Fri
Aug 17 2012 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Perfect Mate”

“The Perfect Mate”
Written by Rene Echevarria and Gary Perconte and Michael Piller
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 5, Episode 21
Production episode 40275-221
Original air date: April 27, 1992 Stardate: 45761.3

Captain’s Log: Krios and Valt Minor have been at war for centuries, but they are having a reconciliation ceremony on board the Enterprise—which will be positioned equidistant between the two systems—in an attempt to bring about peace. Picard meets with the Kriosian ambassador, Briam, who has very fragile and irreplaceable cargo in the Enterprise’s cargo bay, and asks that that space be declared off-limits to all but the most essential personnel for that reason.

The meeting is interrupted by a distress call from a Ferengi shuttle. The Enterprise beams off the two Ferengi on the shuttle just before it explodes.

They are given guest quarters, and must remain there until the reconciliation ceremony is complete. Once Worf leaves them alone in their cabin, the Ferengi cackle with glee.

La Forge has re-created an ancient Kriosian temple on the holodeck, which will be the site of the ceremony. Par Lenor, one of the Ferengi, intercepts Ambassador Briam outside the holodeck in an attempt to drum up business. His associate, Qol, enters the cargo bay without a care in the world—so much for keeping it off-limits to all but essential personnel—and tries to scan the cargo, which is a glowy cocoon. Qol stacks some barrels so he can scan it more closely. Since he has a hand-scanner, it’s unclear why he needs to do this, beyond the plot requiring him to lose his balance and knock the cocoon over, which he does as soon as Worf and a security detail enter the cargo bay.

The cocoon unravels to reveal a woman, who walks right up to Picard and says she is for him. Briam quickly corrects her, explaining that this is Captain Jean-Luc Picard, not Chancellor Alrik of Valt. Turns out this woman, named Kamala, is a gift for Alrik, the leader of the Valtese people. She’s an empathic metamorph, the first such to be born on Krios in seven generations. She has the ability to become the perfect mate (what a great title!) for whichever man she happens to be near, until she fully imprints on the person she’s going to spend the rest of her life with.

Riker and Picard are both pretty well appalled, at first thinking her to be treated as property. Indeed, Briam brought her on board in stasis at least partly because he expected them to react this way. Kamala makes it clear that this is her purpose, and she does this of her own free will. The Enterprise commanders are somewhat placated, and Riker escorts her to her quarters, which is a bit more comfortable than the cargo bay.

Kamala explains another reason why she was in stasis: she’s in the latter stages of her sexual development, so she’s putting out pheromones like whoa. Then she grabs Riker and kisses him. He manages to resist her advances—“I make it a policy never to open another man’s gift”—and beats a hasty retreat.

The next morning, Crusher rips into Picard, expressing her great displeasure with the situation, finding it offensive, to say the least. Picard points out that it’s not really possible for them to do anything about it without violating the Prime Directive (not to mention keeping a centuries-long war going). Crusher also tells Picard that Kamala’s been confined to quarters by Briam, which he did not know. He goes to visit her, and she starts to work her mojo on him, which he resists. She explains that she’s incomplete without someone to imprint upon—that’s her nature. Picard says he’ll see about easing her restrictions. 

Briam agrees to let her move about the ship only if she has a chaperone who is immune to her charms—to wit, Data. She flirts with some miners in Ten-Forward (who were rescued by the Enterprise en route to Krios), and only Worf’s ability to intimidate keeps the situation from getting out of hand.

 Kamala realizes that her presence might be disruptive, and she goes to Picard’s ready room and says she’ll volunteer to stay in her quarters, but only if Picard promises to visit her. He resists even that much, and then she starts talking both archaeology and Shakespeare at him. However, Picard continues to rebuff her, and he insists that his visiting her would be inappropriate.

The Ferengi provide Briam with a bribe in the hopes that he will sell them the metamorph. Briam is outraged, and threatens to report them to Picard. They try to stop him, and in the struggle, Briam suffers a nasty head injury.

Crusher cares for the comatose Briam, while the Ferengi are dispatched in custody to a starbase. Kamala must imprint on Alrik within two days, so the ceremony needs to go ahead as planned. Picard reluctantly agrees to fill in for Briam in the final negotiations with the Valtese.

Of course, Kamala keeps hitting on Picard, partly because it’s her nature, partly because she’s growing quite fond of him. As he continues to resist, she asks if he finds her unattractive, and he tartly responds that he finds her unavailable.

The Valtese ship arrives. Picard meets with Chancellor Alrik, who has several issues with the treaty as written, and Picard assures him that he’s been authorized to negotiate on the Kriosians’ behalf. Alrik also seems to be mostly indifferent to Kamala—the trade agreement is his primary concern.

After informing Kamala that Alrik is on board, Picard starts to leave her cabin, but Kamala all but begs him to stay, because she loves just the sound of his voice (and hey, Sir Patrick Stewart’s voice is pretty damned awesome), and also because she doesn’t wish to be alone. (Indeed, she’s never been alone any time in her life.)

 The next morning, Crusher and Picard share breakfast again, and Picard confides in her. He finds himself being captivated by her—but who she is changes when the next man walks into the room. He fears that when she changes to accommodate Alrik she’ll not be the woman who fascinates him any longer, and that something will be lost.

Picard changes into his ridiculous dress uniform and meets with Kamala, who’s wearing a ridiculous white gown. She also confesses that she’s bonded with him—but in doing so, she has come to appreciate the importance of duty. She will go through with the ceremony, and as an empath she’ll be able to fake being the perfect woman for him. She just hopes he likes Shakespeare...

On the holodeck, Picard gives Kamala away to Alrik.

Briam recovers just in time for the episode to end (lucky him!), and Picard escorts him to the transporter. The ambassador says that he was chosen for this mission in part due to his being 200 years old, and therefore more resistant to the temptations of a beautiful young woman, and he asks Picard how he resisted. Picard pointedly doesn’t answer.

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf gets to defuse a situation in Ten-Forward simply by stepping forward menacingly and asking if there’s a problem, at which point a half-dozen boisterous miners suddenly get all subdued and scared. It’s good to be Klingon. (Right after that, Kamala growls at him, and Worf growls right back before self-consciously remembering that he’s in public.)

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data is specifically assigned to chaperone Kamala around the ship because he is the only male on board immune to Kamala’s charms. (It’s never made clear why a female officer can’t escort her. Or a homosexual male, he says, opening that can of worms again.) Kamala also asks him a lot of questions about Picard, since she claims to have learned from Data about the captain’s love of archaeology, Shakespeare, and Earl Grey tea.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard and Crusher continue to be adorable as they share breakfast, first with Crusher haranguing him about Kamala, the second time with Picard baring his soul to her. (At one point, he asks, “May I take off the uniform for a moment?” and she gets all mock-outraged and says, “Captain!”)

Meanwhile, Kamala gets hot and heavy with Riker, Worf, and Picard, as well as a bunch of miners. You can see the agony on Riker’s face as he resists her very blatant advances. She tries to convince him to stay and enjoy himself by saying, “It’s going to be a long journey,” and Riker very gravely replies, “Yes it is.” One senses cold showers in his immediate future.

What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Of course, after backing slowly out of Kamala’s quarters, Riker informs the bridge that he’ll be on Holodeck 4. Wah-hey! Let’s face it, you know that’s what most people use the holodeck for. (Something Deep Space Nine would embrace a bit more openly.)

I Believe I Said That: “I’m really quite dull. I fall asleep each night with an old book in my hands.”

            “When a metamorph finds you interesting, do not take it lightly.”

