Star Trekking (some more!)

I AM DONE.  On Boxing Day last year, I impulsively rewatched “Caretaker”.  As of five minutes ago, I have finished my Voyager rewatch — skipping certain episodes (“Threshold”) that I knew weren’t worth seeing again, but ploughing through the slab of late seventh season episodes I skipped because, having had a VHS copy of “Endgame” sent from the US, I couldn’t be arsed renting the rest of the season on video.  (Also, I was a student, and I was broke.)

I have vague thoughts that I may eventually blog about, like (a) Seven/Chakotay is not actually 100% terrible until the finale when it is the actual worst thing in history; (b) despite the perception that Seven steals all the attention from other cast members when she joins, she actually gets fewer very special episodes than the Doctor — but no one notices that, because he’s a white male and hence the default human; (c) okay, show of my teenage heart, you were kind of not very good but I love you anyway.

But I’m here now to talk about Next Generation.

You see, my flatmate, E, who is generally very television literate, has never seen any TNG.  She’s seen all of DS9, BSG and even Babylon 5, but somehow TNG bypassed her.  As did Voyager, but Voyager, bless its happy little heart, was never regarded as groundbreaking television.  TNG, while working within the considerable limitations of Gene Roddenberry’s increasingly weird “vision” (he didn’t want an episode about a child mourning his dead mother, because the humans of the future would have evolved past grief?  AND THIS WAS MEANT TO BE A UTOPIAN IDEAL?), managed to lay the groundwork for 1990s science fiction.  We remember it now as episodic and continuity-lite, but Ronald D Moore had his first taste of arc-plotting with Klingon politics, and whatever JMS tells you, Babylon 5 owed a ton to TNG.  And BSG is just B5 + DS9 + some extra misogyny and a dash of post 9/11 moral ambiguity.

But having said all that … seven seasons is a lot of television.  And let’s face it, a fair amount of TNG is kind of skippable.  Grant Watson, over at The Angriest, suggests that the very early phases of the show weren’t so much ’80s television as ’60s television with an ’80s budget.  That feels about right.  It’s interesting, but not necessarily good.  And I say that as a person who was quite impressed when she rewatched season 1 a few years back.

So I’m asking, oh internet, what do you consider the unmissable episodes of TNG?  Not necessarily the ones where Patrick Stewart acts a lot, but the ones that made you fall in love?

I, for example, am very strongly inclined to include season 1’s “The Battle”, because when I was a kid, it was the episode that made me think of Picard as an interesting character.  Earlier I had written him off as Grown-Up, Authority Figure, Therefore Scary.  (I was also … hmmm, you know, I think I saw this episode before I was even properly watching the show.  I might have been about eight?  The point is, I found Picard pretty scary.  Stop laughing, I was also scared of the Seventh Doctor at that age.)

So the first season 1 episodes I’ll probably show E are:

  • “Encounter at Farpoint” (you have to start somewhere!)
  • “The Battle”
  • “The Big Goodbye”
  • “Datalore”
  • “Conspiracy”

(I know “Conspiracy” is really disappointing on a Doylist level, because it sets up this arc that actually never goes anywhere, but I just really enjoy it.  I have a big old girlcrush on Captain Tryla Scott, okay?)

Season 2?  I have a grudge against season 2 for not having Beverly Crusher.  But it does have some important episodes.  I guess I’d go…

  • “Elementary Dear Data”
  • “The Measure of a Man”
  • “Q Who”
  • “The Emissary”
  • NOT “SHADES OF GREY”, I’M NOT A MONSTER, YOU KNOW

Season 3 is where it gets tricky, being actually good.  But I feel like at this point, E will have feelings about some characters, and I don’t want to skip, say, “Booby Trap” if Geordi is her favourite.

Let me hear your arguments, guys.  What are your essential episodes of TNG and why?

I made a skirt!

I bought a sewing machine!  And although it took me a while, I eventually realised I could make clothes with it.  First a gathered skirt, which was basically two rectangles sewn together, and then a top, which was two different rectangles sewn together.

Then I decided to take the plunge and try a pattern.

I did home ec in high school, but never quite got the hang of patterns.  Everything I made always ended up too small.  So I selected for this first-attempt-in-a-decade the Mabel skirt by Colette Patterns.  It’s simple, cute, designed for generously-proportioned women, and it seemed pretty easy.

And … it was.

Not perfect — turns out that, while my little sewing machine can do heavy knits, it doesn’t really like it, and will demonstrate its displeasure with a series of passive-aggressive mechanical problems.  And I’ve yet to master the straight line.  But I’ve produced a skirt which is cute, has a bit more structure than the two black mini-skirts I already own, and is (just) long enough for work.

