Aug 3 2012 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Outcast”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Outcast“The Outcast”
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 5, Episode 17
Production episode 40275-217
Original air date: March 16, 1992
Stardate: 45614.6

Captain’s Log: The J’Naii—an androgynous species—have asked for the Enterprise’s help in finding a missing shuttlecraft. Data finds no sign of the shuttle, but he does detect a neutrino pulse with no source. They launch a probe, which also disappears into what they soon realize is a pocket of null space.

Riker and Soren, one of the (many) J’Naii on board, devise a rescue plan. As they work together on this plan, they ask each other about their respective cultures. But when Krite, another J’Naii, interrupts their conversation in Ten-Forward, Soren gets all formal and leaves. Krite obviously makes Soren uncomfortable.

Later, Soren and Riker take a shuttle to map the null-space region, the first step before attempting a rescue. Soren also asks Riker a lot of direct questions about how bi-gendered species mate as compared to the J’Naii. Soren explains that the J’Naii used to have two sexes, but they evolved into their current form, and they think of genders as primitive.

While mapping the pocket, one of the shuttle’s engines brushes across the null-space and damaging it. Soren is injured and taken to sickbay. While there, Soren queries Crusher about being a woman.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Outcast

They go back to fix the shuttle, and Soren admits that there are those among the J’Naii who identify themselves as male or female, against tradition. Soren identifies as female, and tells Riker of others who buck the gender system—but those who are caught are taken away and “reeducated” into properly androgynous people.

Riker and Soren are able to map out the null field and rescue the two people in the J’Naii shuttle. They’re also falling for each other. This does not escape the notice of Krite, who has Soren taken into custody for perverted behavior.

Soren insists that “misfits” who identify with one gender are not unnatural, that they are just like every other person. (Riker tries to barge in and say he forced himself onto Soren, but Soren doesn’t let him take the heat.) This impassioned plea is met with disgust and arrest. Soren is taken away to be “cured.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Outcast

Picard offers to negotiate with the J’Naii, but he’s not sure what can be done. The captain urges Riker not to take matters into his own hands, which leads Riker to go ahead and take matters into his own hands. Worf stops by Riker’s quarters as he prepares his clandestine mission, and offers to aid him. Unfortunately, they’re too late, as Soren has already been reeducated.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Pockets of null space can absorb electromagnetic energy, making them difficult to detect, and almost impossible to get out of.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Riker goes to see Troi to, in essence, ask permission to date Soren. This is a bit odd, since Riker and Troi haven’t been any kind of item since reuniting back in “Encounter at Farpoint,” and it’s not like either of them have asked permission before when they’ve seen other people (e.g., “The Price,” “The Vengeance Factor”).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Outcast

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf acts depressingly Neanderthal during the poker game, describing Troi’s wild-card-heavy game as “a woman’s game.” Hard to reconcile this with the guy who said “Klingons appreciate strong women,” and, for that matter, who was captured and tortured by Lursa and B’Etor not long ago. However, he redeems himself in the end, helping Riker with his rescue attempt. (I always thought that Worf’s eagerness to disobey orders on Riker’s behalf was his way of paying Riker back for his come-to-Jesus talk in “Ethics.”)

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Riker and Soren start out curious about each other’s sex roles, and then fall in love. Apparently. I gotta say, “Commander, tell me about your sexual organs” is one helluvan opening line....

I Believe I Said That: “Men want to be attractive, too, believe me. They just go about it differently. They like to pretend they’re not doing anything to attract a woman, even when it’s the most important thing on their minds.”

Crusher, talking about the difference between men and women.

Welcome Aboard: Melinda Culea is less than compelling as Soren, which matches nicely with the equally bland Callan White as Krite. Megan Cole’s pretty blah, too, but for the judge character she plays, that actually works, as it’s the blandness of pseudomoral authority, which is effective. Cole will also appear in two episodes of Deep Space Nine as Romulan Senator Cretak.

Trivial Matters: This episode establishes the Federation as being founded in 2161. Amusingly, that was a conjectural date that Mike & Denise Okuda came up with for the Star Trek Chronology, which writer Jeri Taylor used as her guide for writing the poker scene, thus making the speculation official.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The OutcastIn your humble rewatcher’s TNG comic book series Perchance to Dream, the Enterprise deals with a species that has three genders, the Damiani. In Peter David’s New Frontier prose series, Burgoyne 172, one of the officers on the Excalibur, is a Hermat, who is both male and female. In the New Frontier anthology No Limits, Robert T. Jeschonek decided to have some fun and do a Burgoyne story called “Oil and Water” that has hir working with both Damiani and J’Naii.

This episode was deliberately written to be an allegory for homosexuality, the first time Star Trek ever did so. (And not the last time they’d do it badly.)

Make it So: “We have been taught that gender is primitive.” It’s really hard to discuss this episode because it’s become such a major touchstone that goes way above and beyond the episode itself. There are entire web sites that have been dedicated to Star Trek’s poor track record with regard to dealing with homosexuality. David Gerrold’s first-season script “Blood and Fire” would have had an openly gay couple on the Enterprise (something that has yet to be seen on screen, though the tie-in fiction has plenty of it), but that script was killed. (Later, Gerrold repurposed it for his Voyage of the Star Wolf series, which is a series of space opera novels that are thinly veiled TNG-how-Gerrold-would-have-done-it stories, and again for the Star Trek: Phase II series of fan films.)

This particular episode fails on a number of levels. As an allegory of attempts by religious groups to “cure” homosexuals, it’s not bad, if a bit sledgehammery. Unfortunately, the big speech has to be delivered by the charisma-less Melinda Culea, who has all the passion of a dead fish as she pleads for understanding.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on The Outcast

Indeed, this is the biggest failing of the episode. We’ve gone over this ground before—“The Emissary,” “The Price,” “Half a Life,” “The Host”—and the problem with having a relationship-in-an-hour episode is that you need the guest love interest to, y’know, not suck. Riker and Soren’s relationship is utterly unconvincing, which is entirely on the back of Culea. When Riker says “I love you” at the end, it’s impossible to even believe him.

Everything about this episode that’s supposed to challenge gender stereotypes instead just reinforces them, from Soren’s talk with Crusher to Worf’s macho idiocy. In addition, as with “Code of Honor,” a casting decision makes the script come across worse than it actually is: all the J’Naii are played by women with awful haircuts. Jonathan Frakes is on record as saying the episode would have been much stronger if Soren was played by a male actor—indeed, it’s impossible to think of Soren as anything other than female, the way Culea plays the character—and he’s absolutely right.

