“Star Trek: TNG” – Season 6, Episodes 16 & 17 (“Birthright, Parts I & II”)

Part I

[Dr. Bashir has commented on Data’s more “human” attributes.]
Data: Most people are interested in my extraordinary abilities – how fast I can compute, my memory capacity, how long I will live. No one has ever asked me if my hair will grow, or noticed that I can breathe.
Bashir: Well, your creator went to a lot of trouble to make you seem human. I find that fascinating.

This TNG ep (written by Brannon Braga and edited by Rene Echevarria) originally aired between “Q-less” and “Dax” in S1 of DS9. While the Enterprise helps repair damages to DS9, a mysterious alien (James Cromwell) approaches Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn), claiming his father wasn’t killed in the battle of Khitomer 25 yrs ago, but is still alive and held in a Romulan prison camp. At first, Worf rebuffs this, for the dishonor it would bring his family. He changes his mind after talking to Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner). Lt. La Forge (LeVar Burton) helps Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) conduct an experiment w/ alien technology (found in the Gamma Quadrant). The equipment surges w/ power and a plasma shock knocks out Data. He experiences a vision of his “father” (creator), Dr. Noonien Soong.

Dr. Soong: I wasn’t sure you’d ever develop the cognitive abilities to make it this far, but if you’re here, if you can see me… you’ve crossed over the threshold from being a collection of circuits and subprocessors and have started a wonderful journey.

I enjoyed the youthful enthusiasm Bashir brought to this ep; he and Data (who is one of my favorites on TNG) get some nice moments. The doctor wants to know more re: the android’s “humanity.” We find out Data can grow hair, has a pulse, and can breathe if he wants to. Data and Worf have a fine scene in 10 Forward. I really liked the scene where Picard explains to Data that “he is a culture or one, and no less valid” than any other culture. Data’s paintings connected to his “dream” are pretty good. Spiner gets to stretch himself by also playing Dr. Soong.

Part II

Tokath: We’ve put aside the old hatreds. Here, Romulans and Klingons live in peace. I won’t allow you to destroy what we have.

Lt. Worf: Do not deceive yourself. These people are not happy here. I see the sadness in their eyes.

Tokath: That’s not what I see when I look in my wife’s eyes. I married a Klingon. So you see, when I warn you not to disrupt our lives here, I’m not speaking just as a jailor; but as a man protecting his family.

This ep was written by Echevarria and edited by Braga. These two writers, as well as Ron Moore, were esp. interested in the Klingons. In TOS, the Klingons are one-note bad guys; they are developed more in TNG and also play crucial role in DS9. Many fans complained that here was no further exploration of Data’s visions. We never uncover the mystery of the device Bashir had (and he doesn’t appear even in the ep).

Toq: Today I learned the ritual hunt, but that is not all I learned. I discovered that warriors’ blood runs through my veins. I do not know how, or why, but we have forgotten ourselves. Our stories are not told, our songs are not sung!

After discovering survivors from the Romulan attack on Khitomer (which established peace between the Klingons and the Federation), Worf resists becoming one of them. The elders explain that it’s not a prison, as they’ve chosen to remain, since returning would dishonor their families. Worf begins to teach the younger Klingons about their ancestry and tradition. A young woman becomes interested in Worf. Dorn gets to carry this ep, which he is very capable of doing. Though I’ve heard some women fans say that Worf is “a symbol of toxic masculinity,” he slowly evolves into well-rounded character over his time on TNG, the movies, and (later) on DS9.

[1] Overall a very mixed episode; some good moments but also some uncomfortable themes.

[2] This is the first time we get to hear actual Klingon music...

And in true Worf fashion, he never backs down. …Worf’s obsession with Klingon Duty, Honour and Principles could be at times, tiresome.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek: DS9” – Season 1, Episode 3 (“A Man Alone”)

Jake (Cirroc Lofton) makes friends w/ a teenage Ferengi, Nog (Aron Eisenberg), Quark’s nephew and prone to act mischievous. Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) argues w/ his wife Keiko (Rosalind Chao- who co-starred in The Joy Luck Club also in 1993), who hasn’t adjusted to life on DS9. On the Enterprise (TNG), Keiko was a botanist, but now she has no work. Odo (Rene Auberjonois) doesn’t see what’s so great about being a couple, as he comments to Quark (Armin Shimerman). This is a fun scene w/ actors who can do both comedy and drama. You also see their chemistry w/ each other as frenemies. Lt. Dax (Terry Farrell) explains to Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) that her species don’t go seeking romantic relationships. I like the charm and confidence Farrell shows, even in early eps. Siddig also brings the charm, yet his character has much more naivete.

