Category Archives: Various and Sundry


International Talk Like William Shatner Day

I may have overlooked it, but I don’t think I’ve previously done a blog post about a little known holiday today. Sure, you knew it was William Shatner’s birthday today. Sure, you knew that, at age 92, he’s still making movies and even being blasted into space. But you might not know that today is International Talk Like William Shatner Day, a minor holiday started over 10 years ago, but really deserves to be a Spring counterbalance to International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

For both the announcement establishing the holiday and a guide for how to talk like the man himself, here’s the multi-talented Maurice LaMarche:

I like Master and Commander and, yes, I’m a dad. Why do you ask?

Thinking of my biennial “Favorite Films” post this past December, it’s clear from last night’s Oscars, I’m not the only one who was bowled over by the bagel that is Everything Everywhere All at Once.

It’s definitely due a rewatch… but actually, I’m here to point out a recent article by Gabriella Paiella for GQ about how my top pick, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, was made and is now an absolute classic in the eyes of some film lovers. The article explores the allure of the film, perhaps best summed up as: “If you kidnapped a hundred of Hollywood’s top minds and forced them to work around the clock, they could not engineer a more exquisite Dad Movie.”

Photographs: Everett Collection, Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

Is that why it’s my new top pick? Am I transitioning early to be one of those dads who’s preparing to ace a military history trivia contest? (As per John Mulaney).

Y’know, you might want to step away from the Everything Bagel, read the article, and engage in some naval gazing. It might be the lesser of two weevils.

A Viewing Guide for Star Trek: The Next Generation

With the airing of the final season of Star Trek: Picard, my ranking of all the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) episodes is getting a steady amount of traffic.

So going from the viewing guide for one of the least watched series in the franchise, Enterprise, let’s go to a Trek series that still ranks as the most watched… and based on feedback is clearly one of the most beloved.

Much like many of the Trek series, TNG takes a while to find its footing. A great documentary that details some of the specific reasons of how the show changed over time is Chaos on the Bridge. Directed by William Shatner (yes, Captain Kirk himself). I’m given to understand it’s not the first to delve into the dirt behind TNG’s growing pains, but it comes across as even-handed and, importantly, explains why the storytelling style shifted so noticeably in the third season.

That style, which focuses on character arcs amid the familiar Trek explorations of ideas is what made fans tune in week after week by the millions. We also waited one long summer between seasons three and four thanks to one of the best cliffhangers in TV history.

For those of you encountering the TNG crew for the first time or the first time in a long time, I am sure you’ll find episodes that stay with you long after the end credits. The best of Trek is engineered to age well, and, yes, some of the space clothes may seem a bit too 80s or 90s at times, but overall the stories are strong.

I should pause and point out this viewing guide is not for everyone. I am sure there are TNG fans who are completionists. They do not want to miss the tiniest character moment — and skipping episodes, including episodes they themselves find underwhelming, would prompt a Picard-style speech about duty. If that rings true, this guide is not for you. In fact, I daresay you will find it logical to live long and prosper elsewhere.

This viewing guide is for the fans who want an abbreviated binge watch. It cuts down on turkeys and subpar episodes that don’t contribute to big character moments or major payoff later. It’s also a guide for those fans who want to introduce new viewers to TNG the same way you might introduce a friend to a band you love: not with every song from every album from the beginning, but with a curated playlist. If these new viewers find they absolutely love the show, those “deep cuts” are there for a rewatch.

For younger viewers or people who haven’t watched older TV shows in while, remember that TNG does not match the newer series, and indeed most modern “prestige television,” in two key ways.

First, it adheres to a notion of the Status Quo common to countless shows prior to the 21st Century: no matter how big the plot developments are or how they might affect our characters, they’ve not going to change much. The very nature of the show visiting a new planet almost every episode means last week’s episode (and planet) and its problems are firmly in the past with no impact on this week’s planet.

Second, there’s going to be a lot of planets to visit. Each season has 26 episodes, an amount that would make modern line producers an aneurysm. In other words, you can leave many a subpar episode in the Briar Patch of Meh.

