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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.

10 Comments

  1. K. Jones
    May 22, 2015 @ 8:36 am

    See, I can't watch this without factoring in shallowness and not just on the narrative level but also in the development of what it even is to be a symbiotic species like a Trill, because that means to the worm, there is literally a race of disposable people out there who line up to host him and essentially wipe out their own memories and for all intents and purposes, existence.

    Obviously the episode is flawed, and frankly the only part I found really compelling was that it gave Frakes something interesting to do by effectively playing another character in those negotiations. And it is an example of another episode where the B-Plot was totally interesting. Possible moon war because of one moon's greedy energy usage? How is that not relevant?

    But it pulls the rug out from under that in so many ill-thought ways.

    If Odan is in command of Riker's body, and uses it for sex, how is that not rape? Because Riker's a generally sexually liberated guy? Afraid not, bad writers. Because Riker had a latent attraction to Beverly too? Afraid not, bad writers. Because you needed a story beat that lets Riker have sex with yet another member of the crew? I'm not sure which is worse because by the end of this show there won't be a female crewmember in the core cast he hasn't slept with except for Tasha. The fact of the matter is, Riker sacrificing his body and mind, even temporarily, to save the life of a rare species (and save diplomatic relations) does not give Odan license to use Riker's body for whatever the fuck he wants.

    Unlike proper Trill, because I don't think we can reasonably retroactively even refer to this episode's species as a Trill at this point, Odan is effectively one of those noncorporeal entities from TOS that just takes over the body of one of the crew. Sure there's proper blood and guts surgery involved to make it so, rather than technicolor brain beams, but the morality is the same.

    So now Beverly's complicit in Riker's rape, too. And Troi pushed her into it. (And granted, that goes miles toward confirming a lot of my suspicions about the kind of psychic kink that Troi and Riker go for, but come on – that stuff is supposed to remain subtextual!)

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  2. Dustin
    May 22, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

    I never quite understood the full extent of the symbiont-host relationship. IT always bothered me that the host personalities seemed to be, essentially, extinguished by the joining, but the show was never entirely clear about it. That's a pretty horrifying thing, and I'm not so sure that they ever fully grappled with that implication.

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  3. K. Jones
    May 23, 2015 @ 8:57 am

    I mean DS9 pretty much tackles that head-on in their first season – what it means to be a symbiotic or dual-person, and everything from the emotional to the legal status of it. But the DS9 Trill are again, basically a wholly different thing than what Odan is here.

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  4. Daru
    May 29, 2015 @ 8:14 pm

    "“The Host” ends by having Beverly break off the relationship with Odan's next host, a woman, because it's “too complicated”. There is, of course, the obvious homophobia. Rush and the writing staff vehemently deny that they were intending to pass judgment on homosexuality and that this wasn't even a place they were meaning to go and that the episode isn't about that.

    Bullshit. It is."

    Yep bullshit, bullshit episode too, and bullshit on Roddenberry's supposed 'utiopian vision' – it still really bugs me deeply how that whole idea has been retroactively created, thus wiping out all the great work done by others.

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  5. Matt Marshall
    August 6, 2015 @ 1:59 am

    I think you've missed the wood for the trees with this one for 'The Host'. I mean yes, the ending should be brought up, but I don't think it's homophobic to have a hetrosexual character not wish to get into a homosexual relationship. I mean yes it torpedoes the episode's theme about 'love being what's on the inside that counts' and Dr Crusher's excuse is complete rubbish (and would have worked the same as with a new male host which if that was the actual reason they were going for, they should have done) but I don't think anyone should ever criticise a person for NOT being bisexual!

    Obviously the question arises that since it is fiction, the writers could have easily chosen to make Dr Crusher bisexual, but that's another argument entirely. It's probably more relevant to trans issues, to be honest. Is it wrong for someone in a relationship to break off that relationship if their partner transitions to a different gender and they feel no attraction to that gender? I… don't know. It's probably worth more than a minute's screentime at least!

    The real massive red-flag issue I had with this episode is that Riker surrenders his bodily autonomy to Odan to enable him to i) survive long enough to get a new perminant host and ii) broker a peace treaty, and Odan immediately starts abusing Riker's body by hitting on Dr Crusher, and Dr Crusher responds (egged on by Troi!!) by reciprocating. I guess in Star Trek land, rape is fine if it's Riker being raped? No-one in the crew seems at the least bit concerned at this frankly shocking behaviour (and in 'Man of the People' the crew straight-up kill an ambassador involved in similar peace negotiations for violating Troi's bodily autonomy (the fact in that episode they treat those occurences as comedy, ugh, and only go after the ambassador when it's clear Troi is dying makes you wonder if everyone would have been happy leaving Troi a sex-crazed lunatic if she wasn't in mortal peril, by the evidence of this episode the answer is 'yes')

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  6. Ross
    January 29, 2016 @ 3:41 pm

    So, thread necromancy and all, but I was just watching a video by Diamanda Hagan where she proposed that Picard's manhood (in a purely physical sense) was permanently lost when he became Locutus, and it got me thinking about this episode.

    Am I right in thinking Beverly Crusher the literally only character in all of Star Trek for whom we know from direct evidence that lack of a particular set of genitals is an absolute dealbreaker? I mean, sure, we know the general preference of lots of people, but I don't think there's ever been another scene where someone outright turns a proposition down on account of gender.

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  7. Matt Marshall
    January 29, 2016 @ 10:28 pm

    That… is a hell of a thread necromancy.

    Surely Star Fleet medical could have easily given Picard his Picard back???

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  8. Ross
    January 30, 2016 @ 7:33 am

    The weird thing is, that is the only hole (snicker) I could come up with in the theory. (Turns out Q directly says that the Borg are genderless way back when they introduced them.)

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  9. Mike
    June 6, 2017 @ 10:04 am

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  10. Jacob
    August 21, 2020 @ 4:12 am

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