Sisko: [to Odo] If you can’t work within the rules I’ll find someone who can.

The A-story focuses on Odo, the shape-shifting constable w/ a strong sense of justice who is caught up in a mystery. Odo sees a familiar face on the Promenade, the Bajoran smuggler Ibudan, and gives him a day (26 hours in this world) to get off the station. Sisko (Avery Brooks) says that the man hasn’t done anything wrong, so Odo can’t just kick him out. Odo tells of how Ibudan once let a child die b/c the parents couldn’t afford medicine. Ibudan also killed a Cardassian w/o provocation during the Occupation, so Odo turned him in. When Ibudan is murdered on one of the holodecks, Odo becomes the prime suspect. However, things are not as they seem!

Quark: [about Odo] He’s an ill-tempered, overbearing, cross-patch. But he was no Cardassian collaborator, and he’s no killer.

Zayra: I can’t believe you’re defending him, Quark. You’re his worst enemy.

Quark: Guess that’s the closest thing he has in this world to a friend.

There are a lines and scenes which wouldn’t be out of place on a cop show. Kira (Nana Visitor) says that Odo is “the most honorable man on the station.” The actress really seemed comfortable w/ her character from the start of the series. Dax and Bashir sift through evidence gathered at the murder scene and on the ship which Ibudan came on, trying to solve the crime. Some Bajorans on the station, incl. Zayra (Edward Laurence Albert- son of actor Eddie Albert) grow very suspicious of Odo. He is unlike anyone else in this community and worked under the Cardassians for some years. After Odo is relieved of duty by Sisko (for his own safety), he goes to his office. We see that it has been trashed; along one wall, the word “SHIFTER” can be seen. A mob gathers outside and Sisko calls in security to prevent damage and violence.

Keiko’s plan to start a school for the few kids on the station was a practical idea. Sisko liked the idea very much and Jake had grown bored of studying alone w/ a computer (which is what many kids are doing in quarantine). I liked the scene where Keiko convinced Nog’s father, Rom (Max Grodenchik), to allow him to attend. Rom is portrayed as confident and decisive, which changes drastically later in the show. There is an ep focused on Keiko’s teaching at the end of the season which fans esp. comment about.

[1] I enjoy how DS9 gets to work on establishing it’s characters right away– the payoff doesn’t come for quite a while but damn is it delicious when it does.

[2] …the conflict between Odo’s sense of justice and Starfleet rules will be done much better in later episodes…

[3] Odo – who really is a man alone – must learn to trust others to help him figure this one out and clear him of suspicion.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek”: Season 3, Episode 15 (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”)

Chekov: There was persecution on Earth once. I remember reading about it in my history class.

Sulu: Yes, but it happened way back in the twentieth century. There’s no such primitive thinking today.

This is one of those eps that I’m sure many non-Trekkers (or Trekkies) have read of/heard about. On the way to a mission, The Enterprise comes across a shuttlecraft stolen from Starbase 4 by Lokai (Lou Antonio- part of the chain gang in Cool Hand Luke), a humanoid who is half black and half white. Soon his pursuer, Commissioner Bele (Frank Gorshin- best known as The Riddler on the ’60s Batman series), arrives onboard (from an invisible ship- one of the biggest budget cuts in TOS). Bele demands that Lokai be turned over for transport to Cheron (their home planet) where Lokai has been convicted as a terrorist.

Spock: [referring to Bele and Lokai] Fascinating. Two irrevocably hostile humanoids.

Scotty: Disgusting is what I call ’em.

Mr. Spock: That description is not scientifically accurate.

Scotty: Mr. Spock, the word “disgusting” describes exactly what I feel about those two.

Kirk: That’s enough for today. Those two are beginning to affect you.

Bele regards Lokai as of an inferior race and claims that Lokai’s people were destroying their civilization. Lokai contends that Bele’s people enslaved his people, but then we learn that Lokai’s people engaged in mass destruction. Bele believes he is right (pursuing justice). Their hate for each other puts our heroes in danger; Kirk tries to convince them to stop fighting. Both men have superpowers and this pursuit has lasted 50,000 years!

