Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 4, Episode 11 – “Data’s Day” – Defining Data and Relationships

Data's Day (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom

  “Data’s Day” was an unexpected gem. I must have watched this episode years ago but I did not remember any of the events of the story so the relationships and reveals lead to this becoming one of my favorite episodes in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” This is an episode told completely from Data’s point of view and it is beautifully handled as we see him navigate many intriguing and complicated situations. I’ll get into more of what I mean deeper into the review.

The teleplay was written by Ronald D. Moore and Harold Apter and the episode was directed by Robert Wiemer.

The story follows Data recounting his daily routine as he faces preparation for Keiko and Miles’s wedding and working with the Captain as they work with the mysterious Vulcan Ambassador T’Pel.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Data’s Correspondence to Bruce Maddox – The episode is told through correspondence that Data is having with Bruce Maddox from “The Measure of a Man.” I love that they became friends and that Data is still helping him with his research and understanding androids. This gives a personal nature to Data’s musings and what is going on in his mind. We get to see his connection to crewmembers and how his journey to be more human is going.

The Neutral Zone Mystery – Ambassador T’Pel is having the crew scan the Neutral Zone and after them meet up with Admiral Mendak’s Warbird. We learn that the idea was a secret meeting to establish a thawing of relations between the Romulan Star Empire and Federation. All as not as it appears to be though as it looks as if T’Pel dies in transporting over to the Warbird. I loved how much tension this mystery creates through the episode as T’Pel only gets along with Data and Picard.

Data’s Relationship to Members of the Crew – One of the strongest parts of the episode are Data’s relationships. In this he is “Father of the Bride” for Keiko because he was the one who introduced Miles and Keiko to one another and he navigates the conflict they are having before their wedding. He also comments how Worf is an outsider like him, Geordi is his best friend and he because of this he can try out new ideas with him. Dr. Crusher teaches him how to dance in one of the most wholesome scenes in “Star Trek.” He discusses relationships with Troi and comments on how Riker’s relationships and Picard’s advocacy has shaped him and the respect he has for them. We see how all are connected to Data before the wedding takes place and it is beautifully done. The crew and their relationship to Data is truly what made this episode stand out and the episode could have stood on this plot alone.

The Romulan Reveal – Ambassador T’Pel was a Romulan Agent Sub-Commander Selok the entire time. This reveal is done and gives us a Romulan victory as when Picard goes back to the Warbird her true identity is revealed. Picard has to retreat though as many Warbirds are coming to make sure she makes it back to their space safely. Admiral Mendak is an awesome antagonist and it was great seeing the Romulans get a win that was built on espionage and their intelligence.

Data Learns to Dance – Data learns to tap dance from Dr. Crusher first and it is adorable and wholesome. Once Dr. Crusher learns he is learning to dance for the wedding she teaches him Waltz, which takes more time for him to learn where tap he could pick up fast because he could see the foot movements and didn’t have to lead. I loved this entire sequence. It was so innocent and showed the little nuances that made Data so human. His relationship to Dr. Crusher is great in this too. She’s like his older sister and mentor and this scene illustrates it really well.

We get a great Romulan plot and an amazing plot showing Data’s relationship to all the members of the main crew. I could not find a single con in this episode and this episode illustrates what makes Data one of my favorite characters in “Star Trek.” As someone with autism I can relate to his analytical view of relationships and the disconnect he must feel sometimes. But I also get putting all the work into making those relationships last and work because they matter. Suffice to say, I highly recommend this episode. This is easily one of my favorite episodes in all of “Star Trek.”

Final Score: 10 / 10

Black Mirror – Season 1, Episode 3 – “The Entire History of You” – Of Memories and Obsession

the-entire-history-of-you-black-mirror

    I’m kicking off “Horror Month” with “The Entire History of You,” from Black Mirror. This story is amazing! Black Mirror is a series that likes to take ideas related to technology and shine them on humanity revealing our dark underbelly and how technology can strengthen those already bad tendencies. This episode does an amazing job with this!

   The episode was directed by Brian Welsh and written by Jesse Armstrong.

   The story takes place in the near future, where people can now save memories onto a flash device that is in their head and can put memories up on the screen. The story revolves around Liam (Toby Kebbell) and his relationship that is falling apart as his ability to recall memories plays into his already obsessive tendencies.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is really cool. The ability to save and recall memories is something that could easily come about in the near future and with that there are so many ways it would make humanity worse. This episode really explores that on the small level of a relationship.

The Writing – The writing is awesome! It is all showing rather than telling and the audience is treated like an adult. Jesse Armstrong really wrote a fantastic screenplay. It is one of the less terrifying Black Mirror episodes but it has a great use of tension.

