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Fenn
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 9:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Nor the Battle to the Strong

I wouldn't personally 4 star this, maybe a 3 or a 2.5 -- it absorbed me in the moment, but it hasn't really left a lasting impact on me. It's not one that'll haunt me all night.

One particular aspect that I liked is how it uses Jake as a writer. He said it himself, he usually writes fiction -- with character motivations, narratives, things making *sense*. So naturally, that's the approach he comes to take to journalism. Right from the teaser, he's thinking of ways he can encapsulate things nicely and neatly in a snappy title. That's what appeals to the human brain. Tying things together and explaining them, finding a greater meaning in them.

Then you face the poor kid with senseless slaughter: people dying meaningless deaths. But he's still fumbling for ways to make this "work" as a "plot":

JAKE: But I have to [save you]. That way this'll all make sense. Maybe I ran for a reason, so I could find you and save your life.

X happens for Y reason. Everything flows into each other in a structured narrative. Everything has meaning assigned to it, making it inherently worth something greater than simply what it is. Right?

Then the guy dies. Sorry, kid.

Even back at the settlement, Jake's still trying to interpret what everything "means", but with a far less positive bent. If he ran, that must "mean" he's a coward. But then he has to go and empathise that ensign deserter, and he sure can't find it in his heart to call that guy a coward.

By the end, he's moved on to this:

"All I could think about was doing whatever it took to stay alive. Once it meant running away, and once it meant picking up a phaser."

Less "noble actions for noble reasons", more "whatever needs to happen in the moment".
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:34pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

@ William B: that's reassuring to hear, and to you and Chrome -- thanks!
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places

Just noticed I left an asterisk promising a footnote in that comment, and then left the poor asterisk hanging without the actual footnote. Unforgiveable sin. Let's try that again:

"But when brought into contrast with Dax?? Who seems much more in line with TNG's relaxed, "free love" approach*, with this as no exception?"

* (hell, she even exceeds TNG's usual boundaries of "free love", being the one and only main character we've seen openly going beyond Trek's universal straightness)

There, now I'm done. Asterisk no longer left lonely. I can rest easy at last.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places

On my treks around the Trek side of the internet, I've seen people joking about Keiko making incredibly unsubtle attempts to open up her marriage at basically all times.

Watching this... yeah. I'm seeing it...!

So, alternative take on Keiko this ep: she knows EXACTLY what she's doing, and takes every opportunity. I couldn't help having this in my head whenever they focused on the B-plot. Yes, what they're going for is "Keiko obliviously pushing Miles and Kira closer together, with all the awkwardness that implies", sure. But it's actually kinda ridiculously easy to see it as "Keiko 'obliviously' but *fully knowingly* pushing Miles and Kira closer together", and that really just adds another dimension to the comedy here.

I mean, come on. Miles massaging Kira. Keiko walks in. Miles and Kira awkwardly jolt apart, Keiko clearly notices -- and, grinning, tells them "don't stop on my account!" WINK WINK. This woman has Schemes, and she is enjoying their execution *far* too much. Genuinely, this seems like a pretty natural extension from how she manoeuvres Miles and Julian into one of their holosuite hangouts together in 'Accession'.

To be less silly for a moment, though? I may have laughed my way through this, but this would be a *really* crappy way to open up a relationship. Pushing your husband into loaded situations when it's not already abundantly clear that you have no problem with anything happening between them? What you're gonna achieve there is a good reading on how likely your husband is to cheat on you. That... would potentially be a darker and more manipulative reading on this. But I ain't about to take that any further; Keiko gets it rough enough with the writing already.

I do tend to be naturally attuned to less "conventional" readings on relationships. To give a shred of counterevidence to doubts about the validity of polyamory above, I'm in an open engagement that's gonna turn into an open marriage in a few weeks; I can safely say the one polyamorous relationship I've been in ended amicably with all parties (I'm marrying the boyfriend I had in that relationship, and I've actually got plans to hang out with my now ex-girlfriend just this weekend, in full knowledge and approval from my husband-to-be).

I will say that I'm just sort of "shrug" on the idea of Miles/Kira in general (I spent more time being amused by Keiko than I did being enthused by the other two, and yeah, I don't think there's much chemistry there). Nor do I have a problem with DS9 *not* being "right, here we go, full speed ahead for the Kiro'brien throuple". TNG always *was* flexible with how it portrayed relationships -- I particularly appreciated the dynamic with Troi and Riker, with an ongoing simmering whatever unmarred by the fact that each had plenty going on outside each other. But a three-person arrangement like this would probably take it a bit far for what people thought was safe to depict.

As for the other side of the conventional/non-conventional relationship spectrum, as well as the other side of this episode... I have my reservations regarding Worf and Dax. Worf always did stand out as the biggest monogamist on TNG (guy gets laid and then *immediately* kills the mood with the marriage ritual, good going mate). This isn't inherently bad -- maybe he still feels the need to adhere to Klingon standards, or maybe this just genuinely works best for him (which is perfectly fine). But when brought into contrast with Dax?? Who seems much more in line with TNG's relaxed, "free love" approach*, with this as no exception? I can't help wondering if there might be some friction there, and the final conversation of the episode definitely seems to be starting down that path.

Maybe Worf will loosen up, as Dax suggests; Lord knows he's loosened up on a hell of a lot of Klingon tradition anyway, by necessity or by choice. But it feels bad for Dax to basically be banking on that happening, especially when they've *already* done the deed and put him into the awkward situation of continuing from there. In the same vein as what I was saying above, it's not good to get people into these situations without full knowledge of what you're getting into in advance.

Final notes:

- I still haven't got used to hearing "Nerys" said. It still feels weird. (Sometimes that works for effect, though. Oh god, Jake in 'Fascination'...)
- The entire "morning after in the Infirmary" scene... oh my god. Poor Bashir getting the "hotel cleaner working Feb 15th" experience.
- With Klingon tradition in mind, are Quark and Grilka going to get re-married or what??? Goddamn revolving door of marriage and divorce with those two.
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Fenn
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 7:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

Yeah, I definitely see the "Garak's gathering intel" angle. There's something about the performance that seems pointedly more direct than we might usually expect from Garak, and when Garak's being simultaneously direct and playful, I'm gonna take that as a signifier that there's something else going on here.

