Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"The Muse"

*

Air date: 4/29/1996
Teleplay by Rene Echevarria
Story by Rene Echevarria & Majel Barrett Roddenberry
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"The dialogue is sharp, the story is involving, the characters are real...the spelling is terrible." — Sisko, after reading his son's novel; demonstrating life without a word processor (and perhaps explaining everything "The Muse" lacks)

Nutshell: The lesson: Beware abysmal dual-plotted stories with no discernible direction. The verdict: The worst episode of the season.

After a very long streak of solid episodes ranging from "excellent" on the high end to "okay" on the low end, DS9's creative team takes its first major stumble of the season with "The Muse."

And when I say major stumble, I mean major stumble—something along the lines of, say, tripping and falling out an airlock.

"The Muse" is easily the worst thing DS9 has done all year, and it easily falls into DS9's all-time bottom five list. It's a rambling, pointless mess of an episode—a complete waste of time. It's one of those shows where you wait all hour for something to happen, and as it appears nothing is going to happen, you hope that you are wrong—thinking that maybe something interesting is just around the corner—but then you realize the show is not going to prove you wrong.

The episode features two separate stories, both of which receive about equal screen time, and both of which are bad. It's impossible to determine which one was intended as the A-story and which one the B-story because they're crammed right up against each other with alternating scenes of irrelevancy. It doesn't much matter—neither deserves to be a main plot. Hell, neither deserves to be a subplot. Both would be more accurately called F-stories.

One plot (we'll label it the A-story since it was the one exclusively featured in the trailers) involves a mysterious alien woman named Onaya (played by Meg Foster, with those distinctive eyes that make her the perfect candidate for an alien) who somehow helps Jake channel his creative power into writing his first novel. Unfortunately, while unleashing his creativity this also allows Onaya to drain Jake's neural energy or something—it's never really clear what she's actually doing or why—but it's clear that this will certainly injure or kill him if Onaya is not stopped. Yet even though it's harmful, Jake is completely submissive to this "procedure" because of some unfathomable power Onaya has over him. Ultimately, Sisko learns of the alien's presence and tries to capture her. Onaya escapes into space. Ho-hum.

The problem here is that this is a brainstormed concept, not a finished, thought-out story. There simply isn't enough material for the plot to come close to sustaining its half of the episode. Scene after scene is long, repetitive, drawn-out, and pointless. We're treated to hokey-looking special effects as Onaya grabs Jake's head and acts like she's pulling his brain power through his skull and depositing it into her chest. Rene Echevarria does absolutely nothing with the entire thread, neither plotwise nor characterwise. So by the end of the episode we're just staring passively at the screen wondering what in the world we're supposed to be thinking. The line toward the end suggesting Onaya has "channeled the creativity" of famous minds for centuries (including John Keats, no less) is just plain silly. This has to be Echevarria's worst effort ever.

The other story centers around Lwaxana Troi's visit to the station. (Her last visit to DS9 was in "Fascination," a show that was just as bad as this one—it makes one worry what Lwaxana's next visit will bring. I suppose we can always hope there isn't a next time.) She's still in love with Odo, and asks him if he's over Kira yet (I thought we had resolved all of this already). This time she's pregnant (!) and crying to Odo over the fact that her husband's customs require boys to be raised exclusively by men and girls by women. Since her baby is going to be a boy, Lwaxana ran away from her husband to avoid losing the child to him. At first this seems like standard filler, but then the whole thing turns appallingly stupid when Odo agrees to go through with a staged wedding to make Lwaxana's husband—who has chased her all the way to the station—leave her alone.

What exactly are the writers going for here? Are they saying that to solve marital problems you run away from your spouse and then pretend to marry somebody else so your real spouse will give up and stay out of your life? What kind of fantasy world does this sort of solution come from? Wouldn't a typical Star Trek solution try to actually deal with the problem in human terms instead of coming up with something that, in the real world, would probably make things worse for everybody?

Aside from the questionable approach of the solution, the whole wedding thing is practically unwatchable. I like Odo stories that get into the heart of his character, but "Muse" tries to be cute at the expense of all credibility. This show wants to think we'll just accept Odo's completely-out-of-character actions. It's strange, in fact, because Odo seems perfectly in sync for the first act or so, but in act two all of a sudden something goes "click" (around the point where Lwaxana and Odo are playing the hide-and-seek shapeshifting game) and Odo's character runs awry with erratic behavior—the flagship example being the fact that it is his idea to engage in a mock wedding with Lwaxana.

And so on. "Muse" is pretty much a waste of television air time; an uncharacteristically ultra-bad Trek that would best be put to use as fodder for MST3K. Slow, uneventful, annoying, trite, and lame—did I leave anything out? Oh, yeah: It's talky. Talky can be fine, but not when the characters have nothing to say. In short: There's nothing worth musing over in "The Muse."

The only good moment in the episode is when the camera pans down on Jake's novel, and it turns out to be Anslem. But an episode this bad probably doesn't deserve to make references to an episode as wonderful as "The Visitor."

Previous episode: Shattered Mirror
Next episode: For the Cause

◄ Season Index

64 comments on this review

Jakob M. Mokoru
Fri, Nov 9, 2007, 5:05pm (UTC -6)
Lwaxana never worked in DS9! No Deanna - no Lwaxana! She would have made much more sense in Nemesis!
vince
Sun, Aug 9, 2009, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
Well the premise of sucking whatever out of Jake's brain was pretty weak, but given than, what really annoyed me is that the muse escaped when there, right on the station was Lwaxana Troi who should have easily been able to track her and maybe even capture her. OMG, that part almost writes itself. I wish that Mrs. Roddenberry could have been used as a more powerful character than the bumbling Lwaxana Troi and the voice of the computer.
Nic
Fri, Oct 16, 2009, 6:54pm (UTC -6)
Thank God this ended up being her last appearance! Mama Troi's best episodes were "The Forsaken" and "Dark Page", and they were not gems.
Elliott
Sun, Dec 26, 2010, 3:16am (UTC -6)
The 'a' story is stupid because if for no other reason, asking me to believe that Jake Sisko has a talent for writing is asking too much. Buuuut, the idea of creative energy made tangible and that creative expression feeding the soul is meaningful at least to someone who is himself an artist. I can't speak for everyone.

The 'b' story however has a lot of heart in it, quiet and understated. The scene where Lwaxana falls asleep in Odo's quarters is much more than sentimental, she makes some very poignant comments to Odo about his life and his way without being overt and preachy (like most of the characters on this show tend to be) and it's welcome. Odo's speech at the wedding is also quite sincere and powerful (Lwaxana's reaction to it is telling in itself) in spite of the fact that 1) the episodes in which she's appeared before were so-so to terrible and 2) we shan't see her again.

Regarding Jammer's complaints about the moral implications of marriage, remember we're dealing with Lwaxana Troi--her morals are a little offbeat. Her option is better for herself and her baby even if it defies the traditional supremacy of contractual relationships. Remember her attitude in "Half a Life."

It was fun seeing Kang again too!

It wasn't a great episode, but it was a refreshing change from DS9's foolishness and had far more emotional resonance than most of those in this series.
Jay
Sun, Oct 16, 2011, 6:36pm (UTC -6)
The notion that Betazoids moods can be "contagious" would seem to have some extreme social and security repercussions. Funny how the stupidest teleplays also tend to spawn some of the stupidest notions.
Jay
Sun, Oct 16, 2011, 6:44pm (UTC -6)
Sine paper is pretty much extinct in this time, one wonders if handwriting is taught anymore, and if Jake or anyone else would even know cursive.
Nathan
Mon, Oct 17, 2011, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
Jay, I'm pretty sure an earlier episode (perhaps The Visitor) showed Jake using the bottom of his hand-held whatever as a writing tablet.
Lucian
Sat, Jan 21, 2012, 3:20pm (UTC -6)
While this was a miserable episode, it did provide me with one of the best laughs I ever had at star trek.

When odo walks into the bar and asks if she wants to go for a walk , worf says "I do "
Justin
Sun, Mar 18, 2012, 9:23am (UTC -6)
This is, unfortunately, DS9′s worst episode. That it should happen in the midst of an otherwise stellar season is even more unfortunate.