If we count all the double-sized episodes as two, we have 182 installments of TNG. This viewing guide cuts out 80, giving you a much leaner, more manageable 102 episodes to warp through.


Season One

  • #s1&2 – “Encounter at Farpoint”

Just the series premiere, you ask? Yes, really. In fact, I’d love to skip straight to season 3, but since this is a binge watch, there’s crucial payoff in the series finale that require that you Vulcan up and watch this not-best-of-Trek-series-premieres. Reflections on the now missing Tasha Yar are far more interesting in later episodes, so don’t worry about why she’s missing in season two. Plus consider the bright side: in a completionist rewatch, you have Klingon building toys, Romulan courtesy calls, and exploding heads to look forward to!

Season Two

  • #3 – “Elementary, Dear Data”
  • #9 – “Measure of a Man”
  • #16 – “Q Who?”

I debated including “Elementary, Dear Data” but it does set up one of the best later episodes and, presumably, will connect to Star Trek: Picard. It also preps you for the myriad “holodeck hijinks” episodes. The other two episodes set up events not only for TNG, but for a lot of the Trek series in the future, so they’re in.

Season Three

  • #2 – “The Ensigns of Command”
  • #3 – “The Survivors”
  • #4 – “Who Watches the Watchers”
  • #6 – “Booby Trap”
  • #7 – “The Enemy”
  • #8 – “The Price”
  • #9 – “The Vengeance Factor”
  • #10 – “The Defector”
  • #11 – “The Hunted”
  • #12 – “The High Ground”
  • #13 – “Deja Q”
  • #15 – “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
  • #16 – “The Offspring”
  • #17 – “Sins of the Father”
  • #18 – “Allegiance”
  • #19 – “Captain’s Holiday”
  • #20 – “Tin Man”
  • #22 – “The Most Toys”
  • #23 – “Sarek”
  • #24 – “Ménage à Troi”
  • #26 – “The Best of Both Worlds” (Part 1)

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. You can watch most of the season without a cringe — and, in fact, fans of Barclay or those into all things Holodeck will want to add episode #21, “Hollow Pursuits.” Other than that, you’re probably more than ready to check out the season four premiere — especially because you don’t have to wait all summer!

Season Four

  • #1 – “The Best of Both Worlds” (Part 2)
  • #2 – “Family”
  • #3 – “Brothers”
  • #6 – “Legacy”
  • #7 – “Reunion”
  • #8 – “Future Imperfect”
  • #9 – “Final Mission”
  • #11 – “Data’s Day”
  • #12 – “The Wounded”
  • #13 – “Devil’s Due”
  • #14 – “Clues”
  • #15 – “First Contact”
  • #16 – “Galaxy’s Child”
  • #17 – “Night Terrors”
  • #18 – “Identity Crisis”
  • #19 – “The Nth Degree”
  • #20 – “Qpid”
  • #21 – “The Drumhead”
  • #22 – “Half a Life”
  • #24 – “The Mind’s Eye”
  • #25 – “In Theory”
  • #26 – “Redemption” (Part 1)

A few more episodes snipped from this season, but some absolutely great episodes. Dr. Crusher fans may want to add back #23 “The Host” which uses the sci-fi setting to have some great moments regarding relationships.

Season Five

  • #1 – “Redemption (Part 2)
  • #2 – “Darmok”
  • #3 – “Ensign Ro”
  • #4 – “Silicon Avatar”
  • #5 – “Disaster”
  • #s7&8 – “Unification”
  • #9 – “A Matter of Time”
  • #12 – “Violations”
  • #13 – “The Masterpiece Society”
  • #14 – “Conundrum”
  • #15 – “Power Play”
  • #17 – “The Outcast”
  • #18 – “Cause and Effect”
  • #19 – “The First Duty”
  • #21 – “The Perfect Mate”
  • #23 – “I, Borg”
  • #24 – “The Next Phase”
  • #25 – “The Inner Light”
  • #26 – “Time’s Arrow” (Part 1)

20 all-around solid episodes.

