The Nature of Competition (S02:21)

I’m examining the impact Star Trek: The Next Generation had on my formation. The introduction to this series can be seen here.

Peak Performance
With the Borg threat looming, Starfleet decides to test its tactical readiness with wargames. Picard and Riker are pitted against each other in simulated battle.

The overall theme of the episode is competition, and how various individuals approach it. Considering how much competitiveness was both valued and taken as a given in my family of origin (and in the larger culture), it was wonderfully refreshing to hear people talking about it, exploring it and observing how various personalities interact with it. I again got ideas from this episode about how the world worked around me that I wouldn’t find elsewhere for years.

Both Picard and Riker are initially uninterested in wargames, feeling that military strategizing is not a major purpose of Starfleet. That prioritizing of exploration and diplomacy over warfare or conquest was one of the main reasons I enjoyed this show more than the original. But, eventually both Picard and Riker get emotionally invested in the competition, in one form or another. Riker is especially in his element as his aggressive, competitive streak comes to the forefront. Picard’s primary emotional interaction in the competition seems to be pride in his first officer’s performance (again, he is highly motivated by nurturance and relationality). Worf is also initially uninterested, but for a different reason: because it’s simply a game. If there is nothing to lose, there’s nothing to gain, and he expects it to be a waste of time. Riker gets him interested by connecting his sense of honor to his performance in the game.


Dr. Pulaski manages to manipulate Data into competing with a skilled guest on board, and Data is shaken when he loses — to the point of relieving himself of duties. He believes that losing the game shows him as vulnerable, and shows his deductions as lacking, so he must be damaged somehow. Picard must explain to him that it’s possible to make no mistakes and still lose, and that making mistakes and being fallible doesn’t cancel out his duty to his colleagues. Data is also counseled that he can handle defeat in one of two ways: lose confidence in himself, or learn from his mistakes. This was another moment where Picard was effectively parenting me, offering things I needed to hear and didn’t from any any other source.

Pulaski at one point verbalizes some of the appeal of the urge to compete. She says humans have “an inborn craving to gauge [our] capabilities through conflict” and “humans sometimes find it helpful to have an outsider set the standard by which they’re judged.” While I’ve never had a strongly developed urge to compete, these articulations of competition helped me apply the idea to my own life, and find ways to enjoy competition — at the very least, with myself.

Published in: on June 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Half a Look at a Powerful Woman (S02:20)

I’m examining the impact Star Trek: The Next Generation had on my formation. The introduction to this series can be seen here.

The Emissary
When a Klingon crew that’s been in suspended animation threatens to awaken and restart a war, an old friend of Worf’s arrives to handle the situation.

This episode introduces a well-loved though little seen character: K’Ehleyr, the mother of Worf’s son. I thought her awesome then, and I still do now.


K’Ehleyr arrives via space travel in a Class 8 probe — a tube about 2 meters long. She is charming and confident, fierce and capable, quickly and easily holding her own with other crew members. We learn she is half human and half Klingon, and felt she grew up trapped between cultures. She gets awesome costumes to wear. When she pretends to a high rank on board the ship (in a bit of deception designed to solve their dilemma), her demeanor fits perfectly in a command chair. I loved her as a child, and while she may strike me as a bit melodramatic now, I still fall hard for the character.

It’s clear she and Worf share a past, though it’s never clearly explained. What we *are* privy to is their next step: arguing that leads to a passionate time on the holodeck. The scene is hot, with physical affection that is coded as foreign/different and is compelling: smelling each other’s wrists, forearms, and palms, along with holding each other’s hands closed and other hints at rough/painful sex. While I had shut down a great deal of my own sex drive out of fear when I was a teenager, this was most certainly an image that my brain kept in a “special drawer”: a powerful and independent woman enjoying rough sex.

The writers here actually manage to allow K’Ehleyr to be sexual without being sexualized; as one example, Riker doesn’t hit on her, and instead treats her as a colleague. Even Worf’s attempts to equate the sex act with marriage are rebuffed by her, as she determines for herself what it meant to her. She rejects Klingon ideals of honor and insists that it was just fun. In a brief period of time, K’Ehleyr manages an impressive level of depth as a character. We’ll see her once more in a later episode.

Published in: on June 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nice Guy Geordi (S03:06 and S04:16)

I’m examining the impact Star Trek: The Next Generation had on my formation. The introduction to this series can be seen here.

TRIGGER WARNING: a lot of misogyny

Okay, 90% of the reason my Star Trek writing came to an abrupt stop a few months ago was that I came face to face with this story arc, and got creeped out. We’re gonna have to talk about what this means for a regular character… and that’s gonna make me sad. And angry.

Geordi… is a nice guy. In the worst, most obnoxious definition of that term. And the show reinforces every bit of misogyny behind the nice guy meme. *sigh*

We’re gonna talk about the third season episode “Booby Trap” and the fourth season episode “Galaxy’s Child”. (Yes, I’m jumping ahead a bit. Let’s just get this over with, shall we?)

Booby Trap

While investigating an archeological find, the Enterprise gets caught in a baffling trap that quickly threatens the whole ship.

The episode begins with Geordi awkwardly trying to seduce a woman on the Holodeck. I can remember growing up being told that a guy plotting to get his arm around a girl was a charming part of the courtship ritual, and that charm is a lot of what (I think) the writers are going for here. Unfortunately, the old “charming” idea – and Geordi’s entire preplanned date here – is predicated on the guy’s sense of entitlement and his lack of treating a woman as an individual. In this first scene, the episode still has a chance to go somewhere good. The whole point is that it doesn’t work for her. They’re sitting on a beach, uncomfortably. They’re hardly interacting. There is a violin player on the deserted beach with them… playing distracting “romantic” music. The music does nothing for her. He is giving her what he has decided a generic woman wants, without any clear attempts to communicate with the woman in question about her unique wishes, presumably so he can get something that he wants. It is ultimately a dehumanizing exchange he is trying to set in motion. When she gives him “the brushoff”, it’s clear he expects it, and immediately sulks. This scene sums up how Geordi objectifies women (which will continue to be revealed throughout the episode), and it has the potential to lead him to an awareness of that so he can grow. It’s a shame that potential is completely squandered.

Geordi later has conversations that reveal more of his inner thoughts. He asks one woman (Guinan) what she looks for in a man (assuming that, on some level, she can speak for all women as to what is attractive to them). He speaks in broad terms about his desire to take care of “somebody.” And he shares his confusion that he can make objects work well together in engineering, but can’t “make something work with a woman like Christie.” As an adult I can see him indicating he thinks women and objects share certain key attributes, and vaguely indicating some hierarchy of women where Christie is valued as a prize. But all of this was THE standard romance narrative when I was a kid first watching the show. Perhaps this is why Geordi was always just kinda there for me – not a threat that I yet noticed, but not a character I had much interest in. That standard narrative never made any sense to me.

While Geordi’s angst and my adult distaste unfold, the rest of the ship experiences an enjoyable, well-crafted puzzle that is technical without getting cluttered, and brings some well-paced action to the story. To explore every conceivable solution for the problem the ship is having, Geordi digs into prototype schematics and designers’ logs on the holodeck. He discovers that the head of the team that designed the ship is a Dr. Leah Brahms, who he immediately characterizes as “another woman who won’t get personal with me.” He gets bored only hearing her logs, so he has the computer build a hologram of her he can interact with. He is soon circling her motionless body asking her questions, but her dry answers are not enough. So he tells the computer to dig into her public presentations and personality analysis on file (side note: how is personality testing not more confidential information?) and add that data to the hologram. The holographic version of the powerful engineer is immediately warm, encouraging and intimate with Geordi, insisting he call her Leah, not Dr. Brahms. Within seconds, the woman who designed the Enterprise has moved from an unconsenting collaborating colleague to a fantasy woman for Geordi, with sultry exchanges like:

Lt. Geordi LaForge: I know my ship inside and out
Dr. Leah Brahms: Then you must know me, inside and out.

She soon offers to cook for him, and actually rubs his shoulders. It is not just an instant friendly working relationship. It is an instant romance – with a woman that never consented to the relationship. There is even a kiss; as the problem is solved and they part, the hologram of the woman who has never met Geordi says:

Dr. Leah Brahms: I’m with you every day, Geordi. Every time you look at this engine it’s me; every time you touch it, it’s me.

And they kiss.

I've got a dozen advanced degrees, but my life goal is to cook you something hot, sailor!

I’ve got a dozen advanced degrees, but my life goal is to cook you something hot, sailor!

So, instead of Geordi learning anything about how he objectifies women, he just spends the entire episode objectifying one. I’m fucking furious and my skin is crawling by the time this episode is done.

So, what would happen if the unsuspecting colleague – if the powerful and brilliant engineer – found out she was made Geordi’s plaything on the holodeck? Let’s find out. I’m CERTAIN she won’t end up apologizing for her own objectification. Surely not!

Galaxy’s Child

The head designer of the Enterprise visits the ship. The crew meets a space-dwelling creature as large as the ship itself, and gets entangled in complications regarding it and its offspring.

So, Dr. Leah Brahms is going to inspect the Enterprise. Geordi vocalizes such reflections on the woman he calls “Leah” – the woman he has never met – as “It’s not every day a man comes face to face with his dream”, “we worked as one” and “I just know Leah Brahms and I are going to be good friends”. He actually believes that he already has knowledge of her unique personhood, after interacting with the computer’s assumptions of who she is. This here is one of the more offensive moments among many offensive moments for me. I know we might get inured to this type of attitude in Western culture for a lot of different reasons. But to believe you have integral knowledge of a human spirit because you’ve seen a personnel file, or a holographic simulation (or a resume, or a performance, or a filtered interview in a paper)… it’s profoundly objectifying. Geordi honestly cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy with this woman. She has gotten no direct input into how he already defines her.

When Dr. Brahms arrives, she is cool, professional, and irritated at modifications made to her ship designs. All of these rankle Geordi’s sense of entitlement a great deal, and during a low-lit supper in his quarters – where he uses his research on her to romance her – she ends up apologizing for her gruffness. In what I suspect is meant as endearing, she mentions that “people find me cold, cerebral, lacking in humor”, and with no attention paid to how sexism and misogyny across the centuries might shape these perceptions of her coldness, the brilliant woman decides she should try to be warmer to Geordi. But she soon rightly intuits that the boundaries in this relationship are FUCKED UP, and attempts to pull back from the romance Geordi is trying to push. He responds by – wait for it – sulking.

Now where did I put the controls for the sexism disruptor beam?

You’re not crazy, Dr. Brahms. He really did just pull that shit.

They find common ground again, Geordi pushes her again… even after discovering she is married. He perceives rejection and begins to characterize her as unfriendly, cold, and hateful. In the one brief bit of fresh air, Guinan calls him on his behavior, pointing out that he is angry that she is her own person and not meeting his fantasy expectations. He has a growth opportunity. But that opportunity, and this reality check offered by Guinan, are both dropped like a hot potato as the climax of Geordi’s, the writers’ and greater culture’s misogyny is reached.

In solving the episode’s technical problem, Leah finds Geordi’s previous holodeck recreation of her. She is RIGHTLY FURIOUS. She angrily confronts him about making her his fantasy plaything. Here he has an opportunity to show some integrity, own up to mistake and use this as a chance to learn something about relating to people. He instead lies, insisting it was only a professional collaboration. He plays his entitlement card again, emphasizing how hard he’s worked to be friendly to her and how he hasn’t been rewarded for that. And he gaslights her, characterizing her appropriate anger as jumping to incorrect conclusions and a great affront to him. He again laments the nice guy lament – she’s just so unfriendly, and he deserves better.

That, by the way, is the moment where I lose all respect for Geordi. He is entrenched in his shitty behavior and attitudes. And, as we will see, the writers are fine with that. It’s the object of his affections that has to come around.

Even as a kid, I remember thinking the end comes abruptly. The episode ends with the character of Dr. Leah Brahms laughing affectionately about the program that demeans her and APOLOGIZING repeatedly for her behavior. She characterizes her original irritation as she arrived as of equal sinfulness to his repeated boundary violations. AND… Geordi never once apologizes. For any of it. Not once.

I love a flawed and complex character, painted well and compassionately. But when that flaw does profound damage to others that is never acknowledged, and when that profound flaw is written off as a harmless quirk, things get fucked fast. When a “quirk” leads to someone being violated, it’s no longer something to laugh off. When systemic violation is ignored, the problem is perpetuated. Now I know Star Trek is always a product of its time and of its location in a Hollywood system. So, there’s going to be no such thing as a not-racist, not-sexist Trek. But the volume of misogyny not just portrayed but blessed in Geordi’s character arc here is just so overwhelming, so disheartening, so sad and angering. The crux of the nice guy script is not just the personal entitlement, but the “niceness” of it: the cultural sanction of it all, the writers’ sanction of it here, and the gaslighting of people who actually notice the fucked-up-edness. I didn’t get this nice guy entitlement script directed at me personally growing up — I was already both fat and genderqueer by puberty, and so I was not culturally the object of male sexual attraction. But of course the nice guy script permeated everywhere… even onto the Enterprise. It is some small consolation that at least awareness of this is growing and being shared to the point where there is language for it in some of the larger culture. That doesn’t solve anything in and of itself, but it’s a bit of acknowledgement for those of us who see to hold on to. It’s part of the process of standing up for ourselves and others, and moving toward justice.

In a later Trek series, these two characters – LaForge and Dr. Brahms – make an appearance as a married couple. That whole thing just creeps me the fuck out.

Published in: on June 6, 2013 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Book Review: Lia Scholl’s “I <3 Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade"

I Heart Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex TradeI Heart Sex Workers: A Christian Response to People in the Sex Trade by Lia Claire Scholl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, I will tell you what I know. This book gives a wonderful, accessible introduction to systemic oppression and anti-oppression work in general. These ideas are both critically important and really tough concepts… and this book is a great place to start, with straightforward definitions and examples to explain. Scholl also has some wonderful instruction to give on basic pastoral care: active listening, being truly present to someone, and helping to empower people simply by acknowledging their agency and treating them as children of God.

Now, what I don’t know. I do not have the expertise to say that the book accurately portrays sex work, or that it addresses the needs and desires that sex workers have for their allies. Only those folks who work in the sex trades can do that. I can tell you that a lot of what I read here is congruent with what I hear from sex workers. I can tell you that Scholl clearly loves the people she has worked with, whose lives she attempts to give a glimpse of here. I get a strong impression that their humanity and the complexity of their lived experience is being respected.

Scholl articulates her main point as this: Christians can be allies to sex workers by doing three things: fighting the isolation sex workers face, fighting the stigma sex workers face and being more accepting, open and affirming, and striving for economic justice in our society and world. At another point, she boils her thesis down even further: the only solution that works for every person in sex work is “acceptance and advocacy for increasing personal choice.” Because of this agenda, Scholl is able to invite to the table – with a fair amount of success, in my opinion – readers with a variety of opinions on the inherent moral rightness or wrongness of sex work. She does focus part of the book on those who want to leave sex work… partly because the social stigma that touches each person in the sex trade makes it difficult to leave if they wish to. But “rescuing” sex workers, especially from sex work, is not a goal of this book. Scholl centers her work around us all supporting one another’s agency and personal choice. She mentions those who like doing sex work. She contextualizes sex work as being like any other work, with a range of enjoyment, resentment and ambivalence among the workers in any field. She discusses at length the dangers inherent in sex work that come not from the work itself, but from societal treatment of it, like police misconduct toward sex workers, various legal models of sex work and how sex workers feel these models affect their lives, and the deep harm of and multiple layers of victim blaming. Scholl wants to improve the lives of those who engage in sex work by offering relationship, respect, and solidarity in fighting against unjust systems. Her focus is not on ending sex work, but on fighting systemic oppression that disproportionately affects both those who trade sex and the populations most likely to be in sex work.

Her focus, ultimately, is on embracing those in the sex trade as people who deserve “all the rights and privileges that come with being a child of God and created in the image of God.” (p.150) I believe she does real work here to unpack what it means to honor someone’s agency, resourcefulness and dignity… work clearly rooted in Christ’s admonition to love one another. I am so very excited to have this resource.

View all my reviews

Published in: on April 13, 2013 at 5:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

On the Passing of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Joshua Norton II

Norton joined our family nearly two years ago. He and his brothers Jeffrey and Skidoo have been our first mischief of pet ratties. Norton was a sweetheart and a diva and a fighter. He got a terrible case of pneumonia that started about this time last year. His lungs never fully recovered, but he still kept going all this time… our special needs boy. He still loved Cheerios and Yogies. He would still meet us at the cage door when we walked by. He still bruxed and boggled to hear us nearby. He hated taking meds, and fought the medication burrito every step of the way. And each time we were done with meds, he would hide on my own shoulder, feeling comfort there… often in the hood of the hoodie I wore to protect my arms from his fighting.

He still brought so much joy and love to our lives.

He didn’t seem to be struggling more than usual lately, but he did seem… slower. Groggier. We awoke this morning to find he had left his beloved hammock to die near his brothers some time during the night.

We miss him very much.

This is the first time we saw Norton: the picture the breeder had on her website. She had initially named him Onyx.

This is Norton hanging out with Gabe:

Always Norton’s favorite part of the cage:

I work for a photographer, and she wanted to take pictures of ratties for the first time. 🙂

The Emperor’s Roman nose:

Here’s the whole mischief exploring the studio:

And our boys at home, piled in to cuddle:

Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Coming Soon… Getting All SRS on Star Trek

*sigh* So, I’ve got a post in the works on my growing awareness of Geordi as a fucking nice guy. I am sad, yes, but I have to talk about it.

In the mean time, to prep anybody who doesn’t know who I’m talking about, here’s a tumblr that explores the idea: Nice Guys of OkCupid.

Published in: on January 5, 2013 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Strategies for Knowing and Unknowing, and the Queer Art of Failure

In hir 2011 book The Queer Art of Failure, Judith Halberstam 1 has got me thinking about forgetfulness, beginner’s mind, and some new tools I may focus on in my own personal journey living amidst great oppression and deep hope.

Now finding resonance on this particular topic surprises me quite a bit, actually. A lot of my anti-oppression work – on personal and cultural levels – has focused on the theory that forced amnesia is a part of structures of domination. And so the “cure” is the opposite of amnesia. I’ve focused on finding stories and voices (including parts of my voice and story) that were obscured or devalued. Re-membering has been a powerful strategy for me. The remembering, researching, uncovering and reclaiming was liberating for me. I told my story over and over again and each retelling uncovered more of myself that had been buried for years. I heard others name stories that had been forcibly hidden or obscured. And I firmly believe there was a sacred exchange that occurred in the telling. The feminist phrase “hearing each other into being” sunk into my core and resonated with me. And I always defined it as this kind of recovery and remembering of history.

This paralleled a larger coping strategy for me at the time… high levels of structure. I had an upbringing that overwhelmingly taught me to be terrified of everything. It took a long, long time and a lot of work to turn that around. I learned to carve out small spaces where I could be without terror, and to slowly learn to live in those spaces. It was important too to learn how to live just on the edges of those spaces, just far enough out to claim more and more space for myself without churning up my out-of-control fight-or-flight biochemistry in counterproductive ways. I had bad memories of deliberate capriciousness, forced instability, and crazy-making. As we learn in twelve step spirituality, knowing/naming/acknowledging the problem is the key to getting better. On top of that, planning and knowing what would happen next gave the security I longed for. To find rest, peace – or myself, really – to climb out of all those bad habits and learn new ones, I had to have high levels of repetitive, expected structure in my days. Yes, I eased that need up… very, very slowly. But this valuing of structure, planning, and *knowing* had an internal logic when paired with a valuing of knowing history, knowing others’ stories intimately, knowing how systems of domination worked. Knowing was more than half the battle, really.

And, well, sometimes, for me, the only way to live with a painful memory is to know it further, let it live again, and overwhelm, until it doesn’t anymore. That’s another kind of knowing.

In the chapter of “Queer Art of Failure” that I’m currently reading, Halberstam is right in the middle of talking about the value of forgetfulness, how an absence of something like memory can liberate us from capitalist heteronormativity. Halberstam links failure and forgetfulness to queerness and alternative ways of knowing that subvert structures of domination. Zie describes how Dory from “Finding Nemo” rides forgetfulness and unknowing into new and valuable ways of relating and acting. Zie just finished a dozen pages of exploration of “Dude, Where’s My Car?”… an exploration I rather enjoyed, even without having ever seen the movie (another surprise!). I couldn’t do hir exploration justice. But what I get from it is the idea that forgetting and not knowing can release us from the training we inevitably receive that’s meant to perpetuate capitalist heteronormativity… that “stupidity”, memory “problems”, or an absence of knowing how we “should” behave brings us to new ways to behave, new ways of relating to others, new ways of knowing and valuing that stand outside systems of domination.

Now, I’m a forgetful person, and I know I’m enjoying this train of thought partially because it’s a reason not to be so hard on myself about that fact. I also know that the values I’ve embraced more and more over the last five years have brought me further and further away from previous, sanctioned definitions of success that I have had, and so valuing failure is appealing too. But it’s also very refreshing to see someone fighting a fight important to me, with a focus on improvisation and creativity rather than the type of education I have tended to prize and rely on perhaps a bit too much sometimes. I know the answers I’ve found about systemic evil, about privilege, about right relationship are important… but I also know those answers aren’t the answer to every question I meet. I’m also realizing that I’m being reintroduced to an idea I’ve seen before, and often been wary of: beginner’s mind. The absence of preconceived notions. The ability to approach a person or situation without having any assumption of mastery or expertise… so that one can be fully present, fully aware, and fully open to the unfolding moment of connection and transformation. Perhaps there’s a different kind of hearing each other into being here. Bernie Glassman discussed just such a thing in his book Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace, which had a big affect on me some ten years ago now. I have to say, at the time, I approached this beginner’s mind thing as a decent idea in theory, but rather incomprehensible for me to approach at the time. Now, I’m seeing something very appealing to me, somewhere in this pile of failure, forgetfulness, and fish that speak Whale.

1. On this book zie is credited as Judith Halberstam; I’ve seen hir named elsewhere as Jack Halberstam and J. Jack Halberstam. Wikipedia mentions Halberstam using multiple genders of pronouns. Until I’m clear what Halberstam prefers, I’m using gender-neutral pronouns zie and zir.

Published in: on January 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  


Five years ago today, Gabe and I decided to start a whole new adventure together. As time passes I’m finding it more and more of an impossible task to describe what he means to me, how I feel about him, and what our relationship encompasses… and that’s in my more articulate moments. I got my ass and back whupped on pretty thoroughly a few hours ago, and I’m still pretty spacey. So, I don’t have much hope to manage anything right now beyond “Beloved, I adore you.”

I don’t mark very easily at all… which generally makes me sad, as I love carrying marks with me. But this time, we managed quite a few welts. So without further ado, there’s naked pictures of my caned ass behind this cut.


Published in: on November 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Taboos (S02:E18 and S02:E19)

I’m examining the impact Star Trek: The Next Generation had on my formation. The introduction to this series can be seen here.

Up The Long Ladder

The Enterprise juggles two long separated colonies: one agrarian community who hitches a ride on board, and another more technologically advanced civilization with a secret.

If you can enjoy the kind of silliness that has Captain Picard nonplussed at having chickens on his ship, and Riker bedding down alien Irish lasses, then this may be a fun episode for you. As a kid, I found it a smidge embarrassing; as an adult, the Irish stereotypes wear thin.

The reason I write about it here is that unquestionable taboos and heresies really intrigue me. As many times as Star Trek might have given me an opportunity to question my assumptions, it’s still written by humans, with certain values they won’t question and certain gaps in their self-analysis. Here, the issue is cloning. The second colony, comprised of scientists with great technology in tow, survived early devastating losses of population by cloning themselves and have in fact developed a distaste for sexual reproduction. They ask the Enterprise crew to donate DNA for cloning to help the colony survive certain survival-threatening limitations they’ve run into. Picard and company flat out refuse. It’s apparently a taboo subject. It seems that no one on board beyond the present away team is even asked whether they would want to contribute. The strategy that the colony itself has decided would be best for its survival is categorically rejected before discussion, and before consenting contributors are even sought out. There is, to my knowledge, no Federation law that would keep a consenting crew member from donating. But in place of asking, Picard explicitly states that it’s not likely anyone will want to. Riker passionately names individuality as an important value to him, and defines cloning as being in opposition to that. He believes having a clone would inherently diminish him. Picard seems to concur without discussion, and that’s that. There is no further exploration of the subject.

The eventual philosophical point they make is that “differences make us strong”… which is an admirable sentiment, even if it’s not always ideally personified on the show. I have no particular investment in cloning as an issue, and I didn’t notice this treatment of the topic when I was a kid. I’m simply amused to find Star Trek’s outer edges of appropriate deliberation material now.


The Enterprise transports several delegates to a conference. One of them is Lwaxana Troi, who is intent on finding a lover.

This episode deals with taboos in a different way: rather than soberly assuming an idea is unquestionable, they encourage us to laugh at it. Here, they import our own cultures’ sex-shaming, fear of aging and shitty gendered violence tropes by centering the episode-long joke around a sexually active older woman that aggressively chases Picard.

Lwaxana is looking for a lover, which by itself is apparently supposed to be terribly amusing. Just how much of the discomfort-that’s-meant-to-be-funny comes from a woman being sexual, a mother being sexual and/or an older woman being sexual is hard to say. But her character’s usual, raging self-absorption combined with this new level of raging horniness translates into some predatory behavior on her part. And that’s just supposed to be hilarious. A significant amount of time is spent highlighting Picard’s unease at her advances as something that’s supposed to be enjoyable. Mostly, it just creeps me out. Not a favorite episode of mine.

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Stumbling Through Intimacy (S02:E17)

I’m examining the impact Star Trek: The Next Generation had on my formation. The introduction to this series can be seen here.

Samaritan Snare

Riker leads the crew through a harrowing dilemma while Picard and Wesley travel together to a planet where they both have personal business.

The primary storyline is silly and unfortunate, and hardly worth a mention. But it gets everyone else out of the way for a great series of moments to materialize between Picard and Wesley. As the episode opens, Pulaski must scold and threaten Picard to convince him to travel somewhere and address some unnamed health concern he’s neglected. Soon, a very cranky and bristly Picard is accompanying an awkward and petrified Wesley as the two take a six-hour shuttle ride alone.

As Wes fumbles through attempts at conversation, we soon learn that Picard is having an artificial heart replaced, and that he is very concerned about gossip and his image among the crew at this time. While Picard hides behind gruffness, irritability and a book, Wes offers straightforward honesty, commenting on Picard’s discomfort with him and with children in particular. This leads to Picard reluctantly opening up about life choices, values, and dreams. The two talk about marriage, children, careers, each other, and how Picard lost his heart. Each man is able to shift his feelings of vulnerability into an intimacy with one another.

I could go on at some length on how Stewart masterfully moves Picard through an intensely satisfying emotional arc, and how Wheaton’s striving to keep up with him serves his own characterization quite well here. But for now I’ll say that this milestone for Wes and Picard holds a special place in my heart. And Picard’s insistence that the most important things in life will never be on exams might be cliched, but it was a brand new insight to my very lost young self, and one that I savored.

Published in: on October 16, 2012 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment