"They look at each other and realize that, yes, this man could be mine brother, if perforce from another mother..."

#61 – Give yourself a hand

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After his last encounter between his fictional character and his fictionalized self, I figured Picard needed a little closure.

My offer from last time stands, and I’ll double it: two million fictional internet dollars to see Patrick Stewart perform this. Stuff is getting fake expensive up here.

I never worked in the “I’m resigning this bullcrap post!” angle to their first conversation, though of course it was there in the pilot, so there’s no angle to bring that up within today’s strip either. But we can talk about it! Yes, we can. We can talk about whether Picard really hadn’t “had time yet to communicate that” to Starfleet Command or whether this was just a classic Picardian soft-management move. I’m pretty sure he’d declined to immediately process one or two tendered resignations aboard Enterprise, though I can’t remember specific instances off-hand so that could be me just confabulating. Anybody remember those?

The reason I’m thinking about it is, it makes a great little bit of drama and humanity — the commander recognizes the conflicting forces tearing up his subordinate, recognizes that their heart may not be in the decision they’re making under duress, and slow-plays procedure to give them the opportunity to find their path — but what if you’re wrong? What if someone’s like “here’s my resignation” and you’re all “okie doke” and then you just set that aside for a couple days, and then they’ve commenced with actual-resignation stuff and you’re stuck between a resigned guy and an organization that is being told by him that he resigned and you’re just, oh, uh, yeah, that resignation thing, I’m a little backed up on the ol’ paperwork, gosh, where did that get to…

Just not really the same heft and gravitas. At that point, you’re not a wise elder, you’re just kind of crappy at your job.

"Also, Odo gives Jake a hug, and then he transforms to look like Jake's mom before she died and gives him another hug."

#60 – Performance-enhancing Hugs

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That was a close one! I kind of thought the Cardassians were actually going to blow up the space station in the pilot episode of the show about the space station.

I’m actually in a tricky headspace at the moment: I’m looking forward to moving on from the pilot episode to something a little more free-form and less glacially plotted than another 40-strip, three-month-long recap of a single episode, but at the same time I’ve been taking precisely that approach for, well, three months now, and the strip’s conventions and my writing voice have been gelling specifically in that context. So I’m a bit nervous about shaking things up. It’s hard leaving the nest! I’ll have to adjust a bit. But that’s okay: boldly going, and all that.

And I’m not nervous for lack of ideas, is the good thing. I got lots of those. We’ll just see how they play out in practice. As much as anything I think I’m just unnecessarily anxious about smooth transitions, because the strip has been flowing very scene-to-scene during this whole Emissary retelling but it doesn’t need to and there’s lots of little one-off jokes I’d like to make that I’ve been mostly putting off. Maybe we’ll check in with Worf? Maybe a glance into Counselor Troi’s personal notebook, complete with doodles? Maybe a visit with Bill Striker, Erotic Frontiersman? Ideas, ideas, ideas. It should be fun.

But we’ve got at least another strip or two to put the final touches on the actual pilot, in any case, and then maybe the crew can talk with Geordi about how this whole first adventure went, etc.

Also, I swear to god, it’s a joke for the sake of the strip but at the same time I kind of do feel like Wesley Crusher actually needed a lot more hugs.

"The androids are nude as well, and screaming.  Screaming constantly.  Kira's mouth is beginning to open, and you can sense, looking at her expression, that she's fearful of the dark words attempting to burst forth from within her."

"All of the computers on the bridge are displaying the same image: Q and Picard, laying in bed, spent but joyless, sharing a post-coital cigarette."

"And let's say, just for the sake of argument, that this is an actual painting in my personal quarters.  Would anyone want to have a look-see?  Deanna?  Bev?  Deanna?  Wes, put your hand down."

#59 – Misty positronic meeeeeemorieeeesss…

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Sometimes the strip I end up with in the morning has just about zero to do with the strip I thought I’d be writing the night before, and this is definitely one of those. But once I got to thinking about the whole dilemma of player knowledge vs. character knowledge, it just seemed so straightforward: of course Data would want to embrace the spirit of the game rules, of course he would take advantage of his ability to assert high-level control over his neural functioning.