Season Six

  • #1 – “Time’s Arrow” (Part 2)
  • #4 – “Relics”
  • #6 – “True Q”
  • #7 – “Rascals”
  • #s10&11 – “Chain of Command”
  • #12 – “Ship in a Bottle”
  • #14 – “Face of the Enemy”
  • #15 – “Tapestry”
  • #s16&17 – “Birthright”
  • #18 – “Starship Mine”
  • #19 – “Lessons”
  • #21 – “Frame of Mind”
  • #23 – “Rightful Heir”
  • #24 – “Second Chances”
  • #25 – “Timescape”
  • #26 – “Descent” (Part 1)

Right around season five and six, you might decide to just watch ’em all, but I’m committed to cutting out the subspace bumps, so here you go.

Season Seven

  • #1 – “Descent” (Part 2)
  • #s4&5 – “Gambit”
  • #6 – “Phantasms”
  • #8 – “Attached”
  • #10 – “Inheritance”
  • #11 – “Parallels”
  • #12 – “The Pegasus”
  • #15 – “Lower Decks”
  • #16 – “Thine Own Self”
  • #19 – “Genesis”
  • #20 – “Journey’s End”
  • #21 – “Firstborn”
  • #24 – “Preemptive Strike”
  • #s25&26 – “All Good Things…”

You definitely want to skip a number of episodes here. Some fans find #23 “Emergence” to be a meta-commentary on the series itself, but the actual series finale “All Good Things…” brings it home as good as any Trek series has.

So there you have it: a way to dive in and boldly go on adventures with the inimitable TNG crew without spending over 100 hours of your time. Enjoy!

A Solid Reason to Watch Star Trek: Picard

On Saturday, I linked to an article about actor Michael Dorn and his long-running portrayal of the character of Worf across multiple Star Trek series and movies.

Last week, the third episode of Star Trek: Picard‘s final season gave him a glorious (formal) introduction that is already spawning memes across the Interwebs.

In fact, the whole season promises to give us a measure of closure with the TNG era on many fronts. There’s the main characters sure, but we were also promised some villains from Trek of yore including Daniel Davis’ Moriarty, holographically conjured to defeat Data — and Lore, Data’s android brother who probably has competing against his brother as part of his source code. Three episodes in, neither of these repeat villains have shown up, so we’re left to wonder if Vadic, the captain of the Shrike (with Ahab focus) is related to someone we’ve seen before (no worries if not, Amanda Plummer is chewing scenery and exuding cool menace that would make her dad, General Chang, proud).

But to allude to the machinations of Sauron and his predilection for seizing power through jewelry, all of the trailer audiences were deceived, for another villain was added this past episode. And if Worf’s intro gave me delight, this reveal gave me

Those of you who don’t want spoilers, don’t click or read further.

No it’s not someone doing Moriarty cosplay from the recent BBC Sherlock.

As discussed in Alex Cranz’s article for The Verge: it’s changelings.

Besides feeling the DS9 love, the thought of a splinter group of Founders unhappy with all that peace and love Odo brought to the Great Link, separating and plotting lo these many years is wonderful. The Founders were shown to be patient, methodical, and ruthless in Deep Space Nine and however they factor into the series of pulled strings that will eventually give us Moriarty and Lore (and may explain some of Vadic’s intent), it’s a wonderful Big Bad to behold. I might even call them a solid villain, which would naturally incur their wrath.

It also reminds me I should work on those viewing guides for TNG and DS9.

The Final Act of Worf’s Klingon Opera

I never wanted a Next Generation (TNG) season eight out of Star Trek: Picard as many fans did, but I did want more satisfying closure with the Next Generation characters than was offered by Nemesis. With that in mind, I’ve enjoyed this latest and reportedly last season of Picard, still underway.