And then there’s the irony that this is the story behind Jake Sisko the writer’s eventual masterpiece. And it was badly written.

Too bad, too, that this was a wasted guest spot for Michael Ansara who played Kang in "Day of the Dove," "Blood Oath," and "Flashback."
Nebula Nox
Fri, Jun 8, 2012, 1:05pm (UTC -6)
I agree with Elliot! I think people are way too hard on Lwaxana and on the Ferengis, because they're not beautiful people running around in starfleet uniforms. I found the relationship between Troi and Odo touching. It taught Odo to open up a bit.
Ian
Thu, Jul 5, 2012, 9:12pm (UTC -6)
This would have made a bad TOS episode...
...In fact, I think it did.
Joel
Wed, Aug 22, 2012, 6:38pm (UTC -6)
Oh my God. I just saw this episode and had to rush to the internet to find anyone as outraged as I was. I can't believe that I couldn't find a single person mentioning that taking a child from their parent is called 'kidnapping' and the whole idea that Lwaxana is somehow a victim just because she doesn't agree with their traditions is absurd! If she hates Tavnian culture so much, why the hell did she marry a Tavnian!?!? Is the moral that a woman is allowed the final say in how a child is raised? Whatever happened to equality? That a Starfleet officer would go out of his way to assist in a kidnapping is beyond, disappointing. It's morally repugnant! I'm sure that some will argue that Odo maintained the letter of the law. But come on! If roles were reversed and a husband showed up with a baby claiming that he needed asylum because the mother "just won't leave us alone" he'd be turned around to settle things in some kind of family court! Lwaxana is upset that Tavnians believe in seperation of the child from one of their parents. Her solution? Do the exact same thing! Hypocrisy! Oh, but I guess it's okay because a mother stealing a child is obviously way better than a father stealing a child. Ridiculous! They were both wrong. So how come she gets away scot free with her crime? There's no way in my imagination that the Federation would allow either parent to simply cut out the other one just because they can. Not sure if Tavnia is a Federation member, but I'd expect the Federation to at least hold Betazed to a higher standard.
Angel
Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 7:13am (UTC -6)
Apparently this is one of the least favourite episodes by the producers. The director, Ron Moore and others all have stated that though they started off with what seemed like good ideas, did not come out on camera and ultimately they all pretty much admitted it was a bad effort. The only thing they liked was Meg Fosters performance (source Memory Alpha ST Wiki).
DG
Mon, Dec 3, 2012, 1:45am (UTC -6)
Elliot is so right!

With a completely different A-Story, Odo and Lwaxana would have been just fine as a B-Story. Loved the blankie!

Odo's using her as a rebound relationship from Kira's problems. (character development?) Them playing hide and seek was cute, too.

Lwaxana's... being herself, as always, and not too much in your face about it, either.

Problem was this episode was 2 b-stories, one decent and cute, and one sort of cringe-worthy, and no good A-story.
Cyndi
Tue, Mar 5, 2013, 11:59pm (UTC -6)
Most of this episode was pretty silly, but the hide and seek scene was absolutely adorable. We don't get to see Odo show his less-than-serious side much, so this episode was worth it to me just for that alone.
Kotas
Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 6:11pm (UTC -6)

This is one to skip.

1/10
Vylora
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 12:05am (UTC -6)
I agree the hide-and-seek part was very cute. "Fascination" was a better Lwaxana episode, though, and even that wasn't that good. I honestly wish that episodes involving her were better than they were. I've always felt she had genuinely good moments. Very unfortunate that the writing for her character just never turned out that great.

The plot with Jake and the feeding off of his creativity was abhorrent and a crappy thing to do to his character.

This wasn't the worst episode of DS9 but definitely a major fall from the mostly wonderful fourth season.

Thanks, but no thanks. 1 star.
Toraya
Wed, Mar 12, 2014, 11:25am (UTC -6)
@Joel:

Lwaxana states in her first scene that her husband started off promising he adored her and would NOT follow his people's traditions, and that after the marriage he went back on his word, began treating her like property, and kept her virtually imprisoned. A pretty common scenario of domestic violence. You cam blame Lwaxana for being naive enough to believe her lover's promises, but she isn't the bad guy here.

My objection to the Lwaxana eps is that her shtick of sad-middle-aged-woman-desperate-for love is boring, cliche and somewhat insulting . How many times have we seen this? Does she ever do anything besides chase men or cry over men? Is it meant to be amusing? Maybe it was...for about two minutes, the first time. Though not really.
Rena
Thu, May 1, 2014, 8:43am (UTC -6)
I just saw this episode for the first time and I don't think it was as bad as Jammer makes it out to be. In fact I found it to be quite funny and the Lwaxana/Odo arc was really rather touching. Sure it wasn't a heavy duty DS9 episode, but it was lighthearted and fun. The Jake arc was suitably creepy, but as a lit student, I can completely understand the need to unleash those words that are all bottled up inside you but which don't translate onto paper. Especially enjoyed the reference to Keats, who also died young.

Methinks Jammer is biased against Lwaxana in general. I thought that the 'Naked Now' verson of DS9, can't remember its name but it too was a Lwaxana episode, but I found it hilarious and idiotic in a good way. Both of these episodes merit a much rating.
Rivus
Sun, May 4, 2014, 1:45am (UTC -6)
As a visual artist myself, the A-plot in this episode really struck a chord with me. Often times, when a young, naive, and inexperienced artist is faced with an undertaking that seems almost insurmountable in scale, we become desperate in our methods of tackling it... Often to the detriment of our health. This could be anything from losing sleep due to a coffee-fueled all-nighter, to cocaine for the more foolish and monetarily privileged (fortunately, I am not a member of the white-nosers club). But, as a result of these behaviors, often we'll drop everything in favor, even some healthy family time (much like Jake in his ditching of his father and Yates). Onaya very much feels like a symbol for how an artist's addiction, not only pertaining to his work, but also to substances that may seem beneficial in the short term, can take hold on anyone, even the best of us... Almost without any warning sign, just being pushed in the right direction by a soothing voice. I like to think that Jake could easily have given in at any time, but he was so drawn to his own work that it almost killed him to finish it in the end.

As for the B-story... Well, it fits the characters, and has its head in the right place regarding abusive partners (aside from the fact that this kind of thing DOES happen, and often times the abused will be reckless in choosing another suitable to protect them... Potentially leading to more abuse in truth). But the execution here I felt was a bit lacking.

I'd give this one more along the lines of 2.75 stars, though I can easily see why the A-plot would go right over the average watcher's head. Hell, I could very easily be reading way too into it for my own good!
Rivus
Sun, May 4, 2014, 1:49am (UTC -6)
Ugh, my ability to write here tonight is pretty one-star worthy, though...

*oftentimes we'll drop whatever isn't pressing to us (even some healthy family time) in favor of the art we seek to accomplish

*I like to think that Jake could easily have stopped himself
NCC-1701-Z
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 1:25am (UTC -6)
Onaya felt like a villain right out of Doctor Who, specifically, the witch-beings in the Doc Who episode "The Shakespeare Code", basically aliens controlling Shakespeare in order to accomplish their evil plan of the week. Except "Shakespeare Code" was fun while "The Muse" was just lame.

And I still can't stand Luaxana. Jammer put it just right - a major stumble in what is otherwise one of DS9's best seasons. Odo had the best line though: "I trust I can count on you to accept me even if I just stand there and read last week's criminal activity report."
Yanks
Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 11:46am (UTC -6)
1/2 star for the alien babe. Her eyes were freaky good.

1/2 star for Majel gracing the screen once again, albeit in a cockamamie story.

1 star.
Sonya
Sat, Nov 15, 2014, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
Toraya said, "My objection to the Lwaxana eps is that her shtick of sad-middle-aged-woman-desperate-for love is boring, cliche and somewhat insulting . How many times have we seen this? Does she ever do anything besides chase men or cry over men? Is it meant to be amusing? Maybe it was...for about two minutes, the first time. Though not really."

I completely agree! Although I would add, it *is* insulting. I blame the writers for the annoying aspects of Luaxana Troi's personality. The fact that she could get on so many viewers' nerves over the years is a testament to her solid acting ability.