Liam – Toby Kebbell does a fantastic job as an obsessive whose life is falling apart is beautifully done. He is someone who has major issues as he fixates on things and those things consume them to the point where we see a man who doesn’t trust and it destroys his relationship in the process. The final scene is him recalling his memories of his wife before cutting out the chip and destroying all memory of the relationship.

Ffion –  Ffion is Liam’s wife and does a great job as a woman trying to keep her relationship together while dealing with an unstable partner. It is her connection with a past friend she had a fling with that leads Liam to obsessing but we see why she is trying to get out. Her agency and memories are never respected. Liam makes everything about him which leads to her rightfully leaving him.

The Good in Forgetting –  One of the themes is that memory isn’t solid and that is a good thing. The people who are the most well put together in this are the ones who don’t dwell on memories, they live and it allows them to move on. The memories are still a part of them but unlike Liam they don’t obsess over every detail.

The Danger in Obsession – Memory recall is most dangerous in how it can lead into obsession. It is through Liam’s eyes that we see it all take place. He loses his life because he holds on so hard to details tied to his own insecurities that he loses everything anyway. The technology isn’t the problem it is how it can make those who are obsessed worse. Liam already had issues, but having the chance to analyze the past just made him worse. He stopped living in the moment and lost the moment.

Okay: Minor Characters – Liam’s and Ffion’s friends are okay, they don’t really get the full exploration they deserved though.

  This was another great episode of Black Mirror. I can’t wait to review more and will probably review at least one more episode from the show for “Horror Month.” Until then I highly recommend this episode and this show as a whole.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

Gone Home – An Amazing Game of Love, Mystery and Relationships

Gone_Home

        I’ve never been one for games that are purely exploration. Often times I find them overly convoluted and confusing and the gameplay tiring. It’s one reason I could never get into the “Myst” series…Though I am willing to give that series another chance as one of my favorite games is an exploration game, “Journey.” “Gone Home” is also a favorite after playing it last night, though mostly because of how immerse the story is. Suffice to say, if you like a good mystery and powerful story, chances are you will like this game.

      The game was developed Fullbright, designed by Steve Gaynor and composed by Chris Remo. The game is in the style of a first person interactive story adventure game.

     The story involves Kaitlin Greenbriar who has returned home after being gone for a long time traveling and studying abroad in Europe. When she arrives to the home her family had recently moved into she finds that everyone in her family is missing and must piece together the mystery of what happened as well as the mystery surrounding her Uncle Oscar who owned the house before.

From here on there are spoilers.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – Chris Remo did a great job on the soundtrack! There is the haunting sounds in the house combined with punk rock music and jazz when you put cassette tapes into tape players around the house. It gives the mansion a lived in feel beyond the graphics and items you interact with.

The Graphics – The graphics are fantastic! The house is beautifu/l and it is haunting as you are trapped inside with no way to contact the outside world as the phones are down because of the storm. There are also tons of rooms that are really detailed. From the bedroom of your little Sister Samantha who is the character who learn the most about and your father’s study as well as your mother’s sewing room. Each room has a distinct personality that the graphics portray really well. This also includes the hidden rooms that have a really scary feel to them and feel like they’re out of “Silent Hill” at times.

The House – As described above, the house is wonderful and has so much personality to it. From the hidden rooms with abandoned crosses and a safe, to Sam’s rockstar room, to the ornate bedroom and study of the parents. The house feels real and mysterious and is pretty much a character all on it’s own. Wanting to learn more about what it revealed was a big part of what kept me playing.

The Story – The story is amazing! There are a few stories that you get in the overacing narrative. Your Mom has a crush on one of the Ranger’s she works with and is having marriage problems with the father who was possibly molested by Uncle Oscar and lives in shame of his father’s expectations of him as an author as he largely rights pulp…and Oscar’s store going under and his seeking redemption from his Sister for what he did.

The Prime story is that of Sam and her girlfriend Lonnie. The story involves Sam accepting she loves Lonnie and expressing that through her story of Captain Allegro and the First Mate who go on adventures together and are lovers. Her parents are religious though and they don’t believe her when she comes out to them and put her under house arrest. Later when they go to work on their relationship at a retreat, Lonnie leaves the military and runs away with Sam and you find the Journal entries that describe all of Sam’s experiences of learning how much she loves Lonnie, her being an outcast at school and her past friendship with Danny and making peace with herself enough to the point that she can leave home and make a life with the woman she loves. Katie is the one who learns all of this and we see and hear it through her experiences of discovering the mystery of why the house is empty.

The Characters – Uncle Oscar – His ghost haunts the house but it isn’t literal. He probably molested Terry (the Father of Sam and Katie) as we see Terry’s height measured throughout the years but stops at age 12 in 1963, which relates directly to the stories Terry writes about JFK and the assassination of him. He is not a good person and though he seeks redemption and has regret, we have no reason to trust him. I put this character as a pro because he reveals Terry to us in regards to Terry’s drinking and trust issues and also we see how Lonnie and Sam are ghost hunters as well as they try and get rid of what they see as his ghost haunting the house.

