Spoilers TNG: Pliable Truths by Dayton Ward - Review thread

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I remember Ronny Cox in a fish-out-of-water series called Apple's Way (created by Earl Hamner, who had also created The Waltons). And I liked him in that. But not as Jellico.

I'm going to dig into my TNG DVD season sets, and my off-air VHS archive of DS9, for every canonical appearance of Nechayev, to see if I'm mischaracterizing her.

Meanwhile, I'm coming up on the end. I'll note that
. . . I was appalled the most by the germ warfare. It's appalling enough when it's developed as a last-resort defense against an existential threat, but when it's developed to use against a threat to racial supremacy? :mad::scream::mad::scream: That is the face of pure evil.

A few chapters back, there was a line about loss of supremacy seeming like oppression to those who are accustomed to supremacy (does anybody know off-hand where that line falls?). That sounds like a perfect description of much of what's currently happening in U.S. politics. And it fits in perfectly with an assertion I first made a few years ago, that the strongest motivating factor known to human nature is not hunger, nor thirst, nor self-preservation in general, nor sex drive, but rather backlash: the emotional response to the imminent, ongoing, or fait accompli loss of some perceived boon.
 
I remember Ronny Cox in a fish-out-of-water series called Apple's Way (created by Earl Hamner, who had also created The Waltons). And I liked him in that. But not as Jellico.

I'm going to dig into my TNG DVD season sets, and my off-air VHS archive of DS9, for every canonical appearance of Nechayev, to see if I'm mischaracterizing her.

Whether you're mischaracterizing her and whether it's in good taste to use a gendered insult as a substitute for character criticism are two entirely different subjects.

For both characters, though, I would think that, while Starfleet certainly has its share of problematical admirals, Star Trek is not a franchise that really lends itself to one-dimensional antagonists without nuance or redeeming qualities. Even the worst characters tend to be given depth and empathetic qualities -- even to an extent that can backfire, as with Gul Dukat -- and one would think that Starfleet should be an enlightened enough service not to reward bad behavior with promotions, so that taking the "evil admiral" trope to the point of caricature is simply implausible. Even if authority figures are cast in the narrative role of obstacles or foils for the protagonist, it's more reasonable to assume that the conflict is over a specific issue rather than the result of the authority figure simply being a terrible person. Which was the point of "Journey's End" and Picard mending fences with Nechayev, a self-correction on the part of TNG's writers when they realized they'd made the character too one-note.
 
I wonder, is it easier for us as humans to perceive that nuance that you’re talking about when watching actors as opposed to when we’re reading about those same characters. @Christopher is certainly more experienced in bringing those nuances to life, and certainly may disagree, but at the same time, does our evolution and social training make us more willing to accept those nuances coming from people as opposed to written characters.
 
Like, is Natalija Nogulich’s portrayal of Nechayev… let’s call it “overly antagonistic”? I say no. Is it easier for writers to portray her as that? I say, probably?
 
I wonder, is it easier for us as humans to perceive that nuance that you’re talking about when watching actors as opposed to when we’re reading about those same characters. @Christopher is certainly more experienced in bringing those nuances to life, and certainly may disagree, but at the same time, does our evolution and social training make us more willing to accept those nuances coming from people as opposed to written characters.

I think it can go either way. If a character is written one-dimensionally, an actor can play against the text and add depth that wasn't in the script -- which is similar to how I perceive Cox's performance as Jellico. But it's just as possible for an actor to give a one-note performance that fails to capture the scripted nuances of a character.

In prose, it's certainly possible to give characters nuance through their actions, attitudes, and word choices, or by showing them in different situations where they act differently (e.g. with their family vs. on the job). I don't think there's any evolutionary factor that works against it; studies have shown that brain activity in response to something imagined looks the same as the activity in response to the real thing. Our imagination evolved as a way of modeling and predicting reality, so it can affect us as strongly as reality. The written word gives the reader cues for what to imagine, and the reader's mind fills in what isn't on the page, thereby making it real to them.
 
