Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Mary Sue Crusher

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E13. “Datalore”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Will Wheaton
WRITERS: Robert Lewin, Maurice Hurley, Gene Roddenberry
DIRECTOR:
Rob Bowman
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
January 18, 1988
SYNOPSIS:
The Enterprise visits Data’s home planet, and discovers his lost “brother.”

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So Data was found, not built? Huh. That’s interesting. Two decades of The Phantom Menace trained me to believe he’d been built by Wesley…

What we have here is essentially your standard evil twin story. The Enterprise travels to Data’s home planet, finds another robot like him, he turns out to be evil, the other crew members mix them up. Pretty paint-by-numbers stuff.

While Data is our central character, the young Wesley Crusher character is also front and center, and is ultimately responsible for saving the day. And not for the first time.

The term “Mary Sue” gets tossed around a lot in this day and age. In fact, Wesley Crusher is often cited as a textbook Mary Sue. But what the hell is a Mary Sue, anyway?

Urban Dictionary defines “Mary Sue” as, “a character who is so perfect that he or she warps the world around them to display their perfection,” and who “forcibly make the world and people around them defy logic to simply display how amazingly radiant they are.” In other words, a character that is illogically infallible. Go to the Wikipedia page for “Mary Sue,” and the cited characters (in addition to Wesley) include Arya Stark from Game of Thrones and Rey from the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

Fittingly enough, the term dates back to a Star Trek fanzine published in the early ’70s.

Apparently, Gene Roddenberry was the one who pushed for the Wesley character. And as his involvement with the show decreased after season one, so too did Wesley’s relevance on the show. Personally, I don’t hate Wesley. Nor do I mind the inclusion of a younger character in general. It offers a different perspective on the Star Trek Universe that we never had on the old show. It might have even been interesting to watch Wesley grow and mature over the course of the series.

I do, however, find the role young Wesley often plays among the crew to be highly illogical. Indeed, Spock would not approve.

Though he secretly has a heart of gold, Captain Picard is strict to the point of coming off short-tempered. You don’t mess around on this guy’s ship. In “Encounter at Farpoint,” the guy was hard-pressed to even let Wesley set foot on the bridge. And yet now he’s an acting ensign who’s regularly performing duties on that same bridge? What gives?

The “Wesley problem,” as D.C. Fontana once put it, will seemingly be less and less prevalent as we get into subsequent seasons. But I’ll maintain that the character itself, despite becoming a Mary Sue, wasn’t bad from conception.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Waiting For Greatness

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E7. “Lonely Among Us”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn
WRITERS: Michael Halperin (Story), D.C. Fontana (Script)
DIRECTOR:
Cliff Bole
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
November 2, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
An alien entity takes possession of several crew members, as the Enterprise is assigned to escort delegates from feuding alien races to peace talks.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

These first few episodes of TNG that I’ve watched are interesting, in that they’re, quite frankly, uninteresting. And in the case of this episode, rather stupid at times. (I’m specifically looking at Data doing his Sherlock Holmes impression.)

“Lonely Among Us” has a story that might have been plucked out of the original series. Various crew members are possessed by an invisible alien entity, all the while two feuding alien factions are on board the ship. In many ways, it’s textbook Star Trek. It may also be a microcosm for what’s been wrong with the show (at least what I’ve seen) thus far.

On paper it makes sense. Especially with 30 years of hindsight. You want to make a new Star Trek show two decades after the first one. What do you do? You look at what worked on the old show, and try to at least partially fit that mold. Ergo, you get episodes like “The Naked Now” and “Lonely Among Us,” which feel like dressed up episodes of the ’60s show.

It’s not an accident that this happened during a season in which several writers from the original show were brought in. In addition to Gene Roddenberry’s involvement with the show, D.C. Fontana became both a writer and an associate producer.

It all makes sense. These people know Star Trek because they created Star Trek. They’re the keepers of the flame. You’d be silly not to involve them on some level. But, to use an example from the same era, there’s a reason that Batman: The Animated Series didn’t have the same kind of stories the ’60s Batman show did. It was a tonal mismatch, of course. But it also didn’t fit with what the new show needed to be in order to succeed.

Even all these years later, as someone just discovering these shows for the first time, this first season of TNG very much lives in the shadow of the original series. How could it not? The way you fight that is to allow this new show to pave its own way and establish its own identity. You can’t do that while mimicking the old show.

More than 30 years later, Star Trek: The Next Generation is still looked at with love and reverence. But I, as a newbie, am still patiently waiting for greatness…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: Data is a Sex Robot?

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E3. “The Naked Now”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Denise Crosby, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton
WRITERS: John D.F. Black, D.C. Fontana (Pseudonym: J. Michael Bingham)
DIRECTOR:
Paul Lynch
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
October 5, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
Members of the crew find their inhibitions lowered after contracting a mysterious (but not unfamiliar) infection.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

Okay…wait a minute here….

So this is the sequel to the original series episode “The Naked Time.” As with its predecessor, “The Naked Now” sees characters infected with a strange disease that lowers their inhibitions. In essence, they all get drunk and sweaty.

One of the first characters infected is Tasha Yar, security chief aboard the Enterprise. Evidently Tasha is a horny drunk, as she abruptly becomes hypersexual. She’s eventually found by Data, the ship’s chief operations officer. More importantly, he’s a synthetic android. Their verbal exchange ends this way…

Tasha: “You are fully functional, aren’t you?”
Data: “Of course, but…”
T: “How fully?”
D: “In every way, of course. I am programmed in multiple techniques, a broad variety of pleasuring.”
T: “Oh, you jewel! That’s exactly what I hoped!”

