Dathon's log entries (episode "Darmok")

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by The CW, Apr 9, 2021.

  1. The CW

    The CW Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    First an overview of the episode itself:

    PROS
    - a nice twist on the TOS "Arena" concept, towards a different outcome
    - viewers got to learn Tamarian right along with the characters
    - pretty good FX throughout
    - good acting, including the Tamarian roles
    - an excellent source of great Trek memes ;)
    - another look at the idea of advanced technology coexisting alongside ritual & custom and perhaps religious belief

    CONS
    - Riker gave up on the shuttle options way too easily. He could have positioned the Enterprise between the shuttle and the Tamarian ship to shield it (like in "Yesterday's Enterprise"). And a shuttle could have made its descent ANYWHERE in the atmosphere to eventually reach Picard, it didn't have to be right where the Tamarian ship was at, within their weapons range
    - it doesn't make sense that the Enterprise would have any information on Tamarian mythology on-file if they didn't know anything about the Tamarians and couldn't understand any of their language
    - all of Data & Troi's research and revelations were completely redundant with regards to Picard's. "These are pronouns, these are place names, need to learn the story..." Picard was having the exact same conversation on the planet, so Data & Troi's scenes are ultimately filler material for the episode, and they don't move the plot along with regards to what actions are taken or not taken
    - but really, why did Picard show up to this historic encounter in his business-casual outfit? :lol:

    It was so nice of Picard to give the Tamarians the personal log of their captain. But was it a strategically sound action? What would Dathon’s personal log say? Perhaps something along these lines…

    DAY 1
    This Starfleet man just threw my favorite knife down on the ground. He dares to start with such an insult? Surely he wants war. But when Electo-Beast-That-Was-Minding-Its-Own-Business-Until-We-Came-Along comes along, the 2 of us are going to be so shaka’d if this human doesn’t fight by my side.

    On top of that, he also showed up to our first-contact wearing his business-casual uniform. Who does that? The insults are endless. His uniform also isn’t bedazzled at all the way mine is. Nor does he know how to make a fire! How did these creatures achieve space travel? I arranged some of my amulets around my campsite to ward off his dumbness. Jalad and Darmok must be spinning in their graves right about now.

    DAY 2
    I lured Electro-Beast to our campsite. Human promptly beamed out with sails unfurled. After Electro-Beast tore me to shreds, human came back and tried killing me himself by nearly boring me to death with some Earth tale. I politely laughed and said “Gilgamesh” while my guts were nearly spilling out of me. Then I closed my eyes so he’d think I’d died, in order to bring an end to his nonsensical ramblings.

    It is the recommendation of this captain that we should attack Starfleet. They will throw their weapons upon the ground. They will beam out in a vain attempt to escape. Victory will be assured. They are so shaka’d.
    ____________________

    It would probably also be enlightening if we could read a log entry from Electro-Beast:
    I recommend all-out war against the Federation-Tamarian alliance. They came at me with intent to kill. But all they fight with is knives, and victory will be ours. They don’t care at all about first-contact with our people, but next-contact will be the last for them. Commence all-out offensives immediately.


    So yeah, it was a nice gesture on Picard’s part, but was it the smartest? ;)
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
  2. Cancel Culture

    Cancel Culture Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I've wondered to myself whether the Tamarian written language is a completely distinct language from their spoken one, that provides, among other things, the database for all of the metaphorical references in their spoken language. If so, Dathon's logbook could have been essential to the Tamatians' understanding of what was meant by the (IMO brilliantly scripted) line, "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel."
     
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  3. Farscape One

    Farscape One Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This has always been one of my favorite episodes of the franchise. I think the one thing that stops this from being a universally loved one is the fact a few people will call out the unlikelyhood of the Tamarians' language structure.

    I can ignore that, because the message of the episode far outweighs any issues of the story. Two people can't communicate with each other, but they each work at it so in the end there is understanding, and the result is the beginnings of a dialogue between their peoples. THAT is STAR TREK at its core.

    Plus, you have a culture that is entirely rooted in mythology. It's a truly unique take, and I loved every minute of it.

    This episode is FAR from being a Shaka, when the walls fell. You want a total failure?

    Tucker and Kaitaama, in a swamp.
    ("PRECIOUS CARGO", ENTERPRISE)


    I think it was a good decision on Picard's part. Not only was it meaningful gesture, but the log could very well have detailed what happened through Dathan's perspective, making Picard look even better in terms of what the Federation is really about.
     
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  4. at Quark's

    at Quark's Commodore Commodore

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    I've long considered Darmok to be the episode closest to the 'essence' of TNG. Not necessarily the best TNG episode (since an episode can be good in a lot of different ways, even though I think this one is quite good), but if I had to explain what TNG is all about to someone who didn't know the series (or Star Trek in general), and I could only show them a single episode, it would be this one. About exploration and achieving a mutual understanding with new, unknown aliens. And incidentally, also about how our perceptual constructs of the world often are far more rooted in our culture than we often realise.