Spock: Change is the essential process of all existence

The screenplay was based on a story by Lee Cronin (the pseudonym of Gene L. Coon). He had left Paramount and was under contract with Universal, so he was not supposed to be working for Paramount. The original story didn’t depict the aliens w/ bi-colored skin; one was a devil w/ a tail and the other was an angel. Director Jud Taylor came up w/ the idea of bi-colored skin shortly before filming. The plot was a (obvious/heavy-handed to critics and modern viewers) indictment of the discrimination/prejudice in the late ’60s. MLK, Jr. had been assassinated less than a year earlier. This was a few years after the Watts Riots (LA) and the events dramatized in popular movies: Ghosts of MississippiMalcolm X, and Mississippi Burning.

[1] This episode does have the marvelous self-destruct sequence initiated by Kirk, in which Spock & Scotty join in to voice the self-destruct codes. This sequence manages to squeeze out every bit of suspense possible for such a televised few minutes…

[2] There are a few good lines such as the scene where Spock tells Bele that his planet was once a violent world which the Vulcans eventually resolved through logic and cool reasoning. 

[3] All theories are suggested by Spock, incl. nature vs. nurture. Their hated has outlasted the population of their planet. The only writing flaw is their hatred spans thousands of years. Nobody lives than long, except the “Q” maybe! The stock footage used for the burning of the planet looks suspiciously like the burning of Atlanta from GWTW, don’t you think?

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek”: Season 3, Episode 7 (“Day of the Dove”)


[1] Filled with action, intrigue, a dash of horror and mystery, along with a good deal of fret by both sides of the coin, this episode brings the awful truth of wartime drama to the audience.

[2] This episode delivers a few memorable scenes of our heroic Enterprise officers behaving in atypical fashion, recalling a few other episodes where they were subverted mentally somehow. In this case, it involved reversion to basic primal instincts such as race hatred and bloodthirst, allowing actors Kelley, Doohan, Koenig and even the usually placid Nimoy to tap into their inner rage. The intense quarrel between Spock and Scotty is especially startling.

[3] Michael Ansara’s Kang was superbly cast in his role as the Klingon commander who has no qualms about torturing Chekov or shutting off life systems in those sections of the Enterprise which the Federation crew still control. Bixby also gives an important role to Mara, Kang’s wife and one of the only Klingon women ever depicted in TOS, as the peacemaker of the show who ultimately convinces Kang to reach a truce with Kirk.

-Excerpts from IMBD reviews

After receiving a distress call, the Enterprise goes to a Federation colony; when the landing party beams down, they find no one. Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and the Enterprise have to deal w/ a nearby Klingon ship which they believe to be responsible. When the Klingon ship is disabled, they assume the attack came from the Enterprise. Commander Kang (Michael Ansara) argues with Kirk about who attacked who, then holds Kirk and his party hostage. Kirk sends Spock (Leonard Nimoy) a signal before they’re beamed up. Spock beams the landing party up and keeps the Klingons de-materialized until a security team is ready to subdue them. Kirk imprisons the Kilngons (about 40 in total). Kang wears the same golden sash that would be worn (on the opposite shoulder) by Lt. Worf in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Spock informs Kirk that the Klingons were too far to attack the colony. After some Klingon plotting and waiting to take over, the Enterprise crew loses control (the ship starts warping in a random course). A large portion of the crew becomes trapped on an isolated area of the ship, leaving 40 men. The usual phasers we see turn into swords; this ep has sword fighting. Kirk uses a US Model 1860 cavalry saber. Scotty finds a type of sword in the armory which Scots are very proud of- a basket hilt Claymore (from the Elizabethan era or later).

Mr. Spock: [deflecting Scott’s maniac temper from Kirk] Easy, Mr. Scott.

Scott: Keep your Vulcan hands off me! Just keep away! Your feelings might be hurt, you green-blooded half-breed!

Mr. Spock: May I say that I have not thoroughly enjoyed serving with Humans? I find their illogic and foolish emotions a constant irritant.

Scott: Then transfer out, freak!

An alien creature of unknown origin has come aboard; it feeds off hate and violence! A wild-eyed Scotty (James Doohan) nearly gets into a fight w/ Spock (who is also changed) on the bridge; the captain has to intercede. Chekov (Walter Koenig) wants revenge for the death of a brother (though Sulu explains that he’s an only child). He nearly assaults Mara (Susan Howard), Kang’s wife/science officer, but is stopped by Kirk and Spock.

Dr. McCoy: Gentlemen, if we are pawns, you’re looking at one who is extremely sorry.

Mr. Spock: I understand, Doctor. I, too, felt a brief surge of racial bigotry. Most distasteful.

I was looking up reviews for this ep when I found a (hilarious) Trump parody.