The "sad desperation" plot lines also undermined one of the things I initially liked best about Luaxana - she had a healthy attitude towards sexuality and her own body. I wish the writers would not have made her chase after men who clearly had no interest in her. I wish they hadn't made her seem so self-absorbed, just as a device to later show how thoughtful and supportive she really could be. There weren't enough older women in the show to counter the portrayal of Luaxana. (My favorite was Dr. Pulaski, and sadly, she was only on TNG for 1 season.)

I also agree with Jammer that the show's portrayal of how to resolve marital problems was not good. Why couldn't Luaxana ask for asylum and obtain competent legal counsel? (Oh, it's a device to foist Luaxana on Odo, who isn't romantically interested in her. "Won't you protect me, Odo?" - that alone is insulting.)

Re: Jake's story line, I found it disturbing that the writer paired Onaya, an older woman, with Jake, a teenaged boy. Why did the writer even need themes of sexuality and seduction for Onaya to accomplish her objective? I suppose Onaya had to touch Jake's head to steal his life force, and the writer thought sexuality was the most plausible way to achieve that end.
Chelsea
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 12:33am (UTC -6)
Reading through these comments I can see that people really hated this episode. But I thought it had some good moments! I've always thought that Jake as a writer was kind of a joke since he's never actually written anything. But here he actually comes out of his shell and nearly finishes a book! Who cares if the plot device was a little droll? The point was to get Jake writing and I think it worked.

The B plot was the weak point in the episode. I like Lwaxana Troi. She's always seemed like a fun and kooky aunt who comes over some times and spices things up. But I have to agree with the guy who said that her actions here were wrong. She's the non-custodial parent taking to the space lanes with her infant in contravention of the law. In our society, that would be grounds for an amber alert. But I guess alls well that ends well. I give it 2.5 stars.
Icarus32Soar
Tue, Mar 10, 2015, 10:30am (UTC -6)
Like Fascination this ep works better as a metaphor and allusion to the powers within us to transform ourselves and others, the idea of artistic inspiration, the alien muse, is destructive and vampirical, Luaxana the cliche lovesick older woman transforms Odo into his most human yet. Did you lot not notice how he transforms himself to a blanket to cover the sleeping Luaxana ever so tenderly? Not every episode has to move the main arc along. Nor can every episode be interpreted literally. A provocative episode far more worth the 43 mins of tv space than that atrocity The Visitor that's got everyone pissing in their pants.
DVMX
Thu, Apr 9, 2015, 2:15pm (UTC -6)
I didn't mind The Muse. Didn't care for it either. Its firmly in the middle with me. I wouldn't turn it off if it came on TV, but if I had the box set I might never watch it. Its a firm "meh" to me. Half because I actually dislike any and everything Lwaxanna. Other half the idea of a Muse as presented her is fine even if the execution is so so.

Not sure I'd put it on a Top 10 Worse DS9 eps, and if I did, maybe #9 or #10.
Mythic
Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 6:55am (UTC -6)
The notion of a vapiric muses is not new. See the Celtic Leanan Sidhe for example.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leanan_sídhe
Ben Franklin
Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 3:22pm (UTC -6)
This episode was painful when it first aired, it was painful when I rewatched the series beginning to end in 2009, and it is still painful as I am rewatching the series again. I should have skipped it! I can't even put into proper words why I hate it. Jammer covers it well.

The Jake Sisko storyline was okay (muse who tortures artists). The execution was just plain bad, though. The acting was nothing to write home about but the writing was boring and stale.

I used to hate Lwaxana, then I grew to love her, but in the last few episodes over the course of her character I found her to be weak and whiny. This episode was just plain wierd. I guess it could be a bit amusing.

1/4 star.
methane
Mon, Nov 2, 2015, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
I'm always wary of art about art. Whenever someone makes a movie/play/song/painting/etc. about something artistic, the creators are pretty much guaranteed to be far more interested in the subject than non-artists. Their artistic colleagues and friends, as well as many critics (who spend a lot of time with artists, and often fit the stereotype of being failed artists themselves), will praise the effort more than the rest of us. This doesn't mean that art about art can't be good, but it fails to live up to the hype of artists & critics more often than art on other subjects.*

That's why it doesn't surprise me that several commenters who identify as artists find the Jake story interesting, or that the writers of the show failed to see the problems with the story before it was filmed. The idea is somewhat interesting, if not original (as Mythic points out). It just wasn't used well here, as Jammer's review details. (as an aside, I agree with those who believe Jake could have stopped if he truly wanted to; he was addicted to the thrill of creation, not helplessly controlled by the woman)

I agree with those who say that the Odo/Lwaxana story is OK. It's certainly not memorable, but there are some decent character moments, and I don't mind them using the rules of an alien culture to solve a "problem" caused by the rules of an alien culture. This would have been fine trimmed down some and paired with a better "A" story.

So, yeah, this is the worst episode of the season. 1 star is fair. But it's certainly not the worst episode in the 7-year run.

*this doesn't relate to this episode, but I am just as wary of TV shows or Movies about journalism. Writers (of Movies or TV shows) glorifying other writers (journalists), generally get the praise of still more writers (Movie or TV critics...who also consider themselves journalists)! Lack of perspective all the way around!
William B
Sat, Nov 28, 2015, 10:42am (UTC -6)
As with many commenters here, I think that the Lwaxana story is fine and indeed has some very good moments. There is something very half-hearted and perfunctory about the plot, which I do think is a weakness, and might be worth discussing more if it weren't that the plot of the Jake story is so terrible that it seems hard to get too up in arms about the Lwaxana story. What impressed me the more I thought about it is the following: (episode appearance spoilers) I don't think I'm giving too much away in saying that this is Lwaxana Troi's last appearance after having made one annual appearance in Trek since TNG's first season. This means that this episode has the honour/burden of closing out a *nine-year* annual tradition, which is especially difficult considering that the majority of the episodes featuring Lwaxana over the years have been terrible. However, despite the poor execution of most Lwaxana stories, and perhaps because of the repetitive nature of those stories over the years, this episode manages to provide something of a capstone for most of the recurring themes that have followed Lwaxana through her appearances on both series while also wrapping up her role in Deep Space Nine in what is to me a satisfying way.

While I dislike most Lwaxana episodes, I don't (usually) dislike Lwaxana herself; I think it is more the way she is frequently used that is grating, problematic, and often sexist. Zooming out, though, the key elements of this episode have to do with Lwaxana's pregnancy/motherhood, marriage and dissolution thereof, and loneliness and her relationship to distant, lonely men. Deanna's role in TNG is largely to highlight the emotional side of life, and Lwaxana's story zeroes in even more closely on family and to some degree on traditional mother-hen assumptions about the goal of life being familial, as well as a boundary-defying unwillingness to let people be alone (or lonely). That she is largely a nuisance to the TNG crew comments to some degree on the individualism that the starfleet explorer life produces. Lwaxana, caught between tradition and modernity, is both an aristocrat and a shameless breaker of rules, obsessed with coupling and wanting badly to avoid any compromises of herself, and her stories all come down to variations on a handful of conflicts -- the desire to be in a relationship versus the desire to be oneself, the importance of one's children becoming independent versus the gap left when they leave and the parent continues aging.

And so, in order:

1. Lwaxana's first appearance heralds her association with tradition and marriage ("Haven") where she paradoxically is present partly to enforce tradition and partly to flaunt it, ending with her giving Wyatt the push he needs to leave Deanna.
2. "Manhunt" introduces Lwaxana's desire and her menopause-metaphor The Phase fixation on Picard as a man of her age who refuses to let her interrupt his lonely life.
3. "Menage a Troi" (i.e. "menage a trois") whose title evokes the weird and perhaps inappropriate way Lwaxana throws herself into her daughter's romantic life, features Lwaxana's attempts to escape the clutches of an unwanted suitor and Picard's necessarily play-acting Lwaxana's lover to save her.
4. "Half a Life" gives Lwaxana the chance at a happy relationship with a quiet, lonely man who reciprocates her advances, only to have it cut short by the recognition that others in the galaxy place far less value on the possibilities of life for the elderly than she does, and signals tragedy that Lwaxana is not ready to give up on her life, but cannot change that others with whom she could are unwilling to break with societal pressure to stop being inconvenient.
5. "Cost of Living" has Lwaxana teaching Alexander how to have fun while she plans to marry herself off to a stultifying bore out of desperation, until she finally rejects him -- with the recognition that she is partly giving up on marriage as a way of happiness. Her bond with Alexander suggests rebirth.
6. "The Forsaken" has Lwaxana bond with Odo, who over the course of the episode moves from Picard-solidity to falling into her lap; unlike Picard, Odo needs her, and unlike Timicin, she is able to help him.
7. "Dark Page" suggests that Lwaxana has suffered a huge loss of a child (loss of innocence, etc.) which underscores the tragedy and death and loss that follows Lwaxana around, and has her recovering only when she is able to face her problems.
8. "Fascination" has Lwaxana's feelings for Odo boiling over and causing chaos throughout the station, and has her able to recognize Odo's own lonely, unrequited feelings for Kira.