    Besides that, I like the idea of a language based on metaphors from mythology . A unique concept, as someone already said. Even though I couldn't imagine how they could get so advanced in science and technology, as that often requires very precise communication.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021
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  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    How is that different from the language of science today? We speak of the invisible and abstract in poetic or caveman-concrete terms of "waves" or "tunneling", and name our units in honor of past people and our substances in ways that put Tamarianese in shame for its infantile simplicity and straightforward logic. The language of mathematics, perhaps the purest and most structured of all, is incomprehensibly byzantine in its practical execution, regardless of whether you listen to a mathematician speaking in purported English, or watch her scribble on a whiteboard.

    Yet we can be precise. But so could the Tamarians: when we speak of Pascals and they of Shakas, we both need the full context, as taught to us in a decade or so of the most basic schooling.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. at Quark's

    at Quark's Commodore Commodore

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    That's why I said, I couldn't imagine it- not that it's impossible. Picard of course learns only the barest rudiments of their language, we get no clue as to how such precision would work in their language, of expressing an arbitrary number, for example. Even if they are doing that with methaphors too, there would need to be some logic system behind it to be able to express that under no account should the field saturation exceed 1481.324567 of their Cochrane-equivalent units. It would have been interesting to see that (even though it would not have served the episode).
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
  7. cgervasi

    cgervasi Commander Red Shirt

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    My answer for that is that the UT was doing part of the job, translating proper nouns and prepositions. I think their language was heavy on metaphoric references to places and events.

    Riker and Troi say they think the aliens are trying to communicate as hard as the Enterprise officers are. Maybe their experts were analyzing it and discovering they could identify many word-fragments from data they had on ancient Earth.
    Alien Data: Their language appears to be based on phonemes, which usually but not always correspond to a root. They build these roots into larger structures (words), which are separated from each other for unknown reasons. If we could look up these roots from ancient historical records.
    Alien Troi: We can recognize the sounds "revolution" as being a discrete "word" from revolūtiō, meaning "[gerund action marker] story of kids running around in circles" in an earlier Earth dialect, but then some story happened where something going around had a profound effect on how they viewed their world. Without knowing these stories, there's no way to know what revolution means.
    Alien Data: They also appear to lack the basic narrative-relation particles like [story A is a subset of story B], [story A is an exception to story B], [story A and B are the same with exception of item C], [story A and B are difference but they have C in common]. Even if we learned the stories that gave meaning to the "roots", without particles to relate them there's no way to know what they mean.
    Alien Riker: How can they say anything without narrative particles?
    Alien Data: They appear to employ system of phoneme and inflections that re-tell stories from scratch, with markers for time, quantity, declension mood, and probably some phonemes or full words that indicate relations.
    Alien Riker: It's a damned math problem. Do they rely on computers to translate these time and declension markers into normal stories and relationships?
    Alien Troi: It's possible their brains evolved to process the roots and turn them into relationships.
    Alien Riker: Then they're smarter than we are?
    Alien Troi: Not necessarily. Just different.
    Alien Riker: [Epithet based on the name of a character robbed by a prostitute in a vulgar story] They can see the beast is down there, but they don't care.
    Alien Data: We must help the captain.
    Alien Riker: I have orders to let him build a rapport in the face of peril.
    Alien Troi: [So-the-story-goes marker] Peril builds rapport.
    Alien Data: There are exceptions to that story.
    Alien Riker: Keep looking for whatever they use to connect stories. If we can even say [the particle word for things in common from a list of stories], we might be able to leave separately in friendship.
    The UT would just translate all that as a list of names and places.
     
  8. The CW

    The CW Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I agree with that sentiment, but when I actually HAVE done that (showing this episode to non-fans), the repetition of it grinds on them. As in how many times would someone realistically go around saying "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" non-stop when trying to communicate with aliens?

    Picard expressed his intentions during their conversation on the viewscreen - the desire for a "mutual non-aggression pact" with the Tamarians. But wouldn't it be odd if he just kept saying that over & over again? "Mutual non-aggression pact, mutual non-aggression pact, mutual, pact, pointless, mutual non-aggression pact, mutual non-aggression pact." :lol:

    In any case, I poke fun of it fondly, as I really do like the episode. My "pros" far outnumbered the "cons."
     
  9. Ar-Pharazon

    Ar-Pharazon Admiral Premium Member

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    Except the part when the phaser came out of the torpedo tube? :lol:

    AFAIK they fixed that in the remaster?
     
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  10. The CW

    The CW Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yeah! And as always, if the exterior of the ship was shaking during battle, all the stars had to be shaking too! ;)
     
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  11. Roundabout

    Roundabout Commander Red Shirt

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    This episode was simultaneously fascinating and annoying.

    First of all, I thought that it was great that the Picard/Dathon scenes were filmed in the actual outdoors. It was a breathe of fresh air to see scenes filmed outside of the sound stage.

    Good point. In that regard, "Darmok" is like DS9 "Captive Pursuit", ENT "Dawn", Short Trek "Runaway"; stories about two alien strangers, who were brought together by chance or whatnot, and are compelled to find common ground and to bridge the communication gap between them. Those are all good episodes. Borrowing a line from SNL, that's a Star Trek. You're right, Star Trek at its core.


