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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
    May 18, 2015 @ 7:46 am

    My take on it was that I liked how it showcased Worf a lot from that point of view, but also from his recent history. He's been forced to disavow his seeking out of his heritage, so he'll turn back into his adoptive nation full-tilt, as well as echoing all the way back to Heart of Glory, because that Klingon dude was pretty explicitly saying the same kinds of things they were.

    Enterprise good, Federation bad. Yeah, we know.

    So Worf's usage, and Picard's speech at the end. Do they make the whole episode good? No, to be honest one of the dilemmas I have with a courtroom episode is that they're drearily boring affairs. This courtroom drama is inferior to the ethical highground of Measure of a Man, and inferior-er still than Menagerie, which was a two-parter rehasing an unseen pilot and still had a level of action, tension and anticipation, mystery, characters doing things.

    But this does mark another of the increasingly odd episodes where for instance, when I catch my sci-fi weened, now basically neoconservative (I've never been certain that these things are mutually exclusive, but that's a story for another fathers/sons episode, probably) father watching it, and I see him nodding in agreement with Picard because he gets the allegory, I can't for the life of me understand how he views current events. Which means that to me at least, slightly dreary except for a couple high notes, there's at least a degree of relevancy still to be had from this one.

    But if it's about any specific aspect, it's not so much the obvious McCarthy parallels, it's about legacy. Nora Satie's legacy, and how blinding that can be, to worship something, the way she worships everything from her father to her flag.

    Skepticism and Cynicism are old rivals.


  2. brownstudy
    May 20, 2015 @ 1:51 am

    One of the things I found interesting about this episode and the one that comes later — "Below Decks"? — is that we as regular viewers see and empathize with the main characters in their adventures. But when those adventures are extracted and held up out of context in a courtroom situation or from the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern characters, then what we had agreed to see looks very different.

    It also reminds me a bit of the different ways shows like MASH would trot out different ways of telling a story, trying to find new perspectives from which to see the characters.

    (And of course, I write this having seen this episode only once on its first run. Such is internet commentary.)


  3. Daru
    May 29, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

    "I actually think “The Drumhead” is a step backwards in this regard: The Federation's deep, dark secret is that it's not immune to McCarthyist rhetoric? Tame, tame, tame."

    Yep as you say there are whole swathes of other darker not exactly secrets going on where the Federation and Starfleet have behaved abominably towards other races.


  4. Daru
    May 29, 2015 @ 8:03 pm

    I will admit though as a teen I loved it the first time as it was pretty gripping in a way. But now it feels like a fake facade on a pretty dull building.


  5. David Moran
    October 23, 2017 @ 7:35 pm

    Having watched this today, and realising that this is an obsolete post, it is actually a bit worse than K Jones suggests. No, not Enterprise good, Federation bad, K.

    After Picard’ s address to the court and Satie’ s meltdown Admiral Henry gets up and walks out, having had NOT ONE WORD in the entire episode. So the episode actually attempts Starfleet good, Federation bad. That’s as Heinlein as the show gets.

    Note also that it’s in this episode that Picard insists that he’s completely recovered from the Borg. Jonathan Frakes will eventually demonstrate that he doesn’t believe a word of it.


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