I recently finished reading Northern Men, Southern Principles by Michael Todd Landis. I would recommend it! It’s short and interesting, telling the story of the run-up to the Civil War from the perspective of the doughfaces, the titular Northern men with Southern principles. It does a good job of describing the personalities and motivations of that particular group. Some had a direct financial interest in slavery, others just kind of dug slavery and white supremacy, most were extremely hungry for power and that was what you had to do to advance in the Southern-dominated Democratic Party of the day. But it is interesting how many of them saw themselves as the reasonable pragmatists trying to stop a breakup of the union and war. Of course, they were doing nothing of the sort. The compromises were heavily tilted in the direction of slave power, with some fig leaves to make it seem not entirely one-sided. And when eventually the white Southerners dropped the fig leaves, they kept on taking orders, up until they destroyed themselves politically and the Civil War began.

I’ll sign onto this and this in that spirit. The thing is, ultimately, that while it is valuable to try to understand others and to try to find a way to live with them, basing your analysis on wishful thinking helps nobody.

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Amy Klobuchar will not be the next Democratic presidential nominee.

I get that bipartisanship is popular, but the idea that this is either possible or desirable strikes me as ridiculous. Probably would have been better to say nothing at all, frankly.

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I’ve written this before, but the idea of just passing whatever to get healthcare over with is one of the weirdest ones from Republicans. Sure, if you pass a good bill that has been rigorously examined, then maybe it takes care of the subject for awhile. Passing some hastily assembled piece of junk that nobody except the lobbyists who wrote it has read is only going to create more problems that will have to be addressed. Admittedly Republicans might choose not to address them and just let Democrats fix them next time they’re in power–and of course obstruct and yell all the while, hoping that public amnesia and the gullible media will help them out (which they would)–but the next unified Democratic government isn’t going to fart around for eight months while wonks circle-jerk themselves over market mechanisms like the last one did, in the process giving them an in because nobody understands what is going on. My guess is the next Democratic health bill will be to expand Medicare to people 50 and over, expand Medicaid to 200% of the poverty line, and put a public option in the exchanges. Republicans will oppose that as well, of course. But it’ll be quick and popular, and ultimately Republicans would be unhappier as a result.

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It is amazing how poorly Bay Area political leaders have managed to handle massive growth in the area. An 80% rise in traffic since 2010 (about right by my own highly empirical observation) really shows the level of collective failure. To be fair, it’s not evenly distributed, and some cities have done their part. But this is ultimately a massive decline in livability for most people despite ever-increasing costs of living. (A massive expansion of BART would help, of course, but in the real world it has a hard enough time paying its people and keeping up maintenance.) And then there’s this guy, driving home the cluelessness:

“As I look at the map and as I look at the data, so much of it is tied to the strength of the regional economy,” he said. “If you want meaningful congestion relief, a recession is a great way to do that.”

I mean, I could dunk on this guy, but who cares. At the very least, civic leaders could have used the increased tax revenue to fund projects to better facilitate growth. Lord only knows what they actually did with it.

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And now, the conclusion…

The Hunted: An obvious Vietnam vets storyline, though it feels more like an X-Files story than a Star Trek one in a lot of ways. I like the Roga/Troi scenes, and there’s some good action, plus James Cromwell in a mustache, but it’s extremely straightforward and a bit obvious.
The Host: This episode plays as shrugworthy if you’ve seen Deep Space Nine. Not sure if it would be that much better without it. It’s fundamentally another Crusher episode with a love interest of the week. There’s a bit of a twist in that she hooks up with the Trill via Riker’s body but you can’t unsee DS9, so…
Loud As A Whisper: A noble failure of an episode. I quite like the idea of the deaf character losing his telepathic chorus and then learning to sign, it’s a nice perseverance story. BUT THIS FUCKER IS NOT SOMEONE WE ARE EVER GOING TO SEE AGAIN! So who cares?
Realm of Fear: Barclay’s afraid to use the transporter. And with good reason! It’s better than it probably should be.
Booby Trap: Okay, so the Geordi stuff in the episode is extremely uncomfortable. It’s really not normal to fall for a holographic recreation of a real person, and it’s not great for Geordi to have his mind there while he’s in mortal danger, and I’m not sure the episode gets that. “Virginal Geordi” is such an annoying runner for the show. That being said, the ending where Picard takes the helm is damn good and has real tension and a fantastic ending. This is one I rewatch riding that fastforward button, I do not mind saying.
Phantasms: Another Brannon Braga “weird Lynchian shit happens” episode. He could be a decent writer when he wanted to, but it’s amazing how far he went in television simply by having seen some Cronenberg and David Lynch movies before everybody else did.
Final Mission: Wesley leaves the ship for good. If Wil Wheaton had that one to take back…eh, he’s doing okay. It’s all a bit slow-moving for my taste, but it is nice that Wesley has to pass a worthwhile test and leaves on a high note.
Night Terrors: Nobody can sleep and Troi has nightmares. Everybody’s going to die. “One moon circles” gets belabored after a point but this is effective and cool.
The Outcast: Yeah, it’s a cop-out for a LGBT episode in 1991. But if you look at it as a trans episode instead, then it was WAY ahead of its time. Was that the intent? Doubt it. But who knows?
Ethics: Kind of feel that this episode sidesteps real ethical issues. And we know that Worf isn’t going to be dead or disabled. But it’s fine. Dr. Crusher only gets medical ethics or romance episodes, this is the former.
The Bonding: Say hello to Ron Moore! He’ll be around for awhile. And his first volley is good. Some bits of interpersonal conflict, a story about dealing with death that goes beyond the cliches. The Wesley confession of his anger at Picard is surprisingly strong. I like some of the Worf stuff too.
Remember Me: Remember Crusher? The writers did, for once. I mean, it’s a good mystery episode the first time, but there’s not much character stuff in it. It could just as easily have been a Geordi episode, though the danger there is that the last person to disappear besides him is a woman and then he puts the moves on her (before, inevitably, failing).
A Matter Of Honor: Another surprisingly decent one. I could give a shit about Wesley and the Benzite on the Enterprise and it’s a mistake that they had so many scenes of that shit in there. But Riker on the Klingon ship is excellent. All of those scenes are great. For once at this early point in the show, we have a solid mystery plot and a satisfying conclusion.
Gambit II: They found the special stones, turns out it’s a weapon that has a pretty glaring weakness. Nothing deep here, but it’s a really fun action/adventure outing. Pretty consistent throughout though.
Gambit I: At least they don’t waste a lot of time with Picard supposedly being dead. Honestly, he and Riker are on the pirate ship and into the main plot really quickly. Gotta find the old Vulcan stones.
Rightful Heir: Worf meets Kahless, who turns out to not be Kahless. It’s kind of like Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” but since he’s a fraud (albeit a scientifically created one), not really sure how faith fits in. Kind of recalls the frustrating faith episodes of Battlestar Galactica.
Inheritance: Data’s mom is an android. Actually it’s a replica of his “mom” I guess. There’s something deeply creepy about a man that creates a fuckbot of his dead wife, but the episode doesn’t deal with that.
Sarek: It’s nice to have Mark Lenard back, and as always he makes a potent impression as Sarek. This is an Alzheimer’s allegory, more or less, and it may well all have been to give Patrick Stewart the scene where he takes on Sarek’s violent emotions (which is astonishingly acted, of course, but also of course, no Emmy nominations would be forthcoming).
Pen Pals: Sort of preposterous on a few levels, but a good Data episode and a good Prime Directive episode. The ending is bittersweet in a great way. This is way more nuanced and character-y than would have been the case even a few months earlier.
68 The Big Goodbye: It’s not an amazing episode like some think, but basically competent, which is an improvement. Framing story is obviously just there to set up stakes and a ticking clock. Also holodeck malfunctions, the ultimate Star Trek story crutch, start here. The real pleasure is seeing Data/Crusher/Picard playing off-brand Raymond Chandler characters in the Holodeck, and that is pretty great.

