36 – Fellowship of the ring-shaped space station

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Man, Geordi is just so totally stoked about dropping this big pile of quest exposition that I’m kind of infected with his enthusiasm. I’m excited about how excited a fan-made rendition of a fictional character giving a made-up speech as an NPC is, but I’m the fan who made it.

I don’t even know how to unravel my feelings here.

But, so, yes: granted that Kai Opaka is a lot more sedate and like Zen Master about the whole thing in the actual show, but it was still a pretty blatant quest drop, yeah? They really kind of lay that out there in that little speech under the holographic Bajoran pond.

Next Generation sort of opened up with a series-defining theme in its pilot too but it was a lot more vague and muddled, with that kangaroo court featuring Judge Q being all “humans are terrible” and Picard all “nuh uh, we’re actually pretty okay once you get to know us” and sort of a vague understanding that Picard and his crew were going to figuratively represent the aspirational nature of future humankind. But other than being in tune with the Roddenberrian optimism of the Star Trek premise, even that wasn’t really tied back into the ongoing plot of the show directly until the very final episode seven seasons later.

Whereas DS9 just goes big with the whole thing. Like boom! Intersection of core non-human cultural metaphysics, some truly alien beings, political and social conflicts with the Cardassians, Sisko’s own personal struggles and Campbellian “Unwilling Hero” mold, and the (spoiler alert!) wormhole as a nexus for all these things and further galactic developments later in the show. If that shit doesn’t deserve a grandiloquent speech by the Game Master, I don’t know what does.

So you go, Geordi.

Give ’em the ol’ puppydog visor.

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Was hunting for some new Geordi screencaps for tomorrow’s strip, and ended up skimming through Booby Trap, the episode from early in season three of Next Generation where Geordi manages to save the Enterprise by collaborating with a totally fake holo-reproduction of a scientist and also she rubs his back and he gets to kiss her and boy howdy that was a weird episode, but, so, yes:

Geordi feels a lot of feelings in that episode. And at one point he manages to toss out some really solid puppydog eyes. Which is actually a hell of a move by LeVar Burton seeing as how he is playing a character whose eyes you basically never get to see.

geordi puppydog visor

Man alive but I love this show.

Wil Wheaton on being a kid on Star Trek

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There’s a nice short little reflection that Wil just posted on his blog, about looking back at TNG as an adult who remembers being a kid out of his depth at the time. You should go read it, it won’t take long.

But there’s a key bit in particular that resonates with me, both as someone writing his own take on Wesley Crusher in this odd comic and as just a thirty-something dude who spends some time looking back with complicated feelings about being a sometimes scared and arrogant and full-of-shit kid trying to figure out adult life:

I wish I could go back in time and tell that kid to relax and enjoy what was a pretty awesome job, but I know that he wouldn’t listen to me any more than he’d have listened to anyone else. He was a confused, weird, awkward nerd trying so hard to be an adult, and failing spectacularly.

Maybe it’s odd but I’m kind of enjoying giving Wes a little bit more of a chance to be a dumb joyful kid and just goof off, even if only while the holodeck’s busted.

#35 – Women do a lot of things, Wes.

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Hey, it’s been a while since we had the whole cast in one strip! Everybody but Worf, of course; he’s practicing some Klingon opera in his room, being extra loud because he secretly hopes someone will notice and check in on him because he’s kind of upset that everybody’s playing the game and too busy to hang out.

But yeah, I felt like they were maybe getting restless with this whole vision quest sequence. Geordi better wrap this up before Picard starts into some protracted exegesis on e.g. the structural themes of 19th C. military novels in an attempt to really impress his fake dead wife.

Also, you have to give Riker credit: he may be a straight-up hound dog, but this dog hunts. He’s a model dirty-Kirk analogue, really; he’s got that whole wild stallion eros thing going on but he’s a smart guy, attentive, tuned into the details. Boldly going, boldly coming, etc. Well-honed erotic situational awareness, like a ninja.

He’s the Chunk Norris of having sexy times in space.

#34 – If I had my little way / I’d dream beaches every day

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I have mixed feelings about specifically relying on skill-check humor in the strip. I don’t think it’s totally avoidable in a “hey, they’re playing an old-school role-playing game” context since that’s a real touchstone of such stuff regardless of your feelings about that method of adjudicating gameplay, and anyway there’s some easy jokes that make me giggle about the intersection of serious-face random skill checks and television writing. But at the same time, it could be really easy to basically reduce things to nothing but a string of dice-rolling jokes, and I’m not sure Larp Trek would really benefit from that.

So, moderation in all things? This seemed like a good time to introduce the idea (and to do so slightly gently so folks who are into this more for the resynthesized Star Trek dramedy than for the RPG jokes have any idea what that’s all about), but maybe we won’t have to hear about it constantly or anything? That sounds like a deal. Okay. Handshake with myself, done.