So this episode in some ways refers to all of the above in some sense or another. Lwaxana refers to "Dark Page" explicitly, of course. Odo's declaration of love to free Lwaxana recalls Picard in "Menage a Troi"; the marriaged ended after-the-fact recalls the near misses (for Lwaxana and for her daughter) in "Haven" and "Cost of Living"; Lwaxana's mood being infectious with negative, disruptive results, which is to some degree always true and was most true in TNG in "Manhunt" and had its most literal form in "Fascination," is suggested when she recounts her life tragedy to Kira, Dax and Worf in Quark's. Her falling asleep in Odo's arms/lap and Odo putting his arm around her as a blanket is a repayment of her gesture, allowing him to take his liquid form in her lap, in "The Forsaken." And the death/rebirth issues (from all episodes, and especially "Half a Life") come to the fore, as Lwaxana unexpectedly has a child, and there is the suggestion that this child represents a future lonely, sad Lwaxana did not particularly know she had.

The Odo/Lwaxana material in the episode generally works for me both for Lwaxana's character and (more importantly, for this series) for Odo's. I do agree with Jammer's assessment that Odo gets a little too cute in characterization for the usual portrayal of him, but I think that his growing enthusiasm for having someone to take care of makes sense. In particular, Odo is on some level more strongly looking for a way to connect to the world without getting hurt; "Crossfire" eliminated Kira (for now) as the person he could connect with, but his recognition that he can do something for Lwaxana shows how eager he actually is not to be so totally alone. I do think that the awareness of what he has lost in discovering that there is no place for him among his people (first by choice, and then because of what he had done) has changed things for Odo pretty significantly, but in a way that had not quite settled in even by "Fascination." And moreover, Odo really *did* bond with Lwaxana in "The Forsaken" (and to a lesser extent "Fascination") and with Kira somewhat out of the picture for now he is more willing to explore what that means, and more willing to try, on some level, to live vicariously through her. He gets to play the hero for a little while, using his legal knowledge to help another person connect to the stream of life with which he feels permanently disconnected. The reversal at the episode's end -- that after declaring his (fake) love for her he declares his real (platonic) love for her, and that his finally embracing the idea of Lwaxana in his life is what means that Lwaxana must finally leave, is also pretty touching, I think. In some ways it is a reversal of "Crossfire" for Odo, in that he now finds himself as the best friend who will not become a lover, and Lwaxana is able to be honest with Odo about her reasons for breaking with him, in a way that Odo cannot be to Kira.

I do agree though with the criticisms of this plot as a *plot*. I don't know if I am that concerned about Lwaxana using shams to escape from her marriage. To the comments above to the effect that Lwaxana should not have taken the child away from the father, I think that the idea here is that Lwaxana would be willing to raise a child together with the father, and would be willing to raise a child with the father being involved in the child's life, but is not willing to be cut out of the child's life because of Tavnian rules, which Lwaxana did *not* agree to. Presumably neither expected child-rearing to become an issue when they walked into marriage, and cultural differences suddenly became not just important but essential. But in any case, whatever the legal issues are, Lwaxana obviously (to me) has the same right she did within Federation/Betazoid culture, especially if that was the original marriage agreement, and the marriage does not actually nullify Lwaxana's rights. The various hoops that are introduced into Tavnian marriage laws are clearly contrivances to get to Odo's (platonic posing as romantic) love declaration, and as such seem increasingly ridiculous, as does the Tavnian father's willingness to drop out of his child's life entirely when even he doesn't seem to believe Lwaxana will give all the child-rearing responsibilities to Odo (though he apparently believes the wedding is real). It's a pretty stupid plot taken literally, and is mostly there to get to the emotional beats, which to me actually work pretty well.

Anyway, right, there's the Jake plot. The Jake plot in some ways works as commentary on the Lwaxana-Odo plot, in that Onaya extracts what was actually inside Jake, in a way that Lwaxana brings something out of Odo that he was not fully aware was there, but in a less predatory way (this time, at least). And the metaphor is fine, as far as it goes -- that creative expression can become a destructive obsession that can destroy a person all while they make something of beauty is a reasonable theme to explore. But yeah, the plot goes nowhere very slowly, and because the episode never gives us any taste of the actual quality of Jake's work we just have to sit around and believe that he's writing the great space station novel through endless variations on the same scene. And then the way Sisko shoots her and she zaps out of the station! The cheese! It feels honestly like "Sub Rosa" with, admittedly, less sex, but has even less entertainment value.

Anyway 2-2.5 for the Odo-Lwaxana plot (I like it, but serious contrivances) and 0.5-1 for the Jake plot, which comes to about 1.5 stars.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Jan 3, 2016, 10:22am (UTC -6)
There are indeed some fine moments in the Lwaxana/Odo story, and it tries very hard to rekindle the strong interaction between the two. But the story itself is just a little on the nose - sham marriage to get out of loveless marriage. It's a bit of a soap opera convenience and seems to pay lip service to what is actually quite a finely drawn relationship between Lwaxana and Odo.

The muse story just doesn't work at all, and is tiresome and repetitive. Kudos for the Anslem call back though. 1.5 stars.
Luke
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 8:45pm (UTC -6)
LOL! Okay, where to begin with this one? You know, SFDebris often talks about how there are a lot of VOY episodes focusing on Janeway that are little more than masturbation fantasies for the writers. While I can see how that might be true, "The Muse" is quite possibly the quintessential definition of television writers having a masturbation fantasy. Get this - the A-plot is about how a beautiful woman wants nothing more than to sit and watch Jake write. Not only that, she also gets off while doing it! LOL! If that isn't some insane wet dream on the part of the male writers, I don't know what is! A beautiful woman just wants to watch you write? Not read what you've written, just watch you perform the action of writing? Yeah.... no. Oh, and said beautiful woman is also a space vampire. Think about that for a minute - a space vampire. And I thought Beverly Crusher falling in love with a space ghost was pushing it. Does anybody remember the episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer eats some kind of insane chili pepper and goes on a massive, freaky acid trip with his coyote spirit guide? The coyote tells him that he has to find his soul mate and that it might not be Marge. In the end it turns to be Marge after all and Homer screams to the sky "in your face, space coyote!". Anybody remember Marge's response? Here it is - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ukGyMnZUw8 That tone of complete condescension and bewilderment was exactly my response to this story. A space vampire! LOL!!

That's pretty much all there is to say about the A-plot because there is absolutely nothing praiseworthy, or even watchable, it in. Zero out of ten for this one.

Meanwhile, the B-plot involving Odo and Lwaxana is much more enjoyable, but still deeply flawed. It's main problem is that it shares an episode with the absurd A-plot. But more than that, the problem is that Lwaxana's marriage, pregnancy and troubles literally come out of left field and are resolved far too simplistically. And why exactly does she run to Odo, of all people, for protection during this, her time of greatest, crisis? Don't you think it would have been better for her to run to, oh I don't know, her daughter for help?! As much as she and Picard dislike the woman I doubt they wouldn't go to the wall to help her here. But instead she seeks out Odo's assistance because if she didn't the episode couldn't have been made (and that would have been a real pity, wouldn't it have?). Good grief, Deanna doesn't even get a mention in this episode (despite the fact that she's soon to have a baby brother!), but Kestra Troi does! Still, it's a pleasant enough fluff plot with some nice moments from Rene Auberjonois once you get past those shortcomings. And it gave us another appearance by Michael Ansara. That man could bring dignity to anything, even that asinine Techno-Mage crap over on "Babylon 5". It's a shame, really, that this is Majel Barrett Roddenberry's final appearance as Lwaxana Troi. For all the episode's faults, Lwaxana isn't one of them. They finally managed to make her not only tolerable but genuinely likable in her final handful of appearances. It's sad that she had to go out with such a bad episode.

