We’re not cancelled; these are just our Wilderness Years

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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. Daru
    April 12, 2015 @ 11:22 pm

    "It's a very proto-90s grimdark approach to conflict"

    I was never really a fan of the 90's grimdark either, I don't know if it had much to say beyond "people are tortured inside".

    For myself, I have never had kids either and made a decision long, long ago to not be a father. I am though great with kids and as a result a lot of my work is based around working with story making with children to fire up their inspiration and creativity. I kind of like to think of myself as being a 'father to many', and I always thought of Picard as being like that as a Starship Captain would be, so his ineptitude and discomfort with children always felt false to me.


  2. K. Jones
    April 13, 2015 @ 7:18 am

    I don't exactly enjoy children myself, but that said, I've got to disagree a little about Chekov's Gun not occurring in real life where that scenario is concerned. If there's one inevitable thing about living as a social animal, it's that though I don't particularly enjoy or want children around … people I know and love will have them. And they're not going to stop breeding, either. So unless you completely just bug out on humanity, it's probably good to at least get a slight reading on how to handle kids.

    Now, of course, parsing the narrow or broad readings we can focus in and more narrowly criticize the decision not to have Picard inevitably "deal with children" confused with the incredibly ham-fisted decision to place Picard in the role of "father figure". Add that to the obliviousness of the Enterprise crew this week in the face of a culture of … well, patriarchal pseudo-anarchists? … and multiply that by the inauthenticity of that actor trying to portray a hard-ass space punk? Yeah, the episode has a dilemma.

    Plus, it's just Charlie X without the magic.


  3. K. Jones
    April 13, 2015 @ 7:21 am

    Oh this also calls to mind last week, where Picard totally and happily interacted with a child, and I thought Jean-Luc's interactions with Renee in Family were not only fantastic, but fantastically well-depicted. Where Picard should never have to be shoe-horned into a father figure roll, he makes a pretty great uncle. And indeed, some of us are meant to be uncles and aunts, not parents.


  4. Josh Marsfelder
    April 13, 2015 @ 8:13 am

    "Where Picard should never have to be shoe-horned into a father figure roll, he makes a pretty great uncle. And indeed, some of us are meant to be uncles and aunts, not parents."

    Yes, this. This is what I was trying to say and should have said summed up way more succinctly then I was able to. It's a great way of explaining the specific strengths Picard (and really the rest of his crew) has and the narrative roles they're best suite to playing. I'll also add, given I recently wrote about him, that Wesley is another factor making this less clear than it could be, considering the show constantly wants him to see Picard as a father figure.

    Also reminds me of Kei and Yuri, who can never be moms, but are pretty much the best big sisters anyone could ever ask for.


  5. K. Jones
    April 14, 2015 @ 11:11 am

    The roles of siblings, and then their extensions as uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews and then the non-genetic extensions of that, the honorary big brothers and sister figures, are all woefully underutilized in the fiction of the last, oh, half-century maybe. Except maybe Batman and Robin, though writers often heap angsty father issues into that dynamic as well.

    I think there's a lot of armchair Freudian cliches that get heaped up and maybe even fetishized (for lack of a better term) in the vernacular of fictional characterization, particularly genre fiction where stock tropes are an invasive parasite.


  6. Josh Marsfelder
    April 14, 2015 @ 11:56 am

    I hadn't thought of that, but I think you're right again. The very fact genre fiction is at heart more interested in ideas and themes than characterization means that characterization can get dismissed and hand-waved away with hackish stock tropes.

    And of course, the very next episode is one that's supposed to deal explicitly with sibling themes. And it pretty much does nothing that either one of us have been talking about. What does it do? Defaults back onto stereotypical "prodigal son", "sibling rivalry" stuff.


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