Eruditorum Press

A workers state with executive dysfunction

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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.

9 Comments

  1. Burl Bird
    December 31, 2014 @ 9:19 am

    Great reading of B-plot – but this episode still remains the one that almost made me give up re-watching TNG a few years back. That scene – that damn scene when Riker, after exchanging two sentences with a single guy on a single starship, dismisses HIS WHOLE SPECIES as being "a little slow" – followed by Data who says "their" language skills might be poorly developed – followed by no other than Troi who, in a later scene, confirms that the Enterprise crew now considers the whole Pakled species to be, well, mentally retarded — that was probably the most offensive thing ever done on this show.

    Now, I can understand how "Code of Honor" touches the feelings of Afro-Americans – but that episode failed to resonate anything offensive to someone who lives in a mono-racial culture, where "people of color" are still something fairly exotic (greetings from Serbia btw! 🙂 ) But having worked with autistic and "intelectualy challenged" children for some years, I was immediately offended by "Samaritan Snare". Too bad – B-plot, especially when keeping Nausicaa in mind, does open something new for Picard. Riker, however, was almost permanently damaged in my eyes after this..

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  2. Adam Riggio
    December 31, 2014 @ 1:54 pm

    As awful as this episode's A plot is, the story of Picard's artificial heart is worthwhile if only because it set the stage for the genuinely transformative episode (and I consider it one of my favourite late TNG stories) Tapestry. It's an old story trope, but it's executed extremely well, and includes several ethical twists that can be quite mind-bending when you think about them.

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  3. Josh Marsfelder
    December 31, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

    This episode is a terrific example of the value of negative or selective continuity. Burl's criticisms are of course entirely valid, but I still, for obvious reasons, enjoy looking at the implications of the B-plot.

    And just as "Samaritan Snare" lays the groundwork for "Tapestry", this post allows me to lay the groundwork for my essay on "Tapestry".

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  4. Daru
    January 8, 2015 @ 9:13 pm

    "And in one of the most shocking and transformative moments in all of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's revealed the person who almost killed Captain Picard was Princess Nausicaä."

    I was genuinely blown away when I read this in the essay Josh – thank you for such a revelation! I had no idea at all about these thematic links. I already thought that the plot with Picard receiving an artificial heart was truly amazing, touching, trans-human and transformative as Adam states above.

    This is why I read this blog Josh as I had in no way picked up these connections when I watched the show ever – so thank you again.

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  5. Spoilers Below
    January 21, 2015 @ 7:38 am

    As an interesting angle to the the "she doesn't change, we just get to know her better", you might be interested to watch episode 155 of the red jacket Lupin the 3rd series ("Farewell, Beloved Lupin"), if you haven't seen it. It was directed by Hayao Miyazaki under the pseudonym of Teruki Tsutomu, and is easily one of the best in the series.

    The episode is almost a test run for Nausicaä, featuring a young girl trying her best to avoid conflict, outwit a defense contractor, and stop Japan from entering another horrible war. Maki, the young girl who pretty much supplants Lupin as protagonist in the episode, looks almost exactly like Clarice from Cagliostro , and Nausicaä herself (with the same voice actress, Sumi Shimamoto, to boot!), and displays all the compassion, empathy, and desire from peace we'll see later on in Miyazaki's work.

    Miyazaki got to know her very well, it seems. She just wore a different mask this time, just like all the different masks worn by different characters throughout the episode itself.

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  6. Josh Marsfelder
    January 21, 2015 @ 2:48 pm

    I was familiar with the Nausicaä-Maki connection because I learned about Miyazaki's work on Lupin during my research, but I haven't seen the actual episode in question yet. I really should, considering how important this is starting to become to my work and interests both here and elsewhere.

    One of the things that strikes me as so profound about Nausicaä, and Kei and Yuri too, is precisely what you say here: That they become almost these guardian spirits who reappear time and time again wearing slightly different contextual guises to specific people. Miyazaki absolutely viewed Nausicaä this way (which is why I'm so stunned by and deeply respectful of his stance on her today, like how he's openly supportive of Hideki Anno doing a story with her) and Kei and Yuri have become so essential a part of the anime medium you see them crop up everywhere under different names: Any time you see a pair of girlfriends, one who has red hair (or just lighter hair) and is more tomboyish and one who has blue hair and is more demure, that's them or someone responding to them, even if they're not cognizant that's actually what they're doing.

    Haruka Takachiho, Sunrise and Studio Nue have even made overtures to explicitly acknowledge this: Takachiho has said many times the strength of Kei and Yuri is that you can tell stories about them in any kind of setting or genre, and several years back there were even a couple radio series that recast the Angels in wildly disparate times, places and roles, like investigative specialists assisting the FBI solving mysteries along Route 66 in the mid-20th Century, or as ninja-in-training in 1791.

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  7. Daru
    January 21, 2015 @ 10:31 pm

    "One of the things that strikes me as so profound about Nausicaä, and Kei and Yuri too, is precisely what you say here: That they become almost these guardian spirits who reappear time and time again wearing slightly different contextual guises to specific people."

    In a lot of ways that idea, which is beautiful, makes me think of Michael Moorcock's concept of The Eternal Champion. An entity, a being, a force that exists across time, space and dimensions that exists to bring balance to the multiverse.

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  8. Josh Marsfelder
    January 21, 2015 @ 11:18 pm

    …And The Eternal Champion would also be the canonical name of the first protagonist of The Elder Scrolls series, which is a series where protagonists are literally that and function that way diegetically.

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  9. Daru
    January 21, 2015 @ 11:27 pm

    That's very cool, thanks! Not being a computer gamer I had no idea – how wonderful! Cosmic concepts such as The Eternal Champion or Kei & Yuri break out of their home media and come to life in a vast array of extended mediums don't they? That's what we are seeing with all of Kei & Yuri's subtle appearances in Trek – it naturally has to happen though, as such cosmic beings cannot be contained by even the laws of texts and conventional narrative.

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