(Regardless, though, reading it as "all of the above" is almost certainly warranted. The situation with Garak is such that he's generally implying all you think he might be implying, and probably more on top of that.)

I'm not opposed to seeing Odo try out solid life. A couple episodes into Season 5, I'm already enjoying it; there were some rather sweet moments of that in the episode following this one. Hell, Odo trying romance/sex is something I could be interested in if done tastefully. But bringing out Pretty Bajoran Woman, whose personality and entire purpose as a character can be summed up as "Pretty Bajoran Woman", doesn't strike me as a good way to go about that. If I'm gonna enjoy it, I'm gonna have to care.

(For what it's worth, I'm not taking Garak's behaviour here in isolation, but in conjunction with what I'm pretty sure they're trying to set up with him and Ziyal -- though we've only had one episode on that so far, and it's still potentially in the realm of ambiguity. Two data points this close together are starting to look like they *could* be a pattern, especially when before there'd been *no* data points -- the only other potential instance I can think of is an offhand comment made to Kira in 'Second Skin', which really just seemed to be a joke about her Cardassian facelift as opposed to anything serious.)
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Fenn
Sun, Jan 12, 2020, 11:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

I didn't have much to comment on regarding this episode, feeling that it and the review mostly spoke for themselves... but then I read the comments here, and now I feel a ramble brewing.

Regarding the extent to which Odo can experience sexual attraction: that's definitely not the only thing governed by body chemistry. If he doesn't have hormones, he presumably doesn't have serotonin either, but he's still perfectly capable of feeling happiness. You get the gist.

To talk briefly about the concept of Odo having *any* emotions (indeed, the other changeling we see here is mostly calculating and emotionless), could it be a byproduct of growing up around solids? As a shapeshifter, Odo learns by imitation -- to an even greater extent than any child does. Maybe he came to learn ways of acting and reacting from the people who surrounded him, and came to internalise them over the years. And maybe there's an aspect of the "take a form; learn what it's like to be that form" to it. Perhaps he's coming to actualise humanoid tendencies by sheer virtue of existing as a humanoid for such a large portion of his life.

On an out-of-universe level, it's mostly just arbitrary which human characteristics/emotions a writer's room may decide to apply to a non-humanoid character; for a protagonist in mainstream sci-fi, you'll need at least *something* shared in order to encourage empathy. Given how they keep pushing the Odo/Kira thing, they've clearly decided to go for the "tragic interspecies love story" angle -- and I wouldn't doubt that there's an unquestioned assumption that sexuality would be a necessary accompaniment to romance. He's being railroaded into heterosexual storylines, no doubt on account of 90s norms.

But in-universe, here's a character from a species with... as-of-yet unclear methods of reproduction (I've encountered more than my fair share of spoilers for upcoming developments and concepts in the series, but [un?!?]fortunately I've never Found a thesis on Founder-fucking). *Presumably*, no one from this species would have a need for sexes or genders, and to step back to a writing standpoint, there's certainly no need to write them as such.

*Are* they even written as such, though? I'll suggest this: is "the Female Changeling" necessarily even female? Played by a female actor, certainly, but to an extent that will always be a constraint of using human bodies to portray alien races. I don't think I've yet encountered any *actual* indication that changelings have sexual dimorphism, or an innate sense of gender, beyond the fact that (obviously human) audiences are seeing a woman on screen. This entity just so happens to be taking a form that ticks the "woman" box in a human mind. And as far as gendered characteristics read to human eyes, the faces changelings use in humanoid form are very androgynous.

Odo may well be a similar case. The commenter methane above gives a plausible in-universe answer for Odo taking a male form. But in the heteronormatively-written cultures he's grown up in (with 'Rejoined' as the *one* exception to the distinct aura of "everyone is straight in space" Star Trek gives), Odo is being treated as if he *is* male, and if Odo-as-male-humanoid is gonna get involved with anyone in a sexual/romantic sense... yeah, it's gonna be women.

Mentioning 'Rejoined', though... while the love story there is clearly between two currently-female characters, you've got the "they used to be husband and wife" caveat for anyone who might be feeling a little uncomfortable and wanting to explain away what's happening here without admitting to themselves that This Is Gay. The plausible deniability, the sheen of added palatability that (even slightly) homophobic audiences might want to reach for. That could so easily feel like a cop-out when done today, but in the 90s it may well have been vital to even get this on screen at all.

Now, Odo as a character who *could* present himself as a different gender? He carries that potential for the same sort of plausible deniability, something that could *potentially* have been worked with for even ambiguous sexuality -- if we'd ever seen him looking like different humanoids. But the character himself is stubborn, fixed in sentiment if not in form, and so "male" is basically all we get from him. The conclusion I'm coming to here is: the potential for pushing the boundaries of showing queerness on 90s TV is *there*, but less so with the person DS9 has established Odo to be.

As for the specific scenes in Garak's tailor shop, I feel those actually bother me more on Garak's side of things than Odo's. Especially the ending scene, with Garak's "wink wink nudge nudge go experience some pleasures of the flesh, you newly fleshy thing". Feels like schoolboy-tier writing, and far less subtle than our tailor friend usually is. In this case, the unsubtlety of it leads me to believe the assessment that he's "gathering intel" might be accurate -- egging Odo on, and grinning as he waits to see the reaction.

But I couldn't help feeling like this is a continuation of efforts to show Garak in assuredly heterosexual situations, following on from whatever they were doing with Ziyal back in 'For the Cause'. (That felt like it could be not-necessarily-romantic -- indeed, I liked the prospect of the two Cardassians bonding over Cardassia from afar -- but because he's male and she's female, *even though she's nineteen*, I get the impression of the way it's going to continue.) Garak's built up some wonderful ambiguity over four seasons, and all of a sudden there seem to be active attempts to bludgeon us over the head with a heretofore unseen "GARAK LIKES WOMEN".