            “Oh, I’m not taking it lightly. I’m just trying to be as dull as possible.”

—Picard resisting Kamala’s charms.

Welcome Aboard: Our two main guest stars have past and future geek cred—Tim O’Connor (who was Dr. Huer on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century a decade prior to this episode) plays Briam, while Famke Janssen (who will go on to play Jean Grey, opposite Sir Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier, in three X-Men movies a decade after this episode) plays Kamala. Max Grodénchik plays his second of three Ferengi, following Sovak in “Captain’s Holiday,” and prior to his recurring role of Rom on Deep Space Nine (amusingly, Grodénchik has the same prosthetic teeth, with one diagonal snaggletooth, in this episode that he’ll have as Rom). Michael Snyder plays his first of two Ferengi—he’ll return next season as another Ferengi in “Rascals.” Mickey Cottrell is sufficiently slimy as Alrik, and April Grace is back with a new hairdo as Transporter Chief Hubbell.

Trivial Matters: While Briam and Kamala’s homeworld has the same name as the Klingon colony seen in “The Mind’s Eye,” the history of the world we’re provided with is incompatible with the rebellious colony from last season, so it’s probably just an example of a coincidental homonym. Maybe Krios is to the 24th-century Alpha Quadrant what Springfield is to the United States...

Famke Janssen was originally offered the role of the Trill science officer on Deep Space Nine, but she turned the role down. However, when Terry Farrell took the role, they decided not to keep the same makeup used on the Trill in “The Host” for fear of obscuring Farrell’s face; instead the spots used on the Trill moving forward were virtually identical to those used on the Kriosians and Valtese in this episode. (Your humble rewatcher has a character getting Kriosians and Trill mixed up in Articles of the Federation.)

The Kriosian xylophone that is seen on the holodeck, and which Kamala has to teach Picard how to play, is actually a Balinese Gamelan, and Balinese musicians were brought in to provide the soundtrack for that instrument being played.

The Kriosians will be seen again in the Enterprise episode “Precious Cargo.”

Co-scripter Michael Piller originally wanted the episode to end with Picard breaking up the marriage ceremony, only to have a cut reveal it to be Picard’s imagination, and the ceremony goes through as planned. While Sir Patrick Stewart loved the idea, Rick Berman nixed it.

Picard and Crusher sharing breakfast, seen previously in “Qpid,” is established here as a regular thing.

Kamala at one point refers to herself as a mutant, which is much more amusing now, after she’s played the telepathic mutant Jean Grey.

Make it So: “Who I am today, I will be forever.” I really hate this episode. In fact, I hadn’t watched it at all since the first time it aired because it left me seething.

What’s funny is that it wouldn’t have bothered me as an episode of the original series. Hell, in a way, it was an episode of TOS, to wit, “Mudd’s Women.” (Look, there are even horny miners!) But I’d expect a storyline rooted in tiresomely traditional gender roles from a show airing in the late 1960s. Not so much the early 1990s.

The one sop to modernity is Crusher’s tirade at Picard, which wouldn’t be so bad, except the episode pointedly avoids dealing with it, except to assure us over and over again that Kamala’s perfectly okay with being a sex object. And then in the end, her “independence” isn’t to realize that she’s been a tool her entire life, but rather to imprint herself on Picard.

It doesn’t help that Janssen’s performance is incredibly flat. She and Stewart don’t really generate any sparks, and the script calls for Kamala to be far more chameleonic than she actually is.

The entire story is predicated on universal heterosexuality. This episode, even more than “The Outcast”—which was a major flashpoint for TNG’s failure to address homosexuality—is a total missed opportunity. Why don’t Kamala’s superpowers work on women as well? Why is Data the only crewmember who’s safe?

Worst of all, Troi doesn’t appear in this episode. That’s right, an episode that has an empath in it, one who is struggling with her powers, and you don’t have her talk to the empath who’s part of your opening-credits cast? What the hell?

And then to make matters worse, we have the Ferengi at their absolute worst—cackling caricatures whose sole purpose is to put plot points into motion, through methods that don’t even make anything like a lick of sense. (Shouldn’t the cargo bay be locked? Why does Qol need to climb barrels to scan something? Why did the Ferengi try to manhandle someone they want to do business with?)

There are some interesting notions in here about the call of duty versus the call of the heart, but it’s buried under a bunch of twaddle.

Warp factor rating: 2


Keith R.A. DeCandido wants to know how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

84 comments
Lee VanDyke
1. Cloric
I was amused while rewatching this episode last night to hear Janssen struggling to supress her native Danish accent and failing in a few scenes. I don't remember if the scene in the holodeck or in her quarters the night before the ceremony was the more obvious example of it.
Christopher Hatton
2. Xopher
Rick Berman's homophobia is legendary at this point. This is just another example.

If someone is bred (or engineered) with a slave mentality, and as a result chooses to be a slave, are they really free? I say no, but I don't know what the ethical solution is either. Force them to be free? A logical impossibility.
Sean O'Hara
3. Sean O'Hara
I would've hated this even if it were a TOS episode. If it had been, it'd be one of those eps where they slather an entire jar of vasoline on Shatner's chest and use whatever's left over on the camera lens. If there's one thing I'm glad the TNG-era got rid of, it's that.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
4. Lisamarie
I would not have given this a 2 perhaps, but I am in agreement about some of the more offensive aspects of this episode:

1)I am quickly deciding I pretty much hate the Ferengi (as characters/plot devices) - when they beamed them up I just groaned and thought, "Great, now all sorts of hijinks will ensue". To me, that is my signal that an episode is going to be a groaner.

2)I actually thought Crusher's tirade was kind of hypocritical, given that arranged marriages seem to still be somewhat the norm, and this isn't THAT much different (granted, I am also against arranged marriages for the most part - although I do actually know two separate Indian couples in real life who have been part of them and say they love it. But in their cases it was more the families got together and introduced them and they both had the ability to veto. But they all said it was way better than dating).

3)Yeah, this whole idea/fantasy of a woman who is just a blank slate and ready to be whatever the man wanted. Ugh. The one thing that mollified me just a little bit was that they did mention that there are male metamorphs. It's still a disgusting idea, but at least both sexes are getting screwed over.

4)My husband and I were also thinking, why on earth didn't they have a woman escort her? But I wonder what affect she would have on a woman! That would be interesting! Would it only work on women attracted to women? Or would it make a woman become attracted to women? Does being a metamorph just mean that her personality changes, or does she also somehow influence the person she is with to find her attractive (the phermones), and would that work across genders or species? Apparently it works on Klingons and humans...

Other thoughts
1)One thing I liked is that both Riker and Picard are able to resist her advances, ultimately, although with difficulty. I hate when men are portrayed as slaves to their desires and it's just inevitable that they'll give in, regardless of their feelings on honor or the morality of the situation. It's just dumb and insulting.

2)What would have happened to her if she had never bonded (if, for example, she wasn't able to meet Alrik in time, and didn't bond to Picard) before her maturation stage was over? It never addresses that question. What would that mean for a metamorph?

3)Who IS she, really? Can she be said to have any personality of her own, under the shifting personalities? When she chooses to bond Picard because she likes who she is and knows she'd be a better person by being Picard's ideal woman, than if she were Alrik's ideal woman, is that HER making the decision, or Picard's version of an ideal woman making that decision. In other words, is the decision meant to be saying something about her, or Picard and what he values?

