Star Trek: The Next Generation

"First Contact"

4 stars

Air date: 2/18/1991
Teleplay by Dennis Russell Bailey & David Bischoff and Joe Menosky & Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller
Story by Marc Scott Zicree
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

While undercover on the alien world of the Malcorians, Riker is seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where the Malcorian doctors discover his anatomy is nothing like theirs. "What are you?" they ask in astonishment. Riker attempts to maintain his cover by claiming he was born with numerous birth defects, but the Malcorian doctors are not persuaded. Could he be an alien from another world? The Malcorians are on the brink of warp space travel, but do not yet know that life exists elsewhere in the universe. Indeed, many in their society believe the universe revolves around Malcorian life. That belief may be about to change.

"First Contact" is one of TNG's underrated gems. It is actually about the very core of the Star Trek ideology: seeking out new life and new civilizations while observing the Prime Directive. It pursues these Trekkian themes using an approach that feels completely fresh and original. The episode's wisest choice is to tell the story primarily from the Malcorians' point of view; we come into the story with scarcely more information than they do, which means we, like they, must play catch-up. Aside from Riker, we see none of the Enterprise crew until the moment when Picard and Troi beam into a room with Mirasta (Carolyn Seymour), the Malcorian minister of science, to announce "first contact." Watching this happen through Mirasta's eyes is a crucial part of the effect; we're allowed to feel the disbelief, then fear, then astonishment, that she feels. It's like Picard and Troi truly are aliens from another planet.

Another reason this story is fascinating is that it shows us the nuts and bolts of how the Federation actually handles these delicate new encounters. Riker is just one of several other (unseen) undercover Starfleet officers who have observed and listened to Malcorian society for years in order to decide when might be the best time to initiate first contact. Riker going missing necessitated the process to be accelerated.

Next the Enterprise crew contacts the leader of Malcorian society, Durken (George Coe). Picard carefully tries to explain his intentions while putting Durken at ease, and in these scenes we get intriguing material that subtly reveals the apprehension both men feel in stepping wrong in these discussions. Durken suddenly realizes that he is but a speck of insignificance in the universe, and both Picard and Durken know that the Malcorians' fear might be viral.

Through Durken and his political administration we see the complexity of first contact in how it affects the society being contacted. It's possible — given the sociopolitical tendencies to maintain the status quo — that the Malcorians are not even ready to join the galaxy's community. Early scenes show more conservative elements, like Durken's security minister, Krola (Michael Ensign), expressing reservations over even the proposed warp flight, which didn't even assume that other life was out there. And there's talk about how Malcorian society should be taking care of itself before it starts going to other worlds. It's not often that TNG shows political details in a society that feel like they could plausibly come from our own current world, but these do.

Another detail I felt was important was how Picard puts the first-contact mission first, and only gradually moves toward the issue of getting Riker returned. This feels right; a Starfleet officer would put the diplomatic mission ahead of the man, especially with the stakes so high. Meanwhile, the hospital administration tries to keep a lid on the fact that they have a space visitor lying in one of their beds; they debate among themselves the implications of what they've got on their hands. When the lid does come off, there's a violent reaction and then political maneuvering by Krola to try to keep Durken from moving forward. Krola's maneuvering fails, up to a point.

In the end, a larger universe can't trump the societal status quo, and Durken declines Picard invitation, saying that his people aren't ready. Essentially it's a debate of progress versus what society will reasonably accept. "First Contact" has a lot of imaginative details about how this sort of encounter would play out using the Trek rules, and, for the most part, all the details feel right.

Previous episode: Clues
Next episode: Galaxy's Child

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131 comments on this review

philaDLJ
Sun, Mar 23, 2008, 8:45pm (UTC -6)
Riker getting laid by that nerdy Malcorian nurse - real Prime Directive-y...
stviateur
Tue, Jul 12, 2011, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
First Contact as indeed an excellent change of pace show primarily due to its POV. However, I found it difficult to believe that the chancellor could speak for the entire planet. How unlikely was it that the planet had a single world government and that people everywhere thought and believed the same thing? In reality, there would be a spectrum of beliefs with the Chancellor not authorized to speak for the whole planet. This has been one of the failures of Trek in that too often (if not always)it assumes every alien world possesses one culture, one government, one belief system. More likely most would be like our own, divided into many different nations and belief systems etc.
Jay
Sat, Sep 10, 2011, 10:33pm (UTC -6)
Odd to hear the Chancellor in "First Contact" refer to his home planet as "Malcor III". It's like us calling Earth Sol III.
Latex Zebra
Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 3:38am (UTC -6)
@ Jay

If the Federation have been watching the planet for a while then surely they have got the planet name from the inhabitants. We might call a system Alpha Proxima but if we met life from that system that called it Bert, so would we... Wouldn't we?