I'm not enjoying that. It's naturally not incompatible with any reading that leaves the character outside labels as unidirectional as "gay" or "straight", but "gay or straight" was often the limit of the conception people had back then (it often still is now). I can't help but feel it comes off as a way of firmly planting him on the less controversial, less "uneasy" side of that.

Finally, to quote wholesale from William B above:

"Another possibility, which I think is not likely intended but is maybe worth considering for a moment, is whether Garak is actually trying to give Odo tips on how to "pass" as a typical adult heterosexual male, so as to be less isolated in his day-to-day life."

This is an interesting take. Odo *is* trying to fit in as a humanoid; I wonder if having a "beard" [translation: slang in gay culture for a woman that a gay man marries in order to fit in] would help ease him in with society. (Though that comes hand-in-hand with having a female character simply be a means to an end for a "male" character -- bad territory to be in.)

Come to think of it... going back to 'The Muse', he's *already* been married to a woman who he only loves platonically! *And* for the reason of freeing her from an abusive relationship, so that sidesteps the "it's only a means to an end for him" because it's really for *her* sake. *AND* he's already experienced some of the social benefit that comes with being a married man in a heterosexual society -- he had everyone showing up to his wedding and congratulating him, after all.

Right, this is officially a Missed Opportunity. Go back to 'The Muse', rewrite it to take out the damn brainvampire plot (Jake can go do his writing elsewhere, spare the boy some nosebleeds), have Odo and Lwaxana get married halfway through, and spend the rest of the ep exploring what it's like for him to be suddenly perceived as A Man With A Wife... and how that might feel for him as someone who's not technically a man and/or who had unconventional reasons to get married.
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Fenn
Sun, Jan 12, 2020, 7:29pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Body Parts

I love Jammer's note at the end here on individuality.

The fact that many DS9 characters are outcasts makes the ending scene all the better: in becoming exiled, Quark ironically now has another thing in common with others in his current community. This is a community of misfits -- partially by coincidence, but perhaps also somewhat by design. I've seen analysis elsewhere about how Sisko in particular will always champion the outcasts. He takes Worf on board to support him when he's found himself without a place to return to, even when tensions with the Klingon Empire are at their very worst. He's offers Jadzia his full support when she's ready to stand against her society and face her own exile for the woman she loves. Outside the scope of the space station, he takes a stand against an oppressive society in Paradise; he stands up for Earth's neglected and ignored in Past Tense. He's shaped DS9 into a place inhabited by people of many different species who find their own commonalities: a place ripe for people as disparate as an exiled Cardassian torturer and a self-exiled changeling security chief to find a unique kinship... and a place where, when Quark's stripped of everything he owns, nobody hesitates to help him get back on his feet.

(Even Garak comes to his aid by conveniently forgetting about the fact that he had a hit out on Quark. Definitely a more sparing use of Garak than we're used to, but he's hilarious in the two scenes he gets.)

At this point, all three of our main Ferengi characters have now abandoned Ferengi society. Nog's the first one, becoming dedicated to joining Starfleet as a way to be more than his father ever was; this emboldens Rom, who grows a spine and starts a union/quits the bar; finally Quark's been bitten by this bug, and when push comes to shove he takes exile over literally giving his life for the sake of a contract -- and with no small encouragement from Rom, both in real life and in his dream. It's been a hell of a chain reaction to watch play out.

Hell, going back up to the top of their family tree, Ishka gleefully breaks the gender roles of Ferengi society -- purely by virtue of being the most successful Ferengi of all of them. I wonder if Quark's current predicament will do anything to change how he feels about her shenanigans... though no longer having a legitimate male "breadwinner" to conceal her activities is quite likely going to change things for her. I mean, I have absolutely no doubt that she'll find her way out of things -- she's got the lobes and the latinum for it. But suffice to say, I hope we get to see the followup for her.

Breaking from Ferengi society was always going to be hardest for Quark, though. Nog seems to have mostly been brought up away from it, and Rom never fit into their mould. It took a life and death situation for Quark to accept being cast out... but he's out now. And that's bound to mean more for him in future.

I'm not quite sure what to say on the B-story. I loved it while watching, especially the unconventional/nontraditional family dynamic it introduces (I'm almost getting throuple vibes). But now, after having done a bit of reading and a bit of thinking? Yeah, there really isn't much focus on what Kira's thinking or feeling, is there? She just sort of seems to go along with it. She's pregnant now? With someone else's child? No big deal. The O'Briens want her to move in with them? Sure, why not. But I'm all for seeing more of this dynamic, and I found the scene between Keiko and Kira to be really touching. Fingers crossed, we get to see more of what it's like on Kira's side of things.
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Fenn
Sun, Jan 12, 2020, 7:24am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Inner Light

I got curious and asked my partner exactly why it didn't make an impact on him.

His response (copy-pasted with full permission):

"I'm biased against it because I don't like that kinda concept in media. Especially when (as is the case in Inner Light) the character that has lived a second life, or a life far longer than any normal human's, they still retain their personality and state of mind. It stretches my susension of disbelief too much. I'd expect Picard to be a very different person after at least another 20 years."

As a followup, I told him the general outline of a DS9 episode I recently watched (I'm being vague on which one for the sake of spoiler-avoidance in this comment section, but skip this paragraph if you're super-cautious). The DS9 episode I'm talking about *also* features decades of life experience being beamed into someone's head -- strongly *negative* life experience, at that -- but proceeds to spend the entire episode focusing on how it's changed the person and on that person's recovery. Partner has tried and failed to get into DS9, so hasn't seen that one and quite possibly never will, but said something like that would interest him more than 'The Inner Light' did.

So there's another perspective from someone for whom it wasn't a big hit at all.
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 11, 2020, 10:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

I really do have a bad habit of stumbling into Star Trek discussions that mention episodes I haven't yet seen. Here, that meant I knew this'd be a clunker (and that it'd feature a pregnant Lwaxana; I think that's about all I knew in advance). All that did was lower my expectations, though, and that primed me to be pleasantly surprised by what I got.