The Parents – Terry is insecure and drinks a lot and has a powerful artistic mind. His niche market even catches on with Time Travel and the Assassination of JFK. We don’t really know his relationship to his wife though and sadly his rejection of his daughter (whether from his experience with Uncle Oscar (not realizing that Pedophilia and Homosexuality are two very different things) or his insecurity in his marriage lead him rejecting Lonnie and Sam (or his religious belief, “Bibles” are all over the house). The Mom is pretty driven too as she gets promoted in Oregon in the Forest Service is maybe having an affair with Ranger Rick and sews and is in contact writing letters with one of her old friends. She’s also an immigrant from Canada. We see she’s supportive of her husband even though she is exploring another option. The marriage is complicated but I get her doubts given the amount her husband drinks and his doubts and we don’t know if he ever shared what happened when he was 12. They are off at a Marriage Retreat when Katie returns home though.

Sam and Lonnie – Sam and Lonnie are pretty distinct and awesome characters. Sam is quite and an artist who finds her voice both in coming out to her folks and when she runs away with Lonnie. Lonnie is tough and independent and is a singer in a band and is all about self improvement via her nearly joining the military. They are pulled apart at one point as Sam is looking at Reed College since she has a scholarship and Lonnie is joining the military. After Sam comes out to her parents though they choose each other. They are reckless but committed and it makes them very human and my favorite characters in this.

The Message – The message is one of equality and love and it is powerful. We see two people who are willing to risk everything for one another since who they are has been rejected by their parents. It’s powerful and shows just how rejected they were. The time period is the 90’s but in some families in the United States an LBGTQ relationship would still be seen as wrong and be rejected and not seen as love even when love is there. This message speaks to the affect that has on people. If Lonnie’s or Sam’s parents had accepted their relationship, they would not have run away as they’d feel they had a safe space to be together and themselves.

Okay/Pro: The  Gameplay – The gameplay is good but not great. There were many times I wish I could have explored more objects or learned more of what each object meant. For example, your father’s novels about the “JFK Assisination” where a Time Traveler goes back in time to stop it and later on wants to save himself was a story I wanted to read. This story is a glimpse into your Father’s life just as “Captain Allegro and the First Mate” are glimpses into who your sister Sam is. I also wish you could go outside so there would be more than just the feel of danger as you explore the house.

Okay: Katie – Katie is a cipher and we don’t get much of her personality beyond her love of adventure and her family. I wish we could have got her thoughts about Sam and Lonnie running away and if she accepted them and loved them the way her parents never could. Still we get some characterization, I just wanted more.

   I played the game in full with my partner playing a few places in it. She had played it earlier and I am extremely grateful she introduced this game to me and that I got to play and discuss it with her. It was a story we could relate to in many ways and the characters were so real. When I started to play it was hard for me to put down, which is one reason I consider it a favorite game. The gameplay was good enough that it didn’t interfere with the story and it was still a puzzle and discovery game rather than an interactive movie. I highly recommend this game and not because of the story message, it is a great game and one of the beset I’ve finished in a while.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Flirting with Disaster (1996): An Attempt to Explore How to Make Relationships Work

Flirting with Disaster

    “Flirting with Disaster” is not my kind of comedy. I liked a lot of the ideas it had, and the acting was good…but the execution of the plot and humor just didn’t do it for me. Knowing humor is a subjective thing I could see people loving this movie though. It reminded me of a another Ben Stiller Comedy “Meet the Parents” which for me was in a similar vein in humor and characters. Which was okay, but for me not a great comedy.

     “Flirting with Disaster” was directed and written by David O. Russell and produced by Dean Silvers.

     The premise is that Mel (Ben Stiller) and his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) are deciding what to name their newborn son but Mel won’t let them decide on a name until he meets his biological parents, since he was adopted. The adoption agent Tina (Tea Leoni) is there to help and ends up sending them all over the place as the initial information on birth parents was wrong as Nancy and Mel’s relationship falls apart. From here the story unfolds.

The Pros: Ben Stiller – I usually put the character name for the pro but the character didn’t full fully realized. Ben Stiller did great with what he was given, but his character fully embracing every person who he thought were his parents felt unrealistic to the point that it ruined what comedic moments it tried to create. Stiller did great with what he was given, which wasn’t much.

Alan Alda – Played Mel’s hippy biological father Richard and was one of the better performances too. You may know him from “M.A.S.H.” and he does a good job here, just isn’t given much to do. From his conflict with his biological son, to escaping to Mexico when his son accidentally gives LSD to a Federal Agent. He was a lot of fun and carried all the scenes he was in. He’s got a lot of charisma.