I'll be generous to the B-plot (since it was the only thing that saved me for the A-plot) and give it a 4/10. Average both plots together and "The Muse" gets a 2/10

HOLODECK TOYS - 14 (+2)
WTF HAIR - 31 (+1)

2/10
Luka
Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 9:06pm (UTC -6)
I actually really enjoyed this episode. I have a soft spot for Lwaxana episodes because she really was Trek royalty and I always felt bad for how crappy she got treated in most episodes. She was such a truly beautiful woman and deserved so much more in Trek. RIP Majel Barrett. No matter how badly her episodes are reviewed by the masses I will always enjoy her charm and beauty.
Ivanov
Wed, Jun 29, 2016, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
I Liked the Odo Lwaxana story. I found her interactions with Odo nice. It really is her fault she's i this mess Oh I'll marry this guy from a culture that segregates both genders until a certain age because he said he will ignore his peoples traditions! of course Lwaxana married a guy uncomfortable with a traditional Betazoid wedding while insisting she have a traditional wedding so this doesn't surprise me.

I consider the jake gets seduced by a brain vampire thing to be the subplot and I truly couldn't bring myself to care about it.

Robert
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 9:46am (UTC -6)
@Ivanov - As somebody that dislikes a large portion of her appearances in TNG (with 1 major and 1 minor exception), I will agree. I don't know why this story gets so much hate. I love her with Odo and while her middle appearance was a bit ridiculous I really, really like her 1st appearance on DS9 and her appearance here. She's really good with Odo.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 10:47am (UTC -6)
@Robert:

Major: Half a Life?
Minor: .........Haven? Dark Page?
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 10:49am (UTC -6)
(I genuinely like Half a Life. I think that Haven has problems, but I don't think Lwaxana is a significant problem, especially considering that it's season 1 we're talking about. I don't like Dark Page but I know lots of people do.)
Chrome
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 11:13am (UTC -6)
There's sort of a hidden gag in "Half a Life" where the very first line gives away what kind of show you're about to see:

"Counselor Deanna Troi, personal log, stardate 44805.3. My mother is on board."

(Cue scene with Picard avoiding Troi's mom)

At the onset, you're on alert and can either avoid the episode if you dislike Lwaxana, or keep watching and see where it goes. Personally, I find Picard's humorous ways of dealing with her to be worth the price of admission, but I definitely understanding wanting to avoid shows with Lwaxana Troi.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 12:19pm (UTC -6)
Conceptually there's something I like a lot about Lwaxana. She invariably acts as an agent of chaos, and her episodes tend to show that being sophisticated and proper all the time isn't desirable. In "Cost of Living" we see her espouse the need for a 'laughing hour', to say "ha!" to the sense or order and propriety enforced by others, and to literally cover oneself with mud from time to time in an age of immaculate cleanliness. I almost think of this episode as a counterargument against how sanitized TNG can be at times. Even her eventual choice to appear at her wedding in the traditional Betazoid nudity is a statement about how important it is to exhibit humanity in its naked beauty and flaws, rather than to only clothe humanity in its evolved values.

In DS9 Lwaxana is the only one who doesn't need to see Odo's mask and prefers to see the being as he is; even by Season 7 the crew of DS9 are still grappling with accepting a Changeling among them *as he really is*, while Lwaxana accepted him right away and was even honored to see him in non-humanoid form. It even made her care for him more.

Lwaxana seems to me to fit better in the DS9 setting than on TNG, since on DS9 there are many troubled individuals who have something of merit to share with others, whereas on TNG the crew tended to be a bit more perfect in their own way, and Lwaxana was just in their way. She can be a 'serious character' on DS9, whereas on TNG she was a bothersome clown. To be fair, this is partly due to how she was written, and in fairness I also find Barrett's portrayal of her to be often tedious and irritating, but as a conceptual character I like what she represents and actively appreciate some of her scenes with Odo.

The whole 'mind reading' aspect to Betazoids has always troubled me, both because it's a storytelling cheat and also because Star Trek never took psi ability seriously other than as a gag. In Babylon 5 the implication is taken very seriously about what it would be like to have telepaths around, and what sorts of laws would be required to keep it in check. I don't like how Betazoids are treated in this sense, but what I do like about them (even though this is rarely mined by the writers) is the notion that a race such as them can be superior *empathizers* than anyone else, and can understand and accept someone's true nature without judging them. In this context the Betazoids could represent what's best in the Federation, and although this aspect of them is thinly portrayed if at all, in Lwaxana's case this is exactly the core of her character and I only wish the writers had taken her presence in episodes a little more seriously.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 1:12pm (UTC -6)
I think that the thing that rankles me a bit about Lwaxana's "agent of chaos" nature is how strongly it's tied to her aristocracy; she can afford to say and do what she pleases because she's got a live-in servant and the entitlement that goes along with being, or, as Deanna implies, believing herself to be royal. She's based on Auntie Mame, and in the film at least I think there were big elements of classism against the nouveau riche for not having enough fun like aristocrats should. In this case, Lwaxana can flaunt that she doesn't care about propriety because at the end of the day, she's still got a tall servant who follows her around everywhere cleaning up after her.

If we take Deanna seriously that the sacred chalice of Rixx is just dusty old cup, and that Lwaxana in fact has no particular authority in the 24th century (and that Mr Homm hangs out because he likes it, I guess?), then it becomes something of a matter of attitude and it works better for me -- Lwaxana dares to pretend that she deserves to break the somewhat sanitized rules, but in fact the sense of entitlement is just an excuse to do what she believes everyone should do. I actually like this though; Lwaxana breaks the rules, but she wilfully ignores how she makes other people uncomfortable and outright insults and demeans them (as in the "Mr. Woof" stuff). It is good for us to eventually find out with Timicin, Alexander and Odo that she does want to extend her philosophy to others besides herself and her daughter, and view it as more than a matter of birth and breeding, though I think that is some of where her belief that people are entitled to do whatever they want and not care about propriety comes from.

This tells us something about Deanna, who spends more of her time helping others with their emotional problems and telling them that they deserve to be the happiest they can be, but who also maybe does so out of a somewhat exaggerated sense of entitlement -- she mostly (not entirely) rejects discipline because she has a general sense that it is possible for people to meet their emotional needs without it. In Disaster and Thine Own Self we see that Deanna's weakness in command is an unwillingness to commit to believing that there is a no-win scenario where sacrifices must be made, though in Disaster in particular we see that it's not entirely a bad thing. SkepticalMI talked about Deanna's aristocratic leanings in The Masterpiece Society, and I think that it's an important element of the character -- that despite her empathy, she is a little detached from the knowledge of real suffering, despite her having known tragedy in her life.

I suspect some of this has to do with Betazoid society. In a society where everyone can read each other's thoughts, obviously there is less need for pretense. But more than that, I think that a Betazoid would basically *know* if they are badly hurting another person. As uncomfortable as she makes Picard with her unwanted advances and as much as she ruffles Worf's feathers by calling him Mr. Woof, she also knows that she is not traumatizing them by having fun with them. Social rules are sometimes enforced to keep people from hurting each other; if you can know whether or not you're "really" hurting someone, what is the use of them?
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 2:48pm (UTC -6)
To lend credence to Deanna's position on this, it's hard to imagine someone being a legitimate aristocrat in a post-scarcity age when anyone can have whatever they want. Maybe Lwaxana's title is inherited from long before Betazed joined the Federation, and is now largely irrelevant.

