TV Review #2 – Star Trek: TNG’s “Ethics”

When I reviewed “The Loss” from Next Generation, I wrote about my general disappointment with the show. At that point, I’d only seen up to season four, and I felt it was bogged down by too many crew meetings and negotiations. Well, now that I’ve seen the series in its entirety, I have to say that I ended up loving it. Season five was an overall masterpiece, especially the episode “The Inner Light” – it changed my attitude toward the show, and the episodes continued to impress until the end of the series. The episode I’m reviewing now, “Ethics,” is the 16th installment from season five. I decided to review it because it’s sort of the opposite of “The Loss”; while there are a few misfires regarding disability, “Ethics” tends to get it right. I expected lots of cringe-worthy moments based on the synopsis and ableist trailer, but was pleasantly surprised by the points raised in the script. So let’s take a look at the episode, and see if you agree.      

We open with Worf and La Forge investigating some chemical leak in cargo bay three. As they scan the area, they discuss a recent poker game. Thanks to his VISOR, Geordi can see through the cards, but he only admits to peeking after the hand is over. I liked this little banter between the two because it connects the reality of disability with everyday life. Some suggest that Geordi’s disability/VISOR are only used to make him “special” or “superhuman,” thus falling into a disability trope, but I disagree. His VISOR helps him navigate the world, just like my wheelchair helps me navigate the world. The fact that his VISOR can sometimes be helpful in a mission or, in this case, give him an advantage in a poker game, doesn’t take away from his fully-developed character; he has a backstory, love interests, hobbies, a personality, etc. TNG doesn’t focus on his disability – it is treated as part of who he is, but does not define who he is. What his VISOR can do is just a reality of the adaptive technology of that time period. My wheelchair can do some pretty nifty things as well, but that doesn’t make me “superhuman.” … Read more…

Comic Review #1 – The Killing Joke

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Batman comic, and I’ve surprisingly never read The Killing Joke. This graphic novel is considered a classic, written by Alan Moore of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame, and hauntingly illustrated by Brian Bolland. I purchased the 2008 deluxe edition, which was recolored by Bolland; he uses a cooler palette than the original color artist, and makes the flashback scenes into black and white, with small touches of color to add emphasis on certain objects. I’ve seen the original 1988 comic (thanks, internet!), and I definitely think the new coloring transforms the comic into the darker, weightier story it was meant to be. You can see the difference here:

kj_comparison

The original looks psychedelic, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it doesn’t fit the dark theatrical nature of some of the scenes. The recoloring and illustrations are the best things about this comic. That isn’t to say that I didn’t think the story was well executed, but the art is so great here that it overshadows the other elements. I particularly liked the way the Joker was drawn – he looked sadistic and frightening, but you could still see the human behind it. The carnival scenes are effectively chaotic, highlighting the perverseness of the Joker’s thought process and actions.

Despite my praise for the artwork and plot execution, there are some very problematic things about this novel – namely the treatment of Barbara Gordon. So let’s just get right down to it so you can see what I mean. … Read more…

Tabletop Game Review #2 – Murder of Crows

game box
Game box

I’m a big fan of the card and storytelling game Gloom, where the object is to make your characters as miserable as possible before killing them off. Sounds like a lot of fun, right? I truly love dark humor. So when I heard Atlas Games had another macabre card game available, I had to snatch it up. It did not disappoint! Let’s take a closer look.

Overview:

Murder of Crows
Players: 2 to 5
Ages: 13 and up, although I think it’s fine for slightly younger players.
Publish Date: 2012
BoardGameGeek Link: click here

Image of a card, with one crow
Notice the one crow in the upper left corner.

Gameplay/Rules:

According to the rules sheet, the objective of the game is to “reveal a complete murder story by playing all the letters in the word ‘M-U-R-D-E-R’.” Each card contains one of these letters, along with an accompanying image and a line of story text.

To start the game, players are dealt five cards, and the remaining cards are used as the draw pile. On your turn, you must draw one card and play one card. You can also choose to skip your turn and draw two cards. To play a card, you simply place it into your Murder, which is the table space in front of you. You eventually want to spell out MURDER; this seems easy, but each card allows you to perform an action once it is played associated with its designated letter. For example:

  • M‘s action is “misplace,” which allows you to take one card of your choice from an opponents murder and put it into your hand.
  • U is “uncover,” where your opponents reveal their hands, and you take a card of your choice.
  • R is “reap,” which is drawing an additional card from the draw pile.
  • D is “drain,” where you must choose one letter and your opponents discard one of that card from their Murder.
  • E is “expel,” where your opponents have to discard their entire hand and draw three new cards.