Brothers: So Brent Spiner gets to play his whole range, as we not only get Data and Lore but also the generic old guy, in this case as Data’s creator Noonien Soong. I personally love the first 15 minutes and the rest is fine, but frankly I’m not really sure if the “Brothers forgive” at the ending is intended to be ironic or not. Lore is an android with antisocial personality disorder who killed Data’s father. Not really a forgiving sort of thing. It’s kind of a weak ending I think.
The Next Phase: About as much dumb fun as TNG would ever be. It really makes no sense on a variety of levels but it’s never not entertaining.
Parallels: It’s a popular episode, but I’ve never been the hugest fan. It’s cool to see the different variations in the universes but it feels like something’s missing here. The actual plot with the Argus array gets forgotten about completely.
The Emissary: Cool guest star, well structured episode, nice resolution. Unfortunately there is a season two stiffness to it that keeps it going a bit higher. There’s a real nice contrast between the human-raised Klingon Worf who really keeps to the Klingon ways and the Klingon-raised half-human K’Eyhlar who is jaded with the whole thing. Very nice writing to create that tension and to balance it. We’re seeing more and more stuff like this, just saying.
Redemption Part I: The Klingon Civil War begins! Holy shit was that Yar?! Worf leaves?! They’re trying to top “The Best Of Both Worlds” aren’t they? Why?
Lessons: Picard ponders a relationship with a subordinate. Is that even allowed? Apparently. Picard isn’t creepy but it’s all a bit uncomfortable.
Where Silence Has Lease: I kind of wish this episode had come a year later, when they actually knew how to make good television. As it stands it’s pretty good, if a bit original series-like, but with too much wannabe headtrip stuff and not enough of the all-powerful sociopath conducting sadistic experiments on the Enterprise. Perhaps we should be grateful that it’s as decent as it is.
Attached: Picard and Crusher share a telepathic link for an episode. Not surprising they don’t have sex at the end of the episode: it can only be a step down from what they’d experienced already, after all. And I’m not sure a spell in anyone’s mind would make you want to sleep with them.
Unnatural Selection: Surprisingly good. Yeah, it’s another original series ripoff, in this case “The Deadly Years” with Pulaski going all Robin Williams from Jack on us. But it’s a character-based story with some very strong moments for Pulaski and Picard. Almost as though after the past three episodes built around guest stars they realized they needed to change tack. Good thing they did.
Second Chances: Pretty nifty trick introducing transporter duplicate Riker, who has very different ideas from our Riker. Biggest surprise is that other Riker doesn’t die at the end of the episode. Also, basically every episode of Fringe is like this.
Power Play: Pretty good, though the fifth season really does stop trying so much with character. Brent Spiner sets the range-o-meter to Lore again, even though he’s not playing Lore. Colm Meaney fits into his crook with maybe a heart of gold role perfectly. And Marina is fun as a total piece of garbage here.
Timescape: Time freezes right before everybody dies, and a handful of our heroes have to fix it. It’s all elegantly done. Picard’s happy face is one for the ages.
Ensign Ro: Well, Roddenberry was nearly dead, so we can introduce a Starfleet character who gets into arguments and is just generally prickly and disagreeable. Very nice. It’s sort of a great Picard episode to boot–he manages to make his point and ultimately win while still following the rules. Smarts and toughness. Hey, this show had some good characters!
Homeward: A werid Prime Directive episode, in that I’m not sure why the Federation doesn’t do this normally when a culture is about to die out. I like Worf and his stepbrother too, that’s a good relationship. For season seven you could do far worse.
Time’s Arrow (I): Some great buildup for the second part. The end where they go through the gate is compelling.
Suspicions: For my money, the best Crusher episode. Good flashback structure, an interesting scientific/medical mystery, and a very nice resolution.
Future Imperfect: An enjoyable one here. Riker wakes up and it’s 16 years in the future. What happened? Is it all an illusion? It should not be shocking to learn that all is not what it seems and everything will be back to normal soon enough. Lots of fun touches though in the production design: different uniforms, changes to the sets. The ending is kind of a shrug but not one that infuriates. Lightweight but highly engaging.
Preemptive Strike: Odd to have this be the last proper episode of the series, but it’s a strong character piece for Ro. It does sell me on her choice to join the Maquis. Good scene with Picard at the end, too.
The Enemy: It’s definitely a Big Message, original series style episode, and it’s okay. I do like Geordi and the Romulan working together. I less like Worf letting his Romulan die out of bigotry. It’s a choice but not an interesting one. The argument that Worf would do the transfusion on the similarly bigoted Romulan because letting him live thanks to a Klingon would be the better revenge seems like a more interesting resolution than what we got. It’s good, but not the strongest choices.
Half A Life: Oh no, Lwaxana’s back, and she’s…in a tasteful and moving episode that parallels the euthanasia debate? What? I thought she was only in horrible episodes!
Reunion: K’Ehylar returns! And dies! Boo. Also, Worf kills Duras, which basically means that his plan to value stability over justice is already in tatters and he did it for nothing. The episode is great though!
The Offspring: Interesting that Data made his daughter able to pass for a human while he cannot. The ending is touching. But I kind of think the “will Starfleet seize Data’s daughter” elements rehash “The Measure Of A Man” and we don’t need to do that.
Frame of Mind: Riker loses his mind and thinks a play he was in is real. Say this for TNG, they were ripping off David Lynch before everyone else was, and that’s something.
Unification I: Sarek’s dead! Spock’s back! For five seconds at the end. A helluva buildup. But I bet the follow-up is going to be…oh wait, this is TNG.
First Contact: Pretty much how America would have responded to aliens under Obama. Under Trump, your guess is as good as mine.
Deja Q: Honestly, not a bad Q episode! Good in fact! Some nice humor, and you even kind of give a shit about Q a little bit. Way better than the next time we spend time with Q at any rate.
