIO, THE ANDY DICK SHOW), he re-takes the ship and is returned to Voyager, which is now off Starfleet's "lost" list. Fantastic visuals, including a couple of defiant-class ships. Only three stars on paper, but chemistry makes it a joyous firecracker of danger and comedy.
-Hunters ***
Voyager receives letters from home. The maquis have been slaughtered, and janeway gets a "dear jane" letter. Tuvok and seven are captured by the enormous, armored hirogen, and learn about their predatory ways. In order to escape, Voyager must destroy their entire signal array. Crisp and dangerous. Chakotay and b'elanna learn that all the maquis back home have been massacred - had she exclaimed "fucking cardis" (or the network racist equivalent) in her anguished shock, this might have gone four stars.
-Prey ****
-written by brannon braga
-directed by allan eastman
Voyager rescues a wounded hirogen (the diabolical tony todd - THE NEXT GENERATION, THE CROW). His wounded prey gets loose...a member of species 8472, trying to return to fluidic space! Seven saves the ship by disobeying an order to free the alien, giving it over to the hirogen instead. Janeway no happy.
-Retrospect **
The doctor discovers apparently-suppressed memories in seven, of her having been assaulted by a trader (michael horton - FIRST CONTACT, DANCES WITH WOLVES). She wants vengeance, and the crew rush to her defense...too eagerly? There is a sense of missed opportunity here, in having her violated for her nanoprobes, a choice which feels tepid and familiar. The dialogue and energy keep dancing around the idea of rape - making it literal would have been so much more compelling in terms of character development and social commentary. Can't you hear the dialogue, as a distraught seven tries to convince janeway (and more to the point, herself)..."I do not accept this as tragedy! I was assimilated, a process a thousand times more invasive!"
-The Killing Game 1&2 ***
Hirogen capture the ship, and force the crew into endless holodeck battle scenarios in which they're subjected to mind control, not realizing they aren't the characters they're playing. Seven as a french chanteuse, plus janeway and neelix as klingons, are high points (ah, if only neelix were someone other than himself every episode). The conquerors lose control, and the decks spill over into one huge battle with hirogen, klingons, and nazis everywhere.
-Vis A Vis **
An alien swaps bodies with tom, who ends up under fire and stranded alone in a strange ship, as the alien tries to make hay with his life. Flaccidity seeps from this one's pores - they don't commit to the idea that tom had been (understandably) disenchanted with his life, then they gloss it all over at the end. And hold on...we seem to have a winner in the "who-will-hump-a-delta-quadrant-alien-first" contest*, as b'elanna has nookie with the fake paris! It only took us...four seasons?? Forget LOST IN SPACE, this show should have been called REPRESSED IN SPACE! *(harry's mating with kes's daughter is discounted, as that timeline failed to materialize, and seska's kazon canoodling is under review, as she technically wasn't a member of the crew at the time)
-The Omega Directive ***
Sensors discover a particle of awesome complexity and power, the existence of which is known only to starship captains. It could negate warp travel across a quadrant, and janeway is duty-bound to destroy it. Seven bridles at this, as the particle embodies borg perfection.
-Unforgettable ***
A fugitive requests asylum, saying she has been aboard before, that she and chakotay fell in love, and that her species' physiology automatically negates any aliens' memory of their existence. Having no memory of the affair, will he fall in love again? Either way, he receives the miss congeniality award in the WWHADQAF contest, as the first crewmember to shag a delta alien...intentionally. A resonant, tender performance by virginia madsen (DUNE, SIDEWAYS), but sadly, the writing doesn't quite rise to the level of the acting or chemistry.
-Living Witness ***
The doctor's backup program is activated 700 years into the future, on a planet that remembers Voyager as genocidal marauders. The rest of the cast appear as historical holographic simulations. Janeway is butch (no, for real butch, you haters), the doc is an android, and seven is a fully-borg leader of a security squad of drones. Evil Voyager!
-Demon ***
During an urgent away mission to a demon planet, harry and tom suddenly reappear, now able to breathe the toxic atmosphere and withstand lethal temperatures. A bio-mimetic life form has begun replicating the crew, and achieving sentience. This brilliant episode might make the top-ten pure sci fi TREKs. Harry's character also matures, at long last. Denied four stars by a too-abrupt ending, and insufficient explanation of why the original tom and harry didn't die.