Like, is Natalija Nogulich’s portrayal of Nechayev… let’s call it “overly antagonistic”? I say no. Is it easier for writers to portray her as that? I say, probably?

Well, much as it is with Jellico, our first introduction to Nechayev immediately paints her as someone we're not supposed to like. She's businesslike to an arguable fault and the first thing she does is relieve Captain Picard of command. The whole thing is so to-the-point that it seems almost impossible to believe that anyone would realistically behave that way.

She's at least a bit more nuanced in "Descent" (fixed) even if her position is directly at odds with Picard's.

I think she's painted pretty well in "Journey's End", if memory serves.

In "The Search, Pt. II" faux Nechayev is painted rather terribly, and while she's not real to begin with, given that it's presumably Our Heroes' thoughts that are being used to create her, it does seem to beg the question of what they think of the real person.

Memory Alpha has some interesting stuff on her, and especially on Natalia Nogulich's thoughts on portraying her.
 
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She's at least a bit more nuanced in "I, Borg" even if her position is directly at odds with Picard's.
I think you meant "Descent." Which I missed, going through all her canonical appearances.

Given how naturally the phrase, "itchy, witchy, bitchy Nechayev" rolls of the tongue, and that at least initially, she was written as a one-note character whose defining characteristic is disagreeability, I am not convinced that it is pure coincidence. Going through her canonical appearances, I see that she has been developed beyond that, something that I'd completely forgotten.

And as to Jellico being a martinet, my re-watch of "Chain of Command" leaves me more convinced than ever. And in terms of gendered insults, I wouldn't hesitate to also call him a prick. He goes from being fairly likeable in the beginning of part 1, to somebody inclined to play mind-games (up to and including "good-cop-bad-cop") with the Cardassian representative, to somebody who relieved Riker of duty for doing his explicitly defined duty, to eventually becoming more conciliatory when it's clear he needs Riker's help. But he's still a martinet (and I say this in the sense of John Hancock's line in Edwards & Stone's 1776, "The King will remain a tyrant"). Although at least the scene with his kid's drawing of an elephant does at least give him a "Hitler's whistle."

At any rate, in "Chain of Command," Madred (he reminds me of all three of David Warner's characters in Tron) got a couple of "Hitler's whistles" in the form of his daughter, and his story of a squalid childhood, which (like most "Hitler's whistles") made him both more credible and more menacing.
Doesn't the epilogue of Pliable Truths have Madred buying the proverbial farm, in the Cardassian ship explosion, in direct contradiction of his post-Dominion-War appearances in A Stitch in Time and Ship of the Line?

The closest canonical thing I've seen to Nechayev getting even one "Hitler's whistle" was her admission that she was evidently watching her weight (the line about Bularian canapes being fattening).

At any rate, I think I'll give the present opus an "Above Average." And I note that it could have used a bit more extensive copy-editing than it got.
 
Given how naturally the phrase, "itchy, witchy, bitchy Nechayev" rolls of the tongue, and that at least initially, she was written as a one-note character whose defining characteristic is disagreeability, I am not convinced that it is pure coincidence.

God, you just can't let go of this sophomoric need to hurl a sexist insult at her. If it's "natural" for you, that says more about you than about her, quite frankly. I can't imagine anyone hearing "Nechayev" and thinking it sounds like "witch" or "bitch" unless they actively want to use those words. Don't assume the rest of us share that juvenile urge. It's all you, and I'm sick of you quadrupling down on it. Grow. Up.
 
I though it was nice to have a businesslike admiral like Nechayev on the show...someone who is obviously better than the much maligned “desk jockeys” that often get mentioned in Treklit.
Similarly for Jellico who might best be described as a “useful bastard”.
Having these hard-nosed officers operating on the frontier with the Cardassian union is one of Starfleets better decisions.
 
she can go in to seclusion between this novel and Emissary :shrug:

In the day or two between the two stories? Okay, but her being at the negotiation table on the station is a little hard to square with her explicitly having never visited the station or left Bajor.
 