Peak Performance: I quite like this one. The writing here is quite good, I like all the stuff about restoring the derelict ship for a war game, though couldn’t Starfleet provide a new ship for this purpose? I really like Data’s crisis of confidence after losing the game, and the resolution to it as well. Both are well integrated into the theme of using creativity to find ways to win aside from the obvious one.
Data’s Day: Basically a flat-out comedy. It’s pretty good, too. TNG isn’t necessarily known for comedy but giving Spiner the ball and giving him lots of befuddling things to play works great. Data’s smile is great. His dancing is great. I like the, “I have good news, the wedding is off!” bit, even if I think that Data should know better than that. Charming and fun.
Who Watches The Watchers: The Prime Directive shows up again in an excellent episode. The conflict of how to retrieve assets from a pre-industrial civilization is well-handled, and the show wisely treats people in that civilization as smart, curious people who just lack knowledge, rather than as caveman types.
Relics: Heavily nostalgic, but it has a point to make too. Bringing Scotty back, giving him plausible problems (being old, out of step, unable to fit in), but also creating a context where he can be useful again is all great writing.
Conundrum: This amnesia episode is actually pretty good. I do feel like it’s a bit of a plot hole that this species can erase both memories and the computer, but is technologically so far behind the Federation. A false flag story would have been stronger. Still, some nice character stuff here, good suspense, irony.
Thine Own Self: The Data stuff as an amnesiac in a pre-industrial civilization is good. The Troi taking her command exam is better. The title pertains to neither story in any way I can discern.
Clues: A perfectly-constructed mystery that continually changes as more information is learned. A nice attention to detail and economical use of small details to construct a narrative.
Disaster: The title really was tempting fate, but this is actually pretty good. The ship gets fucked up but good and our characters have to work to get themselves out of their situations. Easily the best use of “Frere Jacque” in a thing I can remember.
Silicon Avatar: The bleakness of this episode is almost as dark as you get in this iteration of Star Trek. I find it bracing though.
Tapestry: Not as deep as it may want to be or thinks it is, but still an extremely well-constructed meditation on how choices make a person.
I Borg: Pretty clever to repivot the Borg from being unstoppable to being frail in a plausible way.
Lower Decks: It’s an interesting concept for a one-off episode that was pulled off just fine. Not much really to say about it.
The Wounded: A neocon captain is so goddamn convinced the Cardassians are illegally running weapons that he goes rogue. Picard comes to stop him. A nice episode about war, trauma, and how considered diplomacy is actually the stronger and smarter option than preventive war.
Darmok: This could have been such a debacle and yet it works perfectly. Sort of ingenious how the alien language gets decoded.
Ship In A Bottle: Cool concept that’s sort of like the prototype of Inception. Less holodeck malfunction than holodeck trippiness, which is fine. Also, the Countess is delightful!
The Survivors: Another great one. It’s a show about power: when to use it, what happens when you abuse it. In the end, the old man who had pledged to use his unimaginable power to safe his beloved and then committed genocide as revenge provides a potent capper to an actually compelling mystery. Also, they do have a crime for what he did, they just don’t have the power to punish him! TNG really has arrived.
The Quality Of Life: Essentially “Home Soil” but much, much better. Having Data be invested in the fate of the sentient exocomps fixes what was wrong with that other episode. It’s actually then about one of our characters! This is good.
Dark Page: A great Lwaxana episode. This could have been dicey but a dead daughter gives the character pathos and depth that inform all of what we’d seen before.
The Defector: Good, engaging, tragic, with a nice twist at the end. Always a nice trick when you wind up sympathizing with a total prick of a character. But in this case you can because he gave up everything for nothing, though which he thought was for the cause of peace. Also, the Klingons!
The First Duty: The mother of all Picard speeches. The conflict is really nicely handled. Best Wesley episode? Oh yes.
The Pegasus: There was no way Terry O’Quinn wasn’t going to be a villain. Not with that mustache. Anyway, this is a pretty great one, though Riker’s loyalty to his old captain and fear of career repercussions are a bit oversold. Still, nice mystery, good character work.
Hollow Pursuits: A pretty great WTF moment with the teaser the first time you watch it, with Barclay beating everyone up. Then the episode turns into an excruciatingly well-observed story about social anxiety, though with some hilarious jokes too. It’s a little Infinite Jest-y before the fact with its look at the damaging, corrosive effects of pleasure-seeking, but also hopeful too.
Cause and Effect: This time loop is as high concept as they come, but damn if it isn’t perfectly constructed, with great little details and careful reveals of information.
Family: Picard has an asshole brother, Worf has doting but adorable parents, Wesley meets his dad. No real sci-fi to any of it, it’s all pure quality character work (less so the Wesley stuff), which shows just how far the show had come from “Lonely Among Us,” and how confident they were to even put this out.
Face Of The Enemy: Admittedly, you could have put any character in this story. But it makes sense for Troi, given her empathic abilities. And it is meaningful character-wise, as Troi does have to find the charisma to lead inside of her, and it’s a key transition between her command in “Disaster” and when she takes the bridge test in “Thine Own Self.” Also, it lets her be a badass for once.
Conspiracy: This episode blew my mind as a kid. It’s so shocking and gross compared to what we’d seen so far (and would see later), and yet it made it onto television. It’s so out of left field that it’s crazy that they attempted it, but perhaps even more surprising is that it works beautifully. No wasted scenes, strong choices, all the characters have important stuff to do. Plus, the episode is actually well-plotted and structured! You’d almost think the show had figured it out, but that would be premature. One nitpick: I hate the video game ending where killing the big boss automatically kills all the minions. It’s a crutch for writers to resolve everything nicely. Still, good stuff.