They have sex. Human-robot sex. I have questions. Very awkward questions…

So Data is “fully functional.” I’ll assume that means he can do virtually anything a human can do. He’s got synthetic, man-made organs, tissue, etc. In the Marvel Universe he’d be called a “synthezoid” like Vision. So he can have human-robot sex if he chooses to.

But how does that work? Like, physically? Physiologically? My understanding of Data is that he doesn’t experience emotions the way humans do. So, in theory, he wouldn’t register arousal. So when it’s time for intercourse, does his CPU have to give a command that it’s time for a robot erection?

Because that’s not awkward enough, let me ask: Does synthetic sperm exist? Does it…”present itself” during robot ejaculation? Is there robot ejaculation? Or in that moment, is Data’s primary function to provide pleasure to his human partner?

The question of Data’s “primary function” brings up an odd issue. Assuming he’s principally programmed to serve humans, is there a question of consent? Could Data have said no to Tasha? If not, does that mean any synthezoid can theoretically become a sex robot at any given moment? Never underestimate the power and prevalence of human perversion, folks…

The big question, ironically, is posed by Tasha herself: How fully functional is Data?

See, these are the questions you’ve got to answer if you’re going to have human-robot sex in your show. (This is how you know you’re becoming too invested in a TV show.)

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches Star Trek: A New Day, A New Generation

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek: The Next Generation
TITLE: S1.E1 & E2. “Encounter at Farpoint”
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn
GUEST-STARRING: John de Lancie
WRITERS: Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana
DIRECTOR:
Corey Allen
ORIGINAL AIR DATE:
September 28, 1987
SYNOPSIS:
Captain Picard and members of his crew argue the merits of humanity at Farpoint Station with a mysterious alien entity called Q.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

New Around here? Check out the “Rob Watches Star Trek” archive!

In years past, I’d tried to watch “Encounter at Farpoint” at least twice, maybe three or four times. But it just didn’t grab me. In fact, on at least one of those occasions I fell asleep. That’s a problem I didn’t expect to have, as so many people told me Star Trek: The Next Generation was the ideal gateway into Star Trek fandom.

Thankfully, I fared better this time.

So we start off with a slightly tweaked version of the “Space…the Final Frontier” intro from our new captain, Jean-Luc Picard, played by the great Patrick Stewart. The conception of Picard is interesting to me, as Kirk is such a tough act to follow. Reportedly, Gene Roddenberry wanted someone who was “masculine, virile, and had a lot of hair.” (So right out of the gate, I consider Picard to be a champion for bald-headed heroes everywhere…) In contrast to Kirk being more of an all-American hero type, Picard is portrayed as more of quiet, brooding Frenchman, who for some reason doesn’t speak with a French accent. Though apparently Stewart did try the accent at one point.

The episode doesn’t waste much time before getting into the action. We meet this strange person/entity called Q, we see what this new Enterprise can do as the saucer separates from the rest of the ship, and Picard and the crew soon find themselves arguing on humanity’s behalf in a kangaroo court in space. Not much of a mind for exposition, which is a little frustrating. But I confess this approach is for the best. Better to get on with the business of the plot than get bogged down with a bunch of information we’ll get eventually, anyway.

Picard refers to the simulated timeframe of the trial as “Mid  21st century. The post-atomic horror.” This would seem to imply we’re about to destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons. That’s kind of a downer…

Tasha Yar, the Enterprise’s security chief, says the court should get on its knees before what Starfleet is, and what it represents. But what is that, exactly? I assume it’s something along the lines of dedication to peace, justice, diversity, discovery, etc. Also, this woman seems shockingly impulsive for a security chief, or for that matter, a security guard. I confess, I took a bit of pleasure when Q froze her solid.

How can you tell this show was made in the ’90s? There’s an indoor shopping mall. Think there’s a Sears in there?

It looks like one of the elements we’ll be exploring is Picard’s solidarity. Note his interactions with Dr. Crusher and Wesley, and his flat out asking Riker to help him around children. There’s a parallel between he and Kirk there. Star Trek V looked a little more in-depth at Kirk not having a family of his own, believing he’d die alone, etc. Of course, the interesting factor there is that this episode predates Star Trek V by about two years. So the movie could very well have drawn inspiration from the show.

There’s also an interesting parallel between Picard and Data. The latter is, of course, a robot who longs to be human. But Picard is, deep down, someone who wants to be more human. He secretly wants more out of his life. Naturally, I suspect we’ll be exploring that as our series progresses.

While Star Trek starts in 2266, Star Trek: TNG begins in 2364. So we’re about a century ahead of where we started. Nevertheless, we get a cameo from a 137-year-old Bones. Apparently, he made it to the rank of admiral, which is odd considering he was talking about retirement in Star Trek VI. Chronologically, this is the character’s final appearance. And so I raise my glass to my favorite character from the original series, and the actor who played him for a quarter century.

While “Encounter at Farpoint” does its job in terms of setting up the show at large, I can’t say it did much for me personally. To be fair, it’s technically two episodes that were originally aired together as a movie. But bluntly put, it’s just not that good as a movie. For newcomers like me, I would suggest “Encounter at Farpoint” be kept divided. I understand TNG had much to establish early on. But there’s such a thing as throwing too much at the audience too soon.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.