Getting this out of the way first, though: this doesn't mean I don't find Jake's plot thoroughly ignorable. (And what IS it with Jake and older women?? I'm pretty sure he's 18 here, which provides some slight mitigation, but will the guy *ever* get an age-appropriate love interest?) I'm glad The Visitor exists to prove he could have written -- and *did* write -- his classic novel Anslem under his own steam; I'm glad Sisko's also sure that he'd be capable (hell, he's *seen* Successful Author Jake). Because if DS9 went on to have it become a classic novel, with its success inextricable from that time he got quasi-erotic head massages from a creativity vampire? Heavens no. It'd rob him of the personal achievement, for one thing, and for another: who wants reminding of *this* plot?

But the Lwaxana/Odo plot really does save this, in my eyes. It's a showcase for the calmer and more mature Lwaxana that I've come to love (and that her DS9 appearances have served beautifully) and feels like it rings very true for Odo as well. It's a real breath of fresh air after Crossfire, which... there's really only so much romantic angst I can take, and that exceeded my limit multiple times. I *understand* it, but it's not my favourite thing to see from Odo, let's put it that way. (While there's some element of that in this episode, it stays well within my tolerance.)

I don't think Odo's playfulness is out of character for him. Granted, it's not what he's usually like, but then he's not usually around people he's really unconditionally fond of. Remember him turning into a spinning top for the little girl in 'Shadowplay'? He absolutely has that spirit of fun to him, and I love to see it come out. Between that and Odo making his arm into a blanket for an exhausted Lwaxana, we have some really sweet uses of his shapeshifting this episode.

I also feel it's perfectly in-character for him to have the marriage idea. He's investigated; he's found a loophole; he takes it. Marriage doesn't have inherent meaning to his culture (which, given how solitarily he's grown up, essentially just means "his personality"), and there's the line "it's not as if I was planning to marry someone else" -- tinged with a sad acceptance of defeat, given how things are going with Kira lately. Besides, with the annulment it'd be as if the marriage had never even happened.

I've seen someone else say they wish it was Lwaxana's idea, for the sake of showing her wit and independence. Instead she just runs into the arms of the last man who cared about her, with no plan beyond that. I respect that point of view, but also... she's so damn tired throughout this, emotionally and physically. She's just escaped an abusive relationship and been on the run. I can buy that even a person like her might not have the energy to think beyond basic survival, in this situation -- and in times like that, it really helps to have support from someone who can expend that energy for you.

I'd like to point out the wording of the Tavnian wedding vows:

"In keeping with Tavnian tradition, I stand before you, here in my home, among my worldly possessions and declare my wish to add this woman to that which is mine."
"I say for all to hear that this woman is mine. If anyone challenges my claim to her, let them do so now."

Very misogynistic, very "women as property", yet the irony is that Odo's speaking these words to set Lwaxana free. The legal effect is to add her to his possessions; the real effect is to ensure nobody owns her but herself. There's something beautiful about that.

(Unrelated aside on having read the comments: I'm sure I've even said words to this effect before, but I've always found William B's input to be some of the best/most in-depth on this site. Hoping all is well.)
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 11, 2020, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

I'll admit I knew what I was in for here (because I like reading about Star Trek, even on sites or in discussions where I *know* I'm about to spoil myself rotten). But knowing what was coming absolutely did not diminish what this achieved for me. The mood that this establishes is intense throughout. It was the last episode I watched last night, and, well. I couldn't sleep for a while after that.

(I'll also admit that I wondered why the synthale that O'Brien ordered at Quark's wasn't something harder. But him being on the verge of suicide is probably big enough for the scope of a single episode without more unhealthy coping mechanisms thrown into the mix.)

From the few episodes yet I've seen ahead so far, up to For the Cause -- very mild spoiler warning -- it doesn't *seem* as though they've hit the reset button on O'Brien's experiences here, but really there hasn't been much of O'Brien in the following episodes at all. Which may be for the best. No continued mention of how he's coping, but equally we haven't returned to the usual O'Brien either. It has the recovery process unspoken, left to the imagination, but it certainly doesn't deny it's underway.

Regardless, comments here make it sound that the "reset button" does essentially get pressed... and yet I don't actually have much of a problem with that. When the process of dealing with this traumatic event (rather than the traumatic event itself!) is actually the *main focus* of the episode? Not just five minutes (or less) at the end? Not even a B-plot as distraction? Then yes, they have thoroughly addressed the fact that this is not easy, not quick to recover from, and is not something that can be simply bounced back from. Hell, the episode covers at least a week's worth of time in itself. And the ending of the episode promises they'll be working on it far more. Even if it's off-screen, we're reliably informed that it's there.

A lot of comparisons to other episodes are coming to mind: Picard's sudden deluge of a lifetime of memories in 'The Inner Light'; or how Gul Madred finds his breaking point in Chain of Command. But I feel The Wire deserves a mention, on multiple fronts: a character in emotional turmoil, and Bashir's calm response as a doctor and as a friend. It's in these moments that he shines the best.

I want to note, though this comes from personal experience and I have no idea what's actually the best approach from a trained psychologist's perspective, that having O'Brien relieved of duty came off as something that'd be more counterproductive than anything else. O'Brien is very clearly someone who values his work, who values feeling useful, and he's robbed of that -- one of his few diversions. He's a *little* rusty, but he seems to be working just fine. Taking his work away removes something that's helping him feel like the man he used to be. Without that, he doesn't really get much else to distract him from his misery.

Two more things that I'll relegate to bullet points:

- It's almost sad seeing Jake work him through which tool is which. The old apprenticeship's been flipped on its head, and now O'Brien needs to re-learn.
- O'Brien's "evolved human" line did register to me as a blip in the full-throttle emotional torment that formed the climactic scene of the episode. I remember thinking at the time "hmm, that's not very Roddenberry". Making no judgement on that one way or the other, though, and leaving it as it is -- there's definitely been a hell of a lot of discussion of it in this thread already.
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Fenn
Sat, Jan 11, 2020, 8:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Inner Light

I'll throw my hat in the ring: I feel there may be *some* merit to the thought of different levels of appreciation being a gendered thing, but that's never the be-all and end-all.

