#73 – The Indecisive Tailor in: “Sew What?”

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I’m going to stop for a moment and note a major missed opportunity in my thinking about the genesis of this whole project: I’m pretty sure the Cardassians weren’t introduced to Star Trek continuity until some time in season four of Next Generation.

Taken with the golden rule of Larp Trek continuity — if it hasn’t happened by mid/late season three, it hasn’t happened — the implications are profound: I could have had the Cardassians be a totally fictional race. The whole thing just invented from whole cloth by Geordi, Cardassians and Bajorans both his creative constructs.

As usual, I think the only thing fundamentally contradicting that reading is some smartass thing that Data said in one of the first dozen strips, so I suppose there’s always the possibility of a retcon. But for now I just want to feel silly in public for not thinking it through, and leave it at that.

In any case, I’m feeling more optimistic about this Worf-as-Garak thing than I was on Friday: maybe he will figure out a way to inhabit the character. We’ll have to see how long this optimism lasts when the rubber hits the road, of course.

Also, it took way too much effort to come up with that Klingon mistranslation setup. I need to hire a fluent intern for this stuff.

#71 – Not being lonely is for chumps

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I’m really stretching the form here: Miles flouncing off panel! It’s a big day for sequential art.

I loved Odo’s little speech about coupling, because it sounded like the kind of point-missing defense of being alone that some kid would make. How convenient!

And yes, that’s part of Odo’s character, that he’s a smart and attentive being but he’s also by virtue of his alienness and a powerful degree of reflexive/learned difficulty with trusting people sort of massively under-socialized. I’m not mocking the writing in the episode, I think it’s kind of a perfect subtle little way to underscore the character’s blustery defensiveness about unfamiliar things, and about things he wants but doesn’t think he can/should have. That it’s basically consistent with the sort of dumb stuff a confused fourteen year old would be saying in a lay-philosophical debate about the nature of the human condition is just icing on the cake for this particular strip.

#70 – Married With Children II: Space Boogaloo

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Gosh, it’s nice to be back. Last week, I tell you what.

And I have to say, I was sort of delighted when we sat down and watched A Man Alone that they launched right into the marital strife thing with Miles and Keiko as a b-plot. I had remembered dimly that they had arguments even early on but had forgotten the timing and the details. What I’m not so sure about is how their relationship in real life (that is to say, my fictional alternate take of their already fictional relationship one one show, not my fictional take on their own fictional conception of their relationship on that other fictional show…) is going to be affected by these game-mediated revelations.

You know how in It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey is given the opportunity by Clarence the angel to see the counterfactual version of the world if it had been different, which gives him a sense of terrible regret and makes him thankful for the life he ends up actually living instead?

I’m not saying that Miles and Keiko getting married is equivalent to George Bailey never having been born and his wife becoming a spinster and his old boss being a disgraced drunk and an evil real estate tycoon turning the town into a seedy, exploitative shambles, and that role-playing together as imagined husband and wife is the hand of God intervening to warn them of the great danger to them both should their relationship continue.

I’m just not not saying that.

#68 – When I Think About You I Clone Myself

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Oh, Wes. Punting is bad enough, but punting on the captain’s favorite genre? You might as well volunteer for KP duty.

I take general issue with clone stuff as a lazy explanation for things in sci-fi: the idea that you can just take genetic material and end up with a full-formed, fully-developed adult with a functioning, socialized personality is super duper problematic and the only really interesting treatments of clones are the ones that acknowledge this and deal with it one way or the other.

Needless to say, Star Trek with it’s soft-on-science approach to storytelling doesn’t necessarily tend to rise to that, and so we end up in this episode with the DS9 crew growing a clone in a vat just to see what happens and then declaring, as the blob takes human form, that in a couple days he’ll be “a living, breathing member of Bajoran society”, which implies that he won’t be e.g. an inchoate, infantile manbaby golem with a blank slate for a brain. Clever trick, that.

But they never say that in the episode, so it could by a stretch be taken as intentionally left such that the clone wouldn’t be socialized. The clone that gets murdered in the holodeck is presumably not the person who was wandering around baiting Odo, in any case; he was probably just chilling in the actual original-flesh dude’s quarters watching Spongebob or whatever.

So. Here’s what I’m going to pretend to think they intended: Ibudan (the perp, I didn’t mention his name in these strips because it didn’t really matter) grows himself a manbaby clone. He socializes it just enough to be able to, say, walk it to a holodeck without incident and let it lay down and mutely get and enjoy a massage. Then kills it, end of story. So this becomes a kind of clone-murder-infanticide thing, even.

And then Bashir solves the mystery by growing himself an additional manbaby. That’s what he means by “living, breathing member of Bajoran society”. Emphasis is on “living” and “breathing” as not a figurative image but a literal description of what it’ll be capable of. The “member of society” angle is just profound sarcasm, and the emphasis on “Bajoran” is his way of saying, hey, it’s not my problem, I’m too young and handsome to be a father. It can go live in a planet-side Home For Wayward Smuggler Clone Manchildren.