Hell, even the opening captain’s log is problematic. Yes, the purpose of those logs is more to provide the viewer with exposition than to actually be a true captain’s log, but dammit, identifying them as “an androgynous race” in the log? He never would say, “We’ve taken on a delegation of Vulcans, a pointy-eared species,” so why’s he pointing it out here?

The crimes committed by this episode have been enumerated by many, but they mostly lose sight of one of its worst: it’s a crummy episode. Poorly written, with a forgettable technobabble problem to keep the plot moving that’s mediocre even by TNG’s incredibly low standards of forgettable technobabble problems to keep the plot moving, and a complete failure as a guest character, it’s just bad.

Ultimately, this episode reminds me of a famous exchange between Oscar Wilde and one Mr. Carson, who asked, “May I take it that you think The Priest and the Acolyte was not immoral?” to which Wilde replied, “It was worse: it was badly written.”


Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido was the person who put a homosexual character in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series: Dr. Bartholomew “Bart” Faulwell, the ship’s linguist and cryptographer, was gay. It was the first Star Trek series in prose or screen form to have a “main character” who was homosexual.

1. DarthRachel
I agree that this is an awful episode ( I was netflixing TNG the other day and it came on and I immediately skipped it bc it's just awful)

BUT there is one thing I appreciate this episode for - they pair up the macho guy who always has pretty traditional love interests (even Bebe Neuwirth's bespectacled nurse was attractive and sexually aggressive) with a sort of mousy, quiet girl...( the androgeny thing is totally negated as you said). Riker can sometimes come off as douchey but his attraction to this androgenous character makes me want to re evaluate him.
2. DarthRachel
of course now I'm reading what I just typed and thinking "ugh.. that's so douchey of Riker to be attracted to a little mouse he can protect and bully as he pleases"...

dammit Riker.
3. Ender's Ghost
I recently watched this episode for the first time. I'd read about it online, and thought, "Wow, I don't remember an episode that dealt with gay issues when I watched this growing up." I was only in High School, so I probably wouldn't even have realized that it WAS about homosexuality then, but I'm fairly certain I didn't see this episode in it's original run. I lived in Georgia at the time, which was (and still is) not known for its tolerance of, well, anything really.

Is it possible that it wasn't aired at all? Does anyone know if specific markets blacked it out?

Overall, I agree it was pretty sledge-hammery, especially with the "reeducation" plot point, but, sadly, that kind of thing does still happen. I give it the benefit of the doubt considering it aired in 1991. I never considered the impact of the love interest character being played by a man. Now THAT would have raised some eyebrows!
4. Mike Kelm
Great idea that is still culturally relevant... horrible, horrible execution. As KRAD stated, with only 42 minutes to have a romance storyline, it really has to hit, and this one really, really didn't. Then throw in the fact that nobody seems to act in character. Riker attempts to claim he forced himself on her and then randomly decides to launch a commando raid? He asks Troi for permission to date (I sort of get it between Worf and Riker, but considering how many times Troi has hooked up with randoms, who cares?) Worf decides to be a cretin, Picard is pretty much not really here- he either is oblivious to the fact or condoning that Riker has launched his little raid which would be a violation of the J'Naii's sovereignty, which is out of character for him.'

Soren has one great speech which looks great in text form but just wasn't delivered well where she talks about how gender identified people (taking the place of homosexuals in our allegory) are just the same as non-genders (heterosexuals) where she says she isn't sick, doesn't need help, etc.

Also, I get the impression that the J'Naii aren't "new" to the galaxy- why does Soren need to have conversations with Riker and Crusher about gender and sexuality? This is something that could have been done with two lines of dialogue, where one of them asks why she's so curious and she says that it's all been banned/blocked/whatever by the government. Instead it just seems like a really wierd conversation.
Keith DeCandido
5. krad
Mike Kelm: I will give them credit for this -- Soren's curiosity about the way two-sexed species work is due to her own status as a one-gendered person in a society that views dual sexes as unevolved. It's something the J'Naii know about, but don't like and avoid learning in depth because they think it's icky.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael Burstein
6. mabfan
As others have said. What Star Trek should have done was shown openly gay people in Starfleet, along with other types of people, and make no big deal about it. Instead, this episode was heavy-handed, and, well, bad. I could never accept Riker falling in love so quickly either.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Alan Courchene
7. Majicou
I wonder now if "J'Naii" is a play on the Japanese construction "ja nai," which can approximately be rendered as "isn't": onna ja nai; otoko ja nai. Not a woman, not a man. Or it's a coincidence. One of those two.
Speaking of Japanese, this episode being a bad allegory about homosexuality makes me think of the term "yaoi" for a genre of manga/anime about gay male characters, and the fact that it comes from a Japanese acronym meaning "No climax, no resolution, no meaning." Apt.
Alyssa Tuma
8. AlyssaT
Using only females to cast the J'Naii always annoyed me. Not saying that Soren necessarily needed to be played by a guy (although wouldn't that have been fascinating!), but I would have preferred more of a 50/50 split -- or even heavier/more "alien" makeup that made them less obviously human females. Something about the decision to cast all female made that trial scene call to mind, for me, the frustrating notion that "strong, intelligent women (gay, straight, or otherwise) are joyless man-haters who hate sex." Which was obviously not the message trying to be conveyed at all. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's what it reminded me of. Sigh. Fantastic idea, super-duper clumsy execution.

Also, I don't typically read the TNG reviews on the AV Club (nothing against 'em, I just have a better resource here!), but I decided to look this one up. Interestingly, their reviewer loved it, gave it an "A," and cited Culea as the highlight! I'm curious to see how other commenters felt about this one...
9. Randy McDonald
Oh, Rick Berman.
10. Sanagi
I can't watch this episode without thinking of Futurama's Neutral Planet. "What makes a man's heart turn neutral, Kif?"
11. RaySea2387
I've long thought of this as an episode that tried to do something, something nobel even, but it just didn't work. Personally, I've long thought that the best way for Trek to handle homosexuality would be to just have a character that simply is gay. No episdoe, no big storyline about it, they just are. The idea being, by the 24th centruy nobody really thinks thats a big deal.
Sara H
12. LadyBelaine
Sanagi @ 10,

Oh Futurama's Neutral Planet, how I love thee....

When facing a planet-wide apocalypse (called a 'beige alert', naturally), their leader manages to send out one last, frantic message. "this is the end! Tell my wife.. tell my wife.. tell my wife, I said 'hi.'"

...and yes, I have mentally merged this episode and that one.