Love this episode, I actually think there is more than one episode in this kind of story.
Jay
Tue, Jun 19, 2012, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
Bert and Ernie would be the best names for a binary system ever...
William
Wed, Aug 29, 2012, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was a fantastic episode, and I'm sorry that Mirasta (Carolyn Seymour) didn't become a semi-regular character. She would have made a nice addition to the crew. (Though she was great as a Romulan down the road).
PeteTongLaw
Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 6:20pm (UTC -6)
Krola is a complete moron and prima facie appears unbelievable as a character, but then I thought about it more and figured Donald Rumsfield was probably also just as stupid and single-minded, so i guess it works.
Jons
Sun, Dec 29, 2013, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
The scene where Picard and Troi appear is unbelievably great. I truly felt they were aliens. I could perfectly understand the Chancellor's astonishment and awe. A masterful scene.
Nissa
Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 12:18am (UTC -6)
Um....so it's alright for the Federation to send secret agents on a pre-warp planet? That doesn't violate the prime directive? Quite frankly, this is preachy Trek at its worst.

PeteTong, labels are for manufactured goods, not rational people. Don't talk about people you know nothing about.
Chris
Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 11:33am (UTC -6)
I agree with Stviateur. I was uneasy with Picard deferring completely to one man's quick decision about contact with the Federation. Even if we accept that the planet had one government, it still seemed to have a cabinet and Picard doesn't even wait to hear the cabinet's view. Was the planet even a democracy? And for Picard to say, they'd never come back? Why not say they'll check in again in 5 years or so. If Earth were contacted by a higher intelligence, citizens would want to know and would want to discuss and assess the pros and cons of contact. Another thing- Picard saying we won't give you our tech! So a society should be deprived of medical advances because of some concerns about social cohesion? Seems cruel of Picard to say that. This episode was quite good (loved Bebe Newirth; Rarr!) but it diminished my respect for Picard. He acted in an undemocratic, paternalistic manner by completely deferring so quickly to the one leader rather than consulting more broadly with the population. And he didn't even explore how the Federation's technology might help the planet. He just mechanically followed the Prime Directive. The Malcorians deserved better I say!
Jack
Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
Troi tells Mirasta that Picard is "from a planet over 2000 light years from here". This is quite the deep space assignment...by Voyager's reckoning, where 70,000 ly is 70 years at high warp, then here the Enterprise is (assuming it can go as fast as Voyager can) two years away from Earth. But the Enterprise was just at Earth as recently as "Family" just a few months earlier...
SkepticalMI
Wed, Mar 26, 2014, 6:22pm (UTC -6)
Huh. I remembered the first part of the episode and absolutely nothing else about it. This may very well have been the first time seeing the episode all the way through, and thus my first comments on an episode with fresh eyes. Or maybe it just didn't capture my interest much when I was a kid.

Anyway, there were two major problems with this episode:

- The gratuitous sex scene between Riker and the alien was not only unnecessary but insulting. First of all, it added nothing to the plot, as the escape attempt failed anyway. Second of all, if it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. And third of all, it was very uncomfortable. This was, essentially, akin to rape, and would certainly never fly if the genders were reversed. Then again, Menage a Troi also had sexual assault as comedy, so, you know, whatever. I'm just not sure why they think it made sense to do this. I suppose it's another side of the whole alien encounter thing, as some people might be... curious. But it was horribly uncomfortable and insulting, and it's pathetic that Riker went along with it.

- The overly evil security advisor was rather trite. For one, do we really need yet another troglodyte security guy? Isn't that Worf's job to always be negative and contrarian and be shot down by the enlightened scientists? Blah blah blah, science is the future, yeah, whatever. But there's nothing wrong with keeping an eye on security, or else the show wouldn't have a security officer in the first place. So why do we always see them as the bad guys, as stereotypical distrustful lying fear-of-the-unknown monsters? Did we really need another one?