And it’s a bit of a monkey’s paw sort of thing: what more could a DM hope for than players who assiduously partition and compartmentalize game information to keep themselves truly in suspense and out of the loop? What could be better?

Except for the part where it would also be disorienting and terrifying, in the moment and after the fact, what with the sudden disappearance of a sense of shared experience of reality, the complete fragmentation of the fundamental social substrate, the meta-narrative of collaborative storytelling as a group experience, the various per-player total blackout-drunk gaps in memory. I think Geordi’s right: those neurosuppressors aren’t such a hot idea, Wes.

In other news, I finally watched The Captains over the weekend and, look, I kind of love Bill Shatner’s creative drive but the dude should never be let completely off-leash because without constraints his stuff just comes out kind of soggy and over-Billed.

Whoever said in the comments here a while back that Avery Brooks was a hell of a character was right, for sure, but those were also the only segments of the film that I really genuinely enjoyed, and I feel like it’s because Avery was the only one who declined to quietly follow Shatner’s lead and instead just sort went deeper on the dude. Like, you want to do weird non-sequiturs? Fine. Here’s a non-answer and a weirder non-sequitur, right in your face. And I have a piano. You sing at me? I sing at you! I sing at you, Bill. DEAL WITH IT.

The first draft was a little less erudite:

Dukat: "Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, Commander, but you are a stupid horse face."
Sisko: "Oh yeah well at least I don't poop in my pants, because that's what you do."
Dukat: "HORSE FACE"
Sisko: "DIAPER BABY"

#58 – they’re all “i hate you!” “i loathe you!” and then suddenly they’re kissing

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Picard has been itching for a rematch for a while now.

So, but, yes, this scene? Remember this scene from the pilot? No, of course not, because it never happens, which is I think a goddam shame because Dukat is such a wonderful creep and it’d have been fun to see him set up with a better personal reason for antagonism toward Sisko from the first episode. Could have been a nice little let’s-get-this-cold-war-started note on the tail end of the narrative, and brought things back down to earth (so to speak) a little more after all the Prophet Vision Holopalooza stuff we’ve been getting from Sisko.

"Nurse, I'm losing her!  Dim the lights, get me 750 liters of that nice shiraz, stat, and put on some slow jazz."

#57 – Apply pressure to the wound, god, yes, yes, harder

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As central a moment as Ben Sisko’s acceptance of his need to grieve Jennifer’s death was in the actual show, I don’t really buy Picard inhabiting that very deeply by proxy, so this playing out more as a point-making bit of rhetorical chess seemed like the more plausible wrap-up.

Also, this is the only part of the episode where Bashir even gets to do any doctoring. Glad Riker is on it. Possibly physically on top of it, depending.

Also, per news post yesterday, Gates McFadden has a fun weird tumblr. This sort of shit delights me.

One Eighth Gates Blog

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Gates McFadden has a tumblr. On this she posts posed pictures of a 1/8 scale (give or take, but the rhyme is good) Dr. Beverly Crusher action figure grappling with post-Star Trek emotional baggage and the challenges of being a tiny action figure.

It is weird and wonderful and I don’t know, just go there.

Wes: "I bet Thoron particles are named after the mythical figure Thor...because of how they really hammer your sensors!"

#56 – Bluffin’ with his muffin’

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I totally had a thought about this situation earlier this morning but I have no idea what it is now so I’ll veer wildly in another direction:

Cheers, the sitcom, as The Big Lebowski, or vice versa. The Dude is Norm; Walter is Cliffy Claven; Donny is Woody. Walter’s rambling exegeses are Cliff’s trivia; Donny’s cheerful hanger-on cluelessness is the Woodster’s affable, naive bartender patter; and The Dude, accidental zen master just coasting through the world, is no-ambition Norm with his resigned acceptance that all this, the nightly retirement to the local hangout for drinks and routine with familiar faces, is what life is and has been and will be.