Hey, does anyone think that there is STNG/Futurama cross-over fan fic? Or, more appallingly, slash?
13. RHW
My problem with this episode is that the reeducation works: Soren is cured of her "deviancy." And given the obvious parallels to gays, I think it is borderline dangerous of the episode to say "this can be fixed"; LGBT people are not broken, they do not need to be "fixed," and those who attempt to "fix" them (Exodus International etc) are charlatans and quacks.
14. Christopher L. Bennett
At the time this episode aired, I thought that it was commendable in what it was trying to do, and might possibly be of value at getting some people to think about certain issues in ways they hadn't considered before... but the problem was, for those of us who had already accepted the episode's moral premise long before, it had nothing else to offer. It just spent 42 minutes telling me stuff I already knew and accepted, and didn't have anything else of interest going on. Even the technobabble danger plot was barely there and only served the lecture. As Roddenberry said once upon a time (back when he thought of himself as a TV producer first and not a philosopher), if your story isn't entertaining enough to hold an audience, you can't get your message across anyway.

As for the casting, I think it's kind of a tradition to cast women as androgynous races, such as the Talosians. Perhaps because their faces and voices are more childlike, and children are relatively androgynous. Though yes, the fact that Riker was romancing one of them was surely a factor too.
Alan Courchene
15. Majicou
@12: Well, there's a TOS/Futurama crossover episode, after all. As for the rest: yes; and I refer you to Rule 34.
16. Lardash P Wellbottom
@13: I don't know that I'd say the reeducation works. I mean, yes, it "works" in the sense that Soren no longer identifies as gendered. But the reveal of the reeducation is played entirely negatively; it's a definite Winston Smith announcing "I LOVE Big Brother" moment. It seems clear that the editorial point of the show is "this awful idea has destroyed this person and s/he is no longer the person we met at the top of the episode." I don't think it's fair, then, to say this reeducation "works," or that you could conclude from it that "curing" alleged sexual deviancy in our own society is an idea with any merit.

Wow, five sentences. That's more thought than I'd previously devoted to "The Outcast" in all the years since it aired combined.
Shelly wb
17. shellywb
And yet, this episode was instrumental in changing how I saw homosexuality when I was young. It was a sledgehammer, but then a sledgehammer was needed.
18. Kallie
Agreed that it's hard to discuss this episode because of the broader issues. I might as well offer a different perspective than probably most other commenters. I would have been part of the audience uncomfortable with openly gay characters on the show, because I'd feel like the show was trying to beat me over the head with its moral position of "look how completely normal and not a big deal this is," when it really would have been noteworthy. I wouldn't put it at all in the same category as the progressive-for-its-time-in-American-history interracial romances in TOS (which weren't objectionable at all) - and of course that's the rub for many Americans who don't see the gay rights movement as analogous to the civil rights movement. I don't mean to start a debate the whole issue here, just pointing out that for many, many people they don't see it as analogous and would resist being "taught" this perspective by the show. Obviously the vast majority on here, though, view it differently.

I have no problem with episodes like this exploring gender and gender roles and sexuality, though, through science fiction concepts - I appreciate being challenged to think about things from a different perspective. The Damiani and Hermats are interesting in that way. The problem with this episode was that it was clunky and poorly done. Mabfan thinks ST "should" have shown openly gay people without making a big deal out of it ... I don't think they "should" have done so but if they *had* done it that way it would have been fine. Heavy-handed allegory with less-than-compelling characters in this ep, however? Not great.
Katy Maziarz
19. ArtfulMagpie
I'm with you, shellywb. (Comment 17.)

I was 11 when this episode was first on. At the time, I was just beginning to be aware of homosexuality as a thing that existed out there, and was able to make the connection between this episode and the real-world issue in a way I might not have a few years earlier. And Soren's speech, tepid delivery notwithstanding, really DID make an impact on me. I've always remembered this episode; it really made an impression on my young mind. Of course, as an adult, I do see the heavy-handedness of it all, and I agree with Frakes that casting a man as Soren would have been so much stronger, and I agree that just having a character on the ship be gay as just part of the character and not as a "very special Blossom" kind of episode would have made their point better. But I have to give them props for at least TRYING. And whether the ep stands up to the test of time or not, it made a big difference to my young mind and shellywb's and probably many others, so I'll call it a win for that alone.
20. Lance Sibley
@RHW: regarding the Winston Smith moment, I remember being involved in a conversation, shortly after the episode aired, in which we decided that the ending would have been much stronger had it turned the reeducation concept on its head. Soren should have given some subtle indication to Riker that it *hadn't* worked, suggesting that ze was going to continue fighting for the rights of gendered people.

Throw in a male actor playing the role, and the episode had the potential to be quite a powerful one.

I was at a convention where Frakes was a guest, and the way I remember it - and the years may have caused me to misremember this slightly - what he actually said was that he wished the producers had had the guts to cast a man. (And there are plenty of male actors who can play an ambiguously gendered character. Brad Dourif probably would have been brilliant, for one.)

As written and performed, the only ambiguity was in whether the episode's message was for or against alternative forms of gender/sexual expression. (Well, I exaggerate. Since the Enterprise crew were against Soren being de-gendered, clearly we're meant to take their point of view. But it was so badly done... probably because some "suit" expressed discomfort at the premise.)
Robbie C
21. leandar
Krad, let me be clear that while I'm certainly not qualified to second guess a professional actor, but while Jonathan Frakes may have a point that the story may have been more powerful with a male actor playing Soren, I don't believe it would have worked. I mean, I realize that this was 1991 and censorship on television had certainly relaxed from how it had been even twenty years before, but at the same time... it's 1991! This, at least I don't think, would have ever made air because people would have flipped out over seeing Commander Riker kissing another man. Yes, I realize Jadzia Dax kissed another woman a few years later on Deep Space Nine, but at least from my persepective, viewpoints on woman-woman affairs have been more lenient than man-man. If Soren was going to be played by a woman, maybe it should have been a female officer, Crusher or Troi, that fell in love with her, I don't know. I understand what they were trying to do with this episode, but it seems like they really fell short. Maybe they chickened out or were made to by Paramount, I don't know.

And something I would say to poster #8, AlyssaT,
you mentioned about the J'Naii being all women, wonder if they could have just dubbed their voices with male actors? It worked for the Talosians, I don't see why it wouldn't have worked here. It does make for a good alien look. I guess if you did go with male actors for the J'Naii, have them be dubbed with female actors, that'd really seem alien!!
alastair chadwin
22. a-j
I've seen the Phase II 'Blood and Fire' episode mentioned and the gay aspect is rather nicely done. When Kirk is told that his nephew is going to marry a man his immediate reaction is, iirc, surprise and anger. It's then immediately made apparant that his anger is because he was the last to know that the relationship was that serious.

Agreed that the episode is anvilicious, but shellywb@17's point is taken. Sometimes anvilicious is what is called for.
23. Earl Rogers
One of the biggest problems with a story of this nature isn't the usage of SF/Fantasy to metaphorically address weighty RL issues...though, yeah, it was done very, very poorly.

The big problem is how meaningless it is due to the self-contained nature of the show.

Riker never showed attraction to shy androgynous types before. And after this episode, he never would again. It might have well not happened!

He can still hold a torch for a fictional HoloWoman years upon years after knowing her for a few hours, yet his Incredibly Deep and Passionate feelings for Soren? Soren who?

(Though it might have been interesting if this did have an effect. "Hands off, Deanna. You know I realized I'm only into bland, sexually neutral types now!")
24. Earl Rogers
I should also add that at the time, I the creative higher ups seemed unable to stop patting themselves on the back over it, universally agreeing that the only possible reason anyone could dislike the episode is if they were a homophobic bigot.

Um, wrong.
Bruce Arthurs
25. bruce-arthurs
I remember being impressed that they even attempted this kind of story at all, even if the end product was stiff and clunky and essentially timid.
26. Lsana

I seem to recall that Babylon 5 tried to do exactly what you're suggesting: create an androgynous character by having a female actor play the part but dub all the lines with a male voice. They decided it was unworkable and gave up, so I don't know whether the technical issues were such that Star Trek could have pulled it off or not.
Joseph Newton
27. crzydroid
I just want to mention that I loved the look on Worf's face when he came to tell Riker he would accompany him on his special mission.
Kristen Templet
28. SF_Fangirl
Earl @23. I agree that this was a big problem with the episode - Riker always goes for the hot, sexy chicks. He has an established type by then and asexual and mousy aint it. It was very OOC for him honestly.

The is after the most basic problem that none of the episodes with the main characters falling in love with a guest star ever really worked. It might could have been done believably, but they would have needed to devote most of the episode to the falling in love and have the episode play out over months. From what I recall, TNG episodes generally only covered a fews days or weeks. And even then, they tried that with Worf and Troi and that romance was completely unbelievable and forced.

TNG should have avoided all romantic plots for main characters.
29. Yakko
I would have found the romantic chemistry more believable if instead of Melinda Culea as Soren they had Riker fall madly in love with Malcolm McDowell as Soran. Then the J'Naii could have used the Ludovico Technique to cure him "Clockwork Orange" style!
Cait Glasson
30. CaitieCat
I'm with 21. Leandar, when zie makes the point that this simply couldn't have been done as a "let's just make someone on the bridge gay" way back in 1991. Good gods above, it took a national freaking campaign for the worst-kept secret on TV to be broken in 1997 when Ellen Degeneres' character on her eponymous show came out. SIX YEARS LATER.

In 1992, it was still illegal in the Canadian military to be gay (we got there a long time before the US).

It's hard, I think, for people living/growing up in a time when the majority of the US population favours legalized gay marriage to understand what it was like then (I speak as a long-time queer activist; I came out myself in 1992, and started a couple of activist groups). Gay-bashing was still a reasonably accepted thing in society; Toronto police were raiding "bathhouses" (anonymous gay sex locations) still, arresting people for having consensual sex in a private establishment. I couldn't get a job with the Canadian government, despite speaking
five languages, because as an out lesbian, I was a "security risk" (okay, possibly the Communist Party membership didn't help).

It's easy, in these days of the end of DADT, and gay politicians and equal marriage and so on, to forget how reviled we still were in the Western world in those days. As anvilicious as it was, we've seen a few people comment here that it opened their eyes in some ways.

So as much as I agree, it's terrible television viewed in Retrovision for all the reasons krad raises, it had and achieved a purpose that hadn't been achieved before in tv-sf. It raised the very question about the innateness of gender and sexuality for a greater public consciousness, and thus served (for me, anyway) as an entry point (and can still, though better have come along since) for introducing people to the idea that this is not all immutable, and that different!=bad in this area (gender/sex).

Good review of the reasons it's terrible, and the reasons it's valuable despite being terrible.

Also, yes, Soren being played by a man would have made a HUGE difference in how good the episode was at its job. Riker being clearly attracted to someone we perceive as male (despite the characterization, most didn't perceive Soren as genderless, as noted by krad) would have been a startling thing, and though OOC, would have made the point about the potential fluidity of gender and orientation in a way that the episode-as-made never could.
Cait Glasson
31. CaitieCat
Also, in an urge to be fair to Culea, she was pretty darn good in her guest spot on the X-Files, even in a dodgy-at-best episode (Alpha, about a legendary shapeshifting Chinese dog imported to the US), with her performance as a very eccentric acquaintance of Mulder's with a nicely-played subtlety to her portrayal of the crush the character had on Mulder (as noted by Scully - a not-very-common woman-to-woman moment on TXF that worked, for me anyway).
Keith DeCandido
32. krad
CaitieCat: I don't buy that excuse for a microsecond, because dammit this is Star Trek. This is a franchise that cut its teeth by showing a black woman, an Asian guy, and a Russian working peacefully with white American types in the late 1960s. On the news, people were watching folks who looked like Uhura protesting for their civil rights and often getting beat up for it, folks who looked like Sulu being the bad guys we were fighting in southeast Asia, and folks who sounded like Chekov were our mortal enemies who would nuke the crap out of us if we weren't vigilant. What the original series did as matter-of-fact setup every single episode was at least as forward-thinking and daring as having actual gay characters would have been in 1992.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
33. StrongDreams
That's a good point and makes me wonder what Roddenbery's personal feelings on homosexuality were. As you say, in 1992, gay was the new black.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
34. Lisamarie
Wouldn't have casting a male in Soren been beyond the point? It seemed to me that they were trying to turn the issue on its head - taking something most of us perceive as 'normal' (gendered, male-female relationshions) and having the other culture treat it as an abominiaton, which is, in turn, supposed to make us think about the things we treat as abominiatons and the things we treat as normal (Granted, I actually HATE that method of argument because it doesn't actually address anything logically or refute any claims; it works purely on an emotional level).

I actually thought most of the others were fairly androgenous (although I agree that they could have both male and females cast in those roles).

Plus, from what we know of Riker, he wouldn't be attracted to her if she was more 'male' - even if she identified as a female, I just don't see Riker going for somebody that he percieved as seeming male, because he doesn't seem to go that way.