The central conflict on the planet was also not clear. Evil security guy kept arguing for traditions. First of all, traditions are not bad. Or else why would the Federation name their flagship the Enterprise-D? Second of all, it switched around between being about traditions and being about believing their race was the center of the universe. So what was the real motivation here? What was evil security guy's motivation to try to kill Riker? It made no sense. Nothing in it made sense. Unfortunately, my guess is that this was a case of typical Hollywood stereotypes of politicians. We have the so called enlightened, tolerant side and the evil, hate-filled, closed-minded side. Sure, that isn't actually the case in the real world, but it makes people feel good. So we show that instead.

Which isn't always a deal-killer. But in this case, so much of the episode depends on this central conflict. Since it's such a big part of the show, it needs to stand on its own, and it doesn't. Because the conflict was simultaneously muddled in its reasoning and transparently a good vs bad setup, it didn't hold my interest.

In contrast, the leader did do a good job of balancing things, and when we focus on him it almost beings to make sense. For starters, there's a nice scene with Picard where he mentions a tradition he had of always eating dinner with his family. So here, we see a hint that he knows traditions are not bad and that he feels that as part of his personality and culture. It's subtle, as he doesn't hound on this fact or make it clear that this is part of the conflict, but it's there. We see some of what he is talking about. And he was very cautious in dealing with the Enterprise crew and was understandably upset when he discovered the spying. In the end, his decision to delay the first contact was pretty reasonable.

On the whole, it was still an interesting story and an interesting approach. A good episode, but I just don't hold it in as high a regard as some others.
DLPB
Wed, Mar 26, 2014, 6:59pm (UTC -6)
This was, essentially, akin to rape
-------

Please don't use that word where it is not needed. It simply waters down the true meaning of the word. Two consenting adults having sex is not rape under any meaning.
-

Onto this episode. It was pretty decent. There were a few issues here and there, and parts that suffered from a lack of logic (for example, a sceptical chancellor decides to drink a beverage offered to him by an alien, which could have been poisoned) but for TV show it was reasonably well made and entertaining.
Jack
Thu, May 1, 2014, 9:26am (UTC -6)
^^ Though I wouldn't have chosen that word to use, it's rather absurd to claim that Riker was really a consenting party here. He was doing what he felt he had to do to escape.

If you, say, threaten someone's life if they won't have sex with you this minute, and then they, faced with that, agree to do so, I certainly wouldn't call that consent.
Chris
Thu, May 1, 2014, 11:44am (UTC -6)
Since this race seems to expect ribs to be in the abdomen and digestive organs in the chest, I'm surprised the women didn't have breasts much lower on their torsos. They seem to be in the "usual" place.
Grumpy
Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 12:35am (UTC -6)
Wait... the sensors couldn't distinguish human from Malcorian lifesigns (which, nobody ever explained how that could possibly work anyway), yet when they want to find Mirasta Yale, the sensors are good enough to pick her out from every other Malcorian. Sure, the field agents might've supplied the address of her office, but how did they know she was the one working alone? If again the field agents are responsible, then surely they could've gumshoed around local hospitals to find Riker. Granted, he was a secret patient...

To address Nissa's PD nitpick... it would only be a violation if they revealed themselves, cf. "Bread and Circuses."
NCC-1701-Z
Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 11:49pm (UTC -6)
This episode got me thinking: What if advanced aliens made contact with Earth tomorrow in the manner of the Enterprise crew in this ep? If the scenario depicted in this ep occurred, but with 21st century humans in place of the Malcorians and some peaceful, super-advanced, spacefaring alien race in place of the Enterprise crew, how would we respond?

I'm not sure we humans would react all that different than the Malcorians. Call me cynical, but considering the animosity between different countries, not to mention the intense disagreements we have on many issues just within the US, I think this ep is eerily close to what would happen if advanced spacefaring aliens did make contact with us.

I liked this ep a lot, it reminded me a lot of the original "Day the Earth Stood Still" in some ways (especially the paranoia issues), and as mentioned above, I think the Malcorians are a good stand-in for 21st century humans. And that's the brilliance of this episode.

