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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. Ross
    June 22, 2015 @ 12:43 am

    then studio executive Brandon Tartikoff, whom savvy readers will remember as the former NBC exec who is credited with pitching the concept of Miami Vice

    I always associate him more (more than he deserves, really) with Saved By The Bell. Largely due to an old Web Series which posited that Tartikoff had a chip implanted in Mario Lopez's brain that caused him to spend February believing himself to be A.C. Slater. (Yes. It was called exactly the thing you think it should be)

    whether the new crew were “going to wait for adventure to come to them”.

    The joke we always told was, "To boldly stay where no one has stayed before"


  2. K. Jones
    June 22, 2015 @ 11:53 am

    This is an interesting discussion, because for the first time in a while I've read the critical lens before I've re-watched the episode, so this is really a placeholder post for later, when I've watched it and have my own present contextual thoughts of my own. That being said, I have fond memories of this one (though I can even off-hand see all your points and agree with them) and I'll aim for a redemptive reading.

    One thing that did immediately come to mind though, is the "character assassination" of the Enterprise crew bit – the being upstaged by a newcomer. Because "The Outrageous Okona" jumped immediately to mind, as well as another episode I'm having trouble remembering. Not just a guest performer "upstaging the new cast, and the cast being written as boring and stuffy to make it that much more obvious", but also the discussion we had about the episode actually being "From the New Character's point-of-view".

    This could be another example, in spite of us being "in the know" and seeing scenes she's not seeing, of we the audience being put in Ro's frame of mind. This is how she's meeting these people, these are the impressions she's getting, this is the redemption in discovering that she's as wrong about them as they are about her.

    It's a crying effing shame we'll never get to see Ro Laren square off with Commander Sela. (Though spiritually, there's at least Major Kira and couple of high-ranking Romulan types).

    More later. Gotta watch and sort out the treasure from the stock tropes. And see if there's a kernel of this being a sequel to "The Wounded", because it is absolutely the next rung on the ladder to that wonderful space station.


  3. K. Jones
    June 22, 2015 @ 12:02 pm

    A quick aside – it's been very easy to free associate the space races into existing Fantasy archetypal races, but one Star Trek race I've never been able to pin down is the Cardassians.

    They read far less as a non-human race and more as a "Other Men from across the seas with foreign, but scarily understandable" type scenario, like maybe the Bravos or Mereen or whatever realms in Game of Thrones. They're militaristic, but they're not feral. They're vicious, but they're not bloodthirsty or savage. They play the game. The game of politics and assassins and secret societies. The game of villainy, the game of heroic sacrifice. The game of family names, but not with the blind tribal honor of the Klingons. They're insidious, but it's celebrated as a virtue as often as it's a thorn in the side of our heroes, their political rivals.

    To top it off, they're almost reptilian, and their design patterns somehow, and I can't even figure out how, between Victorian/Gothic decadence and spartan simplicity. (I should be talking about the Bajorans, but so it goes.)



  4. Froborr
    June 22, 2015 @ 8:28 pm

    Yeah, right up until your last line, I was thinking, "Where's the confusion? They're dragons."


  5. K. Jones
    June 23, 2015 @ 11:12 am

    I've watched it now. I can't give "Ensign Ro" a totally redemptive reading, because it is stock. But I think it's stock in a way that Star Trek: The Next Generation has not been able to be stock in yet. It is, to put it simply, necessary. It's a stone paver on a trail, basically.

    All the lousy characterization of the crew is at least out the door the second they set foot on the refugee camp. And the refugee stuff is good. Really good – thinking back, this sort of refugee depiction hasn't really been seen in Star Trek yet. And it's played with canny enough completeness, as Ro has left that life and become something else (something flawed, but she's at least proud she got out of there), though to Holza she's a bit of a sell-out for not honoring the indignity of being a refugee. But there it is – this isn't the resistance and the collaborators of the homeworld, these are unique to the refugees in the Federation fringe.

    For that reason, I don't hold Guinan's prodding against her. We don't know just how similar yet, but we already know that Guinan comes from a refugee culture. Her witchcraft has taken something the Enterprise lost and turned it into a great evil queen enemy, so she owes it to the Enterprise to try to give something back now. They don't overplay the parallel – they let Whoopi Goldberg do the work. Guinan sees herself in Ro. (Herself from 70 years ago … and not to go too far afield, but I actually think herself from the Nexus, not herself from the 1800s).

    Other than that we've got what'll become tropes – the Cardassians outplayed some naive Federation bureaucrat. It's a nice continuation of the stuff we've talked about where the Non-Enterprise Starfleet Admiralty are all kind of terrible external forces messing with the Enterprise.

    Picard's instant turnaround – give these people blankets, Worf, go solve emergencies was really, really good Picard. And publicly calling out Kennelly was a good play, too. There's even nice pieces of world-building. As introductions to important new races go, there's some strength in that they play it a bit slight, a bit sparse. It feels organic, even as it juggles creating a race specifically as backstory for a new regular. And all this with none of the staple Bajoran stuff we'll get later – the spirituality – though Picard's spiel about their art and history at least builds toward that.

    It's no Darmok, but this is definitely averaged out, middle-road Trek in terms of quality. Later on I'll wonder strongly at the extradiagetic force of Guinan's involvement of bringing the Bajorans into play.


    • Quincy Mbeki
      January 15, 2021 @ 5:33 am

      But Darmok was incredibly monotonous and boring.


  6. Daru
    July 6, 2015 @ 10:13 pm

    "Both Ro Laren and Michelle Forbes are way too good to get this as their debut episode. Frankly, everyone is too good for this. It's a waste of the talents and chemistry of every involved party."

    Yeah I do find the way the crew are portrayed here as pretty odd and off-kilter. I would have liked to see this crew take Ro at face value for the person she was.

    Do adore the portrayal of Ro by Forbes and do admit to enjoying her little shake up of the crew too though, as I like the idea of having characters come in who stir up the silt – doesn't always have to be conflict based though.


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