“Mangal Pandey: The Rising” (2005) starring Aamir Khan, Toby Stephens, Rani Mukherji, & Ameesha Patel

Aamir Khan plays Mangal Pandey passionately with a complete conviction. All the scenes between Aamir and Toby are a delight to watch. Toby doesn’t fail to impress with his acting or his Hindi-speaking lines.

Stephens’ brief speeches about the ruthlessness of a private corporation pillaging a country seem all too relevant to our own time… The film is wildly entertaining, filled with the color and beauty of Bollywood- superb cinematography, epic sets and crowd scenes, music-and-dance numbers that pop out of nowhere, and a love story…

-Excerpts from reviews on Amazon.com

This is an epic set against the backdrop of what the British called the Sepoy Mutiny; for the Indians, it was the First War of Independence. It took two years to complete this film b/c of the research that went into its production. “Company Raj” (the British East India Company) had been plundering the country, treating the locals unjustly, and causing widespread resentment. During battle in one of the Afghan wars in the mid-1800s, Mangal Pandey (Aamir Khan), an Indian sepoy, saves the life of his commanding officer, Capt. William Gordon (Toby Stephens- son of Dame Maggie Smith). He is indebted, even giving Mangal his pistol. The first act is focused on the friendship; historians have pointed out that this was unlikely. A few years later, the Company introduces the Enfield rifle, which comes w/ a new cartridge rumored to be coated w/ grease from cow and pig fat. This cartridge has to be bitten before it is loaded, which ignites resentment and anger among the sepoys; the cow is sacred to Hindus and the pig is forbidden for Muslims.

The film was offered to Bollywood superstar, Shah Rukh Khan, but he declined (thank goodness). Director Ketan Mehta first thought of making this film in 1988 w/ Amitabh Bachchan. Hugh Jackman turned down the role of Gordon; this required Stephens to speak w/ a Scottish accent and also in Hindi. A very young Kiera Knightley was considered for the role of Emily Kent, who is new to India and develops a crush on Gordon. After Aishwarya Rai turned down the part of Jwala (due to contract issues), Rani Mukerji was given the script to consider taking the part. Mukherji, however, liked the character of Heera and asked if she could play her instead. Khan requested to cast Ameesha Patel as the young widow, Jwala, after he saw her on a BBC game show. Patel wears no make-up; this was Khan’s suggestion.

We only sell our bodies; you sell your souls. -Heera explains to Mangal re: the difference between her girls and the sepoys

The BJP wanted to ban the film, as it showed Pandey visiting a prostitute (though their scenes are platonic in the movie). As Lol Bibi (veteran actress Kiron Kher) points out, her house is only for white men (mainly the British officers). Though this is not a “typical” Bollywood film, it contains songs and dances. One number by Heera and other nautch (dancing) girls, Main Vari Vari, created controversy due to Mukherji’s outfit (where her cleavage was covered by transparent fabric). This song serves a dual purposes- to entice the British officers and to show how conflicted Mangal feels re: trusting Gordon (and biting the new bullet). A.R. Rahman was the music director on this movie; the music flows w/ the story. My favorite song is below- Rasiya.

In your Ramayana there was one villain “Ravana” who had ten heads, company has a hundred heads and they’re all joined by the glue of greed. -Gordon replies when Mangal asks re: the Company

I think this movie is a must-see, though it is uneven (particularly when it comes to editing). The narration (in Hindi) done by veteran actor Om Puri is repetitive; I think it was used to appeal to Hindi speakers who may not be fluent in English. There is a mix of English and Hindi spoken in this film, which I’m sure was accurate for the period. The bromance is much more stronger than both the romances. The relationship between Mangal and Heera was underdeveloped, but I could see the chemistry between the actors. I liked the wrestling scene and hand-to-hand combat between Mangal and Gordon. The sepoys and villagers confronting the British one night w/ their torches stood out to me. However, the scene where Gordon stops the sati (bride burning) looks disorganized. Mangal Pandey: The Rising was shown at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. The screenwriter is British of Parsi heritage- Farrukh Dandy- associated w/ black (as in minority in UK) and left-wing intellectuals and activists.

You have tasted a black man’s loyalty – now taste his fury! -Mangal declares to Gordon

On second viewing, I noticed how colonialism was compared to slavery (which we may associate w/ the American South and West Indies). Hewson beats a waiter and insults him w/ “kalla kutta” (“black dog”). One of the villagers near the cantonment, Kamla, works as a wet nurse for one of the British officer’s wives. When she gets home, there is no milk left for her baby. Perhaps the most direct correlation to slavery is made in the market scene; Emily is appalled to see an auction of men and women (incl. Heera). It turns out that the Company buys girls, too!