The Drumhead: Surprisingly forceful and effective denunciation of paranoid, McCarthyist politics. The scene where Jean Simmons unravels is pretty great.
Starship Mine: Picard playing John McClane shouldn’t work, and yet it does work. Also, a Data humor subplot that isn’t horrible. I really love this one, actually. It’s really well-plotted and surprising.
Chain of Command I: The Enterprise gets a new jerk captain and Picard, Worf and Crusher start black ops training. Because who better than a mom and a man in his fifties with no background in this sort of thing? J/k this is a great episode.
Chain of Command II: There. Are. Four. Lights! Hey, remember when we all thought torture was horrible? Different times, bro.
Q Who: Another classic. Q is much less manic here, plus THE BORG. That not enough for you?
The Ensigns Of Command: This is a great one. The Enterprise plot is good–Picard triumphant at the end is great, uncharacteristically snotty though given the hassle he went through, quite understandable–but the Data plot on the planet is even better. He really does learn something about how to deal with intransigent humans in a wonderfully satisfying way. Real growth, earned victory at the end. About time.
The Most Toys: So we get another way off the beaten path theme for Star Trek, and another stupendous episode. Saul Rubinek’s Kivas Fajo is supremely smarmy, one of the most “love to hate” villains of this or any show. Some may blanch at Data’s (thwarted) choice to kill Fajo at the end, but as an indicator of his belief that he’s not an object and his desire to defend his freedom, it’s well within the established lines. In a certain way it’s tragic, even though he does not actually have to suffer the consequences of the choice.
The Nth Degree: For my money, one of the most purely pleasurable episodes of the series. Barclay’s superintelligence is given an alternately funny and scary treatment, with so many different moments working. It proves temporary but not at all desirable. The show puts the concept to such good use, though.
The Inner Light: Picard playing the flute at the end still gets to me. I know it still gets to you.
Tin Man: This is another obsession of mine. Strong hook–a powerful alien, a race to make first contact with the Romulans, a compromised “mission expert” who comes off as a real asshole and fairly unstable. A lot of ideas here repurposed from “Encounter At Farpoint,” but now they know how to make good television and it’s compelling. I quite like Tam Elbrun and I like his relationship with Data, and the story about two broken beings creating a bond and finding new reason for living is something I find particularly moving. It’s got all the things I want.
The Measure Of A Man: Obviously it’s fantastic. It was a question the show would eventually have to deal with, and damn if this isn’t the strongest possible way they could go about it. There are prominent guest stars but the focus stays on the central characters, it’s well-structured and downright thrilling. Probably the first time you might legitimately feel that this is a great show.
All Good Things…: Definitely the best Star Trek finale of all time. Deep Space Nine’s comes closest, but the show really manages a nice mystery that’s logically explored, with a surprisingly resonant ending that perfectly wraps up a series in a way that the subsequent movies could only ruin.
The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II: The second half doesn’t wrap everything around a character story, it’s much plottier and spreads around the character moments a bit more. It’s still incredibly good, even if it’s not quite as personally hard-hitting as Part I. The final scene, though, of Picard looking out the window just nails the emotional devastation of the whole story.
Yesterday’s Enterprise: This episode is something of an obsession to me. I’ve definitely seen it more than any other episode of the series, maybe in all of Star Trek. I mean, sure, it’s a nice time travel story that’s clever but still connects emotionally, and the nobility of it is moving. But there are just so many great details: the way Picard steps in front of Worf before the Enterprise-C comes out of the rift, which he inverts both to reveal Yar and then again at the end to reveal Worf. The obviously chilly and untrusting relationship between alternate Picard and Riker. The way the doors don’t open for Data–whether because the sensors are battle-damaged or because the resources that would have gone to that went to another project, we don’t know. Even simple things like having a dark bridge–more warlike–and a starkly lit, militarized Ten-Forward–not a place you’d stay in longer than it takes to eat a meal–are just so well judged and effective, a great example of how much you can get with just a little. And there’s something surprisingly poetic about how the suicide mission in the past precipitates another suicide mission in the present.
The Best Of Both Worlds, Part I: As good an hour of television as the show ever produced. There’s some clever Trojan Horsing going on because for a while it seems like we’re seeing a Picard episode but it’s really all about Riker, who undergoes an existential crisis when he realizes that he’s not the driven career officer he thought he was, that maybe on some level he knows he’s not ready to command. This is resolved in the worst way imaginable for him (but best for us) when he unambiguously discovers that he is ready by choosing to kill Picard/Locutus. It really is a marvel to watch Riker transform into that person in the final scene. That’s the key of it.
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I’d be shocked if either Graham or Cassidy wrote so much as a semicolon in the bill that bears their names. Honestly at this point, I don’t know why anyone who actually cares about policy would bother to get into Republican politics (and, just by my own unscientific observation, fewer and fewer do). The policy ideas flow from rich Randian donors to the think tanks and lobbyists they pay, who draft the bills and slip them to not particularly bright legislators who won’t ask any questions and cherish the attention. We’ve seen this only a few million times before, but the tell is always that the “authors” of the bills in question can’t answer even basic questions about what their bill does, and while sometimes those are probably just lies, they’re often just so uncalculated that they only make sense as basic ignorance rather than lies. Remember all the “read the bill” nonsense from when the ACA was passed? Heh.

