Eruditorum Press

The struggle in terms of the strange

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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.

8 Comments

  1. Adam Riggio
    February 13, 2015 @ 1:46 am

    This is also one of my favourite episodes of the third season. Despite its similarities to TOS in terms of its third act as a sequence of chase and fight scenes, I actually found it more subversive of the old show's more insidiously conservative norms. Given the simplistic moralities of most of TOS' creators, Danar would have explicitly been the villain of the piece, and justice would have been served by returning him to the villains in chains.

    Because we did actually get something of a Kali moment at the end of The Hunted. If Danar had just given into his programming, as he fatalistically suggested in his cell, he would have just killed the Angosian rulers and forced the Enterprise crew to kill all the soldiers and stoically walk away, leaving the Federation to take over the government and clean up the mess.

    But there was that line of Data's: My programming can be overwritten. Yours cannot?

    The experience of being in touch with the Enterprise crew, the first people in a long time other than fellow supersoldiers to respect, reach out, and try to understand him, partially reprogram Danar. The Enterprise crew are the properly sympathetic and intelligent radical left in this story that never existed in the 1970s (and don't really exist among modern hippies today, who are mostly ignorant and easily manipulated, while the real radical left are the people in anti-austerity, environmentalist, and indigenous rights social movements or organize properly via the internet).

    They help the war veterans recover, showing that another way of life is possible, and give them the space to organize themselves. The end of this story produces a revolution, which Picard knows is the politically right course of action, overthrowing a government that's clearly demonstrated how corrupt they are. If the left could organize themselves like this, for sympathy with such different people as professional soldiers who are severely traumatized, our society would end up with fewer soldiers like Chris Kyle and more soldiers like Roga Danar.

    And one last note: Isn't James Cromwell perfect in his role as the simultaneously tired and icy bureaucrat? That moustache brings his performance to a whole other level.

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  2. Froborr
    February 13, 2015 @ 7:08 am

    Let's see… SFDebris dislikes this episode and I think it's middling. Therefore, Josh will love it.

    Yep. You're getting predictable. =P

    Good article, though, and it's very, very true. The left, and the USian left in particular, is very prone to shooting itself in the foot. We outnumber conservatives and pretty much run pop culture, high culture, and education; we OUGHT to be winning handily, but somehow we always contrive to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. (Of course part of this is that our entire culture is designed to divide everyone who isn't a beneficiary of conservatism against one another, which is why I favor the apocalypse as a tool of social reform. As, actually, does Star Trek–World War III has to happen before the Enterprise can.)

    This story reminds me very much of the tragedy of Cherenkov in the video game Xenosaga. He also is a genetically engineered supersoldier, who when he is unable to integrate into society after the war is over (due largely to HORRIFICALLY unethical behavior by his social worker that amounts to emotional and sexual abuse), ends up a victim of the criminal "justice" cycle, continually being placed into situations that trigger his engineered-in propensity for violence and continually being punished for it by being placed into situations that… yeah.

    Also he's nearly killed by the aliens* that serve as the initial villains, and his resulting transformation leads to the player learning that everyone** who survives physical contact with them turns into a monster.

    He was basically the initial reason I went from playing the game for the cool monster designs and smoking-hot main character*** to playing the game because I was seriously invested in the characters and story.

    In other news, I have found an LGBT NPC in Star Trek Online, and am exceedingly pleased they exist, since Trek usually tries to pretend queer people only exist in the Mirror Universe. (It's a Bolian woman in Quark's. When you're trying to get a holosuite for the Deferi ambassador, she mistakenly thinks you're asking her to get a holosuite with you, and is quite enthusiastic about the idea, then gets mad when she realizes you're not. The dialogue is identical regardless of your character's gender, and stops just short of explicitly stating she thinks you're asking her for a one-night stand.) Particularly for a game that censors the word butt, it's surprisingly open-minded.

    Yes, I know. We'll call them aliens for simplicity.
    Again, I know. Simplifying.
    Look, I watched The Slayers when I was 13, it had a profound impact on me. I am incapable of not being attracted to smart, petite, temperamental redheads who are both nerdy and kind of mean.

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  3. K. Jones
    February 13, 2015 @ 7:47 am

    Actually I think being stuck in its time is precisely what makes this episode relevant for current leftist counterculturalists as well as aging new conservatives who are in fact stuck in 1989. A more timeless theme would ironically probably be lost on say, my dad, who was thrilled to miss the Vietnam draft by one year but who I constantly chastise now for being a bitter old hawk.

    He already lives in the 80s in his headspace, he refuses to adapt, so I imagine when he comes across this episode now and then, at least the relevance is the same as it always has been for him, unchanging.

    I'm not sure I've ever seen a scenario where something being dated is the keystone connecting a generational bridge before, but there you have it. And while I don't want to devolve away from the episode too far, I do want to at least echo my disdain for the heartless sloganeering of the phrase "Support Our Troops". As anything coming out of the P.R. Machine of Capitalism, it's the most reductive thing I've ever heard.

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  4. Daru
    February 20, 2015 @ 12:03 am

    "Yes, protest the war and stand against imperialism and oppression, but for the love of God understand and clearly explain what those things are and why and how they're so destructive."

    Completely agreed.

    I've had my fair share of seeing the destructiveness that gets seeded into culture and families from the fallout of my relations experiences in various wars and the lasting effects. My grandfather (on my mother's side) was in WWII and ended up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp and witnessed the Hiroshima blast . He remained a scarred man inside and out – even though he hid this from us as kids – but unfortunately my mother received the results of those scars.

    My uncle (same family branch) was in the army and went over to Northern Ireland during The Troubles. There was always a latent aggression in him when I knew him in my teens and I vividly remember him going and dealing with and abusive neighbour by masquerading as hit man and threatening him, which resulted in my father's car being set on fire.

    The ripples of the wars fought and how they turned many of our men into monsters are still being felt.

    I like to think that in the story Danar and the others take down the government and get the healing they need. As you say above K.Jones, I feel angered at the "Support Our Troops", especially during the UK Poppy appeals.

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  5. Daru
    February 20, 2015 @ 12:06 am

    Josh – I have been trying to access the previous post with the title "“And love, having no geography, knows no boundaries…' – but the page just doesn't load and kicks me into either the post before or after. All of the rest are working fine.

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  6. Josh Marsfelder
    February 20, 2015 @ 8:14 am

    Huh, weird: It works fine for me, maybe just keep trying?

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  7. Daru
    February 20, 2015 @ 8:18 pm

    Yeah it is weird, emptied cache etc & still happening. But will keep trying, thanks!

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  8. Daru
    February 22, 2015 @ 11:55 pm

    I managed to read it Josh but couldn't comment there weirdly – but interesting essay (I'll comment here if that's ok). You make a good point about when Moore in the episode was problematising the Federation, he really needed to not include the Enterprise crew in that net. Agreed. I think as a kid I got off on the stories that had action, double-crossing, or were more serious, but now, especially when I see races like the Romulans being reduced down to one type, it becomes boring for me. Do love the Shakespeare parts!

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