She does not use a cane in Emissary.
You are right, the injury was from an earlier script but retained in the novelization.

“She was Bajoran, middle-aged, dressed in a bright sheath, and she was injured. She limped, supporting herself on a cane as she moved toward her visitor, and her face was badly bruised; Sisko saw the pain of the entire Bajoran race.”
 
But Kira doesn't set foot on the station between the time Opaka participates in the negotiation and some time after she leaves. My headcanon at this point is that nobody told Kira about it, and she simply didn't know that Opaka had been to the station. After all, a lot was happening, and an awful lot of sabotage was surfacing; she had a perfect excuse to be ignorant of nonessential information.
 
But Kira doesn't set foot on the station between the time Opaka participates in the negotiation and some time after she leaves. My headcanon at this point is that nobody told Kira about it, and she simply didn't know that Opaka had been to the station. After all, a lot was happening, and an awful lot of sabotage was surfacing; she had a perfect excuse to be ignorant of nonessential information.
Yeah but that's a really lazy thing to do as a writer, still, surely?

Given something explicitly established on screen, the choices of either to use that to build a story or ignore it and find a way to retcon it that's only plausible by making a main character uninformed about things that clearly matter to that character... it makes both the worldbuilding and the character less good. Just because it can be handwaved doesn't mean it's a good creative choice. Yeah?
 
But Kira doesn't set foot on the station between the time Opaka participates in the negotiation and some time after she leaves. My headcanon at this point is that nobody told Kira about it, and she simply didn't know that Opaka had been to the station. After all, a lot was happening, and an awful lot of sabotage was surfacing; she had a perfect excuse to be ignorant of nonessential information.

Emissary:
Kira: "Leaders of all the factions have tried to get to her but she lives in seclusion. Rarely sees anyone."

In the book Opaka is traveling with the First Minister of Bajor. Kira also mentions Bajor to be close to a state of Civil War. I don't know that this is represented in the book.

Battle Lines:
Bashir: "You say she's never been here before."
Sisko: "She's never even left Bajor before."

This is also a sticky part.

I enjoy the era of the story. I enjoy the author. I enjoyed this book, frankly. I don't know that these above can be reconciled but it's also not going to keep me up at night
 
This is also a sticky part.

Honestly, the first one is much more of a issue for me, for one simple reason...

Terok Nor was in Bajoran orbit, therefore still technically in "part of Bajor", whereas Deep Space Nine is in another part of the system so not "part of Bajor".

It's splitting hairs, but it makes sense for something that's potentially as much rumour/lore as fact anyway (Kira isn't directly privy to all Opaka's movements by definition.
 
I reall yenjoyed this story showing the bridge between Cardassia leaving and how some of the pieces were moved into place by the Emmisary story in DS9.
 
If I can lend my take on the Nechayev issue, I think her comportment in this novel makes sense given the context. Remember that Picard has just returned to duty after having been captured and tortured by the Cardassians in the course of a mission that Nechayev sent him on. I can see a bit of temporary softening in her demeanor towards him, given what he has just been through. She may be a tough and demanding superior officer, but she's still human and I can see some amount of compassion manifesting itself as a temporary reigning in of her usual gruffness.
 
I’ve not read any of the recent books that take place during DS9 or TNG’s original run. So it was interesting to jump back. Although this is probably the kind of story that the novels would have avoided when the shows were on air, often choosing stories that take place away from anything that might come up again on the shows later.

I kept thinking there would be some reason that the Enterprise visiting Terok Nor would prove a continuity issue, but other than what has been pointed out with the Kai, it isn’t.

It was an interesting look at Picard and how he was affected by his treatment at the hands of Gul Madred. Something the continuity light TNG would not come back to, I was reminded of David Mack’s Harm’s Way and how that dealt with Kirk and Spock in the aftermath of The Doomsday Machine and Amok Time.
 
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