Lilith is Maude, I suppose. Fraiser is The Big Lebowski, estranged from his close relation but somehow trapped in a shared orbit with her. We’ll ignore the uncomfortable jump from divorced spouses to father/daughter, there, shall we?

Sam is Jackie Treehorn, charming sleazeball with sex on the brain.

Not sure where Diane or Rebecca fits into any of this. I suppose we could say Rebecca is an aspect of Bunny Lebowski, and Diane is some previous Mrs. Lebowski? There must have been a previous Mrs. Lebowski, as Maude presumably came from somewhere other than her father’s forehead fully formed, though with Maude one wonders a little.

One wonders.

WE ARE BEST FRIENDS FOREVER -- WE GIVE YOUR SPACE STATION A SPACE HUG -- ALSO MAYBE A NICE SPACE FOOTRUB, YOU LOOK LIKE YOU'VE HAD A HARD DAY

#54 – Deus Ex Spatial Phenomena

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This strip may be more about how I was feeling by this point in the pilot than anything, because man this whole encounter sort of drags on. It’s one of those things that, done right, could make a really neat disorienting sequence in a film, but at the sort of sedate pace and direction of Star Trek and with the “we know this has to work out because it’s the damn pilot of a show” context, there’s not a lot of sense of risk or disorientation or whatever to the whole thing. Which is problematic when the premise is that it’s a wildly disorienting experience in which the main character fights rhetorically (er, not figuratively, but literally with rhetoric) for his survival on unfamiliar turf.

It’s kind of like watching someone play a point-and-click puzzle adventure game. You can appreciate what the game’s writer was going for, but the whole experience of the resulting story is so overtly mediated that it’s hard to really get into it, to become and stay immersed, because the formal wonkiness of the container overwhelms the narrative pull of the contents.

But also, yes, I’m not sure how much better it’d be in an actual gaming session, especially since it’s basically the DM playing out a dialogue puzzle with one player while everybody else sits on their hands.

But it’d probably have been a knockout scene if Bioware had made a Deep Space Nine RPG. Replace the light/dark or paragon/renegade dialogue morality spectrum with Picard/Riker, boom, you’re golden.

In the director's cut of this strip, there were thirty-seven additional panels in which Miles and Geordi argued at length about the impracticality of creating an intertial dampening bubble around the whole station but then started discussing the time they did something like that on an episode of Babylon 5 and then they just started quoting Monty Python at each other.

#53 – Joss Whedon no longer has monopoly on space westerns

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I feel like someone with time on their hands should do a couple things:

1. Systematically analyze episodes of Star Trek for brilliant, insightful solutions to crises and tech snafus and so on that never, ever get used again in other episodes for some reason.

2. Do a statistical analysis of the distribution of such events to test my theory that they occur overwhelmingly near the start and end of television seasons.

Aside from which, a couple things always bothered me about the “move the whole station” bit: it’s still an unarmed hunk of metal sitting in space, so DS9 being near the wormhole seems like about as much of a deterrent as DS9 not being anywhere near the wormhole, and the presence or not of actual Federation (or Bajoran, if they could really spare any) armed forces seem like it’s the more important issue anyway.

And is this wormhole in Bajoran space or not? If it is, that should sort of settle the question jurisdictionally, I would think; if not, why would “but we flew a space station here” really be a rock-solid gambit?

And! This is a minor thing maybe and possibly there’s a nice solid answer somewhere already but I’m feeling kind of belligerent this morning so I refuse to google, but is the position DS9 takes up near the wormhole actually like a stable orbital point like a Lagrange point or something, or is it just constantly having to run thrusters to fight off gravitational decay into the Bajoran sun or the wormhole? And wouldn’t the wormhole generate like seeeerious gravitational effects when it’s open? Does the station have to consistently fire thrusters during wormhole events to not get knocked out of position or even sucked in?

Etc.