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This is probably a job for Twitter, but even though I have a sort of a presence there (@GingrichsEgo) I don’t care for long threads of that nature and also people will see it here. So I’ll just do it as a list here because why not? Some people will be bothered by “Shades Of Grey” not being last (dude, it’s bad but not offensive, there were some episodes that were both!) or really by any number of these choices. These things are more debate starters than debate enders anyway, so without any further ado:

Sub Rosa: Aside from a few camp touches like the reanimated dead grandmother, this is unwatchable. And also, not for nothing, deeply misogynist. I don’t buy that Crusher would act this way or that other people would just let her even if Ronan were the greatest lover in history. Women are more than their sexual desires. On a writing level, the scenes seem poorly sequenced and underwritten. On a direction level, it’s leaden and phony.
Angel One: I sort of can’t believe they made this episode. This is a misogynist nightmare concept and there’s no fixing it. It’s like HBO’s upcoming Confederate but for women. I guess some would say that seeing Riker wear mimbo clothes is a draw, which maybe it is. Man, is the first season bad.
Code Of Honor: Ironically named as this is as dishonorable as Star Trek gets. Racist, misogynist, derivative and stupid. But don’t hold that against it!
Birthright II: Worf tries to create a new Klingon reich, essentially. Really, he’s sort of behaving like Kirk here, just deciding that a working society is wrong and needs to be like he wants it to be. Only Kirk wasn’t racist.
The Child: Crusher’s out, Pulaski’s in. She’s a bigot toward Data. Troi has a rape baby. Wesley’s still around because why not? Welcome to Season Two, where everything is fine and under control. Well, at least Guinan’s here now. There is that.
Shades of Grey: It’s a clip show and it does what clip shows do. The new material isn’t great. No real reason ever to watch it.
The Outrageous Okona: Outrageous indeed.
Lonely Among Us: I agree with the guys of Trekabout that this is a painful rock bottom. They referenced the cannibalism joke at the end of the episode more than probably any other moment in Star Trek, and it’s simply bizarre. The rest of it is just the usual nonsense about energy beings, and that Picard would go along with the energy being just shows how far they were from having him figured out. Painful.
The Last Outpost: Some say that the introduction of the Ferengi was the worst thing this show ever did. But if they had actually been introduced well, you wouldn’t have had Quark five years later! That aside, it’s pretty off-putting, particularly Riker’s falsely-modest, humblebraggy speech near the end. You acknowledge the faults of humanity, then sit in judgment of the Ferengi five seconds later? Fuck off.
Liaisons: A couple of aliens decide to explore various aspects of human nature. In generally the most obnoxious ways imaginable. Also, there’s a “Sub Rosa” style mystery subplot for Picard, though unsurprisingly, it’s not sexist (but just as boring). This was the first volley for season seven after the cliffhanger, incredibly.
The Naked Now: “Hey, you know what our new Star Trek show needs? A sequel to one of the best-known and loved episodes of the original series, only make sure that it’s painfully anti-funny and makes no sense, thus illustrating the gap in quality between the two shows, and also include a bunch of jarring tonal shifts because that won’t piss anyone off.” “Agreed, but only if Brent Spiner can ham it up with bad drunk acting.” “That’s so stupid. I love it!”
Masks: Masaka is waiting! About as ill-considered an episode as the show ever did. They really refused to acknowledge reality as pertained to Spiner’s range. At least it failed for being too ambitious, though, I suppose.
When The Bough Breaks: Maybe the stupidest alien race in all of history in this episode. Hey, we’re all infertile, let’s just steal someone else’s kids and hope the people we stole them from go away? Never mind that this doesn’t solve the problem of the infertility unless they plan to keep doing it, also like a dozen kids of a different genome are going to restart this civilization? Dumb, dumb, dumb. This is just terrible. After over half a season they weren’t getting any better at this.
Time Squared: Great hook, garbage everything else. This isn’t how time travel on Star Trek works any other time, and while having Picard confront a version of himself who abandoned his ship is almost character development, it ultimately isn’t. The show did the time loop thing better on “Cause And Effect” a little later.
Transfigurations: I have a hard time even remembering what happened in this episode but I remember that I hated it. But at least it cured Geordi’s woman troubles forever, right? He definitely nails the nurse from Doc Hollywood, right? (You don’t know Doc Hollywood? You know Cars though, right? It’s that story but with people.)
Up The Long Ladder: Space Irish. Seriously.
We’ll Always Have Paris: Another really bad one. Frankly I don’t even understand how the whole time conundrum works and I’m fine with that. Really wondering why the episode thinks I’m going to care about a will-they won’t-they story featuring Picard’s ex from like 30 years ago. Picard’s ex prefers surprisingly revealing everyday clothing, which means that at least someone was trying to drum up some interest in the episode.
Cost Of Living: Ugh. That mudbath. Just ugh. The dignity level of Lwaxana Troi really just veers wildly depending on who’s writing the episode apparently.
Too Short A Season: I guess it’s well known that this was supposed to be an “old Captain Kirk” story but Shatner declined to appear. It would have been an interesting sequel to “A Private Little War,” Gene Roddenberry’s brave Vietnam allegory that said, well, actually, you see, maybe we should fight it, perhaps. Without that it’s not all that interesting, though it apparently envisions the future as an ableist dystopia where old men have to ride around on dogshit Rascal scooters the size of a small planet. Maybe this one should have gone higher?
Home Soil: Didn’t we see this already with the Horta? That episode is great, this one just sucks. Also, the Enterprise’s computer puts together so much of the episode’s plot that I think that she’s really just a woman named Flo in a cubicle somewhere on the lower decks.
The Schizoid Man: Brent Spiner sets the range-o-matic to Lore, with poor results. The series’ addiction to building stories around guest stars is undeniable at this point, and problematic. It would change soon, but it’s a bummer.
Menage a Troi: This is the stinker you get after a legendary run of episodes. I really don’t need a story about a Ferengi’s sexual obsession with Lwaxana Troi. Oh, and Wesley figures it all out again.