I'll toss in my own anecdotal evidence, for what it's worth. I watched this one with my partner a couple months ago, as one of the first Star Trek episodes I'd ever seen. He didn't have much of an emotional reaction at all. Now, don't get me wrong, he can and does become emotionally invested, and especially when Picard's concerned. 'Family' is one of his favourites. But he wasn't invested in this one, whereas I found myself deeply affected. The final scene in particular, with Picard playing the flute and overshadowed by loss, was haunting -- it stuck with me for the rest of the night.

I know my partner's dealt with loneliness as a significant issue in his life over the years. I can't say it's ever been much of an issue for me. So in that respect, we had the opposite reactions to what you might expect.

(Not sure what I think now. There's obvious ethical issues with what Picard's put through. But regardless: strong positive first impression on a person like me.)

For reference, both my partner and myself are men, though I was raised female and have only been experiencing life as a man for the past couple of years. Suffice to say, I've had life experience from opposite sides of the spectrum.

Loneliness is certainly one aspect of this episode that people might relate to. Having a family and then losing it is another -- it's actually something that's been on my mind a lot over the past few months, for reasons I won't get into, so I don't doubt that helped my reaction. I suppose you could rephrase that as "fear of loneliness". I could also see it resonating with people's regret: that they could've lived a different life, but didn't. Picard *does* get to live a different life, and then that life vanishes as if it was his imagination. That's gotta speak to those dreaming for something different, and I imagine that's universal. Or hell, go with what Chrome's said a couple comments above: women might appreciate seeing a man show honest emotion. Anyone might, really. And TNG fans in general, who've built up an emotional relationship with this fictional character, will no doubt be able to feel for what Picard's going through.

Something else to mention regarding experiences of this episode: Picard-as-Kamin is a middle-aged man playing the role of father in a heterosexual nuclear family. Any number of those aspects of a person could be something that strengthens the personal connection. But naturally it's not only middle-aged heterosexual fathers in nuclear families that are going to be liking and appreciating this -- I mean, I'm none of the above!

So yes: it never will be as simple as "men like this" or "women don't" -- though I'll definitely grant "more men" or "more women" as possibilities. We all have a wealth of life experiences that have shaped us, and in many different ways. To harken back to Lynch's review, who knows what "personal chords" Kamin's life and story might strike?
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 6:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

Oh, and a few things I forgot to mention:

- How did I forget to mention the final scene? That's the real purpose of this episode: we know which way the trial's going to go all along, but in the process we've exposed Worf further as a flawed character with ongoing issues regarding his dishonour, who's very much feeling the weight of that red uniform. Sisko talking it out with him at the end was absolutely the best scene we had here.
- Did love the directorial flourishes of having the witness testimonies take place in flashback. LeVar Burton's a hell of an alumnus from Star Trek cast members' directorial training.
- Cutting *just* as he's about to "speak" has been the best comedic timing of any Morn moment so far. Love it.
- Kira only gets sidelined to the same extent as Bashir does (though he'd have a lot less potential relevance here than she would).
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 6:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

I'll start this off by mentioning that I was intrigued to see a Klingon lawyer in focus here. Rare that we get to see Klingons in any less warlike professions.

For the most part, this was relatively straightforward in how it played out: nothing really took me by surprise. The civilian freighter was far too convenient for the Klingons to be anything but a setup, so a good part of this was spent waiting for the inevitable truth to come out. There was no way this would end with Worf extradited, at the very least.

I actually had the same thought as Jammer regarding Kira and the chain of command. As soon as Ch'Pok suggested O'Brien taking command, I expected O'Brien to respond that "I wouldn't, Kira would". But Kira's not the one on the stand, and it makes far more sense for the story -- and, in-universe, for Ch'Pok's trial -- that O'Brien is the one there instead. Kira's known Worf for a few months; O'Brien has known him for nine *years*. Ticks more boxes on usefulness as a witness.

Regardless, it would do at least *something* to smooth over this bump in the road if O'Brien *had* had a line mentioning Kira's presence. It's only a minor thing, though.

I honestly doubted O'Brien's answer of "no" when he gave it, wondering if it was coloured too much by hindsight and not what he might actually do in such a situation. All the way back in TNG's The Wounded, O'Brien recounts the first time he killed anyone: an accident when he took action in the heat of the moment, without checking vital information [the phaser setting] first. But that's clearly something that's shaken him, quite possibly enough to have affected him in combat situations ever since. He definitely doesn't strike me as someone who'd be comfortable in command, and I think it's plausible for him to have hesitated -- long enough to realise the ship was a civilian one.

I can't help wondering if, on the basis of personality, Kira would have answered "yes". She had to make those snap decisions for years. She'd have the knowledge burnt into her that, in a combat situation, hesitation is the difference between life and death. In that respect, it's a shrewd choice for Ch'Pok to choose a witness who *wouldn't* have made the choice Worf did.
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Fenn
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 11:13am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Sons of Mogh

I never knew Old Jake and Kurn were both Tony Todd until reading this review. Hell of a range within one series!

(Though he does look ridiculous in that hulking great beige Bajoran [Beijoran!] uniform. No surprise when he said he hated it.)

Anyway. I have big opinions on non-consensual memory wipes in sci-fi, specifically "this is a bad thing to do, please depict it as such". But Kurn's specific situation here complicates matters. He didn't *specifically* want a memory wipe... but he did want to die, and he definitely consented to Worf killing him. And Jadzia's right in saying that this pretty much amounts to killing him without killing him.

Does that make this okay? I'm still gonna say no. They don't even talk this out with Kurn, they just decide what's "best" for him -- and instead of even allowing a memory of a Kurn that died honourably, for the sake of Klingon society, they essentially ensure there was no Kurn at all.

Again, my major problem here is the fact that they don't even ask Kurn whether he wants this. (If he *had* wanted it, it'd be a different story: there's an early revival Doctor Who episode that I love which features a villain gaining redemption through a *consensual* mind wipe, giving her a second chance to be whatever she might turn out to be; I find it a fascinating concept when done right). One simple step that would help redeem this for me would be to *bloody well ask Kurn*... and hopefully when he's less drunk.

