#28 – Major Kira if you’re nasty

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I’m guessing Data’s in for a little coaching on Monday.

Do you know what’s kind of dumb? I feel deeply conflicted, almost guilty, about presenting scenes from the pilot slightly out of sequence. I am writing a ridiculous comic about one fake TV show cast pretending to be another fake TV show cast, and have completely thrown out piles of continuity from the first show in favor of my own jokes, and yet I’m like OH NO BUT ODO CONFRONTS THE THIEVES AFTER SISKO MEETS KIRA and honestly I just don’t know what to do with myself. This is a confusing and frightening world we live in.

#27 – When a mace flies at your face / you must shift it

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Not pictured: Picard sobbing in the corner, trying to compose himself. Best that Geordi moved things along from that previous scene, I think.

But yes, so! Odo! Wes seems like a much more fun character to have play Odo than Data did, to me, and leaves Data with something more entertaining to do than roleplay having slightly more fractured relatability than normal, so that’s all good. (More on which soon, I promise.)

The shapeshifting thing: man, there’s a lot to talk about there. I think the elephant in the room for any critical viewer of Deep Space Nine is just how unbalancing that shapeshifting power is. It’s the sort of thing that falls squarely into superpowers, narratively speaking; there is so dang much you could accomplish with the concerted application of a little doppelgangin’ that it’s hard to understand why basically every problem on the station doesn’t get solved with “and then Odo shapeshifts into an x and does y, end of episode”.

(I mean, it’s not actually hard to understand why not; the show is called Deep Space Nine, not The Times And Crimes of Constable Odo, and you can’t have an ensemble show be the same plot and resolution every episode, etc. But it’s a Superman Is An Equal Member Of The Justice League sort of problem: using the magical wand to solve problems is such an obvious approach that if you repeatedly decide to e.g. not have the shapeshifter shapeshift, or to send Aquaman instead of Superman, it can get a bit silly. So you better hope your readers/viewers/fandom are willing to run with the silly.)

But it’s the perfect thing for some excited kid to come up with. As much as Wes is likely to be a handful for Geordi, I think he’s also the best thing that could happen to the game: he’s hungry for adventure, he’s got the relentless, unselfconscious imagination that kids have, and he wants to impress all the adults around him. He wants to Do The Awesome Thing, which, hell yes, kiddo. Doing the awesome thing is an awesome thing to do. Stare that whatever-that-alien-guy-in-the-DS9-pilot-was’ mace down. Shapeshift it. Shapeshift it good.

26 – Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself…

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I would pay one billion internet dollars to see Patrick Stewart perform this scene in reality. Someone have his actual people call my imaginary people, we can have my fake internet accountant take care of all the details.

But, yes, huh. This kind of got off the leash and I just followed it where it was gonna go, and here we are.

Morton’s Fork isn’t a battle that ever occurred in Star Trek, or anywhere; I just thought it sounded better than e.g. The Battle of Hobson’s Choice. But since this game is taking place pre-Locutus, Picard had to imagine something as the grounds for this confrontation between his imagined future self and his imagined fictional counterpart on Deep Space Nine.

And I didn’t want that imagined scenario to just be literally Wolf 259 by another name, because I think it’s interesting to look at the difference between the idea of Picard-as-Other being forced to commit an atrocity, and Picard-as-Picard making a command decision under his full faculties, and the implications that has for Sisko’s reaction to the outcome and Picard’s own sense of responsibility when faced directly by the human costs of those decisions.

For those who don’t remember or never saw it, the original scene in DS9 that this strip and yesterday’s strip is riffing on was actually quite short and just a strained Starfleet/DS9 biz-management conversation between Picard and Sisko re: Sisko’s assignment here, and almost all of Ben Sisko’s anger at Picard, and Picard’s discomfort at the circumstances, was left unsaid and implied by body language, the nasty business of Picard-as-Locutus-of-Borg killing a whole bunch of Starfleet folks before being rescued and de-Borged again being covered by the flashback scene at the start of DS9’s pilot where we revisit that big battle at Wolf 359.

Keep in mind, as viewers we go into the first episode of DS9 knowing nothing about Ben Sisko, but knowing that Picard is a good guy, a guy we really like, a guy we’ve followed for seven seasons.

And when that I Am Locutus Of Borg thing went down at the end of season 3, start of season 4 of TNG it was a really shocking thing and we were rooting primarily for Picard’s safe return and for the senior staff of the Enterprise to cope with his kidnapping and conversion and their loss of and concern for their captain. We the viewers experienced that two-parter of Next Generation from the perspective of the Enterprise, and the destruction done to the rest of Starfleet and others by the Borg rampage under Locutus was more story spectacle than something viscerally felt; all the damage was to Other People, to background characters and set dressing.

So the DS9 pilot’s meeting with Picard, with the focus on Sisko, was a great way to simultaneously do two things.