4)Just my own opinion, but I would find being with a metamorph really unnatractive. I'd always be wondering if the person liked me just because I wanted them to, and deep down I'd know they were only a certain type of person because that's what I wanted. Hopefully I'd want a good person that would ultimately challenge me to be a better person and complement my perspectives on things. But still - it wouldn't be genuine. Plus, there's really no virtue to be gained in a relationship where one of the people pretty much is tailor made to please the other person. No compromise or selflessness or self giving needed, you know? I am aware some people are okay with those little self deceptions though. But immediately, I thought the idea of the metamorph was kind of creepy! It's like...one step up from a holodeck mate.

5)Is "I'll be in Holodeck 4" the Star Trek equivalent of "I'll be in my bunk"? Haha.

6)The "I'm a mutant" thing made me laugh out loud. Hilarious in hindsight.
David Levinson
5. DemetriosX
I'd say this is more "Elaan of Troyius" than "Mudd's Women". You've got most of the plot elements; they just flip-flopped who gets bonded to whom.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
6. Lisamarie
Xopher @2 - I think that is always an interesting question. Kind of like the house elves in Harry Potter, and I'm sure there are other examples I'm just not thinking of.
Sean O'Hara
7. Captain Jack
"The entire story is predicated on universal heterosexuality. This episode, even more than “The Outcast”—which was a major flashpoint for TNG’s failure to address homosexuality—is a total missed opportunity."
10% of the population is left-handed and nobody freaks out when this minority groupe is not addressed at every opportunity ... Universal heterosexuality is an easy assumption in the same way, small minorities do not belong in the spotlight 100% of the time if they are only reflected in ~3% of the population.

I do have to agree that the “The Outcast” would have been an appropriate episode to address homosexuality.
Chin Bawambi
8. bawambi
Awful episode and the thing which makes it so cringeworthy is the fact that it might have risen to a potentially good episode without the strict hetero only BS. If every adult on board was attracted to her then the crew could have dealt with the ethics but even then you would still have the Data saves the ship trope and the Ferengi=Keystone Kops trope...
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
9. Lisamarie
I have to agree with 7 - I think there were some potential spots to address homosexuality (like a homosexual man crew member, to explore what happens when she is with women)...but the story is not predicated on the idea that everybody is heterosexual in that the plot ONLY works if everybody is heterosexual (which is how I'm interpreting predicated). It's predicated on the idea that Riker and Picard are heterosexual, really, since those are the two people that interact with her the most. And the miners, I guess. But I think it's a safe assumption that a large number of people would be affected by her.

It would have been kind of a funny twist if Aldrik ended up being homosexual though...maybe not funny. But you know what I mean.
Christopher Hatton
10. Xopher
Captain Jack: even if your 3% number is accurate (which I don't buy), that still means there are more gay male crewmen then there are androids on the Enterprise, and it would be logical (absent homophobia) to have one escort her (unless they all outrank Data, which seems unlikely).

That this wasn't done speaks primarily to the realities of broadcast television in the early 90s, and secondarily to the blind spots of the writers and/or Rick Berman (again, legendary).
Christopher Hatton
11. Xopher
Lisamarie, on the contrary, I think it would have been hilarious! Tragicomic, maybe, but could easily have been played for laughs. Would have to take care not to portray him as a simpering wimp (which gay men on TV pretty universally were in that period), but in any case it could never happen with Rick Berman at the helm.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
12. Lisamarie
I am totally not discounting the fact that 90s television and the writers had blind spots, and there could have been interesting ways to address this issue in this episode, but I think another reason it wasn't done was for conservation of characters. It's an easy way to work Data into the plot, try to inject some humor based on Data being the straight man (no pun intended) to the pheremone addled crew members, etc.

I'm just saying that I wouldn't assume, based on that alone, that it was done for homophobic purposes.

Totally agreed on krad's front that possibly having Troi escort her would have been neat too - although maybe not as practical since if she did need physical protection, Data is a better choice.

ETA - yes, tragicomic is what I meant by funny, since it would have been ironic and tragic that she is expected to give up her life/personality for this person and she CAN'T please him no matter what.
Sean O'Hara
13. Kallie
Lisamarie, on your second #4, I'm with you. There's something human about realizing that a "perfect" mate like Kamala might not really be so because there is a lack an element of free choice/free will. To be fair, Picard did say he realized that Kamala would change for every other person she was with so he recognized that problem as well. I thought the contrast between his interactions with Kamala and Crusher was instructive here, actually. Crusher can challenge him and argue with him and get away with it because there is clearly a lot of respect there (also shown I think in "I, Borg," coming up), even though she isn't "perfect."

Other thought: the screencap of Alrik and Kamala kissing = yuck.
Alyssa Tuma
14. AlyssaT
@4 LisaMarie -- "Other thoughts" #3 -- EXACTLY. Thank you. All other complicated sexual identity stuff aside (which is definitely troublesome), I was primarily annoyed by the feeling that they were actually trying to make some sort of "ships passing" soulmate romance between Picard and Kamala. HELLO! Once you've established this woman as basically a blank slate that adapts to the man in front of her, it's kind of hard to act like she's truly established an authentic and "true" connection to Picard. Were we honestly supposed to think that Picard and Kamala missed out on the love of lifetime at the end of this? I think we were, which is indeed insulting.

I did like that although Alrik was portrayed as kind of a weiner, he wasn't written as EVIL. They resisted the urge to turn this into some sort of hammy "damsel in distress" thing, at the very least.
Sean O'Hara
15. Cecilia ML
When this 1st aired, I saw it in graduate student housing of an Ivy League. Several of my women friends, serious careerists at this Ivy, liked it very much. They said being with a different men brought out different strengths/traits of their characters, and so in choosing a mate, they were choosing to emphasize particular aspects of their own personality. The one friend I stayed in touch with after she married continued to think the episode was resonant.

At the time I first saw it, I didn't think Alrik was a heartless diplomat, I just thought he had no interest in discussing his future wife with a total stranger. Is he a jerk? Maybe. But Picard's an ass to presume to tell another man what she's like, and even Riker would have known better.
Sean O'Hara
16. Mike Kelm
I agree with everyone else's issues that this is very heteronormative but also very humancentric. Why should the same pheremones that are released by a kriosian work on a human, a klingon, whatever it is that the miners were, and everyone else? You don't have "wide-band pheremones" because they should each have a different chemical system. (We've already established that klingons for example have very different physiologies a few episodes ago) It would actually make more sense that she was a physical rather than empathic metamorph and could therefore transform into every single individuals perceived standard of beauty. Furthermore, I understand that as an empathic metamorph she could take on the characteristics that someone finds appealing, but how does she acquire the knowledge so quickly, unless she's taking directly from other people's minds. She can learn and make herself dutiful, but unless she is taking the complete works of William Shakespeare directly out of Picards brain, it doesn't make sense. And if she can take out the works of Shakespeare, why not something more useful, like the command codes for the Enterprise?

And once again the Ferengi have gone from viable bad guy to bad stereotype. As I understand it, the need for the Ferengi was to knock over the precariously stacked barrels in the cargo hold (they still can't properly store and secure those damn things). I'm not sure why they want Kamala other than their Ferengi and therefore want things. Worf is once again the worst security chief ever for 1) not locking the door to the Ferengi quarters that they were told to stay in, 2) not posting a guard on the very sensitive cargo that absolutely totally must not be disturbed.

In all honesty you could have had the exact same result of the empathic metamorph getting loose by having some sort of technobabble "shake the ship" event (the inertial dampeners failed due to a one in a million design flaw that only happens when you stack blue barrels for no apparent reason in the cargo hold- thank you). This causes the precariously positioned precious cargo to break like an egg and release the metamorph which frees us up from having two eeevil Ferengi wander around the ship.