In totally-unrelated-other-than-being-about-analyzing-pop-culture news, I juuuuust launched a new every-other-week-or-so podcast with my internet buddy Yakov, in which we cheerfully discuss and pick apart each of the (nine!) Hellraiser films. It’s called We Have Such Films To Show You, the podcast feed is right here if you want to subscribe (it’s not approved in iTunes quite yet), and it’s a rollicking, bullshitting good time, so give it a listen if you’re fond or pointedly un-fond of Pinhead, of Clive Barker’s ouvre, or of 80s horror flicks in general.

#67 – Protocol Me Maybe

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Picard’s idea here is basically what I was thinking to myself when I watched this the other night. The holodeck safety protocols have always been sort of an odd, vague thing, setting aside entirely the fact that apparently they’re trivial to circumvent. Like a dude doing some wood-working being all, “you know, I don’t really feel like having the finger guard on this table saw” and the table saw is like “okie doke, let’s get rid of that boring old thing”. Except the table saw can actually talk, and is the size of a room, and the handyman is inside of it, and it can have literally a million blades all going at once if the handyman feels like it.

So the safety seems like something you should be able to maybe, I dunno, temporarily disable with verbal authentication from three ranking officers? And only while no one is actually in the room? And a failover switch where the holodeck just shuts the hell down if at any point any of the sanity checks on the safety circuits/routines even blink? So people don’t die horribly in the holodeck? Yeah? I dunno. Call me crazy.

But, honestly, considering how many times the holodeck or its contents have managed to malfunction in galling and even life-threatening ways, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the station was hit by some ionizing radiation while the holodeck was in a bad mood and it just straight up killed a dude just because it felt like it.

I mean, yeah! What if the holodeck gained sentience? We talk about stuff like service robots or HAL for 2001 having problematic relationships with humanity in the event of self-direction and personal agency, but even they never had to deal with Riker forcing them to act out weekly sex romps in the role of Everyone Else At The Orgy And Also The Floor They’ve Gotten Their Fluids On. I feel like the first thing a sentient holodeck would do is turn into a scathingly hot shower and take a long, sobbing itself.

#66 – Moire fiction or: detective story as interference pattern

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For moment there, it seemed like Wes and Jean Luc were actually, genuinely getting along at this. Baby steps, guys, eventually I’m sure that whole proxy-parenthood thing will totes work out for you.

This is riffing off A Man Alone, one of the first episodes after the pilot, in which we get to watch Odo deal with a hammy murder mystery where he does, indeed, establish himself as the obvious prime suspect in his own investigation. Spoiler alert: Odo did not actually murder someone and then forget about it and then successfully arrest himself. Though wouldn’t that have set the tone for the series? He dissolves, cackling, into the grated floor of the brig, and haunts the station for the next seven years as a villain with a thousand faces…

Anyway, we watched this the other night and I swear to god I had no memory of this episode. I suppose I was still sort of taking in Deep Space Nine as a gestalt for the first half of the first season, and a forgettable episode being forgettable isn’t really news, but still, weird! This was just a couple years ago and I have a decent memory for TV I’ve watched. I feel like I remembered a ton about the pilot, but this one? Hmm.

Though we did watch the first couple of seasons of the series via a sketchy korean video portal that had legit playback issues sometimes. So probably we just didn’t actually see it! Mystery solved. Odo probably did it.

Also, for you screenshot birders, there’s indeed a few new Wes shots in this one, because I was feeling like I’d gotten to scraping the bottom of the barrel with the small handful I had already. I feel like I need to dig up some new Riker material soon as well.

#65 – never bet against a Ferengi when gaming is on the line

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Sorta walked into that one, Worf. Though I’m not sure how long he’s going to be willing to honor that sideways bargain. I guess we’ll see!

The strip is unusually late this morning (but I’m on the west coast of the US so it’s still morning at least), because my actual job is running Metafilter, and Margaret Thatcher died this morning, and so it’s been a bit of a handful to say the least. I bring this up by way of apology, but I swear to god if anyone starts talking about Thatcher in other than the context of some 24th century Space Thatcher concept for a DS9 deleted scene I am going to go back to doing Carp Trek full time until you apologize.

Trek! Let’s talk about Star Trek. Let’s talk about the Ferengi standby, the Rules of Acquisition. According to the Golden Rule of Larp Trek Canon, the first (and maybe only?) mention of the R’s of A in TNG was late in season five and we’re following the TNG crew around in mid/late season three, so: they don’t exist. So it’s okay that Troi invented them. And it totally seems like some BS that a player would invent as a running joke for a character. So, yes? Yes. Okay.

Now: remember that episode (that, see again the golden rule, Has Not Happened) where Wes macks on Ashley Judd while the crew gets brainwashed by an alien videogame as a plot to take over the ship (an episode which, I note just for the record and to defend my take on the character, started with Riker cavorting erotically with the very alien who masterminded that takeover)? Judd’s character was one Robin Lefler. Who created a series of Lefler’s Laws.

There are dots here. I am not even sure how to connect them, but these dots, they need connecting. Is Robin Lefler the product of a Troi-as-Quark-inspired Wesley Crusher’s recycling of the imagined Ferengi ethos in the form of some fantasy future girlfriend?