Patricia Arquette – Plays the wife Nancy who stands up for herself when Ted is trying to get together with Tina. She hooks up briefly with a bisexual Federal Agent who is having problems in his relationship with his husband the other Federal Agent and is the most open minded and closest to good we have in any of the characters as she is primarily focused on taking care of the kid and in the end standing up for how much of a jerk Mel is. Patricia played this perfectly with going between the very soft spoken person going along with anything Mel wants to standing up for herself. Her part in almost having an affair was very poorly written though.

Okay: The Supporting Cast – The rest of the actors I didn’t name cause their performances didn’t really stand out.  They were good as far as the script let them be good. Which is a shame as relationship drama is a fascinating subject to explore, especially in regards to marriage and divorce.

Okay/Con: Cinematography – At times this looks like a found footage film, which clashes with the times it doesn’t and actually looks good. Sadly most looks like it was filmed like a family movie which hurts as it doesn’t give us any shots that elevate tension or the script. It’s standard fair.

The Cons: The Writing – Is terrible. All the cliches are there (Tina is going through a divorce and is the temptresses, Mel is the neurotic husband orphan whose obsession drives away his wife, Nancy is the soft spoken wife who eventually stands up for herself, the FBI agents are the young man wanting an escape and his husband and partner who is obsessed with duty who needs drugs to relax, Mel’s biological parents are hippies and his other folks are other stereotypes…from the Dixie Republican, to the Anti-Semitic Trucker, etc.). These cliches don’t get beyond the cliches and that really hurts the script. This is a huge con for me as the writing is the thing I pay the most attention to in the movie and how it is expressed through the characters. Because the script failed on writing, it failed on the characters.

Direction – It was hard to for me to be invested in the characters in their struggles because of the writing (some of the jokes were pretty flat for me) and direction didn’t help. It felt like many of the side characters were phoning it in and nothing was done to elevate the poor script.

    This was a film that had an interesting idea that it could have done a lot more with. The problem was I think length (only 92 minutes long) and I’ll say it again, for me the script was terrible. I didn’t get why some of the characters did the things they did since no one was listening to anyone, which didn’t feel like it fit. Obliviousness on the characters part was the problem most of the time which lead to miscommunication. Would I recommend this film? If you like Ben Stiller comedies, you’ll probably like this one. But I’ve never been the biggest fan so it just didn’t do it for me.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Above average drama comedy with a poor script.

Princess Mononoke (1997): A Fairy Tale about Humanity and Nature

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke

“He is life itself. He isn’t dead, San. He is here with us now, telling us, it’s time for both of us to live.”

-Prince Ashitaka “Princess Mononoke”

First, I have to admit that Hayao Miyazaki is one of my favorite directors. He tends to choose great themes for his movies that always answer the “So what?” Question as well as being beautifully animated with fully realized characters. This one is truly one of his classics for a reason. Now to go into the reasons why.

Pros – The characters are all fully realized…even those who would be viewed as Antagonists like the leader of Irontown, the Hunter or the Wolves. All of them have motivations that are realistic and are following the basic tenant of survival while dealing with their own flaws of character.

Another pro is the animation which is flawless and beautiful. It is fairy tale like in how surreal it is which plays into the narrator’s introduction which says this is a world of Gods and Demons living with man. It is a mythical place and the animation style captures it perfectly.

The story is another pro, the dialogue is real and everything that happens has consequences. There is no magic reset button and all characters who do not perish grow from the events they experienced. It also turns a romance trope of the main protagonists must hook up on it’s head. It shows that you can be of opposite genders, be attracted to one another and still remain friends without it becoming romantic. The message the story tells is also one that is still real today. If we destroy the Earth we will destroy ourselves. We need it to live and without it we will be destroyed.

Okay – The soundtrack. I thought “Spirited Away” and “Porco Rosso” (the other Miyazaki films I’ve watched, had better soundtracks. The soundtrack worked, it just wasn’t memorable, which is why it is in the okay area.

Con – The story actually. The movie starts out pretty slow and I found myself wishing Miyazaki had made this a mini-series. There are so many different characters and factions that even though they were explored as well as they could be with the time restraints of a film, were not explored enough. I wanted to see more of the politics of Irontown vs The Emperor and the how the factions of spirits interacted with one another and the relationship between forests and Mononoke’s adopted family vs biological family, and what about the Prince’s village…they were destroyed by the Emperor in the past but survived? Tell me more. This is the only con I really found since both the Prince and Princess save one another throughout the film. It isn’t sexist and treats all the characters with respect.

I would highly recommend this film. I give a 8.75 / 10. Not my favorite Miyazaki film, but definitely one of my favorite films after today.