So while it would have been a pretty interesting concept, I just don't know that it would have worked with this story.
Cait Glasson
35. CaitieCat
The difference, dear krad, as I've had shouted in my face by many a bigot, is that the bigots (and a lot of people listened to them) all assumed it was a matter of choice, and that we were all thus perverts, and by choice.

That's a different kind of opprobrium, because for instance, no one ever argued that there shouldn't be Black actors in shows which might be seen by children, whereas this is still used against us today. Those who oppose us focus very tightly on the word "sex" in "homosexual", and they can't get it out of their heads.

No way TNG gets on the air with a gay major character in 1989. No way Riker is kissing a male actor in 1992.

No. Way. Not in the US. It might be easy to not recognize how awful it was to be out in those days, but...just no way.

Hell, they made this entire episode, ostensibly about homosexuality and acceptance, and then filmed it as repression of heterosexuals, something my fellow activists and I laughed about a bit bitterly at the time.

Soren clearly indicates that she identifies as female, making her and Riker's relationship bog-standard Federation issue. Why? Because they didn't believe the audience would be able to identify (and they were right, to a good extent, as noted above in Lisamarie's comment - not a criticism, promise) with or accept Riker as being attracted to someone they perceived as male.

Whether it's a good enough excuse or not, there's no way I'll ever believe they could have made this episode with a male actor for Soren, nor could they have had a recurring character be gay. Very Special Episodes were about all we could get, and most series did them (Cheers did one, Frasier did a couple, hell, even M*A*S*H had done it in the mid-70s), but recurring characters? LA Law, at the time, tried to make one of the characters bisexual, and quickly had to write Amanda Donohoe's character out of the show in response to the huge outrage.

Personal anecdote: two years after this, I went to my local city councils with a proposal that they name an official Pride Day - no celebration, just make a pronouncement - once a year, in the wake of a Human Rights Tribunal decision saying that if they declared any days, they had to declare all of them.

The city council voted instead to end the practice entirely, and publicly blamed us uppity queers for insisting on having our perversions celebrated in public life.

1994, in urban Canada.

krad, dude, love your work, but you're wrong on this one. Should they have cast a male actor as Soren? Yes. Could they have? No, I don't believe they could. Same syllogism for the recurring gay character. It just couldn't happen. Take it from someone who fought, very hard and for a lot of years, for just that kind of outcome. :)
36. jlpsquared
All right, let me just come out and say what we are all thinking, Soren was a big DORK. Seriously, take a snap-shot of all the babes Riker nailed over 7 years, and who sticks out like a big androgonous sore thumb?

I am a "sci-fi" star trek fan. Not an "issues" Star trek fan. Here is where I think I stand on higher ground as a star trek fan than the ones who think star trek is about morality and "issues". Name me one episode of ANY series that was an issues episode that wasn't TERRIBLE? Can't? That's because they all are. Every single issue episode was ridiculous. This one comes the closest to being the stupidest of the lot, although "Force of Nature" is something I would never let someone on suicide watch view.

Anyways, the problem with the "issues" episodes, besides the terrible production, is they are speaking to the quire. The TOS likely had fans that generally had issues with black people. Despite everyone claiming 1991 was the dark ages, I lived through 1991, and can assure you gay people were not rounded up and killed. I never understood why a star trek exec would say "OK, let's take an issue ALL our fans already agree with, cast terrible actors into an unwatchable plot, have all our mains act completely out of character, and then end it in a way that questions whether we as producers actually agree with that we are portrying in the first place".

Yeah, these episodes are stupid, looking forward to the much superior Sci-Fi ST episodes!!!!
Alyssa Tuma
37. AlyssaT
@31 - Holy crapola. I am fairly knowledgeable about pop culture, and pride myself on being able to place character actors rather quickly, e.g., the J'Naii judge-type person was totally played by Elaine's germophabe coworker in Seinfeld/"The Susie" (maybe that's why the J'Naii didn't seem that androgynous to me!), but you totally blew me away by pointing out Culea's role in "Alpha." You are so right. I haven't seen that episode in some time, but I do recall being so convinced by her performance that I sort of wondered if they had cast an actual crazy dog lady -- not an actress. And the sexual tension between herself and Mulder was surprisingly effective and a really fresh take on attraction, connection, etc. (helps that Mulder is a much more offbeat character than Riker, I suppose). In fact, as I think about it, it's still fresh.

I wish TNG would have realized more often that you don't have to show the entire ham-fisted cycle of a "traditional" linear relationship -- meeting, connection, declaration of feelings, etc. -- in order to show romance or sexual tension or love. The way they handled Crusher and Picard was often subtle and clever in this way (although, admittedly, also often puzzling and awkward :) ).
Alyssa Tuma
38. AlyssaT
Also, @36 -- thanks for the laugh!! You're right. Soren was a DORK. And seemed a little boring too. Which is kind of ironic to me, because when I think of the word "androgynous," the first person I think of is David Bowie. Who (I think) is extremely beautiful, extremely cool, and extremely fascinating. Basically everything Soren ain't.
39. StrongDreams
Name me one episode of ANY series that was an issues episode that wasn't TERRIBLE?

"Half a Life"
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
40. Lisamarie
At @39 -
HAH, I was going to list that one!

Honestly, I kind of liked Soren...I thought she was very soothing. Which is funny because I tend to prefer longer hair on women (asethetically - I'm not inclined towards women).

When I think 'androgynous' I think Cillian Murphy, and who (in my opinion) is one of the most beautiful people alive, hah.
Keith DeCandido
41. krad
Quoth jlpsquared: "Name me one episode of ANY series that was an issues episode that wasn't TERRIBLE?"

"The Measure of a Man," "The Enemy," "The High Ground," "The Hunted," "Sarek," "Half a Life," "Darmok," "The First Duty," "I, Borg," "Chain of Command," "Dark Page," "Journey's End," and that's just TNG. DS9 did well with it throghout its run, from "Progress" and "Duet" in the first season to "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Far Beyond the Stars" later on.