Either way, to further the point that Lwaxana knows she's not 'really' hurting anyone, we can look at this from a socio-economic perspective as well. On Earth there is no need for people to be subject to the whims of other people to get what they need in life; there is no need to suck up to the boss, to beg for a raise, or to sweat at a job interview because you need to put food on the table. *Having* to show respect to 'one's betters' because they have power over you would not exist, and so there is a significant burden raised on the need for average people to be polite and respectful merely as a matter of utility to get what they need. They'll get it anyhow whether or not they're polite. From what I've seen of people this freeing up of restrictions can have funny effects, some of which would probably result in some people being a**holes just because there's no tangible negative consequence, and some of which would become more than merely polite in facade but would actually embrace others in a sense of brotherhood. Lwaxana is a good example of how lifting the restrictions on behavior due to need might have interesting effects on the populace at large. Why act 'proper' when you'll get your credit allowance either way? Why take crap from anyone when there is no upper class? It doesn't mean that utopia brings with it a license to act like a dick, but on the other hand it does mean that no one has to act like a stuffed shirt anymore either just to get the office job running smoothly and keep middle management happy.

In this sense I think DS9 did a good job of repeatedly illustrating that, if anything, it's Federation citizens *as a whole* who are in some ways aristocrats compared with less fortunate peoples like the Bajorans. In addition to various Bajoran and Maquis episodes that describe how the Federation can appear to be lording over those who'd like to partake in paradise, we are also shown various people who defy prescribed behavioral codes and who may even reject outright a Federation sensibility. We have examples of people with legitimate points here, like Quark (who sometimes makes a good case for the Federation as having shortcomings), mixed cases, such as Mullibok in "Progress", who is a bit right and a bit wrong, and less credible cases, such as Alixus in "Paradise". Somewhere in and amongst all that are Eddington and Cal Hudson. Some of what they discuss is about lifestyle, values, economics even, but certainly in the cases of Quark, Mullibok, Eddington, and even Kira in her general temperament, we see an argument against the need to 'behave oneself' in the stuffed-shirt sense, and I see Lwaxana as being in there somewhere. If anything, a lack of scarcity and want is exactly the environment where proper behavior codes should be discarded, and yet it's amongst the people in the greatest need where we see them as having the greatest liberty to be eccentric or weird if they feel like it. Lwaxana in particular isn't in need materially, but I would say emotionally she really, really is, and so I'll put her in with the Bajorans in terms of needing to let loose rather than explode with repression.

Just to contrast this with TNG, Will Riker is as close as we get to 'free and loose' among the crew, and even just him flashing the winning smile at a lady is enough for us to classify him as a sort of devil-may-care fellow in contrast to the officious comportment of pretty much everyone else (ironically exemplified by Data). Barclay is a big exception to this, and I think it's one of the reasons he works so well on the show. He's quirky, has problems, doesn't get along with everyone, and breaks up what sometimes amounts to a static energy of everyone agreeing with each other except in regards to strategic choices.

Chrome
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 2:53pm (UTC -6)
@William B

I took the "dusty old cup" line by Troi to mean that Lwaxana doesn't keep her "sacred family artifacts" in very good care. But I think there's ample evidence of Lwaxana's royalty throughout the series. Mr. Homm is just one example, but "Cost of Living" also implies that Lwaxana is marrying not out of love, but for political reasons. Thus, we can only assume she has some political importance on Betazed, however limited.

Lwaxana's also threatens the Ferengi with political repercussions in "Menage à Troi" for her kidnapping. I mean that could all be a bluff, but there's nothing in the episode that indicates she needed to bluff. Indeed the Ferengi considering her precious is reinforced by the fact she's politically valuable.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:00pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

"Lwaxana's also threatens the Ferengi with political repercussions in "Menage à Troi" for her kidnapping. I mean that could all be a bluff, but there's nothing in the episode that indicates she needed to bluff. Indeed the Ferengi considering her precious is reinforced by the fact she's politically valuable."

Remember, though, that she is the Betazoid ambassador to the Federation, which is no doubt the single most important job on the planet other than the President (or whatever they have). That alone makes her way more than even a normal VIP, and I'm sure that kidnapping a Federation ambassador is, indeed, a grievous offence that the Federation wouldn't take lightly.

With regard to her having a servant, we might suspect that calling him that is a personal eccentricity rather than a sign that she has some kind of royal powers or privileges. We may observe that ambassadors will all tend to have aides and assistants with them, including even Sarek who had an entire entourage. Given the image of herself she puts it, it doesn't surprise me to Lwaxana would choose to call Mr. Homn her 'servant', but in reality she would certainly need an assistant, regardless of what title she chose to give him/her.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:03pm (UTC -6)
Mr. Homn is the main reason why I think that there's some leftover aristocratic elements to Lwaxana. However, I agree that in other areas she seems to mostly not have much power and has a lot of emotional needs. It would be interesting to know exactly why Homn continues to serve Lwaxana -- it may have something to do with the degree of tragedy in her life, that his species see it as an important and sacred duty to help take care of the emotionally vulnerable.
William B
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:10pm (UTC -6)
I hadn't seen Peter G.'s last comment when I just posted. It's a good point that other Ambassadors have staff.

I do tend to think that Lwaxana's free-spirited style is, and is portrayed as, a mixed bag, but mostly a good thing. I think the episode where it seems like a real problem is in Manhunt, where Picard is informed that he has to hide from Lwaxana rather than disappoint her emotionally.
Chrome
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

Actually, the part where Lwaxana threatens her political importance she specifically cites only her Betazoid credentials. Without word from the show otherwise, I don't see any reason to believe she couldn't carry out the threat of an "interstellar incident" on her Betazed creds alone.

That said, I'm sure whatever political importance her family possesses has rusted over time, much like the Sacred Chalice of Rixx.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:23pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome

Oh, I entirely agree that this is how she presents herself. I just tend to see it as a sort of Blanche Dubois pretensious eccentricity rather than a legitimate reflection on some power she has. You can kind of see it every time Lwaxana mentions her Betazoid status and Deanna rolls her eyes. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from a child who knows their parent spouts off at the mouth about BS, but has a lifetime of experience knowing you have to humor them anyhow. It kind of reminds me a bit of the dynamic between Julian and Richard Bashir when Richard would recite some spurious tale of his achievement and Julian would show irritation. Obviously in the case of the Bashirs it's not a cutesy eye rolling but rather open condemnation, since Richard Bashir isn't presented as a comic character. It just feels different to me than it would in the case of an actually royal person with real power; I somehow don't think her child in that case would openly scoff at her position or status if it really meant something and was meant to be taken seriously.
Picard
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:49pm (UTC -6)
No, however much Troi resents her mother's boasting, Lwaxana is a political figure for Betazoid. She's represents Betazoid at Pacifica Conference, according to her introductory episode, "Manhunt". She's also is appointed to the trade delegation of Betazed for conference we hear of in "Menage à Troi".

These aren't boasts, they're facts presented by the show. Lwaxana makes herself to be greater than these posts because of her history, but whatever the case with her royal status, she holds Betazoid political power.
Chrome
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
And now I've written Picard one too many times. Sorry, I promise I'm not him. :)
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 4:11pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome/Picard,

I'm not sure but I think we're agreeing with each other. There's no questions that Lwaxana has real and substantial [political] power. It's my contention, at any rate, that her power isn't based on her royal status but rather on her diplomatic status, and that she just likes to put on airs that her royal lineage is somehow relevant to her status.
Nolan
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
I have nothing to add to this discussion, but I just wanted to say thank heavens for this comment section, it's gotten me through a really dull group presentation class.
Chrome
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I honestly don't think the show ever clarifies whether her power is based on royal status or not. I had always assumed she got the position of diplomat because she both has royal heritage (and thus reverence) among her people and also had a human husband who was well-connected.

So there might be multiple character interpretations. I'm open to any sources that might explain this better.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome, it's just my take on it. I base my guess on the fact of Deanna's scoffing at her mother's references to royal station, on the fact that I can't really imagine there being such a thing as practical nobility on a Federation world, the fact that Lwaxana perpetually embellishes and exaggerates everything, and on the fact that we only ever hear Federation personnel refer to her as an ambassador rather than as "your highness" or any honorific like that. It appears, at the very least, that her prestige according to the Federation comes from her diplomatic status and not from her being a royal person. We do see royal people on Star Trek from time to time, and they're always referred to by their royal honorifics. The lack of such in Lwaxana's case may mean that it's not a title Betazed itself pushes to be respected.
Robert
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 8:01pm (UTC -6)
@William - Yes, Half a Life and Dark Page

Haven is not that good overall, but for S1 it's pretty ok I guess.

