Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 55

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • Wake Up Call: Now that a safe route in and out is known, Morwen leads an expedition to explore the Wake. (Original)
  • Tin Soldiers: A psychic distress call draws the Wake expedition to an old friend and a new enemy. (Original)
  • Tourist Trap: A new species, the Azgoth, invite the Wake expedition to visit them. (Original)

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
I am still trying to get an RP-focused fleet together! Contact me in-game at Morwen@froborr if you’re interested.

Froborr Watches Fringe, S1E1-4

So, over on Mark Spoils, which is a sort of shadow-site to the Mark Does Stuff empire, I’ve started blogging my way through Fringe, a show I have never seen and did not know about. So here’s the collection of entries on last week’s viewing.
So first off, here’s what I knew before I started:

  • It’s by Abrams, Kurzman, and Orci, aka The Team That Ruined Star Trek.
  • No one except Mark Oshiro has ever said anything about it, ever.
  • Mark really, really likes it.
  • Parallel universes?

Spoilers below the cut!
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Don't touch my dog (Moon of the Wolf)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
It’s November 11, 1992, roughly halfway between “Tyger, Tyger” and “Heart of Steel.” In the charts, Boyz II Men finally reach the “End of the Road” for their song, unseated from months at number one by The Heights. The top movie this weekend is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with Passenger 57 and A River Runs Through It filling out the top three.
In the news today, the Church of England decides to allow women to become priests, and, appropriately enough for this story, American Olympic gold-medalist Earle Meadows dies.
In Gotham we have “Moon of the Wolf,” adapted by Len Wein from his own 1974 Batman comics story of the same name. It is also the second story in a row to deal with characters transformed into part-animals; this time it’s Olympic athlete Anthony Romulus, who gets some bad steroids courtesy of Professor Milo and starts transforming into a werewolf.
The show is continuing to play around with some potentially interesting concepts, but as in “Tyger, Tyger” it fails to stick the landing. Pitting Batman against a once-human foe who has unleashed their animalistic nature is a good match, as we saw way back in “On Leather Wings.” There, we saw the struggle between the Man and the Bat; here there is only an oddly wisecrack-prone Batman fighting against a generic, B-movie werewolf.
Yet once again there is almost a good episode here. Indeed, where “Tyger, Tyger” mashed together three potentially good episodes, the lack of ambition on display in “Moon of the Wolf” makes the shape of the one good episode underneath easier to see. Key would be to parallel Romulus’ drive to win athletic competitions at any cost with Batman’s own drive, fighting crime. Both wield their bodies as weapons, refining and sharpening them at any opportunity. The scene where Romulus and Bruce Wayne are working out at the same gym comes closest to acknowledging this parallel, but is too busy laying down exposition about Romulus’ trap for Batman.
Because there is much to be mined in a bored, rich man who, in search of ways to push his physical conditioning to the limit, transforms into a monstrous animal creature some nights. As the wolf, Romulus is a creature of pure rage. He seems to retain enough of his intellect to carry out such plans as “attack the zoo guard” or “kill Batman,” but does so while snarling, biting, clawing, and charging. He is not quite a raw force of nature–he can, more or less, pick his targets–but he retains much of the savagery.
In this respect, he is not too dissimilar from the Bat, whether we mean Man-Bat–who, like Romulus, is readable as a drug abuser–or the figure of terror Batman seeks to create in the minds of Gotham’s criminals. He is a predator, attacking from the shadows under the moon, nigh-unstoppable, feeling neither pain nor pity. He ought to be terrifying.
Yet he isn’t. After Man-Bat, robots, shapeshifters, and cat monsters, a werewolf feels almost prosaic. It’s a generic movie monster, and Romulus shares none of the pathos of the best villains. He’s just a rich athlete who wanted to keep winning, cheated, and became a monster. He’s not even a very effective monster, getting driven off by Batman in his first attack, and defeated by Batman in his second.
The best we can do, really, is play around with his name. Romulus, of course, is the mythical founder of Rome, abandoned as a baby with his brother Remus and raised by a wolf. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, he is elevated to godhood by Mars and Jupiter; this Romulus, by contrast, is struck down by Jupiter’s weapon, a lightning bolt. We can, with a bit of effort, put together a case for him being guilty of that crime traditionally punished by divine judgment, hubris. Most obviously, Romulus let himself be manipulated by Milo into downing the serum without questioning what it would do to him in the long term, which made him subject to Milo’s demands.
He is, in the end, one model of a paragon. Athletic, wealthy, driven to win, he shares many of the features that make Batman who he is, up to and including the animal side of him that goes on rampages in the night. The difference is that Romulus is unbound by any rules, neither moral considerations nor an awareness of the structures which provide and maintain his wealth, hence finding himself very quickly a target of the police. Note that Bullock willingly allows Batman to take Romulus on without interference; in part that is Bullock choosing to let someone he dislikes do the difficult and dangerous work, but at the same time it is evidence that Bullock has come to understand that Batman will fight the enemies of the state, which is about as close as Bullock is likely to come to recognizing Batman as an ally. Romulus, on the other hand, attacks his personal enemies and the targets selected by Milo for the latter’s (particularly opaque in this episode) schemes. There is no possibility that Bullock, acting here as a synecdoche for the police as a whole, will ever see Romulus as anything but an enemy.
But in the end, even to get that much of a reading out of the episode requires straining it to its limit. There’s just not enough here to work with.
At the same time, something odd is happening in the show. We keep finding cause, in recent episodes, to reference the Bat, an idea that originated in our very first episode. A circle is drawing closed, and with it, the end of the first phase of the Near-Apocalypse approaches.