The Royale: You know, the early TNG writing staff was apparently not that keen on asking, “Hey, what is this episode trying to communicate?” because if they’d asked it and thought about it, they’d realize the answer was nothing. It’s like they’d come up with a decent concept and then throw out a hackwork script based on it and then just shoot it. This one involves a casino, and it uncomfortably recalls the pilot of the original, extra-Mormony Battlestar Galactica. Not the most appalling episode but not good in any way.
Coming Of Age: How does Starfleet have the resources to figure out the greatest fear of every single applicant to Starfleet Academy? Why would they do this? What if someone has two (or comes from a species with a different evolutionary process that doesn’t experience fear)? What happens if a kid has a nervous breakdown confronting their greatest fear and their parents sue Starfleet? Just some of the many questions about this unbelievably dark practice that everyone just kind of accepts. Anyway, dear God, what a bad episode this is. They thought we actually wanted to see a Wesley romance! Talk about a greatest fear.
Force of Nature: Warp speed is bad now. Well, at least for a few episodes. Bet you forgot they did that, didn’t you? I appreciate the effort at a message episode about ecology, but half-baked is a generous description of this concept.
Eye Of The Beholder: Essentially Star Trek: Jacob’s Ladder. Preposterous telepathic nonsense combined with cheap melodrama. The end was in sight.
Time’s Arrow (II): This falls flat in every way it can. An alien motivation that makes no sense (it would have been way easier to build the human farms of The Matrix), Doctor Who nonsense and Mark fucking Twain being key to the plot.
In Theory: Married With Data.
Violations: Another undistinguished entry in the “Troi dates an abusive asshole” series. The twist is, it’s a different abusive asshole who tortures her than the one you think. It’s muddled at best and unacceptable given the subject matter.
Qpid: Pandering, sort of awful. People like this one for various reasons (“I am not a merry man!”) but this is like season one Q again. It’s just a better made version of “Hide and Q”, basically, with everybody being forced to play an elaborate fantasy for no real reason. This time it’s Robin Hood instead of Napoleonic soldiers. Really not trying.
The Game: There’s an interesting take in there on the addictiveness of pleasure here, but it’s so damn goofy in execution. Pretty good chase scene through the Enterprise though. And I do enjoy the memes at least.
Elementary, Dear Data: People seem to love Data as Sherlock Holmes. This episode isn’t really all that interesting to me: some cool production design, but it’s essentially a retread of “The Big Goodbye” in every meaningful way, and while there assuredly are stakes it’s again marred by structural problems. The beginning and end are fine, the middle is a mushy nothing.
Firstborn: Jesus. Old Alexander travels back in time to get young Alexander interested in Klingon stuff. It’s like a shitty “Yesteryear” from The Animated Series.
Identity Crisis: Geordi almost becomes an invisible lizard person. Somehow this isn’t a season seven episode.
Samaritan Snare: Without fail, they follow up a classic with dumb shit. Love the Picard/Wesley scenes. Lose everything else. Everything!
Imaginary Friend: Well, no false advertising with the title, at least. If you’re into that sort of thing.
The Dauphin: Wesley falls for shapeshifting squid alien girl, other stuff happens, who cares?
Manhunt: The scene where Picard, in desperate need of a buffer from horny Lwaxana, calls in Data to drone on about whatever and then acts genuinely enthralled by what he says is classic, perfectly executed comedy. It’s the only joke that lands in this “comedic” monument to misogyny and ageism. Older women have sex drives, isn’t that hilarious? You know that it is.
The Battle: A lot of people hate Crusher’s remark about how headaches and the common cold are things of the past. It’s not a great choice. You know what else isn’t a great choice? Introducing MIND CONTROL to your universe and then taking that pretty lightly. If that technology existed PEOPLE WOULD FREAK OUT ABOUT IT! Also, the special effects can’t pull off the Picard Maneuver, it looks so easy to track visually.
A Matter Of Perspective: Holodeck Rashomon. That’s literally all it is. I guess people who never saw the original or the first few dozen things to rip off its structure found something of interest. But it did lead to this, which is one of the greatest things ever made for the internet.
Man Of The People: I get this and Violations confused sometimes. In this one it’s mind-rapist ambassador, in the other it’s mind-rapist dad. Think they felt so guilty about sticking Marina with so many of these storylines that they gave her a particularly juicy one a few episodes later and would soon let her wear a real uniform.
Haven: I feel like the female guest star was rejected as the main female Edo from a few episodes prior, but got this episode as a consolation prize. “Please, continue with the petty bickering,” is kind of funny. Tryin’ too hard though. The Riker-Troi stuff is the only stuff that works for me. I hate pretty much everything else. Also, first appearance of Lwaxana Troi. It is acknowledged.
Encounter At Farpoint (2): The die was cast here for Troi to become a hated character with all the “PAIN!” stuff–although the two space creatures holding hands does get me, manipulative as it is.
Unification II: It doesn’t deliver. Data gets a funny joke off at Sela’s expense, who is so done by now. The goofiest “impending war” subplot ever. Some nice scenes with Spock and Data. Still, for all the build-up, they really just had nothing here.
A Matter Of Time: This is one of the bigger Mary Sue offenders of all time. I like Matt Frewer but this is an original series episode in the worst ways.
New Ground: Worf’s a dad. Bet that’ll be a character note they’ll always remember!
Hero Worship: A kid wants to be an android like Data. Twist is, turns out he’s got no issues whatsoever!
Rascals: It’s stupid but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It feels like an episode that is not just about kids but explicitly aiming for them–only in a kid’s version of TNG would the Ferengi actually take over the Enterprise. But it’s fun to watch some kids Ocean’s Eleven it back.
The Masterpiece Society: Another original series-y entry from the fifth season. Only difference is that Kirk would have destroyed this society by the end.
A Fistful Of Datas: So Eli Hollander is basically just Lore. Other than that, this is essentially “The Royale” but in the Old West with a lot more Brent Spiner characters involved. Whether that is an enticing prospect or not is entirely up to you.
