Some sort of samizdat wind effect

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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.


    September 25, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

    Nice piece.

    That said, Lonely Among Us sticks in my throat for the same reason that The Last Outpost does.

    There's a great story Melinda Snodgrass tells about pitching the idea for The Measure of a Man to Gene Roddenberry. He listens, is interested. At the end, he offers one note: Data should volunteer for the procedure, because that's the right thing to do. Although nothing as explicit ever made it to screen, that's what sticks with me about the Federation in the first two seasons. It is a place where experiments on lviing organisms can be justified for the greater good – a place "enlightened" enough to justify that sort of barbarity, and most of the first two seasons treats this as a good thing.

    There's a beautiful moment in The Offspring where Picard makes it clear that he would not honour an organisation that steal a child from her parent in the interest of the greater good. This represents very clear character growth for Picard, because in the first two seasons, he probably would have gone along with it. (The Measure of a Man is probably the first truly great Picard story ever told, if only because it's the first to realise that Picard's virtues – his loyalty to Starfleet, his pride, his absolute moral certainty – can also be vices.)

    The problem with Lonely Among Us and The Last Outpost is that they invent one-dimensional "primitive" cultures for our leads to look down their noses at, in the same way that episodes like A Private Little War or Friday's Child treated the Klingons. The first-season Ferengi are to capitalism what the Klingons are to communism; stereotypical displays of excess that exist to score cheap points without a hint of introspection. Just because they do it to opposite sides of the political spectrum doesn't make it any better.

    Episodes like The Last Outpost and Lonely Among Us are reasons I would not want to live in the "utopia" presented in the first two seasons of The Next Generation, and I can't imagine many who would be comfortable in such an unquestioning culture so certain of its moral righteousness.



  2. Dustin
    September 26, 2014 @ 1:52 am

    My two favorite Patrick Stewart scenes so far on the rewatch: his climactic monologue in this episode while possessed by the entity, and, from "Where No One Has Gone Before," the encounter with a vision of his mother (an all-time favorite scene for me). There really isn't anything the man can't do.

    I'm a bit uncomfortable with the episode ending on a murder and treating it so lightheartedly.


  3. Daru
    October 22, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

    I don't have much of a memory of this story, but I was really struck by your saying that:

    "Doug Drexler tells Paula Block and Terry J. Erdmann In Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 how the bridge set was like a “futuristic night club”, with bowling, slam poetry sessions, impersonations, wrestling matches, singing and dancing and copious amounts of general screwing around. It's extremely rare not just in Star Trek, not just in television, but in any kind of production or life in general, to get that level of camaraderie and friendship. It sounds like an absolutely magical time, and reminds me of the few times I would travel to camps or workshop seminars and meet people who shared my interests and positionalities and with whom I too felt an immediate and intense kinship."

    That sounds truly great and I had not idea that had happened on the show, but it does make sense as that camaraderie must have bled through into the filmed material. I think what you say about the value of connecting with community touches on for me what the show is about. At the time of watching it for the first time I had two deep friends with whom I shared TNG, RPG and general fun and creativity that sparkles within me still. I don't see them anymore and lost contact years ago – but I do feel lucky in the UK to have a massive community of people with whom I share outdoor camps, journeys and workshops. This means a lot to me and acts almost as an essential medicine for my life and my soul. It's not always rosy, these connections, and like the crew of TNG we have and do go through skirmishes, but there is that essential connection that remains that comes from travelling through the cosmos together.


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