No ideas but in Swamp Thing

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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. K. Jones
    February 11, 2015 @ 1:06 pm

    I can criticize Moore's signposts these days but I'll admit, his writing is what really drew me in. I think I always recognized that the juxtaposition of a slightly cynical long-80s, particularly-90s bent was purposefully being put up against the perceived idealism. It seems like it should be appropriate for a Romulan storyline with the original story role intact.

    It took them five episodes to do what "Balance of Terror" did in one, and I knew exactly what you meant when you said "The Enemy" continuity is what detracts this episode from the masters list. Well that and the continued TNG-era division of the connections between Romulans and Vulcans (the prosthetics, the sympathetic nature, the general lack of Vulcans).

    Funnily it's finally seeing Birds of Prey up against Warbirds that gets me to thinking about the symbolism of Romulan vessels now being depicted in alien green instead of ship's grey. Their vessels are the color of their blood. For humans, red is probably the most important color in symbolism and psychiatry, and its connection to blood and anima and animus have a lot of meanings. One must imagine then that for Romulans, green has the same or similar symbolism. The use of green in Warbirds is representative of passion and romantic exploration and duty and family. Of course really, it just looks cool.

    James Sloyan is great here. It'll be nice to see him as Mora Pol later.

    I'm not sure what I can dig out of this episode beyond an interest in galactic realpolitik. The Neutral Zone is already a tired concept. The Romulans will eternally be shifty now and even glimpses into how they're not a monoculture will be wasted by the fact that no proper exploration ever happens. A Romulan joining our crew … or a Romulan-sympathetic Vulcan … would solve these inelegant matters.


  2. Glenn
    February 12, 2015 @ 7:26 am

    There was a good chance to have an in-depth exploration of the Romulans with T'Rul on DS9, and even members of the writing staff admit that they whiffed on it.


  3. T. Hartwell
    February 13, 2015 @ 10:50 am

    This is a lovely essay–agree wholeheartedly, and I love Piller's analogy to music (more and more I find myself thinking in musical terms for non-musical things, and it's a perspective I quite like).

    This is a very important episode for me–I mentioned before that I started Star Trek with the movies and later TOS, but it's really the middle school period of watching TNG reruns that I'm the most nostalgic for with the series. "Defector" wasn't my first episode–I started at the beginning with "Farpoint", but it for some reason didn't grab me, so I only caught random episodes here and there (of these "Big Goodbye" and "11001001" stick in my memory the most, though I distinctly remember a couple Pulaski episodes).

    But then one night as we're flipping through channels we stumble upon Data and Picard performing Henry V, and for whatever reason this became the episode that grabbed middle-school-me enough to start watching the series regularly (I believe I saw every episode from here to I think mid-Season 6 during this period). It became a really nice daily tradition of watching the show with my sister (usually while my mom was asleep and my dad working on the computer in the back room), and even though I spent much less time with it as an adolescent than with TOS or the movies, for whatever reason this is what hangs in my mind the most when I think of Star Trek, and the reason TNG is far and away my favorite of the series.


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