I liked the interplay between Crusher and Picard and the Riker going to the holodeck (maybe to watch those two harp players from season 1, bowchickawawa), but otherwise this episode is not plausible and just bad.
Sean O'Hara
17. John R. Ellis
The only thing I remember about this episode is that my teenage self thought Famke Janssen was very hot.

*hangs head in shame*

That's my only real impression still.

Man, what can one say about an episode where the "heroic" thing the hero does is not commit adultery?

*shudder*

ICK! ICK! On to the next episode, please.
Sean O'Hara
18. Cecilia ML
It's too bad no one in the episode actually says to Picard or Crusher that they could be together if they were capable of being even a little different with each other in private than their professional personas. But both of them seems utterly unable to do what metamorphs do. That would have made the breakfast scenes actually useful.
Sean O'Hara
19. John R. Ellis
"Why should the same pheremones that are released by a kriosian work on a human, a klingon, whatever it is that the miners were, and everyone else?"

Well, we'll find out at some point that all humanoid species in the galaxy were apparently seeded by a race of ancient bald people...spoilers, I guess. For every "oh, the anatomy is SO different!" we have a "Phooey, it's just minor cosmetic differences!" thing.
Rob Rater
20. Quasarmodo
The discussion of whether a women could've escorted Kamala makes me think of the Firefly episode Our Mrs. Reynolds where Saffron runs into Inara while escaping and attempts to seduce her.
Sean O'Hara
21. Cat
A picky note

There are not multiple Enterprise commanders as any ship has but a single commander at any given time. Enterprise officers would be correct.
Sean O'Hara
22. Kallie
@20 - Nice. That scene makes me laugh out loud.
Keith DeCandido
23. krad
Cat: Fooey, I was just shorthanding it for the two guys who are #1 & #2 in the chain of command. Neener neener.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido, mature
Michael Burstein
24. mabfan
I always felt this was a tragic story. Kamala makes herself into the perfect mate for Picard, and then they'll never be together.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
25. Lisamarie
@15 (Celia ML) - that's really an interesting way of looking at it, although I still feel there is something a little more going on with this idea that the metamorph doesn't even really have any control over it (or do they - I'm not sure that is ever addressed) and just become what the other person WANTS them to become. So it's not neccesarily the same as a person responding to another person's personality. Ultimately, it is still that person's personality, and different parts are emphasized based on who you are with. In this situation, it kind of seems like the entire personality is rewritten, whether she wants it or not.

Totally agreed that some people bring out the best in us and some people bring out the worst, of course.
Sean O'Hara
26. SgtBigG
@10 - That's assuming Starfllet doesn't have DADT.
Sean O'Hara
27. Christopher L. Bennett
I can't agree with the criticisms of this episode, because they make the basic mistake of assuming that depicting a thing in fiction is the same as endorsing it. We weren't supposed to like or agree with the cultural norms that led to Kamala's existence. But it was a story about an alien culture, and alien cultures should be allowed to be alien, even to have values that are shocking or disquieting to us. Sometimes you just have to live with the fact that someone else's culture may be built around values that fundamentally conflict with your own, because you don't have the right to force them to change.

If anything, I feel Kamala's story was meant to be somewhat tragic, in that her fate was sealed and she couldn't change it, nor could Picard even after he came to care for her. And ultimately she became Picard's "perfect mate" for life, bonding to a man who would truly have treated her as an equal rather than using her, yet it brought her no freedom except in her memories, for she ended up trapped in a loveless marriage due to her inbred inability to choose for herself. Whereas she'd started out insisting she was satisfied with who and what she was, in the end she learned that it came with a cost after all. I see that more as a critique of her "traditional gender role" than an endorsement of it.

If nothing else, the episode featured Famke Janssen at the peak of her beauty. She reminded me very much of Julie Newmar here, though for some reason that was much less the case by the time of the X-Men movies. Too bad none of the article photos above really give us a good look at her. Why so many shots of her facing away from camera?
Sean O'Hara
28. RaySea2387
Krad, I can't say I agree with everything you've said about this one. Comment 27 pretty much sums up my opinions. I agree, though, that this just generally wasn't a very good episode.
Jay Hash
29. JYHASH
My real question is how did a species evolve something like an Empathic Metamorph and are they exclusively used to settle conflicts? I understand the need of warring cultures having arranged marriages to settle and unify, but are the Kriosians such marvelous genetic manipulators that they invented this type of being or was it a happenstance of nature? That would be a very interesting debate. Also, it's one thing to be of that species, but to also be a willing slave in that way? That takes some serious dedication to duty. And nevermind what Kamala says after she's bonded to Picard, she had dedication to duty from the get go by willing to go along with the whole backwards process in the first place.

And I agree with Christopher, Keith: I think you need to have another talk with the folks at TOR about the screen shot selections for your articles...
Christopher Hatton
30. Xopher
John 17: Adultery? No one involved was married, right? Am I missing something?

SgtBigG 26: Unless we postulate extreme social backsliding in the intervening centuries, I would submit that that's a good assumption.

JYHASH 29: I was assuming they were engineered as a slave species -- if indeed they're a species at all...can you imagine two of them trying to mate? Two mirrors facing each other, with no one standing between.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
31. Lisamarie
@27 - I think that is a good point, and I do want to point out, that at least for me, my criticisms aren't necessarily of the episode itself (I would give it higher than a 2) but the sitaution as it portrayed. The situation is offensive to me. I don't think that the episode is meant to be saying it is a good thing.

Except for the Ferengi thing, seriously.
Sean O'Hara
32. Mike Kelm
@27 clb- I hadn't thought about it in that way but I admit I was a bit focused by how bad and plot hole laden the episode was. It would be an interesting view of traditional gender roles if the episode was done well. And I agree that Fammke Janssen was incredibly beautiful here- almost makes me wonder if troi was left out so the show's resident "hot chick" didn't pale in comparison
Christopher Hatton
33. Xopher
OK, there are two don't-touch-with-a-10-foot-pole issues here...and I only have the strength to resist one. I'm not touching the "TNG races as thinly-veiled ethnic stereotypes" thing, because it's a can of crack-addled acid-secreting razor-sharp poison-fanged worms.

But I WILL ask Kallie 13 and JYHASH 29 this: Really? What's so yuck about it? Is it that an unappealing older man is shown kissing anyone at all? The fact that the character is such a creep? The age difference as such? The fact that it's not Picard? Or maybe just that you don't think unattractive people should appear on screen, period, and certainly not kissing?

Those questions having been asked, I will state that I will not think you are bad people or anything if any of those are your reasons. I think it's worth examining why we (I don't much care for that picture either) have that reaction.
Christopher Hatton
34. Xopher
Mike 32: "almost makes me wonder if troi was left out so the show's resident 'hot chick' didn't pale in comparison"

While I don't disagree with the sentiment, I must say the metaphor is inapposite in this case! :-)
Sean O'Hara
35. AdamM
@21,

I don't believe there's any such rule that a ship can only have one Commander at a time. Remember the TOS movies where the characters were way older, but the plot wouldn't work if they were all captains on different ships, so they were pretty much all commanders.

Only 1 first officer, yes.
Sean O'Hara
36. John R. Ellis
Xopher: While we aren't given the major specifics of the cultures involved, that was the best word I could think of where the two parties were going to be married in what apparently considered a sacred, legal, exclusive and lifelong-binding ceremony, at least by the representatives we see of one of those cultures. That romancing with others wouldn't count because it hadn't happened yet seems iffy, as the implication given in the episode is that she and any other metamorph would very much want to stay with the person they "imprint" on.