I wish Star Trek had, just once, depicted an alien world divided into different regions, languages, biospheres, etc just like our own world. The Malcorian chancellor seemed to speak for the entire planet, it seemed a bit too simplified. (TNG S7's "Attached" came close.) Not to nitpick the episode though, I loved the fresh point of view from the aliens' perspective.
NCC-1701-Z
Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 11:54pm (UTC -6)
Picard: We learn as much as possible about a planet before we make first contact.
Troi: One of the things we monitor are your broadcast signals, your journalism, your music, your humor, try to better understand you as a people.
Mirasta: I hate to think how you would judge us based on our popular music and entertainment.

I laughed when I heard that line. Meta-commentary perhaps? I can only imagine what aliens would think of us if they had been studying our pop culture(s) for a while ;)
not-dead-yet-jim
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 9:52am (UTC -6)
Bebe Neuwirth - nuff said!
kubel
Sat, Oct 4, 2014, 10:50pm (UTC -6)
Re: Rape
The nerdy nurse wasn't keeping Riker captive. She was a nurse. She offered a service (distraction and guidance for escape) in exchange for pseudo sex. A legitimate and voluntary exchange, not rape. Compare this to prostitution. You may have your objections, but it's voluntary and involves mutual consent.

Re: Dictatorship
I too have objections to this decision to essentially stick everyones heads into the sand just because one ruler decided so- and then cover things up (total corruption). But the particular flavor of statism that comes out of the Roddenberry universe is some strange mix of a socialist egalitarian oligarchy with a touch of a constitutional republic. It's very contradictory. On the one hand, you have a collectivist nanny stratocracy known as the Federation. On the other hand, you have the Federation battling the collectivist Borg race. The one system where people would have an absolute say in their own future, anarchism, in the rare case where it's mentioned, is condemned outright as a society of a bunch of violent rapists and mind torturing maniacs. No one, apparently, may speak for themselves in the Star Trek universe. Only their rulers can decide their future.

Re: Malcor III
Yes, Malcor III is a silly name for a planet of people who still believe in geocentricity.

Anyway, I have my complaints- but this is one of the best TNG episodes. It was well thought out and deserves the 5 stars it received here.
Peremensoe
Sun, Oct 5, 2014, 1:27pm (UTC -6)
I assume the Malcorians aren't actually calling their world "Malcor III." That's the UT rendering.
Jack
Fri, Oct 24, 2014, 6:41pm (UTC -6)
I doubt that the UT would translate a proper name in a foreign language as Something Three. If the word for "three" in the foreign language wasn't spoken, there's no reason for the UT to spit out "three".
Peremensoe
Fri, Oct 24, 2014, 8:07pm (UTC -6)
It has nothing to do with that. It's not *three* the numeral that's being output, it's "Three" as part an already-known (because Federation speakers have spoken of it) planetary identifier. Once the UT recognizes [whatever] as the foreign identifier for a thing already indexed in the Federation-hearer's language under a Federation-language name, it's going to spit out the name the Fed-hearer recognizes.
CPUFP
Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
A story with an intriguing premise, told from a fresh and fitting point of view and ending with a resolution that seems reasonable within the circumstances provided. However, the episode was tainted a lot by the stiff acting of all the Malcorians and by the cliché-ridden and generic dialog. "Our traditions", "our way of life", "the capital city", "the Southern continent" - could the writers at least try to be a little more specific when thinking up an alien civilization?

The issue of one person deciding for the whole planet's population really is problematic though, and the Federation surely seems to be a very elitist club, where we rarely ever see any serious form of political dissent within a population. According to Memory Alpha, "stable planetary political unity" is one of the requirements for UFP membership...
ThankYouGeneR
Thu, Jan 22, 2015, 5:32pm (UTC -6)
Having just re-watched this episode myself and coming here to read Jamahl's experience of it I found myself surprised at the comments about the Bebe Neuwirth scene. I automatically took Riker's statement "There are differences in the way that my people make love" to be the setup for Riker to tell her anything as innocuous as elbow touching to be 'the way WE do it', which would certainly give her the desired 'perception' of alien sex without needing Riker to engage sexually with her. She would accept that without hesitation and of course & fully experience it AS satisfying. I mean, gosh, her mind would have taken over and sparked her own happy physical responses. And she would have taken away the 'illusion' she had just had sex with an alien.
Mart
Sun, May 17, 2015, 9:36am (UTC -6)
I'm going to disagree here, I hold this episode to be no better than two stars.

The setup is intriguing, and the plot is well-crafted, but the characterisation is lousy, with Krola and Mirasta being mere stereotypes (of the Evil StateSec Guy and the Treehugging Scientist respectively).

The dialogue clunks like a steampunk robot. Poor Patrick Stewart gets a bunch of sanctimonious speeches that even his talent can't make riveting; the babe in the hospital speaking in cult-like adulation of aliens; the declamations of Krola and Mirasta in support of their cardboard cutout roles: it grates.

The only saving grace is a powerful performance on some decent lines for Chancellor Durken.
Troy
Thu, Jun 4, 2015, 8:12am (UTC -6)
I like this episode, especially Mirasta. It was played as if we the humans of the 20th century are the aliens. I can't believe people are offended by the Riker sex bribe, obviously played for laughs. Could a sequel episode be made with Riker being an alien dad?
Some comments didn't like the notion that the Malcorians had world government. It is possible federation would prefer these types of worlds to make contact with since at least in the Trek universe they are more stable. There is another STNG episode ("Attached") where two distinct cultures on one planet vie to join the federation and note that they are deemed to be unqualified.
luc
Wed, Jun 10, 2015, 4:31am (UTC -6)
An OK episode. Riker doing Frazier's ex-wife was a little much, but you know.

I can't believe no one mentioned the Roswell connection. The chancellor's explanation of how the incident will be explained away is Roswell.
Luke
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 9:45am (UTC -6)
So, in the lead-up to a first contract situation with the inhabitants of Malcor III, Troi beams down to the planet in order to coordinate with the various surface recon teams. While disguised as a Malcorian, she suffers an injury and is taken to a hospital where it is immediately discovered that she is not, in fact, a Malcorian. Tensions quickly rise as word of her alienness spreads. Eventually, in an attempt to escape, she is caught by a male orderly who offers to help her for a price - that she sleep with him. Troi, clearly uneasy with such a suggestion, does everything she can think of to talk her way out of the situation. The male orderly, however, simply won't take no for an answer and, in the end, convinces the still uncomfortable Troi to go along with it and have sex with him, even though she clearly doesn't want to. This is played by the episode as funny. After having been forced into having sex in exchange for her freedom the male orderly helps her escape but she is quickly apprehended by an angry mob that literally kicks the living shit of her (including one security guard that tries to take her head off with a nightstick) until she's beaten unconscious and left in even worse physical shape than before.

Anybody else have a problem with this? Because I sure do!! How could the showrunners have been so blind to the fact that they used rape as a comedic gag?! They.... .... .... .... oh, wait. That wasn't Troi that all happened to? It was Riker? Oh, well then, fuck it, right?! As we all know, rape is funny when it happens to a man. And, besides, Bebe Neuwirth is hot! And it can't be rape if the rapist is good-looking. *epic facepalm*

But, what's sad is that that isn't even my biggest problem with this episode. As bad as it is, and it is VERY bad, it was only one scene. The rest of the episode centers around a rather disquieting political message. You know all those "conservatives" you keep hearing about? God, they suck, don't they?! What a bunch of morons! They're clearly doing nothing but holding the rest of society back from a glorious future that all of us open-minded, scientific types envision. If they would just shut up and open their eyes, or better yet get some education, the world would be a much better place, wouldn't it?

Look, I don't consider myself any type of social conservative, but I do think that tradition has a legitimate role to play in society and that it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. So, I really don't like it when an episode like this comes along and straw-mans conservatives as nothing more than idiots with martyr-complexes who just want to keep the world in the Dark Ages (a term which is explicitly used to refer to Malcorian tradition in this episode!) to the point of being willing to endanger people's lives for that goal.

And all of this is really a shame. Because this episode has such an incredible amount of potential. There is, actually, a lot of really high-caliber stuff on display here, mostly in the scenes between the Chancellor and Picard. Seriously, these two knock it out of the park! If "First Contact" had simply focused on them and showed the friction in Malcorian society through their dialogue instead of with the Krola character (and, of course, jettisoning the idea that rape is funny) this could have been truly deserving of a 10 out of 10 score. But they just couldn't keep their political bullshit out of it, could they. They had to bog it down with it. Just two episodes prior to this one, they couldn't help but present theists as simpletons, and now, I guess, it was conservatives' turn.

2/10
Robert
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 10:39am (UTC -6)
"But they just couldn't keep their political bullshit out of it, could they."

Considering the amount of bullshit anti-science we get in the country where this was made from conservatives, this episode is more relevant now than it even was then.

Evolution, global warming, anti-vaxx (though the far left is as stupid about this as the far right), young earth, the creationism museum with the dinosaurs, etc.

Most of these people are BARELY a step up from the racist phrenologist idiots and the earth-centric morons who opposed Galileo. Conservatives don't have a particularly good record when it comes to science.
Robert
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 10:43am (UTC -6)
I'd like to point out that while my previous post was a little harsh, I totally agree with you about the rape thing, and I actually really appreciate tradition also. But in general the conservative record on science sucks really, really hard. Bobby Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar with a Biology degree and he has to pretend evolution is just a "theory" (while at the same time acting ignorant as to the MEANING of the word theory) in order to get along with conservatives. It's RIDICULOUS.
Robert
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 10:45am (UTC -6)
I'd also like to point out that the freaking POPE thinks global warming is one of the biggest problems of our time. You can clearly be a conservative without being a flaming anti-science airhead, but if you want to get elected in America you sure have to pretend....
Elliott
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 11:48am (UTC -6)
@Luke,

The episode did not present the Malcorians' inability to join the larger Universe as a grand tragedy, just as a disappointment, as personified in Mirasta. The episode acknowledges the rôle that conservative ideology plays in society. By definition, conservatism is anti-progressive. It is natural and inevitable that old ways are eventually replaced by new ones, but forcing a society to evolve too quickly can cause more problems than it solves sometimes. That was Krola's rôle in the story, and that is the most optimistic spin one can place on conservative ideology in society, as a dyke keeping change from happening too quickly. If anything, this episode was unusually kind to conservatives.
Luke
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 5:55pm (UTC -6)
@Robert,

The problem is that anti-science views are not the exclusive domain of the right-wing. There are plenty of liberals and other left-wingers out there who are just as anti-science as the staunchest Young Earth Creationist. Just look at how many on the left respond to scientific findings in areas like nuclear power, fracking or GMOs. Or, speaking of global warming, just look at how so many people respond whenever scientists disagree with the standard narrative - many on the left simply dismiss them out of hand.

As for the pope and global warming - well, I haven't read that encyclical where he talks about it, so I really can't comment on it. Though, given the fact that the media has so ridiculously distorted so many of his statements that it's almost laughable, I'll take what is being said with a grain of salt until I actually do read his own words (which I would hope any scientifically minded person would do anyway).

"First Contact," however, makes absolutely no attempt to show this bipartisan anti-science mentality. For lack of better terms, let's call Mirasta and the Chancellor liberals and Krola a conservative. The liberals are shown to be completely in the right with only positive aspects. The sole conservative voice is portrayed completely negatively. Elliott makes an almost plausible case for the episode being fair to conservatives, but I can't get on board with it because I see no attempt to portray them fairly. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that the Chancellor openly refers to tradition as the "Dark Ages," a loaded term if there ever was one.

This episode could have been so much more if they had just kept all this nonsense out of it. Because, like I said, the pieces are there for a suburb story. Or, they could have at least tried to offer a balanced view. Something I've been noticing about TNG during this re-watch is that whenever they get up on their soapbox, they almost never offer any kind of balanced view of the subject. The other shows are much better at this - though not completely, DS9 is also guilty of doing the exact same thing in "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." (though that's only one of that episode's numerous problems!). I mean, good grief, TOS did a better job than this in "The Way to Eden" of all episodes!
Elliott
Thu, Jul 9, 2015, 11:16pm (UTC -6)
Luke :

"The problem is that anti-science views are not the exclusive domain of the right-wing."

Where in the episode is it stated or implied that Krola is himself "anti-science," or that his views are in any way based upon a rejection of facts? It is not as though he encounters the humans and denies the fact that they are aliens or the implications their existence has for traditional Malcorian values. He is resistant to changing their society so radically so quickly in light of these new discoveries. Don't forget that it is mentioned that the Chancellor (whose name I forget) had recently enacted social reforms which had barely started to settle, and now these aliens and this upstart scientist are asking the people to further alter their way of thinking. Obviously, some in the society are able to keep up, but, as demonstrated by the rioting which was the initial cause of Riker's injuries, not everyone is necessarily ready to make such seismic shifts in their way of thinking so quickly.