Contagion: There are some cool concepts here: the Iconian gates get revisited in Deep Space Nine but I kind of feel like they’re a cool thing that’s underexplored in the universe. (Though they also kind of suck in that you can go to six places and apparently can’t come back.) The episode, though, is another of the pointless high-concept mysteries that the show apparently thought it was good at making at this time. It wasn’t.
Descent II: Like wow. Data almost lobotomizes Geordi and would have killed them all, but he was under Lore’s influence so no problem, I guess. All’s well that ends well. Also, the emotion chip.
Descent: Why do they evacuate the entire ship to find Data? Why do we need Lore back again? Who thought that ending was a good idea? Also known as the one with Stephen Hawking.
Encounter At Farpoint (1): Well, we all have to start somewhere, and that somewhere means seeing saucer separation and reconnection in real time for several minutes. Feels too much like the Roddenberry-produced The Motion Picture than it should, though that’s no accident.
The Loss: Troi loses her empathic powers and this essentially gives her stereotypical PMS symptoms. A creative choice!
Aquiel: You know, for all the criticism of Troi and Crusher stories being only about their sex lives, most of Geordi’s are as well. It wasn’t only a problem with the woman characters! In this one, Geordi falls for a dead girl who isn’t dead. This leads him to behave stupidly. Also there’s a murder mystery and the dog did it. Seriously! Sort of…
Bloodlines: Hey, who was missing Daimon Bok from “The Battle” out there? Nobody? Also, who wants a tepid story about how Picard maybe has a son and he’s a dick? Also nobody? Um…
Genesis: This is a blast. It’s not at all good, but it’s campy as fuck and goes with it. The scares/laughs are well paced. My only complaint is that Geordi doesn’t get to become a manimal. Was LeVar busy that week?
Skin Of Evil: Lot of ideas here that this show (and other shows) would pull off better later. The basic plot of this isn’t bad, but they badly botched Yar’s death and the structure of the episode is wanting. Escalating tension? Nah, who needs that! We’ll climax in minute twelve of the episode and then just wait it out until the end!
Redemption Part II: Wow, the Yar/Sela gimmick gets old real quick. And honestly, I don’t really care about the Klingon Civil War or even Worf’s return to glory. Captain Data, though, is one of the best things the show ever did. That should have been the spine of this.
Journey’s End: Probably the best proof that The Traveler isn’t a pedophile, as he’s still interested in Wesley even though he’s like 20 now.
Evolution: Season Three is where the show’s tentative, halting efforts toward character-centered stories finally get institutionalized. Probably not the best idea to kick off with a Wesley episode, even if it retcons the character into having a few flaws, though it also inadvertently makes him into a god too. Much of this is well-trod ground for Star Trek, a new life form that needs to be understood. It’s okay.
Where No One Has Gone Before: Season One is so bad that something not truly terrible gets a pass from most. Well, guess what, this one sucks too, just not as much and in a little different of a way than the others. So much dated New Age-y garbage in this one, it practically begs you to laugh at the pretension. The snowflake dimension looks kind of cool though.
Legacy: Another family-themed episode, this time with Tasha Yar’s sister, who turns out to be kind of an asshole. Kind of nice Data moment at the end though. I kind of wish Tasha’s sister had revealed that Yar had only dated androids.
Justice: Having a bunch of WWII Generation guys trying to figure out how to navigate the sexy world of the MTV Era is sort of interesting. Pretty much all the Edo are toned, blonde and dumb, which apparently is all people wanted to fuck in the ’80s. Meh. At least the contemporaneous Working Girl satirized that stereotype in fun ways. Nice Picard speech at the end.
Galaxy’s Child: Man, Leah Brahms finding Geordi’s hologram of her is contrived beyond belief. Would have been better if he’d let it slip. And her reaction is kind of nuts too. Why did we need a sequel to this?
Emergence: Since every other goddamn mechanical thing is doing it, the Enterprise’s computer decides it’s sentient too. It proves this via Murder on the Orient Express. These ideas are gold, Jerry!
The Vengeance Factor: Revenge is bad. I don’t know that we need 45 minutes to make that point. It’s well-intentioned, but I’m not sure that it really gets all that interesting in terms of plot or character (this is a Riker episode FWIW). Sad that the main lady can’t get pleasure from fucking. Also, she’s like 100 years old. Also, she dies! It’s sad. Revenge is bad. Onto the next one.
Hide And Q: I really question the initial conception to make Q manic. Were we intended to see him as a child somehow? Someone on the show seemed to think that manic meant menacing, and while it can (Alfred Molina in Boogie Nights), not so much with the Ferengi or Q. Some interesting moments in this one, had some potential, but in the end it isn’t very interesting.
The High Ground: Fake IRA takes Crusher hostage and she Patti Hearsts a bit. I’m beginning to think that TNG is better off when it’s not trying to make grand statements.
Devil’s Due: This was a never-produced script for a prior Trek series and man does it feel it. The concept facing off against “the devil” maps better to Kirk, and Kirk doing all the stuff in the cross-examination makes more sense than Picard doing it. There’s no real depth to any of it either. Would have made a great episode of The Animated Series.
Suddenly Human: Not a huge fan of this one, honestly. If I wanted to watch custody dramas there are other programs out there to watch. It’s fine enough for what it is but sort of sitcommy, what with Picard being mad at the kid for his loud music and all that.
Schisms: Another Brannon Braga creepsy things going on episode. This one’s got a UFO abduction theme. I just don’t get much out of these after the first watch.
The Icarus Factor: On the one hand, having Riker interact with his father is an early attempt at a character story, and we get an attempt at some Worf development too. Shame the Riker stuff is dull and uninteresting, even when they fight. Also there’s some sci-fi thing in there too I guess? Also, I prefer this interpretation of Worf’s anniversary.
The Chase: Amazing build-up, fairly ho-hum ending for an episode that essentially turns the entire mythology of the show upside-down and is never referred to again (outside of novels).
The Arsenal Of Freedom: This is sort of like a bad Philip K. Dick story where he wants to nail a social message so badly that he kind of botches it, and you have to wonder what it’s even about. The Geordi-in-command story would have been better with better actors around him. Some halfway competent mystery and action. The plotting and pacing here are problems, it must be said.
Interface: Geordi becomes a human drone. Thinks he sees his mother on a wrecked ship. It’s not her though. Aliens become involved. The inspiration was becoming a bit frayed at this point.
