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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. Jack Graham
    January 4, 2015 @ 11:35 pm

    I've always really wished Dr Selar had stuck around as a regular. Not only because, to be a little basic about this, I think Suzi Plakson makes an incredibly sexy Vulcan, but also because I loved the idea of a Vulcan doctor – i.e. someone without overt emotions, without sentimentality of any kind, with a logical and utilitarian attitude emblazoned on their sleeve, being a healer and interacting with human patients who expect sympathy, and with other doctors and nurses trained in a certain way of interacting with the sick and injured. Imagine the interactions between Selar and Pulaski for instance. Actually, now I come to think about it, Pulaski would probably be hard-nosed enough to see the value of Selar's approach (because the best form of compassion is always practicality)… but imagine Selar vs Crusher. The conflict would all be based on an instant snap judgement on both sides, of course, and would gradually deepen into mutual respect… but I'm being counterfactual now. They tried something similar with Picard vs Pulaski and fumbled it.

    Regarding Worf… I'm inclined to be a bit more forgiving of what they do with him in this episode. I think the business of Worf oscillating back and forth between being a theoretical die-hard traditionalist and a floppy Federation-influenced liberal is quite well done. He's both, inextricably. That works for me because he takes literally what he has learned second hand, while Klingons steeped in their own social culture have to actually live it 'on the ground' so to speak. His isolation from other Klingons means he can cherish these ideals by himself, whereas actual immersion in an honour-obsessed (or perhaps a better term would be 'propriety-obsessed') culture tends to engender more worry about 'what the neighbours think' than about actual ethical purity. That means he has a more serious attitude to 'honour' than many other Klingons, which means he's more likely to display a moral centre in battle.. but also more likely to get hung up on 'the done thing'. K'Ehleyr could have been a really interesting liminal figure in this respect, fuzzing up Worf's categories. In fact I tend to think that, in this ep at least, they pull it off.


  2. K. Jones
    January 5, 2015 @ 12:50 pm

    You know I grabbed in the dark with mentioning that Plakson's Selar would be a cooler romance for Worf and didn't realize that it was intended to be just that. I guess it just read as obvious in how Dorn and Plakson played it in that all-too-brief exchange on Gravesworld. Certainly there's no fault to be found in the chemistry between the two actors!

    I'm also a firm believer that even as you divorce yourself from The Original Series in philosophy and theme, Worf exists because this show needed a Klingon and it's a neat role to show how enemies can become allies in such an overt and "the face of it" dynamic, and so I'm also a firm believer that this show needed a Vulcan as well. You don't have to retell stories about Vulcan dogma and the trials and tribulations of someone of mixed ancestry (as a Vulcan, anyway). But the Vulcan presence from a world-building standpoint, and the positionality a Vulcan character brings (and magic!) would have served well a supporting character in a "junior officer" role akin to how O'Brien is positioned, and it's never bad to pair Worf with a formidable woman.

    The presentation even seems to write itself, with Pulaski in her wisdom being a pretty damn good match-maker and pairing two iconoclastic alien travelers together before she moves on to other travels and Crusher returns. As we know from the odd Selar name-drop in a different episode – unlike ship's sawbones of old, Pulaski has 100% confidence in her Vulcan contemporary.

    It'll be funny to revisit these sentiments about missed opportunities and the iconic, and ironically barely explored "world-builder" races of TOS in about 500 essays' time when Plakson returns as an Andorian.


  3. Adam Riggio
    January 6, 2015 @ 1:19 pm

    Worf's decade-long character arc of grappling with his Klingon heritage across TNG and DS9 is one of the most complex continuing stories in all of Star Trek, and it begins as a story here. You have a wonderful idea to use the double appearance of Suzie Plakson as K'Hleyr and Selar to wonder what might have been. They're such different characters, but also such clear parallels: a doctor who heals physical wounds and sickness, and an ambassador who makes and maintains peace. That also makes them both such clear breaks from traditional Klingon culture which valorized death and war. Their names even rhyme. It fits your method throughout Vaka Rangi of exploring alternate timelines and ways things could have gone.

    You say that TNG coming down on the side of K'Hleyr marks a regress from what Heart of Glory established about Worf. But I think that episode's influence remains on Worf as a character, a prologue to his multi-series narrative. That episode did establish his nature as a different sort of Klingon. But it established his difference only as having turned away from the senseless aggression of warmongering that Korris and Konmel believe is essential to Klingon nature. Even the Klingon captain in that episode, K'Nera, stands against their regressively fundamentalist vision of violence. Worf never rejected Klingon culture as a whole: he never follows through on K'Nera's offer to join the Klingon fleet because his home is the Enterprise, but his ethics never turn away entirely from Klingon culture. He's just not sure what he will craft as his own alternative.

    A relationship with Selar would have been fascinating to see, and I hope your post launches a few solid fanfics. But Selar would have set Worf in a direction that saw him turning more cleanly away from his Klingon heritage, which would have been interesting to see, but more reactionary instead of creative.

    K'Hleyr is the pivot point on which Worf engages the values of the Enterprise with his Klingon cultural heritage to figure out a way to live that rejects neither and combines both to produce a way of life that is entirely singular and new.


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