Would he even agree, though? Complicated questions of identity (can Kurn and his new self be considered the same person, and indeed *would* they?) make it *really* difficult to ascertain where this might lie on the sliding scale of Klingon honour. It's probably a dishonourable thing for Worf to do, but it's behind closed doors and far from the Klingon empire; he passed the point of caring about his personal honour earlier on here. For Kurn... Klingon culture cares a lot about blood ties, and you don't get more closely tied than literally having the *same* blood. No doubt they'd still see him as carrying all that House of Mogh dishonour if they ever found out who Kurn's new self used to be, rendering the whole thing useless. They've put him into a precarious situation here.

The best alternative, as I see it, would be long and personally involved, but far more rewarding in the long run: having Kurn keep on living, doing whatever can be a rewarding life for him now. And they do *try* this, but they fall at the first hurdle. Odo fires him, and they give up. In real life, you *can't* then decide to wipe someone's memory; no sci-fi cheats. You either give up on life (which refuses to be as simple as a trip to Bashir's infirmary) or you commit to going on. DS9 cops out on giving Kurn that choice.

Worf could've helped his brother a lot more. Hell, even taken leave to focus on their fraternal relationship, help him get used to life outside the Klingon Empire. If it had worked out, he'd still have family, and if Worf ever regained his good standing, Kurn could even have his old life back. But it'd take time and effort both for Worf and for the series to show this, despite how emotionally rewarding an arc it could be (and hell, Kurn's actor is clearly up to make return appearances). So instead, the option chosen is... giving up.

Both Worf and DS9 have taken the coward's way out. No honour there, not in my book.
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Fenn
Thu, Jan 9, 2020, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Paradise Lost

I feel this episode only makes the last all the stronger. I was brought in hook, line and sinker by Homefront's promise of full-scale changeling infiltration (and incoming invasion). This doesn't feel like a cop-out to me, in that respect -- it gives us something different to what we expected, but there's still a hell of a threat to the integrity of the Federation. Fantastic lines like "paradise has never seemed so... well-armed". I reckon it gains from making the human threat the real danger, rather than the changelings -- with a first half building up to a black-and-white conflict, it's very DS9 to put the spotlight on one of the shades of grey.

And even despite them not being the main threat of the episode, the spectre of changeling infiltration is far from absent (especially with the "O'Brien" scene). Hell, I was expecting all of Red Squad to be changelings who'd been snuck past the blood tests, but *only four* (bar Odo) -- somehow, that's even more menacing. The guerilla approach. The idea that just a handful of these powerful individuals could topple a civilisation -- and here, they've barely had to lift a finger. The humans have done it to themselves.

Granddad Sisko warned us last ep about clever changelings being able to cause false *negatives* on the blood tests, but here we have a false *positive* being used as an excuse to lock up Sisko out of the way. Again, a reversal of what I was expecting, and proving the episode's point: the changelings may be a threat, but *fear* of changelings can be just as powerful.
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Our Man Bashir

I'll preface this by saying I'm not really one for Bond movies; I'll admit I've not seen many, and only really the modern ones, but they've just never done anything for me. That said, I can usually appreciate a good Bond parody/pastiche/tribute/homage/etc. A sense of fun is essential, and that's not in any way lacking here.

I like holodeck episodes. I like seeing the characters we've grown to love having fun in whatever sandbox they want to play in today. I found Elementary, Dear Data an absolute delight, for instance; even with no threat from Moriarty, souped up on supercomputer or otherwise, I could watch Data and Geordi as Holmes and Watson messing around for hours on end.

Unlike Bashir, DS9 has clearly been holding back on its holosuite usage. Perhaps it's to distinguish itself from TNG; perhaps they just have other concerns; perhaps it's something to do with the X-rating on most of the popular programs. (What was that one they bought from Nog in 'Little Green Men'...?) Regardless, I was excited to see a holosuite in use here, and it didn't disappoint.

The opening -- before Garak decides he'll take centre stage instead -- is absolutely dripping with cheese, and I love it. Again, I'll happily watch these characters simply do fuck-all in silly parodies with no stakes, because the show's earned my affection for these characters, and deserves the time to breathe as they have some low-stakes fun. The stakes do get raised, but to be honest, I don't think those stakes ever get higher than the "fun" level does here. This is clearly a romp, and I'll treat it as one.

Garak steals the stage from Bashir, Julian Bashir. He's the real star of the show here, in my opinion; Lord knows he takes every chance he can get to butt in on things. He's a lonely guy, I bet he loves the attention. Also: this may or may not be a plot hole, but he's already got his tux on by the time he comes in. Has he seen the dear Doctor enter his holosuite in similar attire, and meticulously crafted his own suit-able apparel just to be fully prepared for muscling in on the fun? Because honestly that's kind of hilarious. He really must be attention-starved if he's gone to all the effort to make a whole new outfit just to see what's capturing Julian's attention so completely -- scoping out what's competing with him in the good Doctor's favours...!

But yes, he is *definitely* having fun here; while Bashir's the one who wants to play the fantasy straight (at least until there start to be lives at stake), Garak's too busy making quips on what a farce this is compared to *real* spying... and also *enjoying* what a farce this is compared to real spying. I, for one, wouldn't object to seeing them take one of their lunches in Hong Kong for a change.

It's the push-and-pull between Garak and Bashir that makes this episode, right from the sarcastic applause at the start. I'm amused by how much Garak seems to relish his ruthless cockblocking of Bashir at the start (... and how he seems to have little regard for personal space when he takes her place at Bashir's side). Couple that with the *gloriously* dramatic eyeroll at Bashir's chauvinistic moves on Honey Dax; it's safe to say he rules over this episode as its majestic drama queen. All hail.