To your point about the liberal/conservative bias in science, I totally concur in the sense that any rejection of scientific consensus about serious issues is questionable. I would posit that the scientific study of GMOs, fracking and even vaccinations (to a far lesser extent--I fully endorse the idea of mandatory vaccination) is far, far younger than the science of geology, evolution and even climate change. A Young Earther rejects the consensus of scientists of all stripes for hundreds of years, and historical records of thousands of years; a GMO-skeptic rejects incomplete and data about a recent, man-made invention. I'm not excusing the behaviour, but these are apples and oranges.

"One of the main reasons for that is the fact that the Chancellor openly refers to tradition as the 'Dark Ages,' a loaded term if there ever was one."

The "darkness" which gives this period its name is its lack of historical documentation. We are "in the dark" about many of the details which characterise this long period of history, hence the name. Of course, we tend to associate darkness with evil, but if we take at face value the cultural transposition of the term in this episode, the Chancellor is referring to a period of Malcorian history where the scientific method was less valued and thus, record-keeping was minimal. The inevitable result of this practice is of course deriving conclusions about the universe from un-tested (or un-testable) theories, often religious and often doctrinal. It is likely that, as in our society, many "traditional values" are derived from similar ideologies or ideological periods.

As I said, however, that those values are derived from unscientific means does that mean that the mere presence of new information will instantly cause those values to evaporate. This takes time. And that is what Krola is meant to demonstrate in the story. Many of us progressives, like Mirasta, want the rest of society to catch up to us and are impatient to see change unfold. But patience is a virtue we can (theoretically anyway) learn from our conservative friends.
Luke
Fri, Jul 10, 2015, 1:44am (UTC -6)
"But patience is a virtue we can (theoretically anyway) learn from our conservative friends."

Well, if such an endorsement of conservatism is indeed there in the episode, then it's buried so deep in the subtext that I couldn't even see a glimmer of it while watching the episode.
Bill
Fri, Jul 17, 2015, 10:49pm (UTC -6)
"Well, if such an endorsement of conservatism is indeed there in the episode, then it's buried so deep in the subtext that I couldn't even see a glimmer of it while watching the episode."

No worries. You can join the rest of us in seeing the bright, shining, totalitarian, feminist flame of liberalism gone amuck from the probable "Sarah Lawrence College" graduate who posts as SkepticalMI.

Rape? Yeah, everything is "rape" to them. LMAO!!
SpeedyGonzales
Sat, Jul 18, 2015, 6:46pm (UTC -6)
"Just look at how many on the left respond to scientific findings in areas like nuclear power, fracking or GMOs."

GMOs + capitalism = waste, monopoly, poverty, profit, ecocide, spiralling reliance upon mega-corporate owned fertilizers/seeds etc, all of which privitized.

nuclear power + capitalism = distasters + waste dumped on third world + unsustainable/dangerous rise in market expansion, production and so global heat.

fracking + capitalism = waste + water pollution

liberals = pro GMOs, pro fracking, pro nuclear, once the aforementioned are democratically and communally controlled for the greater good and once they are embedded within an economic system not predicated upon the madness of infinite growth.
Luke
Sun, Jul 19, 2015, 6:40am (UTC -6)
"liberals = pro GMOs, pro fracking, pro nuclear, once the aforementioned are democratically and communally controlled for the greater good and once they are embedded within an economic system not predicated upon the madness of infinite growth."

So, liberals = communists?
Bill
Mon, Jul 20, 2015, 2:45pm (UTC -6)
Since the perennially outraged liberal nerve has obviously gotten touched ("mission accomplished" or, as Janis Ian sung, "They only get what they deserve"), let's get back on topic (which isn't about "rape" or Capitalism being "bad" except it's better than everything else to anyone with a clue):

A tip of the hat and R.I.P. to George Coe, actor extraordinaire who played Chancellor Durken in this exemplary episode.
Ben
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 1:16pm (UTC -6)
"which isn't about "rape" or Capitalism being "bad" except it's better than everything else to anyone with a clue"

Except that anyone with an actual "clue" knows that capitalism is the only system that has actually been allowed to blossom in its actual form. Whereas communism was never actually tried since the workers never actually controlled the means of production in any state. Those supposed "communist" states were actually practicing state capitalism by any definition. Between state capitalism and the oppression and ecological destruction of market capitalism, I would hardly think that anyone with a clue would believe "it's better than everything else".

