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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. Dustin
    February 29, 2016 @ 3:30 am

    That's two episodes in a row where a character finds a way of entering another's un(or para-)conscious. "Phantasms" doesn't really work for me, given how mundane I found its explanation (space leeches? Seriously? All that fantastically weird imagery and it just amounts to space leeches?) I preferred the dream story in "Birthright, Part I." (I must admit, though, I have no idea what your Phantasms post was supposed to be.)

    This is one of the many, many episodes I probably haven't seen since first broadcast. It's amazing, really, how little of TNG I've seen or even remember, given how much I used to claim to love it. But I'm glad to have been re-exposed to a really beautiful episode.

    About the left-field long-lost daughter thing that people dislike: this isn't a criticism I've ever really understood. Long-term stories like a TV series develop characters over time and fill in the background slowly. And that character, if they're written well (which Lwazana, sadly, was often not) grows in such a way that each new thing we learn makes a kind of sense (whereas a terrible writer will just drop, without any logic to it, some SHOCKING REVELATION THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.) "How come we never knew that Lwaxana had a daughter before Deanna?" people will ask, thinking this proves something about poor characterization. "Do you really expect every single detail of the characters life to be info-dumped in their first episode?" It's a criticism that makes even less sense in a multi-authored production (as opposed to the mastermind showrunner model people are used to these days).

    Trek didn't do a whole lot of episodes like this, where female characters controlled the narrative, were part of the crisis and part of the solution. Lots of scenes of women just talking to eachother in non-technobabble about difficult, very real and painful things. It's a god damn shame that it wasn't until S7 that Sirtis and Barrett got a story like this.


  2. Froborr
    February 29, 2016 @ 1:51 pm

    It may please you to know that the consensus of the Mark Watches community regarding this episode was quite positive. This is, I think, possibly the only time we get a good Troi episode that is also a good Lwaxana episode, with neither having their narrative sacrificed for the sake of the other. Good stuff!


  3. Daru
    March 6, 2016 @ 1:33 am

    I do love this episode for many of the reasons mentioned above – women in charge of their narrative, great Troi and Lwaxana story – and especially also the dream aspect of the story, and communication and knowledge happening through the dream/shaman space. I remember all of the episodes that worked with dreams in such a visual way in my brain, the images are still there often like a waking dream.


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