The Incomparable started a new initiative to discuss the best, and worst, of Star Trek in a series of episodes. It is required listening for this post. I’ll pretend that I had a turn in the
draft roundtable discussion after Brianna Wu, Scott McNulty, Tony Sindelar, and Jason Snell:
- Brianna: VOY - ‘Course: Oblivion’
- Scott: DS9 - ‘Duet’
- Tony: TNG - ‘Chain of Command (Part 2)’
- David: DS9 - ‘The Visitor’ (Really David, the writer, you picked an episode about a writer? 😉)
- Jason: TNG - ‘Darmok’
My pick is ‘Cause and Effect’ from TNG. This is pure Star Trek all the way through. There’s a mysterious puzzle to solve, with details bleeding over from previous iterations in the loop they’re all stuck in. Also, the Enterprise blows up (a lot), which is always interesting.
- Brianna: TOS - ‘Spock’s Brain’
- Scott: VOY - ‘Phage’
- Tony: TOS - ‘The Empath’
- David: TOS - ‘Turnabout Intruder’
- Jason: TNG - ‘Code of Honor’
I’m going to side with the ‘offensive’ critics over the ‘organ stealing’ side. The episode that precedes ‘Cause and Effect’ — ‘The Outcast’ that I didn’t like as a kid. I saw it, and thought the aliens were idiots, and the conflict in the episode made no sense. It wasn’t until years later that I learned this episode was supposed to be their episode on sexual orientation — their gay episode. It’s really a very weak gender identity episode, which is not the same thing. They were scared of how their audience might react to gay characters. The character of Soren is tragic, but the tragedy is undermined throughout the episode by the decisions of the show’s producers. Even making her brainwashing a flawless success is dumb because then it implies that reeducation treatments are good, instead of, you know, horrible.
When David Gerrold (a gay writer on TOS, TAS, and TNG) came forward with his story that was an allegory for AIDS, the producers didn’t want to do it because it featured two guys in a relationship. Eew, gross, icky. It was rewritten by another writer, to remove the gay characters (still wasn’t produced), and Gerrold left.
Questions about sexuality on Star Trek kept getting asked, and five years later, Rick Berman went with ‘The Outcast’ to be the episode that would explore the issues, but it was about male and female gender relationships, not about same-sex relationships. This episode with an androgynous race that condemns gender is pretty much the opposite of what they should have been doing. They also cast the character that Riker kisses with a female actress, playing a character that identifies as female and seeks a male, which really is not all that unusual. Rick Berman was worried the audience would find two men kissing “unpalatable”.
There have been several episodes featuring women with feelings for other women, but not a single one about men. The later series (DS9, Voyager and Enterprise) even ran while Will and Grace was on the air and the best they could do was hedge with Trill gender swaps and a non-same-sex allegory about AIDS with forced mind-melds. JJ-Trek is in the unfortunate position of having their main characters shipped to them from the 60s, so it’s unlikely anything progressive will happen now unless they add characters.
‘The Outcast’ - The least-progressive progressive episode ever.
- Brianna: TNG - ‘Best of Both Worlds (Part One)’
- Scott: DS9 - ‘Trials and Tribble-ations’
- Tony: DS9 - ‘In the Pale Moonlight’ (Damn it, Tony!)
- David: ENT - ‘In a Mirror Darkly’
- Jason: TOS - ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’
‘Sacrifice of Angels’ is the second half of a Dominion War episode from DS9. Things had been going very badly for the Federation, for many episodes, and this is where things turn around. This is like Return of the Jedi only the Ferengi are less annoying than the Ewoks. The Dominion is convinced that they have the upper hand, and it’s all lost. All of it. Gul Dukat’s own daughter, the daughter he sacrificed his career for, reveals her treachery and she’s fatally shot by Damar. Gul Dukat collapses. Marc Alaimo is so incredibly fantastic in this episode.
“I forgive you too.” - Broken Dukat handing Sisko the baseball that Sisko left when the station was taken.
- Brianna: VOY - ‘Threshold’
- Scott: TNG - ‘Conspiracy’
- Tony: DS9 - ‘Move Along Home’
- David: TNG - ‘The Outrageous Okona’
- Jason: ENT - ‘These are the Voyages’
Jason stole my pick, drat. My backup is ‘Profit and Lace’ from DS9. In DS9’s defense, they can’t all be winners, but WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! The episode was meant to be a farce, but it’s so, so, so ill conceived. I love wacky, comedic episodes of Star Trek — like Voyager’s ‘Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy’, or ‘Message in a Bottle’ — but this is just atrocious.
- Brianna: Seven of Nine
- Scott: Reginald
- Tony: Elim Garak
- David: Jean-Luc Picard
- Jason: James Tiberius Kirk
It’s a toss up between Spock and Data, but I’m going with Data. He has a very unique struggle, wanting to experience emotion, and wanting to be loved and respected. When I was a kid, I really identified with the episode ‘Hero Worship’ because I really looked up to a character like Data and see myself in the role of Timothy Vico. (Spoiler Alert! This episode is not as a good as I remember it being! UGH!)
He’s been on trial for his rights as person or appliance (conflicts that The Doctor of Voyager experienced), and his right to procreate.
Travis Mayweather makes me sad. Tell me something about Travis. He’s a really good pilot, right? OK, well that’s good, because he is a pilot. Kind of important to be good at piloting ships when you pilot ships for a living. He’s a main character on Star Trek: Enterprise and he does… uh… and his arc over the series is… uh… Wasn’t there something about parents and freighters? Or something? Or that xenophobic reporter girlfriend that tricked him?
Hoshi and Malcolm are both primarily defined by their job on the ship, to the exclusion of almost everything else. They’re still more fleshed out than Travis.
What a total disappointment. Like all of the Enterprise characters, the Mirror Universe version of Travis was far more interesting and we barely saw that one. He’s by far the least developed member of the main cast of the show. Enterprise really focused a lot on Archer, T’Pol, and Trip, to the unfortunate exclusion of all of the other characters.