The squinty face is just an added bonus.
The squinty face is just an added bonus.  The sun was in my eyes!

Also, it’s 1996 again in my heart and in my house.

I didn’t hem Mabel, because it was perilously close to being Too Short For Work, and I didn’t think I was capable of working with that small a margin.  And I like it as it is.

There are three variations of Mabel, and this is the first, and the simplest.  I fully intend to have another go, but with thinner fabric next time.  That patterned knit is gorgeous, and I love wearing it, but it’s just too much for my sewing machine to handle.  I have heaps left, though, so maybe I can use it in smaller quantities as a trim in the future.

(Oh, and that’s the two-rectangles shirt I made.  Don’t laugh; I’ve paid a lot of money for factory-made shirts with that design.)

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The cat was unimpressed, but he disapproves of any hobby that doesn’t directly involve himself.

Now everybody needs some time, and everybody knows

This post contains spoilers for the Veronica Mars movie, along with gratuitous Dandy Warhols lyrics because that’s compulsory for VMars posts now.

I was a Veronica Mars fan without being in the fandom.  By the time it aired in Australia, it was already in its second season in the US, and I knew, without being spoiled, that disappointment lay ahead.  I actually enjoyed the second season, probably because my expectations had been lowered, but I bailed part-way through season 3, partially because I found the mysteries unengaging, but mostly because I was sick of Logan.

So when the Kickstarter appeared last year, I was intrigued, but not inclined to give it actual money.  (I was, however, quite disappointed to discover that there was only one cinema screening in Melbourne — and that was sold out before I knew it was happening.)  But through the miracle of simultaneous worldwide digital releases, on Saturday night I sat down to catch up with the residents of Neptune, California.

I didn’t hate it.  I’m not sorry at all that I spent an evening watching it.  But days have passed, and I keep coming back to its storytelling choices and going, “…Really?”

A few weeks ago, I said on Twitter that the only thing that would make this movie work for me is if Logan is totally guilty, and it ends with Veronica watching stoically as he goes to prison.  Alas, saying things like, “This will only work for me if…” never ends well.  It was clear from the first round of publicity that this wasn’t going to be that movie.

On Saturday night I tweeted, “I wish the VMars kickstarter had had a level where the reward was a movie without Logan.”  But that’s not fair.  In the TV series, when it was at its best, Logan was an interesting and dynamic character.  And it’s not like he was even in this movie, anyway.  Jason Dohring gave a perfectly performance as Stepford Logan, bad boy turned air force hero.  And that was fine and all, except for the complete lack of tension — sexual or otherwise.  Is Logan guilty?  Not for a second.  Are he and Veronica going to hook up?  Yep.  Does anyone who’s not a long-standing LoVe shipper care?  Well.

(Things I hold against Logan:  not only did he hijack the series to a considerable extent, but his name comes first in the pairing portmanteau.  Sure, it’s cute, but it’s kiiiiind of symbolic of the way Logan, and Veronica’s romantic relationship with him, became the show’s albatross.)

So Logan has abandoned his rich jerk lifestyle to become a naval pilot/JAG officer (obligatory comment about his ill-fitting uniform here) who allegedly engaged in dogfights with the Taliban.  (We hear so little in the media about the Taliban’s air force!  Why is that, I wonder?)

I double checked with Google, and the only dogfighting in Afghanistan is the kind that involves real dogs, which is apparently undergoing a resurgence in popularity.  And while that doesn’t seem beyond the kid who organised fights between homeless guys, I don’t think it’s what we’re meant to be thinking.  Nor are we meant to be thinking that Logan has been dropping bombs on civilian populations, I suppose, because being in the military is supposed to be a sign that he’s respectable now.

(Obligatory statement of ambivalence towards military organisations in general and the US military in particular.)

It’s a real shame to see Logan go from Homme Fatale to Woobie, but that’s what happens when you love a character too much.  Well, you love a character and you don’t to piss off the shipper-heavy fanbase that just paid for your movie.  And it’s not really a surprise, because this started well before Kickstarter even existed.  (This is a good article about the problem of Logan.)

It’s more disappointing to see Logan’s partner-in-douchebaggery, Dick Casablancas, being equally softened.  Sure, he’s still a sexist jerk, but the script goes out of its way to prevent him from being a suspect in the crime-that-triggered-the-crime-that-starts-the-movie.

In fact, the ultimate guilty party is a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who didn’t know his place.  And that doesn’t sit right.  “When the class war comes, Neptune will be ground zero,” says Veronica in the rather stilted opening montage.  So it’s kind of awkward that the two rich white dudes are above suspicion, and we’re left with the “total trailer park weirdo” as the criminal.  This could have been interesting, setting him up as a foil to Veronica, another outsider who observes and critiques the corruption of Neptune’s stratified society.  But it all falls flat.

I also have problems with Weevil’s subplot, not so much that he doesn’t get justice — it’s noir, after all — but because he gets four scenes, and the last one is just a glimpse of him riding with his gang again.  Is he seeking justice on his own terms, or has he given up?  What has happened to his family?  It’s a problem that we don’t know.  People are suggesting that this is all going to be answered in some form of spin off or sequel, but so far, the next entry in the Veronica Mars franchise looks like a webseries about … Dick Casablancas.

This is particularly sad because Rob Thomas says good things about class and race and injustice.  But the actual movie isn’t quite there yet.

And what of Veronica?  We end the movie with her abandoning her career in law and moving back to Neptune to continue her work as a PI and her relationship with the new, cuddly Logan.  At first I liked this — the career move, not the relationship — but it’s feeling increasingly like a step in the wrong direction.  It’s all very well for Veronica to mock the school bitches for reliving their glory days in high school, but look who’s going back to her after school job?

Meanwhile, she has a law degree.  Sure, it would take some work to pass the bar in California when she’s been studying for New York, but it’s not impossible.  And we already know she’s quicker and smarter than the attorney working for her father.  Veronica Mars, Attorney at Law.  An ally to her father, rather than an employee.

All in all, this felt like a high school reunion, and not in a good way.  Decade-old in-jokes and too much time spent with dickheads, not enough time with your actual friends.  I suppose we’re lucky that we didn’t catch up with the student played by Paris Hilton.  Though at least I remembered who she was.

One good thing, though, the movie really has me wanting to watch the series again.  And who knows, maybe this time I’ll finish season 3.

A cranky lady of history: Janet Kincaid

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Remember my post about Tsaritsa Sophia Alekseyevna of Russa and her amazingly cranky face? Well, I accidentally inspired an anthology, which is crowdfunding as we speak.  This is the most viral a post of mine has ever gone.

The crowdfunding campaign coincides with a blog tour celebrating various cranky women in history, so if you enjoy history, feminism or good stories, this is your lucky month.

Which brings me to today’s Cranky Lady, Janet Kincaid.

You probably haven’t heard of Janet.  The problem with history is that, by and large, we mostly know about the wealthy and powerful.  Monarchs and aristocrats and people who happened to be in the right place at the right time and were remarkable enough that others paid attention and wrote about them.

Janet Kincaid is not one of those people.  In the mid-nineteenth century, her husband went to try his luck on the Victorian goldfields, leaving Janet in Glasgow to care for their six children.  By sheer luck, one of her letters to her feckless husband survived, leaving us with a vivid impression of a very cranky woman:

You left to better your family, you don’t need to write that any more, we have had enough of that talk.  You had better do something for them.  You left the ship to better your self and to get your money to your self.  You never earned much for your family, far less for your Wife, you sent five Pounds, two years and a half ago.  You mention in a letter to me that you made more money at the digging than ever you made at home.  You might have sent us the half of what you made.  You are a hard hearted Father when you could sit down and eat up your children’s meat your self.  I was a poor unfortunate Wretch, little did I think when I was young what I had to come through with your conduck.  We might have been the happiest couple in Greenock, you got a good wife and many a good job at home if you had been inclined to do well but folks that cante do well at home is not to be trusted Abroad … poor Duncan does not know what sort of thing a Father is, he thinks it is something for eating … find a proper place where I will send my letters.  No more at present from your deserted Wife Janet Kincaid.

The letter is in the archives at the State Library of Victoria, so it presumably reached the elusive Mr Kincaid.  How he replied, if at all, is unknown.

The narrative of the Victorian goldfields, when I was growing up, was about the Brave Single Man, Seeking His Fortune.  Janet’s letter was printed in Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, a book rich with cranky ladies, which points out that many of those gold diggers had families left behind — and many others brought their families to the camps.  It’s a shame Janet Kincaid and her six children didn’t come to Australia — or maybe they did, and the record is lost.

“You left to better your family, you don’t need to write that any more, we have had enough of that talk.” Ladies and gentlemen, an 1850s Skyler White.  Respect.

 

This post is written as part of the Women’s History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support the FableCroft Publishing Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world.