So I reject your premise. :)

CaitieCat: I'm not saying you're wrong, but I don't agree that they couldn't do it. They damn well could have. In 1968, you "couldn't" show an interracial kiss, but Star Trek did it. It would have been a groundbreaking, difficult, courageous thing to do, and it would've been easier for them to do it as a syndicated science fiction show that was below the radar in many ways -- after all, the 1990s was also a time when geek culture wasn't as front-and-center as it is today, either -- but they chose a safer, and ultimately failed, path.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Cait Glasson
42. CaitieCat
41. krad: I suppose we must agree to disagree, then, sir; I admire your optimism, mine long ago grew a jaded exterior in sheer self-protection. :)

As to whether gay people were being "taken out and killed" in 1991, I will say only that I know from personal experience of at least three people who died in exactly that way, friends of mine each, dead by gaybashers in the early 90s. And they're only the ones I know. I could not count how many times I knew of it happening when people weren't killed, but "only" beaten and left for dead. I used my own military training in unarmed combat in my and others' self-defence on several occasions. And those are only the anecdata of one (fairly involved in the community, to be fair) person.

Suggesting it wasn't happening is...perhaps a mark of having the privilege not to have lived through it as a gay person. I'm sure most white people would say they didn't much fear being lynched in the 60s too, so it sure must not have been much of a problem.
Joe Romano
43. Drunes
When I think androgynous, I think of Grace Jones. If Jones had played Soren, her sexual edginess would have been exactly what someone like Riker craves.
Danis Brunet
44. Danis
I was waiting for this one!

@ 17. shellywb Me too. I loved this episode!

@ 19. AtfulMapie
This had a similar effect on my 11 year-old-self.
Re-watching the show with the hindsight of history and better Trek since, better television in general since, it's important to remember the historical context, both social and of syndicated TV at that time. It's also important to remember that the audience included children, such as myself, who were viewing this with parents who agreed with the morals and values of the show, especially since they'd grown up on them with TOS. In that sense, children who don’t yet “get it” do need a more heavy-handed approach.

So @ 36. Jlpsquared, you can’t say “K, let's take an issue ALL our fans already agree with” because some didn’t and as CaitieCat points out, the perspective of someone who was not affected/exposed to the issue can be quite different and they may never even have thought about it before.

@ 22. a-j "Anvilicious"...thanks for that!

@ 30. CaitieCat "Good review of the reasons it's terrible, and the reasons it's valuable despite being terrible." Love it! Agree completely.
So what about a Pat-like character or someone who was not easily identifiable as male or female? Perhaps the suggestion of a truly alien-looking race would have helped.

I get the point that a male character would have had a different impact, but a truly androgynous-looking actor? That would have been cool - keep you guessing and not resolve it at all.

42. CaitieCat Wow...I think there was a "booya" after that post! Good job!

I agreed with KRAD that “ an allegory of attempts by religious groups to “cure” homosexuals, it’s not bad, if a bit sledgehammer,” and I think the episode would have had greater impact, for me, if they had chosen to explore this angle as the focus. Not the “we aren’t sick” angle, which is 100% correct…but the “we are taught that this is “unnatural” so we will act in accordance and not think for ourselves…” Voyager did a great episode using evolution as a way of showing how religious “dogma” severely limits understanding.

Watching the debate in the US after same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada for almost a decade now is quite interesting. I am not gay and I am happilly married to a woman who is also my best friend and I still don’t understand why people who are in heterosexual marriages feel the most threatened by same-sex marriage. Once this law was passed in Canada, the sky stayed in place and a few thousand people got married...probably a few thousand more opposite-sex marriages ended in divorce that same year.

Perhaps the next Trek on TV will deal with homosexuality in a more 21st century manner.
Ellen has her own eponymous show now...and she's doin' just fine!
45. jlpsquared
@Krad, I stand corrected. I really should have specified "social justice" episodes versus "issues" as obviously, many, many star trek episodes were issues episodes.

As for Social Justice (civil rights), I would say that only measure of a man would be considered not a bad episode. And even that one was a stretch to consider slavery.

Perhaps I hurt my own argument by arguing in absolutes, but my point was, and is, when Star Trek attempts social justice episodes, they are generally done poorly, and that is why I prefer the straight Sci-Fi episodes, IMHO.
46. Kylara
Ugh! This episode was awful. When I saw it (M husband and I are rewatching the series, me for the first time)I couldn't stop talking about how bad it was. One of the worst in the entire series, in my opinion. I completely agree that it would have been more interesting if Soren had been played by a male actor.

I liked the idea at first of a member of an androgenous species exploring gender and sex, etc. But then I felt it came out of left field for Soren to be conveniently "Female" and then by the end of the episode, the heavy-handed homosexuality allegory was really just too much. It was way too over the top.
47. Edgar Governo
This is a small thing, but I thought I'd give some praise for Keith's ability to write this episode's synopsis without using any gendered pronouns (or awkward neologisms) when talking about Soren. :)
Michael Burstein
48. mabfan
@14 Christopher L. Bennett hits the nail on the head when he says, "but the problem was, for those of us who had already accepted the episode's moral premise long before, it had nothing else to offer."

@18 Kallie - let me clarify. I think that if they wanted to focus on the issue that this episode focused on, they simply should have shown a gay Starfleet officer as normal and accepted on the bridge, no big deal. Like the way Sisko is black and it's just accepted as is. No one comments on the idea that a black man is in charge of a space station (well, except in "Far Beyond the Stars") because no one ever would think it worth comment.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Robbie C
49. leandar
Isn't that pretty much exactly what Gene said about it when he was asked? That someone might be, but no one cares, it's just the way it is nowadays.
alastair chadwin
50. a-j
Fwiw, I've just watched the Babylon 5 episode 'Divided Loyalties' which hints very heavily that a major character is gay but makes nothing of it save when she finds herself in conflict with her lover and then nothing is made of the nature of the relationship, just the hurt and sadness caused. Not sure of how the timelines correlate here, but just saying is all.
51. JMH
I'm very tired, and trying to catch up, so I acknowledge that 1) someone might have already said this, and 2) nobody will probably read this but.
I never took this as an algory for homosexuals, as I (at the ripe age of 12) took it as talking about *trans*exuals, which isn't the same thing at all for all that gender roles/sexual preferences are mixed up all the time. Someone who is told she is one gender (neuter), feeling in her heart that she (pronouns intentional) is a different gender (female). Something that to this day is much worse coped with by society.

Also, and I've thought this for a few recaps now, but again catching up and nobody will read this ;-) , I took Riker's talk with Deanna about the heart. I tend to feel a lot about what makes Riker seem skeezy is that he's given his heart away and can't get it back. He sleeps with other people, because he's a human being with a sex drive, but he never gets into relationships because he'd be giving false coin. Having this feeling always made me more feel that Deanna was the more skeezy one, jumping in and out of people's hearts while still obviously holding a torch, while Riker stayed true and honest with "I'll fuck you, but I can never love you". (Though, I mean, he was a dick and abandonned her IIRC, so I'm not saying she owed him emotional fidelity or anything.)