As for what this ep has in the way of a dramatic core, the push-and-pull is in play there too. Enjoying it as he may be, Garak's still consistently trying to come off as if he's "above" this childish game, making Bashir "beneath" by consequence. But then there's that glorious scene where the tables turn, when Garak's been insisting all along that Bashir has to make some sort of sacrifice... and then, by shooting him, Bashir proves himself capable of exactly that. I can't say I've seen many relationships where the dynamic suddenly *improves* when one shoots the other (though Odo's friendship with Garak got jumpstarted by the latter torturing the former, so maybe there's just some kind of sadistic/masochistic bent to every relationship involving one Elim Garak), but there's an instant *spark* in Garak's response to the shooting that really cannot be denied. His estimation of the man has very suddenly reached a new level. *Especially* when Bashir doesn't deny having just tried to kill him. There's a lot to Garak's reaction: there's fascination (he's always been one for taking unsolicited dives into the man's psyche), there's excitement (finally, someone on this station is starting to operate on the same level that I do!), there's even a sense of pride that this young doctor he's been mentoring on the Cardassian way is finally starting to embrace it. Don't get me wrong: right from the beginning, Garak's found a certain stimulation from Bashir that he hasn't found from anyone else (though Odo, at the very least, has introduced a different dynamic for him lately). Here, though, it ascends to something new -- something to get the blood pumping all over again. I can't wait to see what this leads to.

But enough about these two -- for now, anyway. The rest of the main cast is a joy to watch, and in a way different from what the holodeck "dress up and muck about" episodes usually provide: they fully *believe* the parts they're playing (in a way that Major Kira never would in a regular holosuite!), and they're glorious for it. Speaking of Major Kira, her turn as Anastasia Whateverrussian is the highlight of the transporter patterns for me: she gets to vamp it up, and in a different way to how she does in the Mirror Universe. You can tell Visitor's really relishing the excuse to do an overdramatised fake Russian accent, and I love her poor confused shouts of "WHO IS DAX". And Brooks *loves* the taste of that scenery; again, we've seen him do a villain turn before (cf. Joran Dax), but never quite so deliciously hammily. Really, just about everyone is loving the excuse to ratchet it up a good few metres over the top, and I for one am absolutely *living* here.

And as for the people on the outside: it was gonna have to take a damn good joke to rival the rest of all this, but Rom's spatula clinches it. I appreciate Quark's cleverness on show here, for the little screentime he has; he's managed to navigate the requisite technobabble that gave us this treat of an episode. Also, poor O'Brien at the end. "What have you done to my ship??" So possessive of the Defiant. It really is his baby (his other one, anyway).

(Completely irrelevant aside: I tried to write "Picard" as part of my email twice while filling in the comment form. I must be tired.)
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

And not to get into Harry Potter fan debates, but: regardless of the nuance of that situation, I was using the phrase as shorthand for "character is stated as being queer retroactively, without any author or performer having had to display actual queerness in the work itself". Whether that was or wasn't the case with Dumbledore, I'll leave for a HP discussion board; suffice to say, that's what was meant there.

Also, I won't get too far into this, but sincere portrayal of queer characters -- especially ones as interesting in general as Garak is! -- is something I'll always appreciate, whether "relevant" or not.
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

(and @Chrome, whose comment hadn't been posted yet when I loaded the page: I've certainly appreciated what I've seen regarding Dax so far, but I also suspect it might have been "easier" to portray that between women than between men -- as mentioned in an earlier comment)
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

Booming: "The only way to actually portray a gay characters would be by having the characters be in a homosexual relationship."

I *almost* agree with this, but I'd step back just a little further: "the only way to actually portray a gay character would be by having them show homosexual attraction". Which, going on those quotes from Robinson, is exactly what's been done.

I do see some merit to gay coding, though. There's a difference between "dialing up the stereotype to make fun of this type of person" and "peppering in certain mannerisms in order to portray a type of person you might not be allowed to show ordinarily". The intent matters, basically.

Even then, though, portraying a camp character doesn't mean you're portraying a gay character (because, as above, only portraying a character that *actively shows that attraction* really counts). Yet it'd be wrong to say there's not some overlap between "camp" and "gay". By all means people can be camp and not gay, or gay and not camp, but "camp" did evolve as an intrinsic part of gay subculture. It can definitely *hint* at a gay character when actually portraying one might cross some lines.

I would say Garak definitely has at least *something* of a camp sensibility to him. Doesn't display the machismo of other Cardassians we've seen, that's for sure. But I've never felt that was for the sake of making fun of him, just an aspect of the character's personality as I've grown to love it. And one particularly important thing to note here is just how much *else* Garak has to show, character-wise. You certainly couldn't describe *this* character as "reduced to a stereotype", not by any means.
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

Lord, what a thread that is.

One little tidbit from that which interests me, given what I said above:

"After being questioned at various conventions, Andy Robinson has generally characterised Garak as sleeping with anything that moves. (Not gay, but bisexual. I can live with that. Good comprimise, no?)"

Apparently he *was* saying this while the show was still on air.
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

I can see what you mean with that, Top Hat -- I feel that teeters closer to stereotypes rather than plain, simple attraction to men, but as far as 90s writing and 90s audiences go, I can definitely see "simplistic brutish types gang up on and attack one solitary campy guy; campy guy achieves victory by sass" as coming off that way.

(I have further thoughts on subtext on Our Man Bashir, but I'll save them for when I have time to write my full take on that episode in the comments there)
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

For what it's worth: maybe I'm just more attuned to this as someone fitting one or more letters of LGBT, and I'll admit that at times I'm actively looking out for not-entirely-straight subtext (especially in a show as straight as I've almost always experienced Star Trek to be). But I *definitely* saw sexual tension going on right from the beginning of Past Prologue; rewatching the scene now, I'm definitely still seeing it. It's not the only place I've seen it, either -- I just watched Our Man Bashir, and [mild SPOILERS] I couldn't help thinking that, complete with Garak getting *right* up in Bashir's personal space, his merciless cockblocking at the beginning of that ep may well have had an ulterior motive. He certainly doesn't seem too displeased that Bashir isn't getting to bang his Bond girl.