I also think she fits better on DS9.

And I think she's an aristocrat in an age where money money and power get you nothing. Imagine a descendant of royalty in an age where such means little. But she is an ambassador, so maybe a figurehead like role?
Andy's Friend
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
Interesting talk. We can't really know, can we? But if we do what I dislike and use Earth as benchmark, here's my take on Lwaxana, with a quote about something else I wrote in "Cogenitor":

"I actually had a very interesting discussion once about this, trying to describe the differences between what is a Viceroy, and what is a titled noble: ranks, privileges, and such. It boils down to this: a Viceroy represents the Monarch, and rules in his stead. But his power is confined, in space, and in time. Outside his Viceroyalty, he enjoys lesser privileges. After his term has ended, he is what he was before.

A Duke is a Duke, whether he is 8 years old or 88. He enjoys all the privileges of his rank at any time, anywhere within the realm and the empire, and in the good old days in other kingdoms and empires as well. Until a few years ago when Spain joined the European Union, for example, every Spanish Duke held a diplomatic passport as default. He was seen as an old lineage, an embodiment of history, and a representative of the Kingdom of Spain. He was more than a man."

I believe that, continuing the example, Lwaxana, too, is an old lineage, an embodiement of history, a representative of the World of Betazed. She is more than a woman.

I therefore think that there are strong reasons to believe that what constitutes Lwaxana's power and prestige *on Betazed* is her royal lineage, and not some random status as Ambassador. That status as Ambassador, as Chrome points out, is almost certainly, much like the Spanish Dukes with diplomatic passports by default until a few years ago, most likely only because of that royal prestige.

I imagine most commenters here are American; and therefore, this for you may perhaps be a little more difficult to fully assimilate. Any British, French, Spanish etc. Duke is, above all, a Duke―not a Prime Minister, Ambassador, or whatever. That is only temporary; and, if you ask me, largely irrelevant. Churchill was more than a Prime Minister: he was a Churchill.

In fact, Churchill is a wonderful example of what Chrome and I mean. Is it far-fetched to believe that the little house he was born in contributed considerably to his career?

Say the names: Bedford. Brissac. Béjar. Norfolk. Noailles. Nájera. To most well-educated people in Britain, France, or Spain, this is all one needs to know. I couldn't personally care less about offices: they just come with the name, and they come and go. What matters is the name: for that is intemporal.

If the Betazoids are anything like us, Lwaxana is a Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. Her current office should be completely irrelevant.

Also, we must differentiate between the Federation and the individual homeworlds. This is something William B and I have written extensively about, and also the usual suspects: Paul M., Robert, Yanks, etc. As William noted, the Vulcans are notoriously different from us socially. Paul noted the same for the Trills, which I then much elaborated on.

Peter G. now "can't really imagine there being such a thing as practical nobility on a Federation world." It depends on definitions of nobility. The joined Trill, as a concept, are an ultra-elite hyper-aristocracy that far surpasses anything we have ever had on Earth: beings bound by force of biology to be *better* than non-joined Trill, and by statistical probability to remember the memories of their own ancestors. They are, quite simply, *superior beings.* I call this a practical nobility of the highest order.

And isn't it interesting that we observe a similar reverence for the joined Trill *among the Trill* as for the truly high-born on Earth *in monarchies,* or countries with a long aristocratic tradition?

This is important. I can speak much better about nobility with an Indian, or a Japanese, than with a Canadian or a Chilean, for the latter quite simply have no real idea of what nobility is, of what it means to have noble Houses permeate not only a thousand years of history, but the top levels of society today.

It is a little bit like the Emperor of Japan. He may hold much less power than the President of the United States; but he holds it for life, not four or eight years. And outside the United States, he enjoys much more prestige. Or perhaps it would be better to say: a different kind of prestige. The President of the United States will typically be admired for what he has *achieved.* The Emperor of Japan is simply admired for what he *is.*

I am reminded of a memorable quote by Camacho once (legendary left back for Real Madrid and Spain in the 70s and 80s, and later manager for the club and the Spanish national team. Real Madrid are the most winning football club in the world; they just won their 11th Champions League a month ago):

Camacho, talking about the attitudes of fans towards football clubs, also noted the different "kinds of prestige." He said: "Real Madrid is feared everywhere, and Real Madrid is respected. But Real Madrid is not loved."

I have thought much about this ever since, because it is about much more than football. It is about the feelings we humans feel.

The Emperor of Japan is loved in Japan, just as the King of Thailand is loved in Thailand, in a way no President of the United States has been in the US in a very long time, if ever.

This is what I mean: we must consider how royalty is regarded in their own culture. If the Betazoids are anything like us, Lwaxana is a Daughter of the Fifth House. She may not be the Empress of Japan; but she's likely at least the Duchess of Devonshire. Whatever office she currently holds is largely irrelevant, for it is temporal only. The Sacred Chalice of Rixx is intemporal.

And how can we see this? Precisely because she never refers her title as Ambassador. That, to her, is completely irrelevant. As it would be, I imagine, for most Betazoids. Just like a Duke's identity is not about his office: it is about his heritage.

Deanna is a typical son or daughter. Fortunately, we humans can be completely irreverent at times, and even mock that prestige we simply take for granted. That doesn't mean it isn't there.

Deanna's attitude towards her mother is also a bit like when we criticize our own country. I may criticize my country as much as I please. But if you begin critizing my country, be sure to tread very, very carefully...

As to Homm, if we follow human benchmarks, he's a manservant. Not much to discuss there, is there?

But as Chrome points out, the series itself never clarifies any of this; my take on it is only if we use human standards as guiding light. So anything goes, and the more outlandish your theories, the better ;)
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
@ Andy's Friend,

Good point about cultures that revere the heritage of nobility, and it seems in keeping with the way Lwaxana speaks that Betazed might be of that historical tradition. She does, at the very least, make it known that her lineage is more important to her than her diplomatic status. It should be mentioned in this context, as an aside, that certain ambassadors to the Federation, such as Sarek, were apparently appointed for life, which would make their position in that case much more like the permanent status of a noble. Sarek wasn't merely Sarek, but was "Sarek of Vulcan", no doubt a reference to his service to the world he represents.

However there are a couple of points I'd like to make to clarify what I said. First of all, I was speaking only about active, practical power, such as the ability to issue orders or make decrees. I have no doubt at all that Lwaxana receives things like respect and honorifics back home for her noble title, but the question I pose is whether being a noble actually means anything in terms of her ability to, for example, issue threats to the Ferengi, or to even wield power back home. We can't know for sure either way, but I have a hard time believing the Federation would admit a member that actively endorsed a ruling class that had practical power over the lower classes and could order them around. Just from what I've seen from the various Star Trek series, it appears to me that Federation membership has a requirement that a member planet be united and that it be a sort of democracy. That automatically rules out having a noble class with real political powers, since that setup is strictly anti-egalitarian. Given that Federation worlds will also have access to technology such as replicators, I find it doubly unlikely for Federation worlds to have disproportionate power in the hands of few based on familial lineage, since it is scarcity conditions that lead to feudal-style monarchy.

The second point I'd like to make is that while it's true that many Earth cultures as we see them now revere outward signs of a historical tradition, whether that be familial lineage, or even membership in historic institutions like the Knights of Malta or the Knights Templar, the fact that such people are often imbued not only with respect but with tangible power is, I think, an artifact of Earth's past rather than its future. I would like to think that such cabals of privileged people and the power they wield will fade as culture and technology (hopefully) advance in the direction of Star Trek, to the point where we might enjoy a real egalitarian sense of brotherhood and civility in the future. In the sense of there is some mystery and prestige surrounding it I can see why the people of some nations even now hold royalty and nobility in high regard, but to be honest I think it's a romanticized and vestigial remnant of an institution that has historically been all about doing murder to poor people and pillaging the wealth of those less powerful. There is simply nothing good about this when seen from the vantage point of an enlightened culture (not that America is that).