In a better written episode, it'd probably be more clear. So much of her empathic metamorph rules seem to be "whatever the writer wants at this moment".
Sean O'Hara
37. John R. Ellis
"I can't agree with the criticisms of this episode, because they make the
basic mistake of assuming that depicting a thing in fiction is the same
as endorsing it."

Star Trek does have a habit of advocating more than a few things it depicts, or at least leaving them unquestioned.

In a better written episode, the tragedy angle would've probably been more clear.

As it is, the message I mostly get is that lots of men on the Enterprise found the situation really attractive and very difficult to resist. The woman herself was mostly a plot device.
Sara H
38. LadyBelaine
Just to mix fandom's here, but Famke Janssen in this episode instantly became my mental image of the Wheel of Time series' archvillainess, Lanfear, all cool, regal evil fabulousness.

I also coveted that soft mauve/grey gown she wears for much of the episode.
Joseph Newton
39. crzydroid
@35, I think the term "Commander" here was in reference to "the person in command of the starship" rather than rank.

Ok, so I laughed at the mutant comment, because ha ha, it's Jean Grey, but I totally didn't not think about the fact that Patrick Stewart is Professor X! I feel dumb now. Or maybe it's just because Patrick Stewart is so awesome that whenever I watch that show, I don't see Patrick Stewart--I see Captain Picard.

I too, thought of "Elaan of Troyius"--I joked that maybe Picard could resist her because he was in love with his starship.

Questions about slavery and who is she really, if anyone? aside, I felt the tragedy of it...She was not only being what Picard wanted, but was actually attracted to him, mainly because he was the only man who wouldn't use her...and I thought that as a person who was bred to please men even to the point of willingly embracing that role, it was kind of touching to me that she could realize this was a man who wouldn't just latch onto that without question and run with it. And it's tragic that she couldn't have him--the man who would love her but not use her--and instead had to be married to the man who wouldn't use OR love her (he cared more about trade agreements).

I did like Lisamarie's comment, though, that how do we know she's not just saying that because it's what Picard would want a woman to say?

@16 Mike Kelm: I didn't think she was reading his mind so much as actually having studied Shakespeare--either in her youth as she claimed, or via the Enterprise computer after Data told her Picard liked it. In either case, I don't think Picard would want a woman who would steal the command codes, so no problem there. : ) Also, the Ferengi want her because they are (heteronormative) perverts who treat women like property and force them to walk around naked. Watch any episode with Ferengi, especially one that terribly deals with sexism in Ferengi society as an allegory for sexism in ours. So the idea of a woman adapting to whatever a man wants is greatly appealing to them. Or maybe they would just sell her.
Sean O'Hara
40. Christopher L. Bennett
@37: "Star Trek does have a habit of advocating more than a few things it depicts, or at least leaving them unquestioned.

In a better written episode, the tragedy angle would've probably been more clear."

To both those points, I'd call it a strength of the episode that it treats its concept with more ambiguity and subtlety than the typical Trek morality play. Sometimes it's enough just to explore a scenario and the effect it has on the characters caught up in it, and to let the audience judge the morality for themselves rather than telling them what to think.

Really, one thing that ST should probably do more often, if it really wants to live up to the whole IDIC idea, is to challenge us to consider the alien point of view even if it seems wrong to us. These events seem somewhat tragic from a modern human perspective, but how would they seem from a Kriosian perspective? We see Kamala's lot in life as something like slavery, but is that the only way to see it? Some cultures, philosophies, or religious orders revere service to others and self-abnegation as admirable traits. Some believe that the key to a good life is to be true to a predetermined path. Yes, when we look at Kamala, filtered through our own culture and history, what we see in her status reminds us of how women have been subjugated in our history. But Kriosian history is not ours, and it can be a mistake to assume that just because something in another culture reminds us of something from our own, then it must be the same thing or have the same meaning. After all, they did say male empathic metamorphs were far more common than female, so if anything, it's more common in Kriosian society for men to be the ones subordinating their own identities to the needs of their mates.

Also, the episode never said that metamorphs were genetically engineered -- rather, they're apparently a naturally occurring mutation. That's why the highly prized female metamorphs are so rare. Crusher did say Kamala was "bred" to seal a treaty, but in context it's clear she meant it in the sense of "born and bred" as a synonym for "born and raised." This is simply what they are by nature, so can it really be called wrong? If they're going to adapt their personalities to whoever they're with anyway, isn't it better to get them into stable relationships so they can have a definite, fixed identity at last?

"As it is, the message I mostly get is that lots of men on the Enterprise found the situation really attractive and very difficult to resist. The woman herself was mostly a plot device."

I hardly think that's fair to the character or to Janssen. Kamala had quite a strong and self-assured personality. The exploration of her character was far more important to the episode than the reactions of the male crew to her presence.

As to the question of why Data was chosen to escort her instead of a woman or a gay man... it was stated, just before Data's appointment as chaperone, that "every man on the ship will be fighting over her." Particularly with the miners aboard, there was a genuine risk of physical confrontation. So Kamala needed an escort strong enough to protect her or stop a fight. Data's not only the strongest being on the ship, but the most polite, and thus the best one at defusing potential conflicts -- as we more or less saw in the Ten Forward scene.
Sean O'Hara
41. Sean O'Hara
10% of the population is left-handed and nobody freaks out when this minority groupe is not addressed at every opportunity ... Universal heterosexuality is an easy assumption in the same way, small minorities do not belong in the spotlight 100% of the time if they are only reflected in ~3% of the population.
Nobody has ever argued that homosexuality needs to be addressed at every opportunity, or that gay characters should be in the spotlight 100% of the time. The issue is that Star Trek has repeatedly failed to give homosexuals any representation at all. The best we've had is the Trill that Crusher rejected and an ill-conceived species of metaphors. The way you talk, it's like Trek was wall-to-wall gayness.
Leilani Cantu
42. spanishviolet
This is my single most hated Star Trek episode ever, because it made me so furious when it first aired. Not only did the idea of the woman shaping herself to fit whatever man she was sold off to enrage the proto-feminist in my junior-high self, but I was supposed to believe even for a second that Picard would interfere? There was no suspense whatsoever to distract me from the offensiveness of the plot.

Also, Famke Janssen was terrible! Every time I see her in anything, I think of this episode and get irritable.
Keith DeCandido
43. krad
Christopher: the problem with your explanation of why Data was chosen was that Data failed miserably in that particular duty. It was Worf who defused the situation with the miners -- Data was singularly uneffective.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Hatton
44. Xopher
John, the word 'adultery' applies only to married people having sex with people other than their spouses. There are all kinds of cheating that aren't adultery. If I have sex with a married man, you can call me all sorts of things, but I haven't committed adultery; he has, but I haven't, since I'm not married.

Are you aware that adultery is actually still a crime in some places? There was a prosecution for it in New York not twenty years ago, though the law was then struck down by the courts.

Sean, defending leaving gays out entirely, minimizing our occurrence in society, always using the word 'homosexual' instead of 'gay' (though in that case he was following a previous commenter), and drawing a ridiculous false equivalence to a non-oppressed group are all tells for a way of thinking with a label I'm sure you can name (but let's not). I respectfully submit, therefore, that you (and I, earlier; I should have realized) aren't going to make much headway with that particular commenter.
Sean O'Hara
45. athelyna
Am I the only person who thinks the empathic metamorph thing could make sense from an evolutionary point of view? It's a bit taboo to say now, but sex and marriage have historically been largely bound up in producing children. For the empathic metamorph, she'd be better able to attract a mate and thus pass her genes along, then a few years down the line when the kids are needing things her husband would be less likely to leave because she's still his "perfect" mate and it's not like he can find anything better. It would have been nice if they had made it clearer if she was the product of genetic engineering or random mutation. I know they mentioned either other empaths or other metamorphs, but she was the rare female one whose personality was completely bound to her mate's.

I think the show could have done a better job of making a clear stand on what it considered the real tragedy. I took it as trying to say it's sad that the best Famke's character could hope for would be to be bound to someone like Picard, who tends to like independent, intelligent women and would have treated her with respect and given her room to try and develop as a unique person. Instead she's bound to a boring guy who doesn't really care about her all that much and she can never be completely fufilled because part of her knows she's supposed to be "perfect" for the one she's assigned too. I didn't really mind Picard admitting that he's human and having an attractive young woman wanting to spend time with him, who also has a personality perfectly suited to him, is hard to resist, but he does acknowledge it's very awkward for him because of the creepy knowledge that it's bred into her and she'll shortly be someone else entirely.
Sean O'Hara
46. Electone
Has anyone else noticed that this season is complete crap? Was the death of Roddenberry a factor in the quality shift? Not that the 4th season was perfect, but other than three or four good episodes, this season has been dud after dud. Plus the 5th season is where the music of the show took a turn for the worse after the dismissal of Ron Jones. It was nice to see Dr. Huer walking around the Enterprise, but other than that, Yuck.
Sean O'Hara
47. Christopher L. Bennett
@45: Actually, though I did say it seemed like a tragedy, I think it's a mixed ending for Kamala. On the one hand, she bonded to Picard but has to spend her life with a man she isn't as suited for and who doesn't value her as much. But on the other hand, she's permanently become the intelligent, dynamic, independent kind of woman that Picard preferred, and so she'll never have to transform into the duller, more submissive woman that her husband expects. Of course the bad part is that she'll have to hide that side of herself, but at least that will still be who she is, and I think that would give her a richer life in the long run, even if it's just her inner, mental life.

In light of what I said yesterday about the episode mentioning that male metamorphs were more common, I wonder how this episode would've been received if it had been about a male metamorph who'd developed the same sort of connection to Beverly or Deanna. On the one hand, there might be fewer complaints about gender roles. But on the other hand, TNG's track record at casting male love interests for the female leads was pretty crummy, so whoever they cast would've been unlikely to be as effective as Famke Janssen was.
Keith DeCandido
48. krad
Electone: Not complete crap. This season includes "Darmok," "Ensign Ro," "Disaster," "Cause and Effect," and coming up "The Next Phase" and "The Inner Light," that last of which is one of the best episodes of TNG ever.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Nicole Lowery
49. hestia
Ecchh. I hate this episode. It has a weak gloss of "serious issue" going on over the whole thing -- but. The launching point of this episode was the idea of a fantasy woman who looks like Famke Janssen and is whatever a man wants. There are so many good stories to tell, why even bother with that one?

Maybe if they had tried to seriously grapple with it as an analog to a real life situation...it would still have been preachy and annoying as hell.

Ah, well. TNG made 26 episodes every year for seven years, a ridiculous number considering the amount of creativity it took. I suppose I can forgive them a few really offensive eps.
Sean O'Hara
50. Arturus
It would also be interesting to see how male ans female metamorphs act around each other. Each trying to be the other's perfect mate.
Christopher Hatton
51. Xopher
Arturus, as I said above, "Two mirrors facing each other, with no one standing between." Nothing much, in other words. I bet they're averse to one another.
Christopher Hatton
53. Xopher
I'm averse to Twilight, that's for sure.
Sean O'Hara
54. TBGH
I always thought this was a great episode. Something totally alien in culture. No techno b-plot.

To me the power dynamic was the opposite of what most here are saying. It's not that she's a slave to whoever she's with, it's that she adapts to control whoever she's with. The guys are denied free will more than she is. And maybe I'm misremembering, but my impression was that she CHOSE to be the ideal woman for Picard permanently because that's who she wanted to be.
Sean O'Hara
56. oldfan
Just to weigh in here on "Commander," Star Trek seems to follow Earth naval usage, where this is a rank, not a title. What is a bit confusing is that "Captain" can be either a rank or a title. In the US Navy, particularly on a smaller ship, the Captain may hold the rank of Commander, or even Lieutenant, but he or she is the officer in command of the ship- the Captain. The Enterprise has one Captain- who is both the ship's captain and the only holder of that rank on board--but several Commanders and Lt. Commanders. By the way, although I don't think we see this in Starfleet, because there is a distinction beween line and staff officers, a ship can have a captain, whose rank is less than that of a staff officer, say an MD. Notwitstanding that, the capatin is still in charge.
Keith DeCandido
57. krad
TBGH: No, she did no such thing. There was a limited window during which she was at a particular biological point when she had to imprint on the person she would be with forever and ever and ever. That was why the ceremony had to be a specific time, and why they couldn't delay it when the Ferengi put Tim O'Connor in a coma. As it was, theywere cutting it close because her being taken out of stasis prematurely accelerated the timeframe.

So no, she didn't choose to imprint on Picard at all.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Joseph Newton
58. crzydroid
@0ldfan 56: If I understand what you're saying correctly, we see this in Star Trek, too. In a DS9 episode (I think "Favor the Bold") O'Brien tells Nog that whoever is in command is referred to as "Captain," regardless of rank. Also, in "Redemption part II" Data was referred to as "Captain" when he was in charge of the Sutherland. So if Picard and Riker were both away/incapacitated/dead, and Data took command, he would be "Captain" even though Beverly outranks him.

I think the discussion here about "commanders" was krad just using the term generically and casually, rather than according to any naval tradition--but he can confirm.
James Whitehead
59. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
In the minority here in that I liked this episode when it first aired & still do. Obviously there are some issues with it but on the whole I enjoyed it. It had some interesting ideas and while I wish they had been developed more fully, I was ok with not everything being spelled out for me.

I always assumed that Kamala made the best of a bad situation for herself. While it's not great, obviously, to have your enter identity determined by your prospective mate, at least imprinting Picard will allow her, potentially, a fuller life than she might have found otherwise.

Sucks in some ways, I know, but she was 'groomed' for this role to ensure that a peace accord went forward; not an unimportant task. I actually enjoyed Picard's debate with Crusher & could see both POVs; which always makes an episode more interesting for me, where there is no 'strawman(woman).'

The only drawback for me has already been touched upon & that is the 'comic relief' that was the Ferengis. For me they never became a 'viable,' or believable, race until Deep Space 9 where the writers were able to bring a great deal of nuance to them; well at least more nuance than what we saw on ST:TNG anyway. ;-)

Kato

PS - I also liked the fact that there was no technobabble subplot. Nice to focus entirely on the main story.
Sean O'Hara
60. Greenygal
I don't think it's clear that she didn't choose. There is a limited window of time when she can imprint on someone, yes, but she doesn't say, at the end, whether she's hit her deadline or not. Maybe she had enough time to imprint on Alrik but chose Picard instead. (I'd always assumed this was the case, honestly, but it's true that the story doesn't say one way or the other.)
Sean O'Hara
61. Mike Kelm
@56 oldfan: Just to pile on, it is possible to have a superior rank but NOT be in command of the ship. A non-command qualified officer cannot command a ship of the line, so even if the CMO is a higher rank, unless he/she is command qualified, they are not supposed to take command of the vessel. This makes Deanna in "Command" of the Enterprise after the quantum filiment incident tenuous, but it is possible that none of the people left on the bridge are actually command qualified.

Interestingly enough, Peter David in the New Frontier series actually has two first officers on board the Excalibur, with Commanders Shelby and Mueller. The theory is that one is the first officer and the other commands the night shift, and very rarely do their paths cross. While I don't think that makes a whole lot of sense, it figures that there should be a few senior officers we just don't see who command the gamma shift. Figure Riker commands the alpha watch, Data commands either the Beta or Gamma watch (though we see Dr. Crusher periodically command the night watch) and a third senior officer command the third watch. Presumably in a combat situation, the Alpha shift occupies the main bridge people since it is the most senior crew, Beta shift probably goes to the battle bridge and the Gamma shift splits into various backup positions. Then again, on board the 1701-D all interesting things happen during the Alpha Shift anyways....
Sean O'Hara
62. oldfan
@58 crzydroid: You understood me correctly, and I stand corrected on the other references-apparently this does happen in Starfleet.

@ 61Mike Kelm: I agree. When I made the point about the ship's MD possibly having a higher rank than the captain, I wasn't thinking about Deanna or Beverly commanding the Enterprise. I always thought that this was ridiculous on its face. Maybe Deanna was a one-off emergency, as you suggest, but as for Beverly, surely being a ship's doctor requires an enormous amount of knowledge and training, and it is hard to imagine that same person being qualified to command as well. This is why there is a distinction between command and non-command, or line vs. staff, officers to begin with. Presumably there are other command officers we do not see.
Keith DeCandido
63. krad
"Disaster" was a special case, as the people on the bridge who weren't Troi included a noncom and two ensigns, and the person who was in charge of the bridge was dead. As O'Brien said, Troi was the senior officer on the deck -- by a lot, as she was three grade ranks above the next highest ranked people (the two ensigns).

"Data's Day" gave the impression that Riker was in charge of Alpha Shift, Worf in charge of Beta, and Data in charge of Gamma.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Cait Glasson
64. CaitieCat
I think it's important to remember that a "command" officer, in the Captain/XO's off-hours, would basically be someone qualified to stand watch. Such a person would be said to "have the conn", but traditionally, the Captain/XO would leave instructions on how/when to get their attention for command decisions.

So Beverly having learned the skills to stand watch, given that the majority of the technical functions involved in such a role today would be completely automated by the 24th C, doesn't seem unreasonable at all.

Especially as in some future history flashes, we see her commanding a medical ship of her own, which she couldn't do unless she was watch-qualified.

Question for discussion Kamala: can she be said to have had any free will, given that she'd been literally bred and raised to be exactly what she was? How do we know in any way that her consent is informed? Does she really have a choice? Could she have decided, say, "Look, I know I'm a metamorph, but depreciation tables make me all gooshy, so I wanna be a chartered accountant!"?
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
65. jlpsquared
I agree wtih 59 KATO, in that she never stated she missed the deadline. In fact, because she said she was able to still "fake" the love for alrik of vault, that was implying she knew she would be a better person bonding with Picard. I can't state that with certitude, but no one can state with certitude the other way either, since it was never confirmed either way.

As for the commander argument, it is ridiculous and pointless to argue since Roddenberry and writers have repeatedly stated at conventions that they made rank up as they went along!!
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
66. Lisamarie
I agree with 65 and 59 - I thought she just chose to bond Picard because she liked who she was when she was with him...at least I figured that was how we were supposed to take it.

Now, whether or not that was really 'her', or just he kind of person Picard would want, I think is up for debate ;)
Sean O'Hara
67. TBGH
@64 I think you mean freedom. She has free will even if they force her to do what they want by imposing unpalatable consequences on her other possible choices. All people capable of considering alternatives have free will. And yes, it's very clear from this episode she's capable of at least considering alternatives.

Does she have freedom? Not a lot. But then that's the larger meta-point of the episode. If you're born with an ability or inherent trait that could greatly benefit your society, to what extent should your society be able to influence your choices?

If we could identify today the 10 youths with the best chance of curing cancer, I don't think many here would say make them go to medical school or throw them in prison. But how many would be in favor of providing for their every need as long as they agreed to follow the career path we wanted? I know I would.
Joseph Newton
68. crzydroid
Hm. I was one that thought the implication was that the bonding to Picard was inadvertent.

Only 35 more comments until this post beats Darmok.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
69. Lisamarie
I just realized there is no comment 55. Did it get deleted? I think Darmok also has an inaccurate count too, for that matter :)
Joseph Newton
70. crzydroid
Whoa...there isn't any comment 55!!! What a strange computer glitch. And yes, there is an extra Darmok comment, because you can't delete comments...strange.
Joseph Newton
71. crzydroid
Oh wait, no! Darmok says 98 at the top and 102 at the bottom! Comments are being deleted!

But that means Darmok doesn't beat 100 comments anymore...

Quick, somebody think of more comments for Darmok!!
James Whitehead
72. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
@64CaitieCat, but if Kamala became a chartered accountant she'd just end up becoming disaffected with her job, join other former chartered accountants at the Crimson Permanent Assurance, & sail the financial high seas...

Kato

PS - Comments often disappear on this site when us posters forget to play nicely together in the sandbox & not run with scissors.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
73. Lisamarie
Wow, I don't think I've ever seen angry/non-civil comments on this thread, but I guess I just miss them. In general I find the geek/sff community to be very civil and inclusive, which is why it makes me sad and disillusioned when I read about the various sexism/trolling issues that abound. I'm lucky, but I never had those issues in college - my D&D group was also pretty balanced in terms of gender.

Getting back to topic:

Anyway, she might make a very good accountant, although I got the impression that metamorphs naturally want to be around other people, so maybe she should be in a more customer facing accountant role. With her talents she'd probably be very good in customer support!
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
74. jlpsquared
It was my comment that was deleted. I don't want to get kicked off so I will try not to broach the topic again, and I really enjoy this site, but it frankly annoys me that some more "militant" members of the GLBT community need to find "problems" everywhere, including this episode. Alot of you may diagree with me, but I don't think that because Picard had data escort Kamala, Rick Berman is a bigot who hates gays. But...I won't get into it, i don't want Krad to kick me off permanently.
Sean O'Hara
75. Dc
Contrarian, have always loved this ep., Famke and Jean Luc underplay together beautifully, her effect on other crew is hilarious, and it ends touchingly. Sorry, people!
Sean O'Hara
76. Jake_R
jlpsquared, given your use of the word militant (a world only used by people grinding an axe against gays or to justify bombing brown civilians), I don't doubt that the deletion was warranted.

But, I agree with you. Star Trek caters far too much to gay members of its audience (and people who don't have a problem with gay people) by having so many gay characters. I really got fed up when they made an entire series with a gay captain as the main character. Can you believe they actually had scenes with him having dinner with his boyfriend? Oh, that's right... nothing of the sort actually happened. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. No one is gay in Trek, not even Q.

someone else said: "The one thing that mollified me just a little bit was that they did mention that there are male metamorphs."

From a practical standpoint there were no male metamorphs. If there were, that episode or another episode would have shown them. The line was designed to mollify, but don't be duped. It's heterosexual male fantasy material here. Depicting male metamorphs runs counter to that. It's also the typical older plain-looking man with young exotic beautiful woman. That's an old script indeed.

"10% of the population is left-handed and nobody freaks out when this minority groupe is not addressed at every opportunity ... Universal heterosexuality is an easy assumption in the same way."