-One ***
A poisonous nebula forces the crew into stasis, except the doctor and seven. Eventually, the radiation forces him offline too. For one month, she must face crises while dealing with her fears of loneliness and individuality. Then the hallucinations begin. This one has all the right elements, but barely holds on to three stars.
-Hope and Fear ***
Very, very good. Ray wise (CAT PEOPLE, MAD MEN) gives a beguiling performance as an alien who blames Voyager for the assimilation of his race, and fools them into believing that his holo-camouflaged ship is a Starfleet experimental vessel, the Dauntless, sent to bring them home. Once they all get aboard, he'll strand them in borg space.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

wound 5

(a follow-up to http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/03/wound-4.html)

It's time to walk away from a spirit quest that can only end in death.
For years i've been pulling back the veil, trying to perceive reality without the filter of socialization with which we are all indoctrinated...while simultaneously re-awakening the feeling part of my spirit, long numbed by the desensitization we go through in this inhuman world. And i do mean inhuman, not inhumane. Our species has strayed incomprehensibly far from its natural state.
This week i realized i was literally dying from emotional openness. I've carried a sickened feeling in my stomach. This feeling is the start of ulcers and other maladies which pave the way to death.
It's time for sheer force of will to restore me...to rebuild the myriad walls we all need to protect ourselves and function in this world. Nervous breakdowns are not a sign of weakness. It's the people who never have a breakdown who are more fascinating, clinically.
It's time to resume the quest for laughter. I have long known that a child laughs out loud fifty times a day, and adults only thrice - and that any grownup who restores what was lost, will not be in need of medical attention for a long, long, long time. Don't take my word for it, here's Mr. Cleese in India: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXEfjVnYkqM. I've also long known that post-infancy humans are so touch-deprived, we all become adults touched by insanity.
Restoring the laughter will be easier. We're so afraid of being hurt that we either shut down our emotions, or only allow someone to touch us after a protracted "negotiation". Our inner natures scream at how wrong this is...were it not so, billions of people wouldn't be off to the ol' watering hole every night. Bars serve a dual purpose. They dull our pain while putting us in the company of dulled, uninhibited people. Bars offer some of the human touch we so desperately need (even if it comes with an undesired price tag the morning after).
I want so much to lay down my psychological garbage, to love and be loved...yet finding people or a person who is undamaged enough do the same is a tall order.
It was nothing earth-shattering that pushed me over the edge, it was normal life. I had two ongoing contentious discussions, one with dad and one with a friend. They weren't even overtly malicious...but my sensitivity to psycho-spiritual aggression has become so attuned, that each talk required an immense effort of will.
And i was reading a book. "The War Against Women", by Marilyn French. My tipping point came on the subway. I opened the book, and began a chapter on genital mutilation. After less than fifteen seconds, all i could do was lean forward and quietly gasp, head between my knees.
Even writing about it now brings back the pain. I don't know how long it will be before i can finish the book.
I'm no good to the world dead (although that would make a fun debate topic, on several levels). So i'll take a few steps back into that place of denial and self-absorption where we must live. I'll not forget the lessons i've learned. The path i walked is one that claims us all, in one way or another.
Look for me in the meadow. I'll be the one giggling or humping.
Maybe both.
Somebody loves you all.
Very soon, it might be me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Next Generation, season 4

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 3
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.9
-The Best of Both Worlds, pt. 2 ***
A compelling resolution that loses one star for being a bit too easy. The Federation/klingon fleet is decimated by the cube (but why no klingon wrecks?). Riker is given a field command, and appoints shelby as his first officer. As the cube approaches Earth, the Enterprise re-kidnaps picard/locutus, then uses him to send a command to the collective, initiating a sleep cycle. Cube destroyed, the implants are removed from picard...