Current status of the Patreon:

Yurikuma Arashi 11 and Mawaru Penguindrum 11 Liveblog Chat Thingy!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:  Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting! Option 2: Go to http://webchat.freenode.net/. Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We’ll be watching Yurikuma and commenting there starting at 1:00 p.m. EST. We will then be watching Penguindrum at 1:30. Those are one hour earlier than normal!

I will update with the chatlog after the chat.
ETA: Chatlog below the cut!
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Captain's Log, Weekly Digest 54

A summary of the past week of posts to my in-character Star Trek Online Tumblr, chronicling the adventures of E.N. Morwen, a science-loving and thoughtful young woman trapped in a galaxy of warring space giants.

  • Sargasso: The Inverse gets trapped in the same phenomenon that probably destroyed the Shion. (Original)
  • The Mariners: Still stranded, the Inverse makes contact with a new species. (Original)
  • The Empathy Zone: The Inverse tries a new tactic to escape: What Would T’Vrell Do? (Original)
  • Trade Negotiations: While the Inverse and Shion work together to find a way home, they are again contacted by the Cirinac. (Original)
  • Wake Up Call: Now that a safe route in and out is known, Morwen leads an expedition to explore the Wake. (Original)

As the flag officer of a fleet or tactical group, Starfleet regulations also require Morwen to provide a Fleet Status Report briefly summarizing the current status and mission of all ships under her command, every Stardate that’s a multiple of 10.
I am still trying to get an RP-focused fleet together! Contact me in-game at Morwen@froborr if you’re interested.

Vlog Review: Gravity Falls S1E19

[youtube=https://youtu.be/dEoMMDYogs4] 
Patreon backers can see these videos (including Gravity Falls, Rick and Morty, my Near-Apocalypse panel, and coming this week, Over the Garden Wall) 4-5 weeks early AND Near-Apocalypse articles four MONTHS early!
Those of you who follow on Tumblr, for whatever reason the videos don’t play there. Click through to JedABlue.com to watch.