Tennis play Kimiko Date was forced to play tennis right-handed, even though being left-handed is an advantage, due to Japanese irrational cultural conformity bias. In reality, homosexuality is more oppressed, and not just in Japan. No one is "freaking out". Instead, people are rationally disappointed by the heterosexism displayed by Trek's lack of gay people. A largely utopian vision in which gays don't exist is one that's rather offensive for anyone who values gay people. And, in this episode, we don't even have a token male metamorph for the ladies.
Bridget McGovern
77. BMcGovern
@jlpsquared: Comments are unpublished by site moderators, not individual bloggers, according to our Moderation Policy, the basic rules of which are just to keep all conversations civil and be respectful of one another. Obviously, certain topics are going to get heated, but the other moderators and I tend to step in when people start ridiculing one another or being otherwise abusive, and if a conversation seems in danger of turning into a screaming match or a flame war, we try to get things back to the level of rational discussion. I hope that makes sense!

Speaking of which:

@Jake_R: I'd appreciate it if you could tone down the rhetoric a bit, and the derision. Bringing up the bombing of civilians has nothing to do with this conversation--let's please try to keep things in perspective and avoid going on the offensive. I'm sure people will appreciate your points without the personal attacks and sarcasm.
Sean O'Hara
78. Ashcom
Coming into this way too late obviously, but having read through the comments I'm surprised nobody seems to have read the ending quite the way I did.

Picard has breakfast with Crusher. There, he tells her that he hates the thought that Kamala will change when she is with the next man. He then goes to see Kamala, an empath who can sense exactly what every man wants and needs. She tells him that she has imprinted on him, and therefore will not change, which following the conversation with Crusher is exactly what Picard needs to hear. It does not mean that she necessarily has actually imprinted on Picard, just that she is doing what she was bred to do and telling him exactly the right thing for him.

Maybe I'm just giving the writers too much credit, but that was how I read it.

Still thought it was a cringeworthy episode, although "I'll be on Holodeck 4" is one of my favourite Riker lines ever.
Sean O'Hara
79. Etherbeard
@krad

Obviously, I'm way late to this conversation.

Regardless, Kamala says, "There's no greater pleasure for a metamorph than to bond with that kind of mate... as I've bonded with you," refering to Picard (not an exact quote; I've removed some made-up words). Now I think that it's strongly implied that she intentionally bonded with Picard because with him she was the person she wanted to be, but it is not specific enough to make a definitive argument in either direction. There's certainly not enough evidence for a statement like: "So no, she didn't choose to imprint on Picard at all." That's really just you hating the episode and seeing an interpretation of the sccene that makes Kamala an even weaker character.
Brickhouse MacLarge
80. Midnightair
@77 Well said by the moderator, and thanks for keeping the comments board free and fair and unencumbered by nonsense. This episode reminded me of Lt. Ilia from TMP, what with the effect both women have on the opposite sex. For what it's worth, if I was Picard, and given the choice, knowing what Kamala told me, (about having bonded to me, but now she will be living a lie for the rest of her life for peace, with a man she doesn't love), there will be no way in hell, that I would have let her proceed with the arranged marriage. Peace be damned, but no one, for any reason, should live a lie or a horrible life with someone they don't really love. I would have made that stand, Captain or not, peace or not, diplomacy or not.
Sean O'Hara
81. ScottM
This seems to me like TNG was trying to do Pretty Woman, but they went about it in completely the wrong way. Instead of an uncouth hooker with a heart of gold, Kamala is well mannered but a complete slut with literally no personality whatsoever. The Ferengi part of the plot is completely contrived -- without that there is absolutely no conflict, as all the officers (particularly Picard) have their emotions in check. And even though Kamala learns more about Picard and eventually "bonds" with him (not exactly sure what that even means, since she does it without Picard even knowing that it has happened), she still shows no real signs of having grown or developed any real personality of her own.

I have no memory of seeing this in the original run. I chalk that up to it being wholly unmemorable. In fact, I'm sure in a few weeks/months I will again have very little recollection of it. And that reason alone is enough to justify the 2 rating.
Sean O'Hara
82. JohnC
I don't understand why it is necessary to assume that every plotline that doesn't fit someone's utopian idea of the future should be regarded as objectionable. And besides, if you're a male and would give an episode featuring Famke Janssen a 2 you probably need to have your own chromosomes checked. If the premise bothers you, I suggest just watching it with the sound down. That woman is stunning. Respectfully, a Neanderthal male...
Sean O'Hara
83. trjm
Well, here I am, a year behind with my own rewatch. I'll never get to DS9 at this rate.

Christopher L. Bennett makes a staunch defence of this one, and I want, I really want, to be persuaded by the "alien cultures are alien" argument. But when it comes down to it, I think this one's a stinker. Because this culture isn't alien: it reflects back to us the mainstream way women are depicted in western cultures. It exaggerates it, but without any sense of critical awareness.

One of the clues is in the inconsistency: Kamala tells Picard that for him, she would become (I'm misquoting, but only a bit) bold, intelligent, adventurous. But do we see any inkling of this behaviour, in any of their scenes together? Not at all. And having finally imprinted upon him, what key trait does she take from him? His sense of duty - how convenient. Precisely the element of self-denial that will keep her in check.

The other test for this episode, of course, is can we imagine it with the gender roles reversed? with a male character who exists to become the perfect mate? Now that really would be sci-fi. This one's strictly earthbound.
Sean O'Hara
84. Kellia
Imo, @83 is so right on the nose--this doesn't really depict an alien culture; Kamala basically serves as a patriarchal wet dream PLUS Picard gets to enjoy the moral high ground by being saintly enough to resist her and by worrying about how her future mate will treat her. Boy, it's tough to be captain sometimes.

I really think this episode had a lot of potential for some really interesting interactions, but the writing just fell short in so many ways. We don't even get an inkling of why Kamala fixates on Picard beyond sensing that he's a strong leader (at least they didn't make this about her and Riker, thank HEAVENS). You get a hint that it's rare for her to focus on one person like this, but they never follow up on it substantially, so it basically looks like she just fell for the most authoritative, powerful male in the room. Nice.

The writing is just so uneven. Picard knows that she changes her personality to reflect her mate, but he still seems to believe that he saw her "true" self in their one-on-one interactions. They build up the idea that Kamala has a lifetime of geisha training (for lack of a better descriptor) and looks at relationships in a different, alien way, and then in the end they write her like a patriarchal fantasy of a perfect, innocent child-bride ("Did you meet him? What is he like? Did he ask about me?"). Just...ugh. And don't even get me started about how her redemptive, "rising to the occasion" moment is literally just her taking on Picard's values. (Er...the values of Picard's ideal mate?) How poignant that she'll forever be a better person because she chose the right man to emulate. Pass me the tissues.

Keith also hit the nail on the head about what a waste it was to ignore Troi's existence in this episode. Not only is Troi an empath, her whole JOB is to act as counselor is these sorts of situations. We could have seen Troi be actually useful, and we could have learned more about Betazoid culture (and maybe how it differs from Kamala's culture), and instead we got Kamala slowly stroking Picard's head. I want to know--are there Betazoid protocols for this sort of situation? For an out-of-control sex drive or for appropriate interaction with non-empaths? Why not expand on some of the info about Betazoids mentioned in Menage a Troi and The Price? ...nope. Just head stroking. Give the people what they want.

Imo, when Firefly went down this road in "Our Mrs. Reynolds," it didn't suck because 1) the perfect seductress actually had her own motivations (and certainly wasn't a damsel in distress), and 2) Inara, who has similar skills and training, quickly catches on.

And here I am, raging uselessly into the ether. That's the power of missed opportunities in sci fi TV, I guess.
Sean O'Hara
85. Kellia
I do have to say that it was almost worth watching this episode just for "I'll be in Holodeck 4" and for "May I take the uniform off for a moment?" "Captain!" Almost. Aaaaaaaalmost.

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