    I suppose I might be one of those people. I enjoyed the episode, but I just couldn't overlook the fact that Dathon sounded like a broken record. After a while, you couldn't help but wished that Picard would have told Dathon to take his Shaka and shove it up his Tanagra.

    Communicating exclusively by metaphors is so problematic. There is no way that a society can become a technologically advanced space faring civilization by communicating exclusively by metaphors. As another poster mentioned, science, engineering, navigation, among other things, require precision, as well as require the language to efficiently and effectively communicate those ideas and details.

    How do the Tamarians steer their spaceships, anyway, without crashing it?

    Remember the last scene in TUC, on the Enterprise bridge, when Chekov asked, "Course heading, Captain?"

    Kirk gave the metaphoric order, "Second star to the right ... and straight on til morning."

    Remember what happened next, the Enterprise flew straight into a star. And hence the movie, as well as TOS, came to an abrupt end.

    Seriously, of course that was metaphoric. Everyone involved, as well as the audience, would know that it wasn't to be taken literally.

    But, since Dathon can only communicate in metaphor, imagine him giving that order to his Tamarian helmsman, the Tamarian helmsman would be liable to fly straight into a morning star.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2021
  12. Kor

    Kor Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I've been saying that for years. The whole screen turns into a bright flash right before the credits, because that's the ship exploding.

    I think the idea has been proposed before, that the Tamarians also have some kind of purely technical notation system that is much different from their spoken colloquial language, for recording maths and other scientific stuff. Maybe that's what they use for ship operations, and so on.

    Kor
     
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  13. trekshark

    trekshark Commander Red Shirt

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    I think I've read that suggested a few times and I think it at least partially works to explain things
     
  14. The CW

    The CW Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    One other bit of silly dialogue in Troi's investigation with Data, regarding the Tamarian language:

    COMPUTER: Searching. Darmok is the name of a seventh dynasty emperor on Kanda Four. A mytho-historical hunter on Shantil Three. A colony on Malindi Seven. A frozen dessert on Tazna Five. A...
    TROI: Stop search. Computer, how many entries are there for Darmok?
    COMPUTER: Forty seven.

    Then Data gives Troi a look, as if to say, "Oh man, we're screwed. 47 is way too many." Too many for Data to cross-reference??? Please. He could've processed 4,000 in a matter of seconds.

    Also, if they were going to accidentally switch around the weapons array, it would've been fun to see the saucer's phaser array launching torpedoes anywhere/everywhere, like a 5th of July fireworks display (when all the 4th of July fireworks have gone on clearance). :lol:
     
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  15. Ar-Pharazon

    Ar-Pharazon Admiral Premium Member

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    They fired an "anti-matter spread" out of the top saucer phaser strip in BOBW2. That looked like fireworks. :guffaw:
     
  16. cgervasi

    cgervasi Commander Red Shirt

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    Even if he couldn't, they have a thousand people on the ship. We've seen them put together a team to of people to handle problems. You'd think Troi would be leading a team of people from various departments to have some background in linguistics or anthropology.

    So many episodes of all the series act as if it's a few people on a ship. The stories often make more sense if it were a ship with ten people on it. In Day of the Dove they just said emergency bulkheads deployed separating most of the crew from a handful of people. Most episodes could benefit from something like that.
     
  17. Cancel Culture

    Cancel Culture Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Word.
     
  18. The CW

    The CW Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Excellent point. Earlier TNG seasons also did a better job of embracing the idea of mission specialists, which is how we got K'Ehleyr, Tam Elbrun, Commander Shelby, etc. Later on, maybe the writers thought they were expanding the range & depth of our main characters by making them virtuosos, but all of those mission specialists did a lot to enhance our usual characters in a far more nuanced way.
     
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  19. cgervasi

    cgervasi Commander Red Shirt

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    I like the way DS9 had recurring characters who weren't regulars. It made that show feel expansive. I feel like DS9 was a small town with several thousand people living there. The TOS Enterprise never felt like it had 430 people aboard, and the Enterprise D in TNG felt bigger than the TOS Enterprise, but still more like 100 people.
     
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  20. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Excellent points! :) Now I almost want to see this one again. Might find something new from it.

    Troi did the language thing better in "The Ensigns of Command" as well, and with Picard stuck elsewhere it should have been solely on his part, all while remembering what Troi taught him - unless he forgot, but this is before the age when storytelling had the sort of continued character development on any regular basis.

    Seems like a bigger plot contrivance if they know nothing of the Tamarians but had all that computer information readily available. If the episode had a stronger point to tell it might be easier to let the nitpick be. (I never understood "Darmok"'s popularity, but plenty of people wonder about what's on my list too. :biggrin:) It's in the vein of big bag of Trek tropes and yet it didn't do anything that hadn't been seen before, and done better already.

    It's been forever since I saw this one... and in a season I very rarely return to. I'll have to give this one another go. Nice take on Dathon's personal log too BTW. :)
     
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