ST:TNG Treadmill Review #2: The Schizoid Man

The Schizoid Man
Season 2 Episode 6
Original airdate: January 21, 1989

Netflix Synopsis

The Enterprise responds to a request for medical assistance from Dr. Ira Graves, considered by many to be the greatest living mind in the universe.

My Brief Review

I skipped a few episodes between yesterday and today. Data on the Holodeck as Sherlock Holmes? No thanks. Two episodes in a row where the Enterprise has to mediate between warring factions on some random planet? Yawn. An episode with a title that references King Crimson? Hell yeah!

This is quintessential TNG. Data, longing to be human, begins the episode by modeling his new Riker-inspired beard to Geordi and Troi. Eventually the crew ends up on a planet occupied only by a dying mad scientist and his young assistant. And guess what? The scientist is the guy who taught Data’s maker cybernetics. You can see where this is going, can’t you? It’s hard to believe it took the crew more than five seconds to figure out why Data returned to the ship with a newfound swagger and insubordination.

Memorable Moment

This was an episode that followed a familiar pattern for me: most of it was only vaguely familiar, since the premise of just about any Star Trek episode is vaguely familiar when you’ve seen so many of them, but then there were moments that would pop out of nowhere, like when Data begins delivering an over-the-top eulogy for the deceased Dr. Graves (“to know him is to love him is to know him”). As the crew begin looking around at each other with bemusement, and Captain Picard interrupts Data, I remembered distinctly what comes next: “I’m almost finished, sir.” “You are finished, Mr. Data.”

Crew Rando

My memory of TNG is that there are very, very few Vulcans in the series. Personally I’d much rather have more Vulcans and fewer Ferengi. But here we have a rando Vulcan in a prominent role in the episode! Lt. Selar is the doctor sent with the away team, because Dr. Pulaski had to go with the rest of the crew to rescue passengers on a damaged ship, a plot device that barely figures in the episode, but I suspect it owes to the fact that Diana Muldaur, as Dr. Pulaski, was not young and attractive enough to figure in one early scene where the leering, sexist Dr. Graves comments repeatedly on her appearance. So we get a young and attractive Vulcan doctor, who never existed before or after this episode. Hmmm. I kind of wish I hadn’t thought this through, because it diminishes my appreciation of the episode. Still… a Vulcan! On TNG!

Distance Rating: 5K

IMDb score: 7.0/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Review #1: Where Silence Has Lease

Where Silence Has Lease
Season 2 Episode 2
Original airdate: November 28, 1988

Netflix Synopsis

The enterprise encounters a mysterious void in space and when they move in closer to investigate further, it envelops them and they can’t get out.

My Brief Review

This is a classic Star Trek scenario, and one of my favorite types of episodes: a spatial anomaly where the crew has to confront the unknown. It actually ended up being slightly disappointing to me though because it was almost too predictable… it went into territory tread heavily both in the original series and in subsequent installments, plus, in the context of TNG, it felt too much like a scenario Q would put them in (and already had by this point). Bonus points for an immortal, formless space being taking on a semi-human appearance in order to interact with the crew. Classic Trek.

Memorable Moment

After Riker and Worf beam over to what appears to be Enterprise’s sister ship, the USS Yamato, they find themselves in a surreal moment where the turbolift door from the bridge leads into a mirror image of the same bridge, and Worf loses it. “A ship has one bridge. One bridge!!!”

Crew Rando

We get a true “red shirt” moment, which TNG seemed specifically designed not to allow after swapping the use of red and gold uniforms between command and operations crew, when the immortal, formless space being kills helmsman Lt. Haskell (who?)… a red shirt!

Distance Rating: 4K

IMDb score: 7.1/10

ST:TNG Treadmill Review: A new blog series

Introducing a new blog series here on UoP: ST:TNG Treadmill Reviews!

What’s all this then? It’s a long story.

Let’s start with ST:TNG. If you don’t know what that stands for, I’m not going to bother to explain, because you won’t be interested anyway. I have seen almost every episode of the series at least twice: First, when it was originally airing in first-run syndication in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I was in high school, and my dad and I would watch it every Saturday night with our Tendermaid hamburgers. (I liked mine with cheese, onions and mustard.) Then I rewatched almost the entire series with friends in the dorm my freshman year of college, when it was on in weeknight rerun syndication, at 10:30 PM. (Snack of choice: microwave popcorn and Pepsi.) But I haven’t really watched it much at all since then.

Now, on to treadmill. I’ve been running since 2011. I run outside most of the year, but I have a hip issue that makes running on ice and snow dangerous, so in the winters I’d run on the indoor track at the local YWCA. For reasons I won’t get into here, we canceled our Y membership last year, and finally broke down and bought a treadmill.

I previously hated treadmills, but I learned to tolerate it by watching TV episodes on Netflix or Hulu. In particular, I got into watching Star Trek: Enterprise, which I had not really given a fair shake when it first aired. (I haaaaaaate the theme song, and that was enough to turn me off entirely, back when I couldn’t fast-forward through it.) Well, I finished all of Enterprise, so this winter I’m going to have to watch something else. I’ve been trying to watch the final season of The Good Place, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I just don’t like it, and not liking something makes it hard for me to keep running on the treadmill while I’m watching it.