-Family ****
-written by ronald d. moore
-directed by les landau
Picard returns to the family home, a vineyard estate in France, while dealing with post-assimilation traumatic disorder. Old arguments with his brother (charmingly played by jeremy kemp - TOP SECRET!, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL) surface, ending in a muddy vineyard brawl...which ends in laughter, then tears. Seeing robert get under jean-luc's skin is poignant and startling. He also meets an idealistic young nephew for the first time. Will he leave Starfleet, to work under the sea? An already-good series plumbs new emotional depth, and sets up one of stewart's greatest acting moments in GENERATIONS. In the C plot, wesley views a holo-message made by his father jack crusher (the first of three appearances for doug wert - ROSWELL, EXCESSIVE FORCE II: FORCE ON FORCE), when he was born. The obsession with biological parentage is a bit 20th century, but it's touching. The B plot has worf's parents come aboard as the ship is repaired in orbit - it's two-star material, which makes this the most flawed four-star TREK ever. The richest performance by patrick stewart thus far, is simply undeniable. The only android-free NEXT GEN, no doubt to give brent time to prepare for...
-Brothers ***
Data mysteriously commandeers the ship, outwitting his shipmates effortlessly after he is subconsciously summoned by his creator noonien soong, who is not nearly so dead as advertised. The call also brings lore, whose reassembly was unknown to soong. He tells his children he is about to die. Lore fools soong with an identity swap, taking the emotion chip meant for data and leaving soong for dead. A superb three-character performance by brent spiner. As soong, he brilliantly avoids the vocal pitfalls of playing an ancient character. Wonderful.
-Suddenly Human ***
After rescuing an alien crew from a training mission wreck, one of them turns out to be a human youth who was presumed dead as a child. His adopted father soon appears, demanding the boy. Picard struggles with the moral question of where the boy belongs, and gets a knife in his chest for his troubles - this one may shake your faith in cultural relativism, as the telarians are brutal, xenophobic misogynists.
-Remember Me ***
A wesley warp field experiment creates a shrinking-universe effect to which only beverly is immune, or so it seems, as the size of the crew keeps shrinking but no one else notices. In reality, she's trapped in a warp field bubble to which her thoughts give texture. The traveler returns to guide wesley through his expanding awareness of time and space. The writing occasionally falters, but holds together.
-Legacy ***
Enterprise travels to tasha's home planet, where crashed Starfleet officers have been kidnapped. Tasha's sister (beth toussaint - DALLAS, THE RETURN OF HUNTER) is a helpful coalition member - or is she? Everyone falls for her story, because they want to believe...even data.
-Reunion ****
-written by thomas perry, jo perry, ronald d. moore, brannon braga
-directed by jonathan frakes
Searing. A franchise locked into the zone (the non-neutral kind). K'ehleyr returns on k'mpec's flagship, with a surprise for worf - a son. The chancellor is dying, and names picard the arbiter of succession. The candidates arrive: duras and gowron (hello robert o'reilly - THE MASK, DEEP SPACE NINE). K'mpec (thank you, charles cooper) dies after revealing that one of the candidates is in league with the romulans. An assassin's bomb goes off. Duras kills k'ehleyr. Worf kills duras. He sends the son, alexander, to be raised by his Earth parents. Deadbeat dad, or self-aware cat?
-Future Imperfect ***
A ripper. Will wakes up after an accident, having lost sixteen years of memory. He's Enterprise captain, with a motherless child (named jean-luc!). Peace negotiations with the romulans are coming to fruition, and admiral picard tells him that ambassador tomalak considers riker's participation indispensable. When the photos of "mom" are his holo-love minuet, will figures out it's all a romulan deception to gather intelligence...then he finally realizes that the deception is a deception too. Geordi without a visor is beautiful, and stewart is a perfectly dashing older admiral. Wonderful visuals, tight pacing, and a bouncy birthday scene that's the first and only broken-character shot to make it into an episode.
-Final Mission ***
Wesley's final episode as a regular, as he's off to the Academy. He and picard crash on a barren, blistering moon with an uncooperative, deceitful shuttle captain (nick tate - SPACE: 1999, HOOK) whose impulsiveness dooms him. Wes must keep a mortally wounded picard alive. Plus an hysterical (unintentional?) STAR BLAZERS nod, as they visit the Gamilon system. Gritty, tense, and poignant. Come back soon, wil wheaton.