So this time, his heart is actually involved. This time, he needs to go to his Imzadi and make sure this is okay. It's not just sex, it's love, and that makes it different.
(Sure, maybe, the chemistry didn't work, but from a plot-on-paper point it totally makes sense.)

Anyway, my $.02C that nobody's gonna see, probly. ;-)
Keith DeCandido
52. krad
JMH: That's a fair point, although I don't think Riker is always just about the sex when he hits on women. He certainly has been -- Brenna O'Dell in "Up the Long Ladder," e.g., was very much just a roll in the hay between two consenting adults -- but, for example, his flirtation with Yuta in "The Vengeance Factor" seemed to have a lot more emotion behind it.

You're right, on paper that may well have been the logic behind him going to see Troi, but it still didn't ring right to me -- at least in part due to the total lack of chemistry, which Taylor couldn't have known when she wrote it....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
53. RS
I'm disappointed in both the review and most of the comments. You are all missing the genius of this episode.

No, that was not sarcasm. This is a well-written work of sci-fi.

Stay with me, I promise there's a point you need to understand.

The theme of this episode has nothing to do homo/trans/pan/etc. It is not a moralizing statement for homosexuality. Or trans-gender rights. Or any sexual issue at all. It is a moralizing statement about moralizing.

Consider this: when we meet Soren and first learn about "her" dilemma, aren't we shocked? This is the future, after all! Aren't we long past such backward ideas like approving certain sexual orientations, and disapproving of others? And the very notion that you could make someone conform to your idea of morality is just sooo twentieth century.

And that's the point. By the end of the episode you, dear viewer, are committing the very offense you decry in the characters on-screen. Didn't you root for Riker and Worf on their mission to rescue poor Soren from the evil clutches of--wait for it--her own people? Didn't you imagine a happy ending where they bring her on board and help her live a new life exactly like ours? Exactly like we want her to live? We want them to succeed in her rescue--and are shocked at the ending--because we are committing the very same offense we want her rescued from!

Of course there are scenes with gender stereotyping: we the audience have to start moralizing so the ending can have its impact. Of course Riker asks permission, and Worf makes his quip, and Beverly waxes philosophical. It all drew you in, didn't it?

As Riker takes Soren by the arm and tells her about the life he has planned for her to lead--the life he lives in, with the values and mores he holds--the show reaches its powerful climax in her final words to him.

"Why would I want that?"

It's one of my favorite TNG lines. At that moment, we realize we have been drawn into the story. We the viewers are the ones who have committed the injustice because we wanted to make her live just like us. We are the ones with the correct view on these matters, and anyone who disagrees with us deserves to lose. Even if it takes soapbox speeches or even force.

Go back and watch this "crummy" episode again with all this in mind. I think you'll find it evokes self-hypocrisy in a way you (apparently) never even noticed before. You don't just watch this episode, you star in it. And you never even saw it coming. I didn't. And I love this episode for it.

54. Jake_R
Gay people don't have the luxury of embracing a false neutrality. Soren died in this episode. Another person was installed into her body. That's tragic.

People claimed she was a cold fish throughout, but she was a vibrant woman before the conversion. Changing a person's sexual orientation changes the person into someone else, particularly when, like Soren, the new orientation is depicted as being robotically passionless.

Furthermore, in our reality, gay people who are forced into "conversion/treatment" programs remain gay. They don't have the luxury of being appreciated for who they have become like Soren, not that I'd want to be appreciated for being a veritable automaton. (If people can't appreciate someone for who they are, then they can't really appreciate others at all.)

Most people in America today (and most of the world, if not all of it) would support getting rid of gay people, despite claiming otherwise, which makes what happened in Germany all too real.

They, like Rosie O'Donnell, would say they'd chose to have hetero kids if given the choice (something that is likely coming, given our scientific advances). They'd use illogical reasons like "it's to spare them the difficulties of being gay". That's classic blaming of gays for the ignorant prejudices of society, prejudices that are artificial and unscientific. It's been known since 1956 that heterosexuality is not superior because homosexuality isn't a disorder. That fact doesn't seem to be widely known, certainly!

At the heart, it's selfish/lazy/irrational conformist thinking. It's similar to the way my sister had her son genitally mutilated (circumcision) "so he wouldn't be teased in the locker room". Read about Dr. Kellogg's silver sutures, carbolic acid, and cutting sometime. America, at least, has a long history of trying to control sexuality in unhealthy, even torturous, ways.

As for depicting gays as not being a big deal, a theme that has come up again and again in the comments.... let me know when Trek has an "openly" gay male captain as a central (not token/peripheral/guest) character. At that point, one could call the depiction "no big deal". As long as gay characters are relegated to inferior roles, then they are a big deal. But, we all know what the biggest deal is: money. It's the reason why Le Guin's Earthsea was cast with a white lead.
55. RMS
I am a gay male and a long-time Star Trek fan, and I thought this episode was extremely disturbing when I first watched it at age 15 in 1996. I had realized I was gay by that point and I thought the episode was extremely ambiguous in regards to the issue of "corrective therapy" to alter sexual orientation. The therapy in use in the episode appears to be successful at erasing Soren's gender identity, but in reality, modern American psychology has totally debunked and discontinued the belief and practice that sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed through therapy.

Although the change appeared to be successful on the show, Soren is no longer the person she truly was at the beginning and is reduced to a robotic figure after it, so the therapy had a sort of ambiguous effect for a scientific standpoint, in that it accomplished its goal but reduced the patient to a shadow of her former self.

I realize this was produced in 1991, and it's amazing how far our society has come in such a short time. I think "Glee" is a good example of a show that deals with sexual orientation in a positive and accepting way but "Glee" would never have been tolerated in the early 1990s.
56. RMS
I totally disagree, RS. I don't think it is a statement against moralizing. I think it is a statement that attempts to allegorize the situation of people who are non gender-conforming. It didn't really succeed because there is no evidence that people can change their sexual identity.
57. Naria
While I agree in hindsight, that it is not the best TV. This has always been one of the more moving episodes for me. I love SF as alagory for real world ethical and political situations and while the episode has many weak points, I was glad they were willing to do this allegory in 1991. As a young (elementry school) ally with two mothers during a time in which my state was voting on wether discriminating against gay teachers should be legal (Oregon Measure 9), this episode really made me think when I saw it on rerun.

Regarding Riker, I always just chocked it up to him being polyamorous. For a while, I thought of this episode "as the Riker will sleep with anything with legs episode," enshrining his status as the show's Kirk in my mind. I still think of Riker as being an encompassing lover. His type has more to do with TV casting choices IMHO...But then if I had my way, there would be no Riker since I find him generally annoying and can't see much of point in his being on the show. Though Franks does a good job with what little the writers give him.

