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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. SK
    April 9, 2015 @ 10:57 pm

    Angst-ridden internal conflict […] feels more real and authentic [… Just because something “feels” real doesn't mean it is: That's the devil's clause of cinematic representationalism

    I don't think you can blame 'cinematic representationalism' for something that's been true since Oedipus Tyrannus.


  2. K. Jones
    April 10, 2015 @ 5:02 am

    Reflective interiority is sort of the double-edged sword of escapist fiction. I don't mean to say that we haven't gotten to the point where Star Trek can't operate beyond escapism for a niche group of viewers, because by and large stories can provide a little something for everyone.

    But interiority for an actor, particularly one of Patrick Stewart's talents, can mean the quiet and clever spins that he's been putting into his performance all along … but it does change, somewhat for the drastic, when somebody behind the camera decides to point the lens in the direction of that interior acting, and to let it linger there for a minute.

    I've said already that Picard's family is reflective of mine, and part of that are those there emotional walls and all that indirect communication. Jean-Luc and Robert practically use Marie as an embodiment of the Neutral Zone between them, but she's an individual with agency, too. And as we soon learn, more than capable of taking a bite out of both their egos.

    As someone whose retreated home to lick his fair share of wounds after real life narrative collapse, I can attest that they at least seem to have gotten the mechanics of catharsis correct … though as the consummate "might have been" fan I have to think that it would've been more realistic and of better service to the show had Picard taken ten episodes to recover, to explore his raison d'etre for an extended run and decide he wants to rejoin the Next Generation, while giving Riker his command function for a few episodes … and maybe spending a bit more time with Shelby and the new dynamic.

    They sort of redeem this missed opportunity with Sisko's narrative collapse in a few years.


  3. Daru
    April 12, 2015 @ 11:10 pm

    "Guy Debord tells us that a society is in trouble when the hollow simulacrum of a thing replaces the thing itself."

    I suppose that quote is a brilliant descriptor of who and what the Borg are.

    I agree that the show is essentially about healing and yes it would have been good to see Picard experience a deeper healing at the soul level from the rape that he essentially experienced. I did at the time when I watched it, enjoy Family, but on my last rewatch I felt more distant from the setting and all of the characters apart from Picard ( I did really enjoy watching him away from his ship and position of command). I suppose that's just more about the reasonably under-privelaged background I hail from than anything else.

    On the topic of collective voyeurism – the desire for grim, inner stories, even to level of the unhappy world presented in UK soaps such as Eastenders and Coronation Street where everyone complains about everyone else, people stab each other in the back and if anyone is on the edge of success or happiness they either die or have some disaster happen to them. The beliefs in much of the society that I grew up in that has this kind of defeatist attitude that leaves communities divided and the notion of optimism being unpopular in TV shows (a trend that became as you say Josh so strong in the 90's), left me thinking of the Borg's implied statement of "You will think like us, you will be like us."

    I think the Borg transfigured into us, the watchers.


  4. K. Jones
    April 13, 2015 @ 7:01 am

    Oh that instantly brings to mind a cathartic, somewhat brutally tongue-in-cheek pair of monologues given some time later by Michael Eddington and Quark, respectively, about Federation assimilation and eventual cultural sublimation. This is a huge problem in the 24th Century/post-TNG era as we meet Federation races left and right who are just sort of … "Very Federationy" with a novel "alien" thing here or there, like the Bolians, who are just blue, or the Trill, who are just normal folks with symbiotic memory implants. Vulcans are put on the backburner and barely explored. Betazoids never truly get explored culturally. The groundwork laid by TOS Vulcans, and the promise teased by the Andorians, Tellarites and such, are pretty well overlooked. It's no wonder Enterprise went backward instead of forward. One of the reasons DS9 appealed as strongly as it did for me was because it takes a lateral step away from the homogenized Federation and instead forms something of a "Coalition" of cultures, fighting a mirror image enemy rather than a dark, cynical look at the homogeneous future. But it now makes perfect sense to me that story was born out of the Borg.

    Movements are always reactionary. When faced with an enemy that takes your own dark tendencies and wipes the floor with you using your own playbook, the story has got to … adapt.


  5. K. Jones
    April 13, 2015 @ 7:05 am

    I should add, it's also highly reflective of latter-half 20th Century America's "melting pot" … a deceptively named societal construct that spends far more time trying to Americanize you into a boring generic culture than it wants to spend time celebrating your cultural heritage. This of course, generally speaking, reaches near fever pitch by the 80s, and has all sorts of historical repeated motifs.


  6. Daru
    April 17, 2015 @ 9:11 pm

    You are definitely right there K.


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