1. It put the perspective of the Trek viewer outside that familiar and forgiving Enterprise/Picard-centric view of that whole Borg mess and got us to see things from the perspective of someone who saw his wife, his ship, his friends and crew-mates, really his whole military and civilization, radically threatened by an assault led by a man who, somehow, is nonetheless here a few years later, still a decorated and uniform ranking officer, giving Sisko orders. Suddenly the Borg assault wasn’t just a season cliffhanger event, wasn’t just A Bad Thing That Happened To Jean Luc.

2. It put us really on edge as viewers encountering this new Star Trek franchise after being accustomed to liking, and siding with, Picard et al and experiencing mostly interpersonal harmony and cooperation from major Starfleet cast-members. Here’s your new protagonist. He hates your old one. For killing his wife.

Which is kind of brilliant and daring. When I first watched that scene I was just kind of laughing, like “oh DAMN son”, but in retrospect, I’m really pretty taken by what they did there. Like: Oh. Damn.

But, so, yes! Anyway. Morton’s Fork. Those darned Ventrusians. Different scenario, same angry Sisko, except now Sisko is actually Picard’s own creation, and Morton’s Fork some noble imagined scenario of Picard’s construction as well, and presumably none of this consciously occurred to Picard as the setup to an emotionally shattering auto-deconstruction. Picard could have been the hero here, essentially unchallenged. Picard probably meant to be when he started this little puppet show. And yet!

Basically I think Counselor Troi could write a book or three.

#25 – No, Geordi, you’re not conveying noble frustration quite right.

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Hey, remember the battle of Wolf 359? Where Picard-as-Locutus, newly kidnapped and recruited commander of the Borg forces, blew up a crapload of Starfleet vessels, getting Ben Sisko’s wife killed in the process?

Well, Picard doesn’t, and neither does anyone else, because, as previously established, we’re still in the middle of Season 3 of Next Gen when this game is taking place, so that hasn’t happened yet. Or ever? Who knows, it’s the future. Okay? Okay. Good.

But! Sisko’s distate for, and icy confrontation with, Picard obviously happened in the (sometimes muddy on the details) televisual recreation we have of this RPG campaign, so that must have been more or less part of Picard’s conception of the Sisko character. But Picard is not the sort of guy I see as imagining himself as being compromised in body and mind by a hostile alien society; that’s just a bit dark, yes? So, not that. Something less morally compromising, something that creates a difficult situation but one in which Picard can still claim some redemptive high ground regardless of the stakes. Less “ocular implant” and more “stiff upper lip”, and all that.

And so, yes! The battle of Morton’s Fork! Who can forget it! I’m sure we’ll hear a little bit more about that on Monday. This was in fact originally going to be a single strip, but I think it’ll work better if I break it up a bit and let Picard really properly shout at himself a bit in a followup instead of rushing it in here. Plus it seems to be working pretty well for Peter Jackson.

Geordi the Explordi

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A fever dream tweet from Greg Erskine (who more or less specializes in fever dream tweets, and you would be crazy not to follow him on twitter or, if possible, down the street) led to this questionable artistic effort by yours truly:

Geordi the Explordi.

Presumably he translates between layman and technobabble.

Presumably he translates between layman and technobabble.

I probably should have drawn a little Wes or Data the Boots-the-monkey analogue but this was already pushing it for me so I quit while I was ahead. But seriously, I would watch this show with my kids if I had kids. I would maybe steal kids and pretend they were my kids and make them watch this show.

And I mean, we already know the TNG cast is more than capable of doing quality voiceover work. So that’s sorted. Someone make this show. LeVar. Find the time. Please.

#24 – O’Brien vs. O’Brien, Picard vs. Picard

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As far as I can tell, letting your players improvise is simultaneously the best and worst thing you can possibly do in a role-playing game, a lesson I guess Geordi is going to learn the ancient-fashioned way. And I’m a little worried about the toll this whole thing might take on Keiko and Miles relationship.

But boy are lightbulbs going off in Picard’s head right now. Unexamined possibilities! Riker may be Picard’s Number One, but deep down inside we all know that Picard is Picard’s number one fan.

I was trying to figure out what rank to give Miles here, since the DS9 assignment is a promotion but I’m not sure what to or even what from. He was apparently referred to as both a Petty Officer and a Lt. junior grade on TNG, and at some point later on in DS9 it’s made finally explicit that he’s a Sr. Petty Officer, but it’s not clear to me whether at that point he became one or someone just said it out loud finally, and nobody seems to be really sure up to that specific point what he’s actually been in the mean time. And I don’t know anything about military hierarchy and officer ranks except that Captain Picard is damned sure a Captain and also whatever I’ve learned from getting people killed in X-Com.

So if someone wants to sort this whole thing out in the comments, please feel free.

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