-The Loss ***
Every so often, the show dips into pure sci fi. A two-dimensional life form unintentionally drags the ship toward destruction. Deanna loses her empathic abilities, and lashes out at everyone like a scared, petulant child. Will calls her out on her aristocratic attitude toward her humanity.
-Data's Day **
Data writes a journal to send to commander bruce maddox. The TREK debut of rosalind chao (AFTERM*A*S*H, DEEP SPACE NINE). Silliness abounds as she and o'brien get married...plus a vulcan ambassador who proves to be a romulan spy. We meet data's first cat, and beverly teaches him to dance (data, not the cat). The weakness of this one is in adhering to way too many 20th-century romantic cliches. Even assuming that marriage survives into the 24th century (a large assumption), the writing lacks deftness - for instance, data would generally say "mating" instead of marriage.
-The Wounded ***
A Starfleet captain (bob gunton - PATCH ADAMS, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION) goes maverick, and his vengeance may trigger a renewed war. Can you hear that spin-off train a-moanin'? Domestic doin's with the o'briens and the introduction of the cardassians, with marc alaimo as gul macet (marc would go on to 35 DS9s as gul dukat). The showdown between the two most decorated Starfleet captains deserved sharp, brilliant writing - and didn't get it. O'brien served with captain maxwell, and has a touching scene with him.
-Devil's Due ***
A peaceful planet is in chaos, as ancient prophesies about the return of the devil appear to be coming true. Picard smells a con artist, and puts his soul (and servitude) on the line to out her. Marta dubois (TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY, MAGNUM P.I.) renders one of the most deliciously devious TREK turns ever. A charming teaser in which data plays ebeneezer scrooge on the holodeck.
-Clues ***
After passing through a wormhole, the crew suspects that they were inside far longer than the thirty seconds the clock shows. If data can't cover up all evidence of an encounter with a xenophobic alien race, the crew will be killed. Another silly slice of dixon hill...
-First Contact ***
Bebe!! Bebe!!! Riker is wounded while undercover on a planet on the brink of space travel. Picard initiates premature first contact, but the planet is still insular and heliocentric. A progressive leader (george coe - MAX HEADROOM, THE WEST WING) goes as far as he can, but must slow down the race to space. The space program's lead scientist (carolyn seymour - MR. MOM, CONGO) pleads to be allowed to stay on Enterprise...and is given permission. Quite touching. Ms. neuwirth (CHEERS, SAY ANYTHING...) is a doctor who engages in some inter-speciel intercourse with mr. riker. Unlike much TREK sex, which comes with averted eyes and sighs of i-must-resist-but-i-cannnnnn't, this is refreshingly bright-eyed. Bebe just wants to hump an alien, bless her. One of the most resonant touches of the episode is the parallel to how vulcans deemed FIRST CONTACT era humanity not yet ready for space.
-Galaxy's Child ***
Enterprise accidentally kills a space life form, and then must do a C-section to birth its unborn child...which imprints on the ship as its "mother", to dangerous effect. Geordi meets one of Enterprise's designers, a woman he previously turned into a problem-solving holoprogram (and proceeded to fall in love with). The real leah brahms feels violated...and is also married. Geordi's awkwardness is so real it dances on the border of creepy, which is an exceedingly fine line on which to have a lead character dance. Brilliantly written, maurice hurley.
-Night Terrors **
After a starship crew is found to have murdered one another, the Enterprise crew begins experiencing the same paranoid hallucinations, just as the ship become similarly trapped in a spatial anomaly. Dream deprivation is driving them slowly insane, and the only one who can dream is deanna, who has terrible nightmares which are in actuality a communication attempt by another trapped vessel. Picard puts data in command.
-Identity Crisis **
Geordi is infected with a long-dormant parasite that begins turning him into another species. He runs away to the planet where he was infected. There are lovely elements here, including a touching relationship with a former crewmate (maryann plunkett - THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, BLUE VALENTINE) also infected. It's hard to say exactly why it doesn't quite come together. A too-contrived solitary transformation for geordi? A too-easy resolve?