That last point inspired Sara to inspire me to start this blog series. I can, to some extent, rate the quality of a TV episode by how long I’m willing to run on the treadmill while watching it. So I’m going to write reviews of all of the ST:TNG episodes I watch this winter on the treadmill, giving them a rating based on how far I run before I lose enthusiasm and switch to walking.

I’m not watching the series systematically. I watched a smattering of the first season late last winter, after I finished Enterprise, but I skipped some because they were… not good. The first season of TNG is notoriously inconsistent, and even includes unquestionably the worst episode in all of Star Trek. So I’m starting with season two. But a lot of these episodes are pretty bad, too. In particular, I have little patience for episodes that take place entirely on the Holodeck, as well as ones that are too dependent on Deanna Troi’s empathic powers. So I’m reading the one-sentence synopses on Netflix, and using those to determine whether or not to watch a particular episode.

I’ve done two episodes so far, yesterday and today, so I’ll be posting those first two entries shortly after this one. Then, I’ll post new ones as I watch the episodes.

Just like the worst Star Trek episodes, there will be a formula to these posts:

Title / season and episode number / original airdate
Netflix synopsis
My brief review
Memorable moment
Crew rando
Distance rating

Engage!

Top 5 Albums of 2009: The Contenders (Revised)

Death Cab for Cutie: great, but not in contentionA little over a month ago, I prematurely posted a list of the “contenders” in my annual top 5 albums list. Premature for two reasons: 1) there were almost two months left in the year, and 2) a few albums were conspicuously absent from the list, because I had suffered a hard drive crash a month or so earlier and had not yet re-ripped some of the (few) physical CDs I purchased this year.

Now, with just over a month to go in the year (still plenty of time to regret this post, too), I present this revised list of the contenders. As before, the leaders are in bold. The new additions are in italics. I am also including a separate list of the EPs I acquired this year, all good but technically out of contention as top “albums.”

  • Air: Love 2
  • The Bird and the Bee: Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future
  • Crystal Method: Divided by Night
  • The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love
  • Dream Theater: Black Clouds & Silver Linings
  • El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez Lopez: Cryptomnesia
  • The Flaming Lips: Embryonic
  • Flight of the Conchords: I Told You I Was Freaky
  • Green Day: 21st Century Breakdown
  • Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
  • Heartless Bastards: The Mountain
  • Hypnotic Brass Ensemble: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
  • Jet: Shaka Rock
  • Dylan Leeds: Bit by Bit
  • The Mars Volta: Octahedron
  • Phish: Joy
  • Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  • Pomplamoose: Videosongs
  • Porcupine Tree: The Incident
  • Prince: Lotusflow3r
  • Regina Spektor: Far
  • Tortoise: Beacons of Ancestorship
  • U2: No Line on the Horizon
  • Umphrey’s McGee: Mantis
  • Various Artists: Kind of Bloop
  • Weezer: Raditude
  • Wilco: Wilco (the album)
  • Zero 7: Yeah Ghost

Strangely, I’ve been on an old-school prog rock kick for the past month or so — really, ever since The Current drove me away with its latest pledge drive (I’m a member, which makes me hate listening to the pledge drives even more) — which makes it less likely that I’ll be discovering a lot of great new music to add to this list before the end of the year. Maybe, mid-2010, I’ll finally learn to appreciate this year’s equivalent to TV on the Radio’s Dear Science.

EPs

As promised, here are some good EPs I purchased this year.

  • Bon Iver: Blood Bank
  • Death Cab for Cutie: The Open Door EP
  • Deerhunter: Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Am I TOO Detail-Obsessed?

A strange thing happened to me the other day.

I was riding in the car with some coworkers, returning from lunch. We were stopped in gridlock traffic (which seems to be the case more often than not on Roswell Rd.), and as my eyes (as usual) flitted from side to side, taking in the colors, shapes, fonts, states of decay, and other assorted minutiae of the storefronts and signs in the supersaturated commercial district, I happened to notice a sign on a nearby Chinese restaurant. It said:

GIANT CHINESE B.BQ.

Now your average person, even your average detail-oriented person, may have glanced at that sign and not given it a second thought. But I was immediately consumed with perplexity over the liberties taken by the sign maker with respect to the use of periods. Why, I wondered, did the first “B” warrant a period while the second did not?

Or take another example: Tonight when I got home from work, I found a new MacMall catalog had arrived, and I perused it with passive interest while SLP was on the phone. I was mildly irritated to see yet another use of the annoying stock photos of perfect people in black mock turtlenecks with their arms folded atop some invisible barrier, which have become staples for use in stupid photo illustrations in these catalogs, where the perfect people are made to look as if they are leaning against a steroid-enhanced 5-foot-tall software package.

You’re probably thinking that my awareness of these stock photos of perfect people in stupid poses is the focus of my detail-obsessed attention in this story, but you’re wrong.

In fact, I noticed something even more stimulating to my detail obsession: On one page I saw a photo of a young woman with long blonde hair, and on the next, a distinctly different young woman with short, curly red hair. And that was when it hit me. I noticed that the hands of the two women were in exactly the same position. In fact, the arms in the picture belonged to the same person and were from one single photograph, but the heads were different. What’s more, the skin of the hands in the photo was color-corrected to match the facial complexion of the woman in each photo.

Clearly, if I notice something like this on passing glance, I have a problem.