A more elderly Worf from Picard (CBS/Paramount)

As Dylan Roth explores for Polygon, perhaps no character deserves closure more than that of the quintessentially non-Merry man: Worf. As a huge Deep Space Nine (DS9) fan, I didn’t begrudge the increasingly flimsy reasons Worf re-appeared on the Enterprise in the TNG movies, but I did dislike the lack of acknowledgement of Worf’s character arc that occured. Indeed, I felt while Worf had standout moments throughout TNG, he really came into his own (and addressed his obsession with being the most honorably Klingon) in DS9.

In the third episode of this third and final season of Picard that just aired this week, we finally get that on-screen continuation. In fact, more than a few DS9 fans appreciated all the love given the series and how its events are still felt in the Star Trek universe in the 25th century.

So raise a glass of prune juice (or chamomile tea), enjoy the article (which includes some video compilations, and hopefully enjoy Worf’s character getting a satisfying bow at the end.

Lost and Found: City Edition

Going from fabled fictional cities last week to real cities this week, I went further in Afar and found this list of 11 lost cities now found that you can visit. I’m pretty sure there’s more than a few that you want to add to your bucket lists.

Machu Picchu (Photo by Cezary Wojikowski/Shutterstock)

Mind you, I still want to go see the Gruffalo.

Hark! The Traditional Elven Yodel!

Longtime visitors will note that I do post about Tolkien from time to time, even if I’m not the prime Tolkien fanatic in the family. I couldn’t even tell you who the first lord of Dol Amroth was, which I’m pretty sure is the level of detail one needs to be a Colbert-level Tokien fanatic.

If I were, I would surely know the specific countries and landmarks Tolkien thought of in our world which he transposed, more or less, to Middle Earth. Thankfully, Melanie Haiken dispels some of this mystery in her article for Afar. Long story short: I knew elves were into fondue!

Staubach Waterfall cascades into Switzerland’s Lauterbrunnen Valley (Photo: Chris Rinckes/Shutterstock)

I’m pretty sure Dol Amroth is based on some place in New Zealand, though. (-;

A Business Model to Optimize Crap

Hey, if you think that’s a startling headline, the original title of the article by Cory Doctorow in Wired is not-safe-for-work. But it does touch on something you may have suspected or outright observed about social media sites and their lifecycle of desperately needing content and eventually not being that useful, but obnoxiously necessary.

It may motivate you to think rather unsociable thoughts.

In any case, I found it interesting and in line with many of my recent posts that touch on technology and how we implement it.

Maybe You’re More of a Luddite than You Thought…

On Monday, I had another discussion with folks online about machine learning being employed for creative tasks and the inevitable “it’s inevitable” angle people who stand to benefit from that automation like to promote.

One of the things I brought up is that people can not want technology to be implemented in a certain way and not be anti-technology, which reminded me of the term “Luddite,” commonly used these days to describe someone who is against technology.

Richard Coniff over at Smithsonian Magazine dives into the actual history of Luddites, who Ludd was, and how they actually weren’t as anti-technology as the current usage implies.

Granger Collection, New York

Don’t fret if you’ve been using Luddite as a catch-all for curmudgeonly folks against anything more advanced than a slide rule. I suspect the same people happy to obfuscate the reality of the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit are happy there’s this confusion.

Alien Life, But Not As We Know It

Common refrains I hear from sci-fi fans are both “I want the aliens to be more alien” (often when referring to certain film or TV aliens) and “You have to check this out: the aliens were really alien” (often when referring to certain books). The latter sentiment makes sense, because when you start considering how evolution might have taken place on other words, the bilaterally symmetrical humanoids that dominate much of cinematic science fiction seem less likely. In fact, there might be a whole host of unstated assumptions about anatomy and body chemistry that are very Earth-centric.

These are some of the trains of thought astrobiologists are busily boarding, as detailed in an article by Sarah Scoles for Scientific American.

Credit: William Hand

This is the sort of thought experiment that I’ll always find exciting, because one day, we’ll find out just how right or wrong we are. In the meantime, I might try and find a copy of the entirely fictional, but enormously enjoyable Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials.