Watery tarts distributing hammers and sickles

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Froborr
    October 14, 2015 @ 3:12 am

    Oh, well done. That is an excellent segue into "Emissary."


  2. K. Jones
    October 14, 2015 @ 6:42 am

    This episode is a bit of an exorcism, in that it takes a pretty unequivocal stand against the kinds of Starfleeting that the show has walked back for five years. It's also an episode that (quick math), came out in 93 but within 10 years meant something completely different as far as relevance. One can imagine now that had tensions gone longer, Jellico would of course have instituted sweeping unilateral security measures on the Enterprise that destroyed everyone's privacy. All in the name of the Federation, of course, which somewhere in his scabbed-over core is the case. But they gloss over very quickly that this guy's background story, like Maxwell, is also the Cardassian War. The fabled, never-to-be-seen Cardassian War. The reproach from Riker wasn't just cathartic, it WAS the exorcism.

    David Warner continues a string of good Star Trek roles.

    And my metaphorical thinking that Cardassians be dragons kind of falls by the wayside. In a way they still are. They're reptilian. They're mesmerizing. They can be casually cruel and thrill in being deceptive. And of course they're eternal foes – dragons are almost always historically placed as ultimate foes for heroes to deal with. Anyway, the reptilian core is huge for me. I mean scales, predatory faces, cobra necks. Serpentine, snake-like, the iconography goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Before you even add on the Nazi jackboots or the Space Gothic Armor S.S. uniforms. Or the Demilitarized Zone – if ever there was a "Desolation".

    I mean watch this episode, as from scene to scene we literally see them jump from Jellico's terse, reactionary gamesmanship contrasting with his interiority with his kid's drawings, to Madred hanging out with his own daughter. They're the same archetype! And Riker's rebuke of Jellico is entirely parallel to Picard's fierce defiance of Madred.

    The dragon-men are just the mirror image of the Federation, once-removed. Reptilian, to imply and reflect that the militaristic, imperialistic, cruel tendencies that we even see turn up in the Bad Starfleet types are baser instincts of ours from our own reptilian ancestry. Moreover, they have a sympathetic history of "reasons" for how it came to be (with overt early 20th century Germany overtones, naturally). The dragon in the mirror. The old dragon. Regression.

    Naturally I found Lemec's gloating about the capture of Picard to be commendable. But I'm a post-Garek kind of guy. I appreciate the game. And the looks on their smug Federation faces. It's gonna take a different kind of Starfleet to accomplish anything in this sector of space.

    Only progress can defeat regress.


  3. David Faggiani
    October 15, 2015 @ 11:23 pm

    I wonder what happened to Gul Madred during the years of the DS9 era? During the Civilian Government years, then the Dukat/Damar-Dominion regime, then through the Fall of Cardassia? Did he still work as a torturer? Did he change his mind? Did he himself become a victim of the regime? Or did his daughter?

    I picture a scene on post-War Cardassia. An older Madred is sitting outdoors at a cafe, surrounded by buildings being rebuilt gradually, maybe a park with children playing. He is alone, he sips Kanar, maybe his hand shakes.

    A shadow falls over him. Madred looks up, and somehow knows who it was, who it was always going to be. Madred looks away, unable to bear it. The man takes a seat, wordlessly, across from him at the table, and just waits.

    They wait, together and apart, for what seems like eternity. Then, with tears falling from his eyes, and his voice cracking, Madred says to the man "there…. were…four….lights….".

    And the man pauses, then puts his hand on Madred's, just briefly, then withdraws it. And they sit and look at nothing, as the re-building continues…


  4. K. Jones
    October 16, 2015 @ 8:20 am

    Madred is certainly a proud true believer. A veteran it seems of the border wars and Federation side of things, the DMZ, not so much the goings-on over in Bajor. That a little tiny world of space pests, 60 years occupied in some random corner of the Union, could become a thorn, or a singularly important galactic player, or that precious militaristic dogma might be reduced to the same treatment by a greater military power wouldn't enter his wildest thought. It would be hard to handle – the subjugator might become subjugated. But there's probably more years of DMZ terrorizing to be done before any of that happens.


  5. Daru
    December 14, 2015 @ 11:11 pm

    David Warner also gave a pretty wonderful and intense performance in this. Met him once whilst hanging out on the forecourt of a hotel at a Doctor Who convention. Great interviewee and very open and feeling in his responses, like what he said about the craft of acting. Had a quiet intensity about him as he walked about outside smoking his pipe.


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