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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.

4 Comments

  1. K. Jones
    February 9, 2015 @ 4:15 am

    It's true though – in my headcanon, while Pulaski remains the ship's doctor, Crusher is this ship's chief science officer. She was always doing experiments and science projects anyway, and her specialty always seemed to lean toward a fascination with exobiology, so it's no surprise when those roles come along her character just leaps off the screen with potential.

    Standout Riker episode. Standout episode episode. It's interesting – this is another episode you could almost copy-paste onto The Original Series, with "Some Bureaucrat" filling the Picard role while Kirk romanced the assassin and Spock solved the science mystery. Everything from their high competency dealing with the rabble of the Gatherers using guile and superior firepower (and Worf's confidence!) to the good old fashioned heartbreaking ending. But it's so unmistakably TNG in its execution. You give a heartbreaking ending to the soulful, friendly guy. You take Wesley down a peg. And on and on and on.

    Plus just as a high concept I loved how far Clan Trelesta went with designer gene-phages and life-expansion.

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  2. Adam Riggio
    February 9, 2015 @ 6:08 pm

    I'm going to be contrarian again, but you seem to enjoy my redemptive readings. So here it is. This episode's ending is genuinely cowardly, but also fearless. I love it for its fearlessness.

    Will Riker is, at his best, an agent of redemption. He's the charismatic master of casual sympathy that makes people better simply through interacting with them (and with occasional makeouts). Roddenberry wanted a happy ending, and this time, he was right. Because Star Trek is about redemption and happy endings.

    Tragedy sometimes is corny and stereotypical, a stoic walk out of the frame with the sound of the phaser blasts echoing around the room. "There could have been another way." But the story did something very courageous with Yuta, admitting that there are some quests that are beyond the power of the Enterprise crew to overcome. Her entire life for nearly a century was shaped by this feud, and even though Riker offered her a way out, she had buried herself too deeply. It wasn't that her situation was inescapable; it was inescapable FOR HER.

    She could not overcome the weight of her existence as an instrument of revenge, and had lived too long in a world of violence to accept the world of peace that the negotiations were ending. The Gatherers would never settle on Acamar under their government. Chorgan scoffs at the offer to become farmers. What matters is no longer being exiles: they want to visit, to stop by, to end their status as outlaws. A wanderer doesn't have to be an outlaw or embrace a violent lifestyle. Just look at the Enterprise.

    Despite her appearance as a foxy blonde, Yuta had lived too long as a weapon to acclimatize herself to the new culture of her world. Guns only rust in a peaceful world. Sometimes, progress only comes when the weapons are dismantled. Yuta is choosing progress, but it's the progress of decommissioning herself.

    I don't believe she walked into that conference hall with any notion that she'd ever succeed in killing Chorgan, or that she'd ever leave it alive. She had always killed sneakily, out of sight so she could easily escape. Now, she's barging in on a meeting between the Gatherers' leader and her world's leader, brokered by a visiting dignitary from a nearby superpower, and having practically dared Riker to stop her.

    Yuta isn't tragically giving in to fate. She's asking Riker to assist in her euthanasia, the most intimate, private, and solemn request you can make of someone you know cares about you.

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  3. K. Jones
    February 10, 2015 @ 9:07 am

    That tracks with how the two parties "negotiations" needed to realize they had common ground, and the best way to do that is to be faced with somebody who has a point-of-view that can truly be called "extreme". Which is an interesting study in the relationship between individuals and the relationships between groups.

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  4. Daru
    February 18, 2015 @ 9:42 pm

    Yes, brilliant story this and very memorable for me. That amazing green lighting in the open, the wonderfully vivid design of the Gatherers and I had no idea at all about the use of Forbidden Planet paintings, wow!

    Loved the Science Officer aspect of Beverley too. Combined with great production design and an intense ending make this a potent tale.

    Reply

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