Incremental progress meets Zeno’s Paradox

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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 18, 2014 @ 10:11 pm


    I never really liked Lwaxanna on The Next Generation. She seemed very much a sexist stereotype – the horny middle-aged woman terrorising the male members of the crew. Haven is very much in that mode, but it REALLY comes to the fore in Manhunt, which culminates in Picard and Riker letting her publicly humiliate herself with Rex in a sequence treated as a deserved comeuppance. The Next Generation tended to treat her as a cruel joke outside of rare episodes like Half a Life or the (very) flawed Dark Page.

    I actually thought that DS9 did a much better job with her, to the point that I would not have minded seeing her once or twice more. The Forsaken is another very average first season diplomat episode in the style of Journey to Babel, but I think Lwaxanna functions more as a person there. Her relationship with Odo felt a lot more real and candid than anything on The Next Generation, juxtaposing Odo's "true" form with the happy chirpy face Lwaxanna puts on for the universe around her. (The episode becomes all the more poignant for the passing of Majel Barrett's husband. As you said, she very much IS Lwaxanna.) Fascination and The Muse may not be strong episodes, but I think they allow Lwaxanna more dignity and sympathy than her appearances on The Next Generation. The bit in Fascination where she reveals she is genuinely concerned for Odo as a friend after his discovery in The Search – while respecting that he might not want to talk about it, but she was there anyway – is perhaps the most dignified the character ever appeared on Star Trek.


  2. Dustin
    September 19, 2014 @ 12:08 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  3. Ross
    September 19, 2014 @ 1:27 am

    I may have to rewrite the paragraph about Haven I drafted for a future article of my own. I just couldn't get past the whole "arranged marriage" thing. It seems to me like any reaction to arranged marriage other than "Fuck that noise." is retrograde bullshit that has no place in TNG-era trek (I may have been slightly on edge because I'd just watched "Lolani" and was pissed off about the middle third where Kirk and company waffle uselessley about how they have no right to interfere in another culture's slave trade and instead must hand over a runaway slave.)

    It's the first episode since “Encouter at Farpoint” that unquestionably exists in its own world and doesn't make sweeping, obvious callbacks to the Original Series

    It does occur to me to wonder if this isn't deliberately calling back to Amok Time, though. Since I'm feeling uncharitable toward this season of TNG right now, I can very easily see it as an attempt to show up their predacessor by saying "See? Betcha thought this was going to end with Riker tearing his shirt and engaging Wyatt in a fight to the death with one of those weighted stick things. We can get our telepathic character out of an arranged marriage using peaceful means, because this is the enlightened 24th century!"


  4. Dustin
    September 19, 2014 @ 1:53 am

    Any reason you're doing these in production order rather than broadcast order or stardate order?

    I admit to being very uncomfortable whenever SF decides to play with mysticism and spirituality. I'm more at home with the aggressively secular, and with stories that that treat woo like Lwaxana's remark to Wyatt with the derision it tends to deserve. "It's all connected" is an awfully convenient way to explain all the coincidences in your story, everyone meeting up with exactly the right person at exactly the proper moment. The galaxy is enormous, yet writers of stories like this have so little sense of its scale.

    But, Wyatt and Ariana meet, of course, because the story needs them to meet, because the show isn't about to evict Troi only ten episodes in.

    Sirtis is wonderful here, and I'm grateful to find that she did indeed have some characterization in the first season other than "I sense anger," etc., since I remember so little of anything she did in these early years.

    And I couldn't disagree more with the first comment about Lwaxana being, well, what someone, somewhere would eventually describe with the coinage of "cougar." She's brilliant here, sympathetic, funny, and her flirtation with Picard certainly doesn't qualify as terrorizing anyone. Maybe she gets worse later; I don't remember all that well. But I agree that here, she's fantastic from the get-go.


  5. Dustin
    September 19, 2014 @ 2:05 am

    Didn't catch at first that the title was a bit of Whitman. How are going about choosing your quotes? I would've expected you to use lines pulled from the show, that maybe that would just be copying Sandifer.


  6. Dustin
    September 19, 2014 @ 2:06 am

    "though maybe," etc.


  7. Josh Marsfelder
    September 19, 2014 @ 6:12 am

    "Any reason you're doing these in production order rather than broadcast order or stardate order?"

    Because I did the Original Series that way and I think one gets a better overview of the evolution and development of the series by looking at its material production history. And also it allows me to do something rather cheeky with Tasha Yar at the end of the season.


  8. Josh Marsfelder
    September 19, 2014 @ 6:15 am

    I pick my quotes based on either overarching themes and concepts I see in the episode or that my post seems to convey. They're not always from Star Trek, no, partly because I didn't want to be seen as copying Phil.

    Well, any more than I am, at any rate.


  9. K. Jones
    September 19, 2014 @ 6:59 pm

    Lwaxana is the singular character that I've rethought, rethunk, and completely hundred-eighty degree changed my mind about over the years. Certainly not all of her appearances are as fantastic as this one.

    We also never get a better glimpse of just what Betazoid aliens have to offer in terms of understanding of the universe, slight hard sci-fi differences from human anatomy and customs. Far more than human-plus.

    While I couldn't help now but wonder how different the episode could have been had Denise Crosby portrayed Troi, I don't think there's much argument that Marina's Deanna wasn't channeling very relatable emotions, whether blowing up at her mother, being surprised at Wyatt's quality, slightly coy with Riker.

    Furthermore, I think that in spite of all the mud slung at the character of Lwaxana as being loud, overbearing, obnoxious, hard to watch … the more I watch her character, and her interactions with Sirtis, the more I think "wow … she's a good mother." Not without her foibles, but she seriously only ever has Deanna's best interests at heart.

    And I agree 100% that by forcing the show to be a character episode, Haven proves to be one of the first fine examples of where this show can go. This cast is tailor made for character work – the sci-fi is going to have to serve that, not the other way around.

    I also thought that the Haven Prefect had a fascinating and stylish look – a level of stylishness kind of huge for how minor her appearance was. Noticing Armin Shimmerman was less huge for me because the NetFlix queue wasn't playing in production order, so I'd seen Last Outpost a few nights ago.

    Haven is a good episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Possibly the first properly good episode. And it's a Troi-heavy, Lwaxana feature episode. Take that, haters!


  10. Prankster
    September 24, 2014 @ 4:05 am

    It always bugged me a little that the Tarellians were OH SO CONVENIENTLY a bunch of perfectly human-looking people, with Ariana as a beautiful blonde. I guess that's sort of necessary for the story, but I don't know if the "I always assumed it was you" twist in which Wyatt assumed Ariana's face was Troi's is so great that it couldn't be jettisoned for something that acknowledged more of the complexities of the situation. What if the Tarellians a) looked alien or b) had more obvious physical drawbacks, be they deformities or some other physiological problem (the plague in this episode definitely feels like a plot device and little more). Oddly, both "The Cage"/"The Menagerie" storyline from TOS and the Voyager episode "Lifesigns" deal with these issues somewhat more honestly.

    Seriously though: if we're going to have members of different alien races falling in love with each other, aren't we owed an episode where one of the parties is completely physiologically different from the other and the attraction is fully psychological and emotional?


  11. Daru
    October 20, 2014 @ 11:07 pm

    I have to say that Majel Barrett, as Lwaxana Troi is point blank just one of my favourite characters in TNG. Q is great but his stories don't always live up to expectations – but I still think he's brilliant. Lwaxana is a jewel though – I adore that she does not care about hierarchies in Star Fleet and just upturns any narrative she steps into. I have a deep love for other similar characters who come from the fringes of Star Fleet or hold viewpoints different from that of the Federation; will say more when we come to them and will be interesting to see what you have to say Josh.


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