Let's just say I put the cat out (Tyger, Tyger)

Near Apocalpyse of '09 Logo
It’s October 30, 1992, the day after “The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne,” and a good example of why, for Batman the Animated Series at least, I’ve chosen to do these in production, rather than chronological, order: this has a Selina Kyle who is not in jail and involved in animal-related charity work with Bruce Wayne, yet it aired between her arrest in “The Cat and the Claw” and release in “Catscratch Fever.” This is, more or less, the Halloween episode, and so we get a story about monsters and evil scientists transforming people against their will.
Unfortunately, other than the fairly obvious idea of making Catwoman into a cat-woman, there just isn’t much to this episode. Catwoman herself is bizarrely passive for most of the episode, utterly lacking the fire and dominant presence that defines her character. She’s just a timid catgirl with Selina Kyle’s hair color and voice actress, sitting around while Tygrus and Batman effectively fight for her affections. She does get to explain to Tygrus that she can’t be “won that way,” but it takes her a lot of sitting around to get there.
Paradoxically for an episode that is sorely lacking in ideas, it also suffers from trying to do too much. It wants to be an episode about Catwoman being turned into a cat-woman, it wants to be a “sympathetic villain” story about Tygrus, it wants to be an Island of Dr. Moreau pastiche, but none of this gets any room to breathe. The life has to be sucked out of Catwoman’s character to get her to accept being experimented on, rather than using the enhanced physical and sensory abilities Dorian is giving her to smack Dorian around and take the antidote, so her story falls flat. There seems to be some effort at creating a parallel between her and Dorian with Langstrom’s line that Dorian “likes cats better than people,” but this is never explored, and Dorian is never more than a generic “mad scientist” villain.
In “Mad as a Hatter” the Mad Hatter’s Alice in Wonderland theme was employed in clever and creative ways that showed the writers had most likely actually read the book. “Tyger, Tyger” is, of course, titled after the first line of “The Tyger” from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, the first two lines of which are quoted in the episode by first Dorian and later Batman. But other than Tygrus being a large cat-person and there being a forest on the island, there is nothing remotely Blakean here. Similarly, beyond the presence of an island and a scientist making human-animal hybrids, there’s no engagement with The Island of Dr. Moreau, either. Even Dorian’s name–Emile Dorian–suggests a literary source, Emile and Dorian both being young men who become corrupted in Herman Hesse’s Demian and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, respectively. But that’s not actually a very good description of Emile, whose “corruption” leads ultimately to enlightenment and an ability to move beyond the stifling and self-destructive moral codes of the 19th century, while Dorian Grey becomes a murderer. In short, it’s honestly questionable whether any of Cherie Wilkerson (in her only DCAU credit), Michael Reeves, or Randy Rogel have actually read any of the works they’re referencing here, and not at all questionable whether they’ve bothered to think about those works in relation to this episode–they clearly haven’t, except in the shallowest possible sense.
It is the same problem as the excess of plots, actually: there’s so much being jammed into this episode that there’s no room to engage with any of it. It functions like a laundry list: Catwoman pun, check. Island, check. Blake reference, check.
There is potential here. The idea of an evil scientist creating animal-human hybrids will show up again in an episode of Batman Beyond which, while not one of that series’ best, is still miles ahead of this. Or an episode about Catwoman being transformed into a cat could be quite good, if it focused on her, the horror of transformation, and her efforts to break out. Or a “sympathetic villain” story about Tygrus discovering how little his creator cares about him and turning to solitude, preferably with a different cause then a crush on one of the scientists’ victims. The sexist cliche of being “tamed by the love of a woman” is literally the oldest one in the book, said book being The Epic of Gilgamesh. But if that absolutely had to be the way, at least make it a character who was created to be a peril monkey, like Summer Gleason, instead of tearing down Catwoman.
But instead of three potentially good episodes, we get one laundry list. It’s just a hollow shell of an episode. There’s not even enough here to attempt a redemptive reading on, because there’s nothing to read. One has to ask, in regards to this episode: did they who made “Heart of Ice” make thee?


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