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ReaperX
Wed, Jun 6, 2018, 10:56am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Homeward

@William B

"I wouldn't want to be part of the village that survives rather than the planet that dies, or at least I believe I wouldn't, and so I will tend to believe that it's a universal trait, but I know that's not really fair or true."

I don't wish to be misunderstood here - I am not at all making assumptions about who you are William B. I think though that your response would be most likely, and perhaps you realized this yourself when you question your own conclusion that this is a universal response, coming from someone who is white, male and heterosexual, has no chronic illness or disability, and enjoys at least a middle-class life.

Sure, it's a great shock to have god-like beings show up one day, announce that your world, culture and way of life is doomed, and that your choice is to either die in a cataclysm, or be taken away to live in some alien society.

I imagine though that a person who is quadriplegic, or very slowly but extremely painfully dying from a genetic degenerative condition, would warm up to the idea rather quickly when it becomes apparent that completely curing the condition requires only a trivial medical intervention from the alien doctors.

LGBT people or women in repressive societies - Saudi-Arabia comes to mind - or people in racist societies who don't have the dominant skin color, would also be rather likely to choose alien exile, and subsequently get over Earth fairly quickly, living in an alien utopia where people are respected and valued as they are, and discrimination based on gender, race and sexual orientation is literally unthinkable.

Let's also think of the world's poor - the billions who are struggling every day just to not starve to death, who suffer economic exploitation, lack of shelter and clean water, and who will die early and miserable due to lack of health care and the miserable working and environmental condition they have to endure. I think they too would overwhelmingly go for living in a post-scarcity alien society with a pristine environment, leisure and self-improvement as life's sole purpose, and replicators.

This brings me to an important moral dimension which Homeward, and (as far as I can remember) all Star Trek prime directive tales ignore - that primitive societies often inflict incredible suffering on many or most of its members. "Homeward" evades this question by showing an idyllic, idealized primitive village. The story is not interested in the hardship that inherently comes with such a life, or the brutalities that this primitive society may inflict on its members.

Does it require young girls to have parts of their genitals removed with razor blades and without anesthesia? Does it require boys to undergo horrific initiation rituals to "become men", like being suspended by hooks inserted into their flesh, or raped by the elders of the tribe?

Are some of their members being kept like animals, as the property of others?

These are the atrocities that we humans have inflicted, or are still inflicting, on each other. I doubt primitive Alien societies would be any different.

I can think of no other Star Trek "prime directive" episode that addresses this central moral question. "Who Watches The Watchers" features a relatively primitive but enlightened and peaceful society. "Half a Life" and "The Outcast" came close, but ultimately hid behind the dogma of "we must not judge the customs of other cultures". Sorry, I think we do.

The highest moral law is to prevent the suffering of sentient beings. Sentients' rights are universal. Culture and tradition can only be respected as long as fundamental rights are not violated. A non-interference policy can only derive its moral justification by furthering the goal of preventing suffering. It cannot be an end in itself.

When a primitive society brutalizes even some of its members, then interference is not only permissible, it is a moral imperative. Naturally, interference must be measured, based on solid understanding of the society and probably covert. The goal is to preserve what is good about a society and eliminate the clearly bad.

This is not my original idea, it's basically the philosophy of The Culture in Iain Banks' Culture universe. A highly evolved society has a moral duty to perform "good works", to interfere in the development of less evolved societies, to prevent suffering of sentient beings.
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ReaperX
Sat, Apr 28, 2018, 4:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Outcast

I would like to contribute some historical context to this discussion. "The Outcast" was not conceived and produced in a vacuum, and reactions of LGBT fans at the time and even now (at least those of the older ones of us) are colored by the out of universe events of the time. Sorry for the long post, but I think one needs to know this historic background to understand the significance of The Outcast, and why it impacted LGBT audiences the way it did.

From the very beginning of TNG, gay and lesbian fans (you didn't say "LGBT" back then) asked for representation. Franklin Hummel, director and co-founded of the Gaylaxians, a Boston fan club for LGBT scifi fans founded in 1986, asked Gene Roddenberry at a convention in 1987 whether there would be a gay character on TNG. Roddenberry answered in the affirmative, which lead to him bringing up the idea in staff meetings and the development of an episode titled "Blood and Fire", written by David Gerrold. The episode would have featured a gay male couple of TNG crewmembers and an alien parasite that would have been an allegory for AIDS.

The episode never made it to the screen due to heavy resistance from conservative study politics as represented by Rick Berman. At first, the script was revised and the gay characters dropped. Then it was abandoned altogether and Gerrold left the TNG writing staff on non-amicable terms.

An October 1992 Cinefantastique article gave the following summary of events:

(Start Quote) 'The reaction among the staff to Gerrold's idea was mixed, as memos began to circulate about the storyline. "The way the show worked at that time was that instead of staff meetings, everyone wrote memos," said Gerrold. "There was a paper trail trail yard wide and a mile long on everything and the memo on this was half that. People complained the script had blatant homosexual characters. Rick Berman said we can't do this in an afternoon market in some places. We'll have parents writing letters. The other half of the memos were, from people like Dorothy Fontana and Herb Wright and Bob Lewin, who said this is a very strong script. "I'm not making Rick Berman a villain because he also acknowledged the technical aspects of the script were right on the nose for what the show needed to be. But Rick Berman was the studio guy. He was watching out for the studio's interests."' (End Quote)

Gerrold told me in a personal communication in the late 90s (speaking as ReaperX again, not quoting) that Berman had been "adamantly opposed" to "Blood and Fire". He also told Jonathan Kay, author of the 2001 Salon article on (the lack of) gay characters in Star Trek that (Roddenberry lawyer) Leonard Maizlish had been outright hostile to the issue, and to gay men specifically:

(Start Quote) 'Maizlish was hardly sensitive to the gay issue. "The last time I saw [Maizlish] I was helping Herb Wright pack up his office," says Gerrold. "The lawyer came to make sure we weren't stealing anything. To my face, he called me 'an AIDS-infected c*****cker. A f*****g fa***t.'" (End Quote)

In 1987, at the peak of the AIDS crisis, reactions such as these were essentially mainstream.