-The Nth Degree ***
After an accident with an alien probe, barclay's confidence swells and his intelligence expands exponentially, until he integrates his consciousness with the ship's computer and takes the ship instantly to the center of the galaxy, where super-beings are waiting to learn about them. The crew attempted to stop barclay's takeover of the ship, but are quite sympathetic when he is one of them again. It's all a lovely idea, but his ascension to super-being could have had a more human aspect, instead of being instantly aristocratic. And his romatic pass at deanna should have been more textured. Some lovely moments as barclay and crusher play characters in "Cyrano de Bergerac".
-Qpid ***
Vash shows up as a pseudo-member of an archaeological council, for which jean-luc is delivering a paper. The sparks still fly. Q interprets picard's feelings as weakness, and sends the gang to Sherwood Forest, as robin hood characters (with vash as marian). Nobody gets under picard's skin like these two - in the end, vash allows q to become her new intergalactic, time-traveling consort. An obvious (too-obvious?) nod to ANIMAL HOUSE, and a subtle nod to PRINCESS BRIDE...plus a rare moment of TREK sexism (trexism?) as the men fight with swords, and the women with flower pots.
-The Drumhead **
A retired admiral (jean simmons - SPARTACUS, GUYS AND DOLLS) holds onboard hearings to investigate sabotage and treason. When one guilty party is found, it becomes a witchhunt in which a crew member's career is ruined. The simplistic writing doesn't quite elevate to the premise, as it becomes about "good people vs. evil people". The one strong thread is in how worf's prejudices cause him to follow a misguided authority figure too far.
-Half a Life ***
David ogden stiers (THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, STARGATE: ATLANTIS) is lovely as an alien scientist facing mandatory age-euthanization, who falls in love with lwaxana. She spurs him into defying his culture's conventions, but he's not quite strong (or selfish) enough to see it through. The writing delivers all the right questions, with sensitvity and depth. Stiers' performance raises the level of everyone around him...with majel finally approaching competence as an actor, he has enough to work with. Michelle forbes' TREK debut as his daughter is clumsy...with two other leading ladies, stiers' performance might easily belong on the short list of greatest TREK guest turns ever.
-The Host **
Crusher falls in love with an ambassador, unaware he is a conjoined being. After a shuttle is fired upon, the symbiont needs a temporary host...will riker, come on down! Beverly is torn, but finally has a night of passion with the former mr. riker. The first appearance of a trill is notable for how different they'll become on DS9 - less a combining of host and symbiont, and more a takeover. At the end, three hosts are one too many for beverly to process. There are strong elements here (including some surprisingly realistic kissing), but it's a bit overwritten. A bit forced. Perhaps they were trying to take in too much for one episode.
-The Mind's Eye ***
During a shuttle trip to Risa, geordi is kidnapped and taken aboard a romulan warbird to be subconsciously conditioned into being a sleeper agent. He returns to Enterprise with false memories and prepares to kill a klingon governor and start a war. In a romulan holo-simulation, he kills o'brien. Fine turns are rendered by john fleck (ENTERPRISE, TRUE BLOOD) as a romulan interrogator, and larry dobkin (PATTON, BEASTMASTER 2) as a klingon ambassador.
-In Theory ***
A lieutenant on the rebound from an emotionally distant man begins a romance with data. After a classic progression of advice-seeking from all his friends, he initiates a romance program. Guest star michele scarabelli (ALIEN NATION, AIRWOLF) shines. In patrick stewart's directorial debut, the flaws are nearly negated by fine writing and a superb spiner performance - but for comedy's sake, data's naivete and ignorance are overdone.
-Redemption ****
-written by ronald d. moore
-directed by cliff bole
The debut of lursa (barbara march - THE GAMBLER RETURNS, GENERATIONS) and b'etor (gwynyth walsh - THE CRUSH, NYPD BLUE), leaders of the treacherous house of duras, plus the first visible appearance of sela (or her half-romulan daughter), as denise crosby re-returns from the dead. Gowron ascends to chancellor, only to face an implacable uprising. Worf takes a leave of absence to restore family honor. He gets kurn to commit his squadrons to gowron. Civil war begins. A kidnapped picard faces a sexually ravenous klingon. Worf resigns his commission, to fight at gowron's side. It percolates, it pops...