Also, Picard is a terribly sore loser.

But! Anyway. Star Trek! Let’s talk about this scene in the actual Deep Space Nine pilot. It’s a weird scene — I mean, of course it’s sort of a weird scene since grumpy ol’ Ben Sisko is suddenly standing on a beach in his skivvies hitting on (spoiler alert) his dead wife, when he was just chillin’ with Kai Opaka in a Bajoran cave, but that’s not what I mean because sure, fine, vision quest, we can all get down with that.

What’s a little weird to me is the way Ben Sisko’s reaction is primarily to sort of game out the situation almost immediately, to the point where his conversation with his (spoiler alert) totally dead wife who is not dead here is a mixture of flirtation and self-directed commentary about what he knows vs. what she knows. Like he skips the whole WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON freakout I’d expect most people to have, but not because he’s in some total dream daze where he doesn’t know this is bizarre. He knows it’s nuts, he’s coherent and self-aware, he’s just like, okay! Dead wife, back in time, clearly everything here is wrong but whatever, I am going to tap that.

I’m not sure this is a complaint per se; by the end of the episode it’s clear in a number of ways why they went this route with this scene — in particular to establish the atemporal nature of the prophets, to establish the mind-vision-experience gig said prophets favor for communication, and to set up a nice contrast in tone to Sisko’s later conversations with, not a warm friendly flirty remembered dead wife, but rather the frigid and standoffishness and very thoroughly alien entities that are the prophets themselves.

But it is a bit odd. I think you can handwave it a bit by saying, well, hey: the subjective experience of being thrust into a voyage-into-the-mind flashback by the prophets is different from a memory or a lucid dream or any other normal human fugue state or whatever, but that remains a handwave regardless.

#33 – Wes then attempts to take a swim in the holopond.

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Strange women fondling your ear and then making ponds disappear is a little on the weird side. Riker’s not out of line here.

I’ve been playing around with purposeful (rather than just literally-to-make-things-more-colorful) use of color a bit lately — aside from the occasional Hulk Mad red, I feel like maybe it works narratively to indicate in-character vs. out-of-character stuff with grey vs. colored panels. Makes me feel a little more okay with the shifting description-vs-speech thing without having to throw quotes around every panel of stand-alone dialogue, for example, now that we’re really getting into interactions and conversation with non-player characters. Some of it’s sort of borderline stuff, though — if Geordi is both chastising Riker *and* doing some flavor text in the same panel, how to treat that? Etc.

Still developing my feelings about it; mostly my priority is to keep the coloring subservient to the scripting and not vice-versa, so those borderline things may just have to suck it up and deal with being ambiguously colored.


#32 – Opaka’s a real audiophile IYKWIM

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I feel like those last three Riker panels work pretty well visually, but what I’d actually wanted was three shots of him from some scene where he was literally trying, and ultimately catastrophically failing, to contain braying laughter.

Trouble is I have no idea when Riker might have done that. It seems like something he would have done at some point, and with a little luck might have done in medium closeup so the screenshots would look pretty good, but when? Out of like 200 episodes? Turns out if you try to google this you just end up finding scads and scads of slashfic; Riker apparently bursts out laughing a lot while in the process of getting friendlier with Mary Sue or Gary Sue or Geordi Sue.

I went skimming through video a little, tried episodes on Netflix that mentioned him in the synopsis in case that meant a little more Riker face time. And he smiles plenty, but I’ve got smiles already. I didn’t manage to find a single instance of the sort of laughter I was hoping for but he did mack on or swap spit with at least three different women in the mean time.

Irrepressible, that guy.

Anyway, I’ve always found this actual scene from the pilot funny, but I think it’s supposed to be: Sisko is meeting this reclusive high holy leader, everything is super tense with the provisional Bajoran government, serious stuff presumably needs discussing, and…she fondles his ear without explanation and makes him super duper uncomfortable. It’s a fun moment, and it plays well on the show which is a credit to both actors and the director because I think it’d have been pretty easy for it to have come across more the way Riker here is reading it.

Also, I’m going with “Pah” here, not “Pagh”, because (a) this is apparently a really schismatic issue and I love a good schism and (b) the former is more phonetically transparent to casual readers (for whom: it could roughly translate as “soul”).

Memory Alpha prefers Pagh; but then the Memory Alpha page for Pah-Wraiths goes with the g-less spelling! But it notes:

The scripts consistently used the spelling “Pah-wraith”. However, Wolfe maintains that “Pah is a misspelling, from my point of view.” Ronald D. Moore has also commented that he believes that pagh is the correct spelling. “The Assignment” co-writer David Weddle counters, “Not if it comes from Ancient Bajoran. The g’s were added centuries later, when the seventh hemisphere became more influential.”