Read more…

TV Review #1 – Star Trek: TNG’s “The Loss”

I am not a huge fan of The Next Generation, despite what my Pez dispenser and TNG comic collection might tell you. I haven’t seen every episode yet, but I’ve watched four seasons and I find it difficult to get through at times. I understand the appeal this show has for a lot of people, but many of the episodes are bogged down by meetings and negotiations. The Original Series, while also having meetings and plenty of talky moments, felt more balanced. This may have something to do with Kirk’s ability to challenge and oftentimes defy the Prime Directive, which leaves room for more action and conflict. Despite my somewhat negative outlook of the show, it is still great to analyze and discuss its plots and hit-or-miss attempts at social commentary. The episode I’m reviewing now, titled “The Loss,” is one that stuck out to me because of its weak attempt at disability discourse, and its ability to make my indifferent feelings about Troi switch to complete disgust in only 42 minutes.

Troi making people cry
Troi likes to make people cry.

The episode opens with Ensign Brooks in a counseling session with Troi. Brooks recently lost her husband, and seems to be in a state of denial. Troi reminds her that it would have been her husband’s 38th birthday, and shows her a music box she’s saved that belonged to him. Brooks breaks down and cries on Troi’s shoulder.

Cut to the bridge. Worf picks up something on the sensors that quickly disappears, and Data is unable to see anything with his equipment. As this is going on, Troi says goodbye to Brooks, and suddenly clutches her head in pain. She enters her room and passes out on the couch. And then…

SPACE! THE FINAL FRONTIER! You know the rest. The opening credits are the best (and least rage-inducing) part of this episode. That should tell you something about where I’m going with this review.

Picard orders Data to resume course to T’lli Beta because there is nothing showing up on the sensors. As soon as he says “Engage!”, the ship jolts and is unable to enter warp. They go to a full stop and yellow alert, but the Enterprise begins moving again – albeit very slowly. Some unknown force is pulling them along. After a failed attempt at breaking free, Data suggests immediate shutdown and Picard does his infamous “Make it so!” They continue to be pulled in the same direction and at the same speed.

Back in Troi’s room, we see her wake up and call Dr. Crusher. She says she feels dizzy, but isn’t sure what happened. After dealing with a few other crew injuries, Crusher arrives and wants to run an internuncial series on her in sick bay.  She’s still clearly in distress, so medical scans are probably a good idea.

Read more…

Tabletop Game Review #1 – Spy Alley

Spy Alley Board Game
Game components on display: game board, player boards with pegs, player cards, and game money.

I credit my dear friend Sarah with getting me into board games; she would bring over something new to play every time she visited. Over the 15 years that we’ve been friends, she’s helped me discover some classics, such as Castle Panic, Forbidden Island, Puerto Rico, and this gem – Spy Alley. So when I saw it in the store, I had to pick it up for the nostalgia…and for the spies. There’s nothing I love more than deceiving people (in a game! I’m not a shady person, don’t worry), so this one is right up my alley. My spy alley, as it were.

Overview:

Spy Alley
Players: 2 to 6
Ages: 8 and up
Publish Date: 1992
BoardGameGeek link: click here

Gameplay/Rules:

In Spy Alley, players choose a spy identification card that is kept hidden from everyone else. They are also given money which will be used to buy the items they need. On your turn, you roll the dice, and move to the appropriate space. The object of the game is to collect all of your spy items (password, disguise, code book, and key) for the country you represent without giving away who you are. Items can be purchased by landing on their space on the board; once your item is purchased, you mark it off on your scoreboard so everyone can keep track of what you own. When you collect all of your items, you must enter spy alley and land on your embassy – the first player to do this wins the game. Other players can guess who you are before this occurs, but if they’re wrong, they lose the game. If they guess correctly, you lose. There is a space on the board that allows you to take a free guess, but the person you are calling out must be in spy alley – so that can be a bit tricky. You can also win by default if everyone else has been eliminated. … Read more…