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Tag Archive: Darmok review


picard-and-dathon

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.

Twenty-five years ago one of the finest episodes of television aired on your local channel carrying syndicated programming.  Arguably the best episode in the history of the Star Trek franchise, frequently found atop “best of Star Trek” lists, and among the best of all science fiction stories, it was Darmok, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode featuring guest star Paul Winfield as the noble Tamarian Captain Dathon.  Darmok first aired September 30, 1991, the first standalone episode of the excellent fifth season, which featured memorable episodes including Ensign Ro, Unification, Cause and Effect, The Perfect Mate, I, Borg, The Next Phase, and another highly rated standalone episode that bookended the season, The Inner Light.  Written by Joe Menosky and Philip LaZebnik, and directed by Winrich Kolbe, Darmok broke new ground for Star Trek first and foremost by removing the universal translator from the equation and allowing one of the 20th (and 21st) century’s key challenges–communication between cultures–to be the focus of an episode.  Like the transporter beam and the holodeck, the translator was a story device–a crutch of sorts–that allowed writers to skip beyond basic problems and move along to more complex conflicts.  Darmok took Star Trek back to the basics.

The Federation and the Tamarians–also called the “Children of Tama”–historically failed to break the language barrier, and therefore never could open up diplomatic relations, until 2368.  The Tamarians were an intelligent and strong alien race–their ship easily overpowered the Enterprise-D.  Piglike in appearance thanks to the make-up work of Michael Westmore, they wore warrior clothing (designed by Robert Blackman) that was reptilian in design, with a vest of multi-colored grommets, and a bandolier of leather, copper, and brass that supported a sheath with a dagger that was both practical and ceremonial.  The vest featured totems, crystals wrapped in shaved metal, used for personal spiritual ceremonies.  The captain kept a log book at his belt, chronicling his journey in the strange written language of the Tamarian people.

campfire

Shaka.  When the walls fell.

The Tamarians reached out to the Federation first, resulting in Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) confronting Dathon via bridge-to-bridge visual communication in orbit of the planet El-Adrel IV.  Frustrated by the continued dissonance, Dathon beamed himself, and Picard, to the surface of the planet.  Dathon’s goal: To use the metaphor of “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”–a Tamarian story where two warriors joined together by facing a common foe–to bring himself and Picard–and thereby both cultures–together, one way or another.  What took Picard and the viewing audience the course of the episode to learn, that one could begin to understand the Tamarians once you realized they communicated in metaphors, came too late for Dathon.  The enemy of the metaphor–the planet’s beast in the reality they faced on the surface of El-Adrel IV–attacked both him and Picard, but not before Picard understood.

Sokath. His eyes uncovered! 

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George Takei Sulu in The Naked Time

If holographic television were available today, would you go right out and buy it?

We’re more than four years into the widespread availability of affordable consumer 3D television and the viewing public hasn’t embraced it yet.  My best guess is simply because they haven’t seen it yet, or they are basing their lack of interest on a poor viewing experience with 3D in a public theater.  At borg.com, we’ve got no skin in the game–we don’t work for or with the studios–we’re just after the best viewing experience possible.  And we’re completely sold on both 3D Blu-ray and the lesser discussed 2D/3D “upconversion” technology.

Distributors have been relatively slow at releasing 3D Blu-rays, the current standard for 3D home viewing.  Many films actually produced in 3D, like Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit series, are very quickly released now in a 3D Blu-ray.  Other films are converted to 3D in post-production, like Star Trek Into Darkness, and they are also released on 3D Blu-ray.  Both films look far superior to standard films–you can’t even compare the quality.  The distinctions between a true 3D film and a conversion are probably not all that noticeable to the average moviegoer with normal vision.  But what we’re focusing on today is something different.

Dathon and Picard in Darmok

A different category of conversion, called 2D/3D conversion, is available on certain affordable 3D televisions today.  This is a technology available to anyone with a 3D television that includes the upconvert technology and compatible 3D glasses.  For films, TV series, or even real-time live or pre-recorded television, this technology manipulates the images to create a real 3D experience for the viewer.  Sounds like a gimmick?  It’s not.  To test it, we tried 2D/3D upconverting on an episode of each of Star Trek, the original series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  The result?  We were blown away.  We think if you try it, you too will ask:  Why don’t we watch everything now in 3D, and why isn’t everyone talking about it?

If you’re waiting around for holographic TV, that’s pretty much what you’re getting here, too.  You can even get up and walk around without the 3D image going away.  The only thing you can’t do is walk completely around a floating object, which is what a true holographic TV experience should be.  But this is the next best thing.  We watched two acclaimed, classic Star Trek episodes, the original series episode “The Naked Time” and the NextGen series episode “Darmok” using a 3D television, a Blu-ray/DVD player and, for “The Naked Time” a remastered DVD version, and for “Darmok,” a remastered Blu-ray version.  We then applied the 3D television’s upconvert and easily adjusted the various 3D settings, such as “Standard” or “Cinema” or “Extreme,” tint, and brightness/backlighting, to create the best picture possible for the room lighting.

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