Writer fight!

#31 – The spirit is willing, but the flesh is kind of a lazy jerk

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Jesus, Picard, you’re being lazy in a fictive context. That’s some serious labor avoidance.

I’ve always wondered if a little bit of the script for the Sisko/monks/Opaka stuff in the pilot ended up on the cutting room floor somewhere, because it really is a weird pair of scenes in the show as it aired:

1. Random monk is all “hey, c’mere”, Sisko goes “nope”, monk says “okie doke!”, and that’s the end of that. Whole thing plays out like a Hare Krishna encounter on the sidewalk.

2. Monk shows up again a little bit later and says “hey, c’mere!” and Sisko just hops on transport to Bajor with no further comment.

Like, something must’ve happened in between there? The text of the episode as aired gives us nothing; basically the only discussion of anything related to Bajoran spirituality is the super brief mention of spiritual leader Kai Opaka in the 30 seconds of conversation that Sisko has with Kira right before the monk reappears. Did they cut a scene where Sisko read the wikipedia entry on Bajoran Religion or got a memo that the weird monk was some government heavy’s nephew and to be polite so feathers don’t get ruffled?

Picard’s motivations here, however dubious, make more sense to me than that actual scene in the show, is what I’m saying.

But at least Data is displaying some rudimentary eye for sartorial details. So that’s a thing.

#30 – You don’t have to beam home but you can’t stay here

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Thirty strips! It’s a round number! It’s not a very big number, but at the same time it’s a pretty big number for what started as a pretty one-shot joke. I hope you’re enjoying it; I sure am!

And I think these crazy Enterprise kids have finally thrown caution to the wind and just plain started getting into the spirit of things. I’m prouder for my fake versions of fictional characters than I really probably ought to be.

Process talk! Some of these I write around a specific joke or a specific key interaction — I’d say most of strips #10-#25 in particular were from ideas already in the can when I sat down to flesh them out into actual strips — and with those I tend to not really laugh at loud while I’m making them because I already got my giggles in when I sketched out the basic idea. At the end I tend to mostly be doing a sanity check (does this joke still work? Is it actually funny? Is there a better way to get this bit of story/character done?) and running it by my wife for a fresh reaction.

But today’s is more on the improvised side (had a late night, didn’t get the strip written earlier in the day yesterday like I ought to have), and that’s a little bit nerve-wracking because it means trying to pull a rabbit from a hat, but the upside is I don’t actually see something like Troi’s “thirstier than I thought” line coming until it comes out of my keyboard, and then I get to cackle at it right then and there. That being the sort of thing that apparently makes me cackle. So! Upside to riding the damn tiger.

Do you think Geordi had this outcome in mind? Was he planning to use Quark’s nephew as bait, or did Troi surprise him as much as anybody with her announcement that she was bailing? I’m leaning toward the latter — I bet Geordi was just trying to set up a little drama on the station, maybe the arrested Ferengi wasn’t even supposed to be related to Quark or anything. Way to think on your feet, Picard! Or on your butt. They may be sitting down, it’s pretty hard to tell when you can only see them from the shoulders up. Maybe they’re lounging in some sort of space-age beanbag chairs, eating synthetic kale chips, a Zep album on in the background.



You know what you shouldn’t put off until the morning when you need to get the strip put together?

Finding screenshots of Data emoting.

I ended up pulling some new shots from Descent, Part II, the season seven opener where an emotionally-buffed Data teams up with his robot brother Lore to lead a squad of rogue Borg on a mission to LITERALLY DESTROY ALL ORGANIC LIFE IN THE GALAXY. (Spoiler alert: they do not end up doing that.)

And it’s got some at least grumpy, accusatory Data, but no real hotheaded scenery chewing, so I’ll need to go back to the well some time to expand Kira-by-proxy’s emotional vocabulary. But it’s something. Baby steps, Data!

A question unlikely to be answered in the text of this comic: when Data roleplays, does he speak in the made-up voice of his character, i.e. do the other crew-members get to hear him doing his best Nana Visitor impression? It’s established on Next Generation that he can do that sort of thing without difficulty, but would the other players enjoy that or just find it unsettling? I can imagine Troi throwing some husky growl into her Quark, so it seems like fair play, but maybe it’s a bit uncanny valley.

Do you think Data ever got used like a youtube player during social gatherings? Sure, someone could dig out a datapad or whatever and call up that funny “Captain’s Pooplog” recording that’s been going around on subspace, but why not just ask Data to stand there, mouth gaping, playing it back like a boombox? He’s super smart and a computer, it’d be faster than looking it up, yeah?