The Perfect Mate: I think I’ve only ever watched this episode one time and I don’t plan to change it. Kinda think this was supposed to be a critique of the male gaze that forgot the critique a little bit.
Symbiosis: TNG’s drug allegory is, um, okay? Nice ending Picard speech, decent concept, but the show really has a problem translating concepts into watchable episodes of television. So many long, boring scenes in a circular episode that just doesn’t catch fire no matter how hard they try.
The Price: It’s fine–I do think it’s a bold choice for a 1980s show to let a woman have a casual sex life without judging her for it–but this is just sort of dull to me. I don’t think business negotiations are what TNG does best.
The Neutral Zone: We have two subplots but no theme, some tension but it’s jumpy. The Romulan stuff amounts to little, I hate all three of the 20th century yokels, and pretty much the only pleasure I got out of the episode was thinking that the woman’s son from Secaucus probably went straight from freezing mom to a taping of The Morton Downey Jr. Show. What else was there to do in Secaucus in 1988?
Allegiance: Picard gets abducted and is trapped with a couple of rando aliens, and a fake Picard almost destroys the ship. It’s a decent episode for Picard as we see him as a commanding leader outside of his element.
11001001: Honestly, not all that bad of an episode. I like Minuet and I like the scenes with her, Riker and Picard in the holodeck. The main plot could have been good but it isn’t quite handled right, the buildup isn’t there. But it’s certainly watchable, and in season one, that’s a W.
Sins Of The Father: It’s a major episode for Worf, well-structured, and has a good mystery plot. But it’s hard for me to accept that Worf ultimately makes the right choice here. It makes sense that his character would make it, but frankly none of the elite Klingons are worth it, and he merely delays the inevitable bloodshed and civil war.
Captain’s Holiday: Did we need an episode where Picard plays a pricklier Indiana Jones? I guess we did. It’s an amusing, very light change of pace, a minor episode that just tries to be good at being that, and succeeds. Not everything has to be an all-timer!
Datalore: It’s important to note that it is difficult to play multiple roles in a show or movie that appear in the same scene, and Brent Spiner pulls that off here. (Also, we find the precise limits of his range, from Data to Lore, though also “generic old man” is one he can do as well.) Lore is kind of a shitty character, though, essentially a silent movie mustache twirler with no motivation. He gets a bit better later, then worse.
Heart Of Glory: Too much filler–seeing through Geordi’s visor is just a visual distraction that recalls the useless imagery of Gene Roddenberry-produced Star Trek: The Motion Picture–but this is the moment where Worf became a real character. He goes from being a visual joke to a credible person before our eyes. It’s pretty amazing. Also, bad Klingons want to steal the ship. Like two of them. The gun they put together in jail is awesome, but it’s a real lapse in security that it wasn’t caught. Whose job is that anyway?
The Mind’s Eye: TNG does The Manchurian Candidate, seeds Sela for the finale. Some momentum on the Worf subplot. Fine for episode #24 of the season.
Birthright I: Worf’s dad isn’t dead? At least they didn’t have him actually be alive, only to die before the end of the episode. A wasted opportunity for a real crossover with Deep Space Nine, another role for James Cromwell in Star Trek (I believe this was the second of four), Dr. Bashir and Data’s dreams. That’s pretty much it.
True Q: A mid-level Q episode. The scene where Amanda Rogers brainwashes Riker into loving her makes a good point about the Q’s power versus self-determination. The resolution makes sense. Could do without the second-rate Picard speech but we take what we can get.
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I have to admit that Roy Moore has lost any real menace to me during this election. I mean, he’ll be terrible in the Senate, but in many ways he’s precisely the adversary we could use right now. Moore (who to be fair was a very divisive figure within Christian right circles back when I still was still somewhat plugged into those circles) comes back at a time when the Christianists are desperately in need of a visible leader, any leader. (Trump is more a (literally) Faustian bargain than a leader of their group.) Moore is inevitably going to be slotted into that position and the good news is that he’s as big a fool as has ever made it to the upper echelons of American politics. Regardless of their ideas and values, in the past there have been plenty of smart, calculating figures atop the religious right. Think about Billy Graham, for example. Moore, though, is a total dolt. Like Trump, he knows nothing about policy of any sort. But while Trump at least offered his (illusory) dealmaking and leadership skills, Moore offers literally nothing except God. Crime? We need to believe in God. Natural disasters? God again. On issue after issue, literally nothing doesn’t boil down to this with him. This is, it should be said, more related to cult psychology than to any plausible form of Christianity. It also makes him an obvious target of mockery and jokes, and given that he’s likely to become a high-profile media figure after winning the election, his entire larger group is going to be associated with this oversimplified, ultrastupid take too. Secularists have been pining for a foil this toxic and stupid for some time now and they’re just about to get him.

Again, to be fair to Christian conservative types, many of them specifically resist this sort of thinking for reasons that are all too obvious. Disasters happened even back when upwards of 95% of the country believed in God, after all. They still happen regularly in nearly-unanimous Christian countries too. Also, it is hard to believe in a loving God who just murders huge numbers of people who simply don’t believe in him (as well as, just numerically, quite a lot who do).* It also makes the Christian faith out to be little more than an exercise in elaborate self-interest than anything else if you’re only believing to avoid disasters and crime, which Christianity has never, ever promised it can do. God’s role in Moore’s scheme would seem to be as the ultimate blackmailer. Really, Moore’s thinking here is a mishmash of prosperity gospel, fire and brimstone, and various other Christian traditions that don’t really join well because he’s a fool. It makes you yearn for the relative intellectual and philosophical sophistication of Jerry Falwell.

*Also, I do get that “belief” doesn’t mean simple belief to people like Moore. So do we all. But I’ll acknowledge it here.

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