Regarding the conversion thearpy debate, I actually think that this is one of the episode's strongest suits. While I am totaly against this type of "therapy," I think it is an interesting SF question to ask what would a rights movement look like in a society that can so effectively medicalize normality? A horrifying prospect, but great speculative fiction. It makes me glad we don't have the ability to brainwash so well now while we are dealing with issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identiy as a society.
58. Etherbeard
@all: Look on the bright side...

Cause and Effect is next.
59. ScottM
@Ender's Ghost, I was thinking exactly the same thing when I recently watched this -- I have absolutely NO recolection of this episode. I mean, it's a completely forgettable episode, except for the extremem heavy-handedness of it all, so I'm not really sure. But I lived in Dallas in the 1990s, so it's certainly possible they declined to air the episode.

I laughed out loud when Soren put her hand to Rikers lips and said, "Don't say anything. Just think about it." Of course, Riker didn't blink (let alone recoil) from her advance, but then she walks away and he looks shocked. I think I actually strained a muscle rolling my eyes.

And the ending -- who didn't see that coming a mile away? And Picard just sitting back and not worrying too much if Riker violates the Prime Directive? "Are you through destroying the very foundation of our beliefs?" "Yes, sir." "Very well."

And Riker saying this person he just met a couple of days ago is so important to him? Seriously? Come one, Riker, you aren't in junior high!

Just sloppy all around. I disagree with Jonathan Frakes that having a male actor play Soren would have been better. I simply disagree with the concept, but also I think that would have guaranteed more markets would have declined to air the episode. This was syndication, after all. It isn't like they had the power of a network backing them. Yes, have some male actors in the mix, but not Soren.

I also disagree with Krad on the null space subplot. I thought this had loads of potential. How do you rescue someone who is invisible and stuck in a place that drains all your energy? After all, it isn't that much less of a dilemma than what we get in the next episode (one of my favorites), "Cause and Effect." But here they just give a cop-out solution: boost your energy and re-reoute it to the transporters.
60. James McKinnon
I saw this episode when it first aired on TV and I saw it living in San Francisco at the time. When it aired, my greatest love had recently died of AIDS. This was a year (1992) that was winding down a decade of watching many more die - often after much suffering and often a swift end.

During this time, as is still true today, we were all labeled as a kind of disease with a disease. I remember when seeing this episode, and as it wore on, the intense feeling I had realizing that this show had decided to stand with gay people in the line of defense. It cleverly showed a way for all to understand what's happening to gay people.

Critisize all you want, this STNG show was awesome!
61. Electone
This episode's message has all the subtlety of a rhinocerous in a glass house. I'm sorry, but considering the chicks Riker has lusted after in the past, do you really think he'd fall for an ugly-duckling like this? More negative marks for Levar Burton's stupid beard and I never bought this race as being androgynous due to the casting of all women. Perhaps they should have cast some men in the roles as well to blend it better.
62. Crunchy
I'm late enough to the party that I doubt anyone will see this comment, but I'm going to write it anyway because why the hell not? I didn't see this episode until 2008, and my viewing of it was very colored by my own life experience. It was immediately clear what the intended message of the episode was, and that it was poorly executed even for the time it was first aired. I chose to view it through the lens of my own experiences because if nothing else it made the episode more interesting.

The lens I watched this through was my experience in the "queer" community as a relatively ordinary, openly bisexual man. There's a lot of pressure in the aforementioned community to break gender norms, and I'm just not interested in that. So there are certain places where, while in theory I'm welcome, I don't feel welcome at all. Nobody wants to ship me off for re-education but I've been told to my face that watching hockey, listening to Foo Fighters and sometimes dating women instead of watching whatever's on Logo, listening to Lady Gaga and only dating men is just my inability to accept my true self.

And you know what? I think this episode works better my way. As an allegory for LGBTetc people being accepted by mainstream society, it's incredibly weak, even by early 90's standards. But as an allegory for a community that considers itself more evolved and progressive than the mainstream putting pressure on people who are happy the way they are to conform to the allegedly more evolved standards... I think it works pretty well.
Keith DeCandido
63. krad
I check back on old posts, so I am seeing this comment, and that's a very interesting point. I still think the episode is a failure, but it's good to know that there's some level on which the allegory worked. :)

Thanks so much for posting!

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
64. gibson99
@62 Some of us are reading all these comments but are way behind Krad's schedule. And it's a good thing because your comment was the most interesting one.
Edward Chinevere
65. Drawde
Oh lordy. What can I say about this episode that hasn't been said- for that matter, why am I still inclined to post? Mystery of the universe, I suppose.

This is an after-school special. It is not an episode of good dramatic television. As an after-school special, it is quite effective, as noted in this comment section- several people watched it and felt their attitudes toward gay people change. And that's fantastic. As someone who was not-quite-out-of-the-closet in 1991, I can say that this felt progressive to me at the time.

As storytelling goes - ugh. It basically is a plot - Riker falls in love with androgynous alien persecuted by her society for wanting to be a lady. The characters are just shoe-horned into the plot.

Regarding the corrective therapy- whaaaat.... It feels problematic to me, because it could imply (though it doesn't really), that yeah, corrective therapy might not work in 1991, but we just need to get more science-y and then it will- won't that be a swell day!

ALSO- works very much more imo when you think about it through the lens of gender identity, not sexual identity. Also, @Crunchy #62- you just blew my mind.

Rando thoughts:
- Isn't "androgynous" a mildly offensive way to refer to a single-gender species? It kind of inherintly implies that male/female is the norm...
- "Where did the probe go?" Most. Boring. Teaser. Ever.
- "Null Space" is ridiculous. That thing would be a black hole to do what it does, and it would be throwing gas giants at them.
- ANNOYED by the way that Klingon women started in the series as very strong and were slowly put in their place... (in response to Keith's point about Worf's comment about the Troi's rules being "A woman's game.")
66. loungeshep
Wow, i never saw any of that in the episode, but what made it a bad episode for me was something ive noticed they did in The Next Generation: and that was dictate how a society should be based off Federation standard. This episode in particular where Riker gets all kinds of mad and demands they change to his way of thinking just so what? So he can get laid.
I found the thinking extremely annoying ' no you must live by the standard we set but your free to choose! As long as it is by our standard!' and that almost turns me off to trek. So i just dont watch this episode.

Also its just a really badly written episode.

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