I like the *idea* of your comparison between Earth nobility and joined trills in terms of being a living link to history, but I think that's where the similarity ends. In particular, regarding this quote:

"The joined Trill, as a concept, are an ultra-elite hyper-aristocracy that far surpasses anything we have ever had on Earth"

I see no evidence of this anywhere; certainly not in DS9. Joined Trill appear to be regarded as the lucky ones, and certainly they've 'won' something in life that is coveted, but I'm not sure why you think they are an aristocracy in any sense. Aristocracy literally means "rule of the best", and even if we grant you that they are "the best" Trills (debatable, and I would argue that this is not how Star Trek itself views them, and certainly not how I do) there is no reason to believe they rule the Trill homeworld. And this is my main point. If being an aristocrat does not actually entail ruling or having power then it's just an honorific, much like, frankly, the way people are now called "Sir" in McDonald's as an honorific, or the way all theatre audiences are "ladies and gentlemen." It's a title with no real meaning meant to convey respect. And in any case, as opposed to a title obtained through family lineage, being chosen for Trill joining is supposedly done strictly through merit, so again the comparison seem limited to the fact that they are a living piece of history. That's worth something, to be sure, but it hardly makes anyone a aristocrat that's better than anyone else. Even the notion of that seems antithetical to everyone Picard ever claimed about the Federation (or even Kirk, for that matter).
Robert
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 10:19pm (UTC -6)
They don't rule the Trill world anymore than Paris Hilton rules America if you want to go that route. But she is more important than I am, and I get the feeling so are joined Trill.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 30, 2016, 11:42pm (UTC -6)
"But she is more important than I am"

I don't agree :)

Call me crazy, but I think fans of science fiction like Trek will be more important going forward in the long-term compared to the celebrity of the day. She gets more airtime, but probably isn't thinking much about the future of humanity.
Robert
Fri, Jul 1, 2016, 6:25am (UTC -6)
More important to the future of the world? Yes. Could she walk into most restaurants and get a table without a reservation though? That's the type of thing I imagine Mrs. Troi as able to do.
Skywalker
Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 10:31pm (UTC -6)
@Luke, thank you for reminding me about one of my favorite Simpsons episodes! "In your face, space coyote!" " Space coyote?!" LOL! I am going to work that like into conversation some time this week.

Another appropriate reaction from that Simpsons episode is when Homer in mid-trip checks his popping pupils in the water, which then transforms into an enormous rattlesnake that winds around him, and benignly slithers away as Homer cautiously remarks, "Oooooooooookaaaaayyyyyyy....." That sums up my response to this episode!

Majel wrote this episode? I guess that explains a lot. She sort of writes her character a kind of ending (though I would have liked more resolution to Lwaxana). And Majel's effect on the consummate Trek writer Gene Roddenberry might have inspired Onaya's character.

Considering Jake Sisko never writes on paper and hasn't even been to school in years (nice parenting on that one, Benny), he has amazing cursive handwriting!
Andy's Friend
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 1:50pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

As regards "active, practical power, such as the ability to issue orders or make decrees," we really have no idea, do we? We know that noble Houses play a significant role in Klingon society and politics. Is the same true on Betazed?

What is the Fifth House exactly? Is the the fifth of five or more collateral lines, or Houses, of the ruling Royal House? Or is it actually the fifth ruling dynasty, in chronological terms?

Is the Fifth House in a bitter feud with the "Third House" for supremacy on the "Council of Rixx?" Or is it just a sentimental memory of eras past?

PETER G.―"I have a hard time believing the Federation would admit a member that actively endorsed a ruling class that had practical power over the lower classes and could order them around."

Based from what we've seen on Star Trek, I mostly agree. A little "ordering them around" might be tolerated; but I also believe that Federation policy must have some clear limits to how the lower classes are ruled.

But that doesn't preclude the Fifth House from being in a bitter feud with the "Third House" for supremacy on the "Council." What powers such a hypothetical Council might hold is speculation. Maybe its role could be to conduct foreign policy. Maybe it could be something else entirely. The point is, it is perfectly possible to have a conspicuously aristocratic political system, *and* democracy at the same time: the two are not actually mutually exclusive.

If the aristocratic ethos in society is strong enough, and/or specific requirements are demanding enough that only aristocrats can meet them, the people will simply vote for the aristocrats for certain specific bodies, and/or certain specific functions, and political rivalry will then be a question of "Fifth House vs Third Houses". Aristocrats may then continue to exert considerable or even overwhelming influence, even with a democratic political framework.

PETER G.―"That automatically rules out having a noble class with real political powers, since that setup is strictly anti-egalitarian."

See what you did there? You are conflating concepts: democracy is not necessarily strictly egalitarian. Isonomia, isegoria, and isokratia are different things. The commoners of some alien species may be perfectly happy with their equal rights before the law, or their equal rights to adress authorities and have their cases heard, or their single vote, and not demand equal participation in politics. Taken to its extreme, if the people systematically wishes to vote for aristocrats only, a democratic system may actually enforce strict aristocratic rule.

And there are other ways this can happen: democracy can take on many guises. As I wrote, we can perfectly imagine a poly-synodal system where aristocracy exerts significant power in certain bodies without affecting participation of the people in others, and the overall democratic nature of the system. The British House of Lords, until very recently, was the prime of several examples in the West. In most of Europe, we slowly eroded such aristocratic power over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. But what if the aristocratic ethos on some alien world is so widespread among the people that such a process has not occurred, and aristocratic institutions instead have even more power, sanctioned by the people, than they traditionally enjoyed in Earth constitutional, parliamentary monarchies?

Simply put, what if the people *wants* to be ordered around by aristocrats? Is it so outlandish a thought? What if aristocrats, due to biological differences, are actually, much as the joined Trill, demonstrably superior, in one way or another (always beware of anthrocentrism...), and therefore better suited for some particular fields? A democratic division of power, placing some, or even much of it in the hands of the aristocracy isn't difficult to imagine; this is science-fiction, after all. We cannot simply rule out powerful, and fully constitutional and institutionalized aristocratic influence in democratic systems on alien worlds. In fact, I would be surprised if Trill doesn't develop into one such hyper-aristocratic-within-a-democratic-framework hybrid system over time.

But indeed, as so often on Star Trek, we have no clue as regards the specifics, in this case, Betazed. I guess it's the writers' way of making everybody happy: everything is left vague enough that anyone can have whatever they wish to believe be true. I like Lwaxana, and I like aristocracy, so I say the Fifth House rules the Council of Rixx! :)
Peter G.
Thu, Jul 7, 2016, 2:35pm (UTC -6)
@ Andy's Friend,

I never said such forms of democracy/aristocracy cannot exist. Just look at the ancient Roman Republic for a good look at how one can construct a mishmash between populism and oligarchy. What I was saying is that I have a hard time believing the Federation would admit such a planet. I don't think the Roman Republic would be accepted into the Federation. Again, I say this based more on the tone of TNG and TOS than on anything we're explicitly told, but I get the feeling that prospective Federation applicants are given a list of what they have to achieve first, and by and large I expect that list conforms mostly to the Federation ideals that we know. Are there influential people in the Federation? Of course. Even families? Probably. But that's different from a systemic political structure that actually enforces a class to have a certain disproportionate influence. I don't think the Federation would accept that.

Regarding the analogy between noble houses on Betazed and Kronos, we can be quite sure that Kronos would not be accepted into the Federation even if it begged for it. The Klingons are best suited as allies, but could never be members unless they reformed their way of life wholesale.
Gopher
Sun, Sep 11, 2016, 10:55am (UTC -6)
Just...wow, yeah.

The odo-lwaxana plot doesn't bother me as much as it seems to bother others, but the bit that bugged me right from the start was part of it's premise - the moment Lwaxana reveals, in the cold opening, that she's pregnant, my immedate thought was that years before, one of her first TNG appearances revolved around her going through the betazoid menopause? Ok, alien species, different rules, but it's beginning to raise the question of in what sense "the Phase" is equivalent to menopause... but w/e, I can roll with it.

It's not the strongest plot, but it's not bad, it just couldn't carry an episode on it's own, and between the episode's title and the climax coming so early in the episode, it is quite clearly intended to be the B-plot.

As to the space vampire... :shudder:

The only redeeming point of the entire Jake subplot was a subtle bit at the end, when after talking to his dad, he wrote and signed the title page - "Anslam," a call-back to The Visitor, this was the title of the only novel that future Jake had published. Not nearly enough to redeem this awful mess, but it seemed worth noting.

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