Favorite Star Trek Episodes… To Hate

There are lots of people who write about their favorite Star Trek episodes, but I thought I’d try something different. I’m going to list my favorite Star Trek episodes to hate. To loathe. To rip apart, piece by putrid piece, on the Internet or at the pub.

You see, this evening I watched the notoriously bad Deep Space Nine episode “Profit and Lace”. It features Quark in drag. Yeah. Here’s the trailer:

I have all of Deep Space Nine available on demand from the cable company, and even though I profess to be a total Trekkie, I am woefully incomplete in watching the entire canon. I haven’t watched most of Voyager, only watched about a third of Deep Space Nine, and missed the back half of Enterprise. I’m told that Deep Space Nine is the best of all these, so I dove right into Season 6 and intend to watch to the end, before maybe starting again from the beginning.

So my wife and I have worked through most of Season 6 (pleasantly surprised), and came upon “Profit and Lace”. Afterwards, I turned to my wife and said “Weird, but that was pretty entertaining.” She said, “What the hell are you on? That was a nightmare. Maybe the worst episode ever.” I thought it was a funny take on women’s rights (Ferengi woman were finally given the right to wear clothes!) and it was progressive given how backwards Ferengi were about gender. My wife thought the whole episode was sexist and creepy and just… just horrible.

I agreed it was bad, but at least it was entertainingly bad. If I were to pick a worst episode at this point, it would have been a bit earlier in the same season. The episode was “His Way” and featured Odo learning to woo Kira from a holographic lounge singer, Vic. That episode was INTERMINABLE for me. We had to watch the improbably sentient and inexplicably powerful Vic sing an entire song while Odo pretended (yes PRETENDED) to play the piano.

However, the online vitriol against “Profit and Lace” is far more intense. It brings to mind the concept of fans targeting an episode that is so tonally different from the rest of a series that it becomes legendary in its badness.

For Star Trek: The Next Generation, that episode is probably “Samaritan Snare”, where a bunch of… simpletons, let’s say… abduct Geordi and force him to fix their ship. “We look for things. Things we need. Things that make us go.” Cringe. Nonetheless my brother and I still quote lines from it to each other, to this day.

My wife says the corresponding episode from Star Trek (The Original Series) is “Spock’s Brain”. I haven’t seen that in a long time, so I’ll have to re-watch that to see if I agree.

What’s your favorite Star Trek episode to hate?


Freemium: Free to Play, or Pay to Win?

I’m (mildly) addicted to a few Freemium games. You know, like Candy Crush Saga, which I was into for a while. So was my Mom. And my elderly uncle who lives overseas.

But the current Freemium (Free Premium?) games that I spend a lot of time (but not a lot of money) on are Game of War: Fire Age, Clash of Clans, and a relatively unknown garage-built game called Galactic Empires (essentially an oGame space combat clone).

About the money part, I like finding games that are balanced enough such that paying for the upgrades or speedups is mildly appealing to me, but where I can still pride myself on spending nothing, or as close to nothing, as possible. It’s part of the challenge, really. It usually means I’m not ranked the highest on the leader boards, but I often find myself leading or being on the council of a influential alliance or clan, and getting lots of satisfying play and online interaction for free.

See, they call these Free to Play (F2P) games, but a lot of gamers derisively refer to some of them as Pay to Win (P2W) games. The latter are more specifically games that are balanced to benefit players who spend lots of money (“whales”). In other words, the only way to “win” is to buy the upgrades.

There’s a┬áSouth Park lampooning the Freemium game concept. They have it pretty bang on, especially the mechanism of getting addicted to the game for free, starting to care about it, then agressively encouraging the purchase of upgrades and speedups. It’s funny, but I don’t share their wanton cynicism…

Over the course of years, I’ve spent, in total, $19.99 on Game of War, nothing on Clash of Clans, and exactly $1 on Galactic Empires (to remove the ads).

But these games can make a hell of a lot of money. Like serious, serious coin; some of the companies (King, Supercell) have valuations in the billions of dollars. Yes. Billions. Game Makers Valuations

As with gambling, there are people playing these games that have either too much money to spend or a serious gaming addiction. But also like gambling, if you have self control and aren’t susceptible to getting addicted, then you can have lots of fun sitting at the penny slots in Vegas, getting free drinks with pleasant frequency if you tip the waitress a dollar every time she comes back.

South Park does have a point, though. In fact, the controversy over Freemium games, and the true stories of young children spending thousands of dollars of their unwitting parents’ money, has prompted Apple to change their download buttons in the App Store to say “Get” instead of the potentially misleading “Free”. Free Vs. Get in App Store Apps

I think that’s a good change. But I also think Freemium games have been unfairly vilified. Non-gamers are afraid of the addictiveness and appalled at the idea of spending money on frivolous games. Hardcore gamers are snobbish about the whole casualness of it all, and prefer being encamped on their dedicated gaming consoles or super-charged PCs. They don’t want to be hounded to gift free lives to their Aunties and Grannies on Candy Crush Saga, or Pet Rescue, or Farm whatever.

What’s undeniable is that Freemium games are a force to be reckoned with, and have turned the gaming industry on its head. Some of these games have earned their success through balance, innovation and market savvy. They are just plain fun.

Why don’t you see for your self? Try it, it’s free. What could possibly go wrong?