It may not have affected the finished product *much*, but I still think it's easy to say it was there, enough to take Robinson's comments seriously and not as "wow, thanks, brownie points for saying that retroactively after the show's already done". Believe me, things like "surprise! Dumbledore was gay all along" piss me off, but this doesn't come off like that to me. Enough is shown for me to appreciate the effort, especially given the time period. Depicting a non-caricaturised male character showing non-caricaturised attraction to another man would definitely not have been as easy as doing the same between women; women have the sexual appeal to het male decision-makers (and fanboy audiences), whereas the same between men tends to get perceived as more depraved. There's a reason lesbian kiss episodes would come to be a big Sweeps Week spectacle, *not* gay male kiss episodes.

This is all regarding the acting, though (and, I guess, whatever writing got snuck in along these subtextual lines). I'd also like to draw attention to the fact that the earliest comments from Robinson (of what's been posted above, that is -- if he's saying it then, by all means he might've been saying it in less permanent media earlier on) date from 2000, which is apparently just a year after DS9 ended, and *definitely* not yet a time with everything peachy for gay people. Less incentive to say things for "progressiveness points". And then there's the mention that he wrote Garak's attraction to a man into a novel -- a bit blink-and-you'll-miss-it, but then I have no idea what guidelines he might've been under. Honestly... not *too* bad for 2000? And better than nothing.

As for Top Hat's comment:

"If you want to accuse anyone of post hoc revisionism, it should be Behr. In What We Left Behind, he falls on his sword for not petitioning Paramount to let them portray Garak as gay openly and clearly. How sincerely that reads is up to you to judge."

Yeah, this sounds a lot more like the "Dumbledore was gay!!!" thing I described. Piggybacking on Robinson's long-established comments to go "we should've done this!" -- sure, but you didn't, and I don't see much point in making a big show about what you didn't do.
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 1:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Little Green Men

(Additional note re: universal translator that I forgot to add: honestly, the translation issues take up too *much* time in the episode for the payoff they get here, which -- apart from the initial surprise -- is pretty much just the lowbrow humour of everyone making wild gestures at each other. IMO, if you're gonna do language issues, either make it the whole point of the episode -- Darmok-style -- or do a gag and then move on. As it stands here, the problem with the universal translator is in a not-quite-right middle stage between these, trying to sustain itself longer than is funny but also not long enough to be interesting.)
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Fenn
Wed, Jan 8, 2020, 1:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Little Green Men

Did have fun watching this one, though I think I'd agree with assessments that it kinda ran out of steam. Chemistry between our three Ferengi is top-notch, as it always does seem to be (I've heard tales of Armin Shimmerman's pre-filming dinners -- must've been a great guy to work with!)

Nog's role as "kid who has read one handbook and now acts as if he's an expert on hu-man culture of the 20th Century" is hilarious. As is his proclamation that the Ferengi have an attack fleet poised to strike. Sneakily getting the woman to give him an earjob, though? Yeah, too far.

I'll happily forgive any amount of technonsense for an interesting and/or fun concept, and this ticks my box on "fun" for sure. Interesting? I s'pose it has its moments, and I like watching Quark trying to make a deal with a less-"enlightened" hu-man race. Other Trek time travel episodes have their characters desperately trying to keep the timeline intact, so it's refreshing in an amusing way to see exactly how few fucks Quark gives about that. Time travel for fun and profit. Emphasis on the "profit".

Also, while I acknowledge its usefulness in not having us spend excessive story time on linguistic issues, I'm always interested to see Trek without the universal translator. It's a great moment when we switch to the human perspective of the Ferengi for the first time, and Quark's speaking alien gibberish -- it's a break from a convention we've grown so used to. I was wondering how they'd do likewise for the Ferengi perspective, and the distorted English was a pretty effective way of going about that. Ultimately, though, the language barrier doesn't take up much time in the episode. I kinda wish we could've seen the whole thing untranslated, see how they muddled through that. (Bonus twist: Odo makes his appearance... and is just as incomprehensible, speaking Bajoran and/or Cardassian.)
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Fenn
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 7:30am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rejoined

The reassociation taboo does feel a bit like it came from nowhere. I know DS9's completely ignoring TNG Trill lore in everything from head bumps to transporter troubles, but basically the entire *point* of 'The Host' was "can romance continue across different bodies" and you now have this ep turning around saying "actually that's Illegal". And yes, there's the "why is it not taboo for her to be Sisko's old man" thing. I thought I heard Bashir list "friends" when expositing who it's taboo to reassociate with, but I went back and checked: it's just "parents, siblings, children, even spouses". I *guess* this limits it to "members of the family unit", but it still seems fairly arbitrary.

But none of that kills this for me. I think this works, both in isolation as a pure love story *and* in a real-world context. It comes off as very natural to me from the start (DEFINITELY more so than 'Meridian', though I guess that's a low bar to clear!!) -- there's clear chemistry, and the fact that the characters have an established history helps a lot. Neither of them is throwing everything away for someone they've just met... not in terms of the symbionts, anyway.

This is literal as well as allegorical LGB representation simply by depicting two women in love. Hell, add the T on the end of that as well, though (as with TNG's 'The Outcast', which to modern viewing really feels more like trans rights than gay rights) I doubt the transgender aspect of it was particularly intentional. Not particularly fun fact: before Australia legalised same-sex marriage in 2017, it had already been possible to change your gender status in law for three decades. But naturally, instead of allowing people to use this loophole to be legally married to someone of the same gender, Australian law instead required married people to obtain a divorce before changing their legal gender. Mandatory divorce following a change in status, regardless of how the partners might feel. Sound familiar?

I'll also mention that near the end of the episode, when Lenara's in danger and Jadzia has to rescue her, I was half expecting Lenara to suffer death-by-"bury your gays". Very glad they didn't go that route.

In terms of the greater Star Trek universe, I feel that one of the nicest things this contributes isn't even stated, and is good *by virtue* of it not even being stated: the genders of Jadzia and Lenara are *only* relevant in our universe, not theirs. Two women are in love, and the fact that they *are* both women is not mentioned once; it's not even a passing concern to anyone around them. I think this is the first we've ever seen of a Star Trek that unquestioningly accepts LGB people and their relationships, not even considering that it might not be the norm. Going back to TNG's 'The Host', I suppose this really is proof that "our ability to love won't be so limited". If only there'd been more than this.
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