After "Blood and Fire" died, additional opportunities for an inclusive gesture towards LGBT people were lost in seasons 3 and 4. Quoting from Kay's 2001 Salon article again, in the script of "The Offspring",

(Start Quote) '"Guinan was supposed to start telling Lal, 'When a man and a woman are in love ...' and in the background, there would be men and women sitting at tables, holding hands," Arnold says. "But Whoopi refused to say that. She said, 'This show is beyond that. It should be "When two people are in love."' And so it was decided on set that one of the tables in the background should have two men holding hands -- or two women, or whatever. But someone ran to a phone and made a call to the production office and that was nixed. [Producer] David Livingston came down and made sure that didn't happen." ' (End Quote)

And of course others have commented here on Crusher's disappointing reaction at the end of The Host when Odan had a female host.

We're now in the first half of 1991, and all indications were that Paramount would not budge and that some of the people involved in production did not understand the issue of LGBT visibility and why it mattered. In April of that same year, Richard Arnold had famously responded at a convention to LGBT fan complaints that visible LGBT characters were still absent from TNG by asking rhetorically,

"What would you have us do, put pink triangles on them? Have them sashay down corridors?" (quoted from an April 1991 GLAAD press release).

So it came as a wonderful surprise when Roddenberry released a prepared statement on July 1st, 1991 to The Advocate that

(Start Quote) "In the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, viewers will see more of shipboard life in some episodes, which will, among other things, include gay crew members in day-to-day circumstances."

This was everything LGBT fans had been hoping for. We were not asking for an LGBT main character, merely an acknowledgement that we existed and were treated like everyone else in this utopia that Roddenberry had created, and had not been "cured" of what mainstream society still thought of as a psychological defect or illness.

But then Roddenberry died, Rick Berman took over the helm of Star Trek, and Berman had no intent of ever making good on Roddenberry's promise. I am not saying, nor do I believe, that Berman was a homophobe, but he was a Studio Realpolitik kind of guy who understood that TNG was a for-profit product first, and a utopian vision of a better world and vehicle for social change (distant) second.

This is the central point of my post. You cannot divorce The Outcast from the promise that Roddenberry had made to LGBT fans less than a year earlier. The Outcast was the consolation prize episode for LGBT fans, the "but we did it" excuse that would serve as a fig leaf for years to come when LGBT fans would keep asking at conventions where those LGBT crew members were that had been promised.

Many heterosexual viewers back then (and some commenters in this forum now) don't even read The Outcast as an argument for sexual minority rights and don't understand this discussion. That's precisely why LGBT fans were so deeply hurt and let down by this episode - it's so ambiguous, so obviously written with plausible deniability, you can't even be certain (without outside context) that it was the "gay rights" episode, the scrap from the table to LGBT fans to finally get us to shut up.

The episode is so fundamentally ambiguous that it is basically a Rorschach Test. It lets LGBT fans imagine a warm message of inclusion while it lets social conservatives read an anti-LGBT rights argument into it - then and now. From that point of view, the J'naii are the homosexual fascists who succeeded in abolishing "normal" gender relationships and even gender itself and Soren is a brave heterosexual underdog resistance fighter who stands up for heteronormativity and the natural gender binary.

Just in case that sounds over the top, it's what many social conservatives actually believe - and warn - will happen unless we repeal marriage equality, re-criminalize homosexuality and start persecuting LGBT people again.

I'd like to close with one observation. It's been said here that the episode should be judged less harshly in light of its historic context - it aired in what was still the dark ages of LGBT rights, 1992. I agree with that to a certain extent, but I would remind the reader that Dynasty had a gay main character in 1981, and Melrose Place in 1992. After The Outcast, it would take another quarter of a century (literally, 25 years) until a television Star Trek show had an identifiable main character who is just gay without making an issue or a big deal out of it.
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ReaperX
Mon, Apr 23, 2018, 5:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Insurrection

For me, the unforgivable sin of Insurrection was its failure to be internally consistent with the rest of the ST universe, i.e. the events of DS9.

The movie was released during the final season of DS9. At that time, in-universe, the Federation was fighting for its very survival against the Dominion. You'd think that all other projects and missions would have been on hold at that time. It simply made no in-universe sense that the Federation's flagship and one of its most powerful warships, the Sovereign-Class Enterprise-E, would be doing anything but playing an important part in the Dominion war.

The TNG Novel "Tunnel Through The Stars" tells the kind of story that the 3rd TNG movie should have told: an epic, grand-scale adventure. I can't be the only fan who wanted to see the TNG crew (and Data in particularly) fight the Jem'Hadar.

Not making this into a TNG Dominion War movie also made no real world sense. The Star Trek franchise as a whole would have benefited from the synergy of Star Trek TV and Star Trek movies cross-promoting and being consistent with each other. Oh, and getting Worf into the story would have been natural and effortless.

I cannot comprehend how Berman and Paramount could not see that this was the right thing to do.
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