Thinking humans can do a lot better.
Ben
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 1:20pm (UTC -6)
Additionally, it's really surprising that any Star Trek fan is so pro-capitalist since the Federation in Star Trek is a nearly pure socialist entity. Star Trek blatantly made the point that socialism / state communism is not a killer of innovation & motivation, but frees human beings from the fears of scarcity to actually promote every person to innovate.
Luke
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 11:10pm (UTC -6)
Oh damn man, that's some top kek right there. Thanks!
Ben
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 8:01am (UTC -6)
Care to share why this made you laugh WoW guy?
Luke
Thu, Aug 20, 2015, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
"Those supposed "communist" states were actually practicing state capitalism by any definition."

State capitalism, otherwise known as fascism, is when the government controls all economic activity but allows the veneer of private ownership. Entrepreneurs may "own" their businesses but everything is regulated, micromanaged and controlled by the state. Those communist states didn't even allow that. Everything was outright owned by the state, which is exactly what communism calls for. To say that the workers never controlled the means of production is pretty funny.

"Between state capitalism and the oppression and ecological destruction of market capitalism..."

Ecological destruction of market capitalism? Like I said - kek. Where is the most "ecological destruction" taking place? It isn't in the more free market areas of the world. It's in places like communist China and other heavily socialistic nations.

"Thinking humans can do a lot better."

Nice poisoning of the well right there. Thanks for implying that anybody who disagrees with you must not be thoughtful.

"it's really surprising that any Star Trek fan is so pro-capitalist..."

Oh, I guess we've abandoned the whole concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Everyone who likes Star Trek must think the same way, huh?

"socialism / state communism is not a killer of innovation & motivation, but frees human beings from the fears of scarcity to actually promote every person to innovate."

Yeah, if only we didn't have to worry about that pesky thing called scarcity. Good luck avoiding that. The fact that socialism and communism "promote every person to innovate" must be why communist countries have always been so much more productive than capitalist ones, right. Oh, wait... it's the other way around. Maybe, just maybe, in a post-scarcity society socialism could work, but until we find a way to convert matter into energy and vice-versa like on Star Trek, capitalism is the best option available.

So, a complete misunderstanding of the differences between capitalism, fascism and communism, saying that the markets destroy the environment while promoting that which actually does the destroying, dismissing any alternate viewpoints as just unintelligent, promoting group-think and denying quite possibly the most fundamental law of economic reality = top kek!
Ben
Fri, Aug 21, 2015, 8:10am (UTC -6)
Beyond your use of internet slang, your total non-understanding of the economic systems which you discuss belie your young age. State Capitalism is defined as a political system in which the state has control of production and the use of capital. Fascism is the marriage of corporate power with state power. It isn't totally controlled by the state and there is no "veneer" of private ownership. In fact, the private owners of private capital collude with the state. Nazi Germany is the perfect example. I suggest you look into the corporate collusion with Nazi Germany, the attempted fascist coup in the US by Goodyear and DuPont, and the support that many industrialists and capitalists in the US had for fascism and Nazi Germany specifically.

State Capitalism is exactly what "Communist" (sic and kek as you say) China is. Communism is a STATELESS society that does not have a currency in which the entire society (the workers) maintain control of the raw materials, means of production, and wealth produced. Socialism is a form of state capitalism since the state maintains control of certain services and means of production. I suggest you actually read Marx, Engles, Luxemburg, and some more modern communists such as Michael Parenti and Richard Wolff. It's good to actually know what you're talking about besides siting common misnomers which draw their points of view from the 50 years of red scare propaganda.

"Nice poisoning of the well right there. Thanks for implying that anybody who disagrees with you must not be thoughtful."

Poisoning of the well? Get over yourself. Humans can do better than exploitation, "infinite growth" (again, kek as you say), and ecological destruction.

"Ecological destruction of market capitalism? Like I said - kek. Where is the most "ecological destruction" taking place? It isn't in the more free market areas of the world. It's in places like communist China and other heavily socialistic nations."

The most ecological destruction has taken place in the ares with the freest markets, actually. China's air pollution surged after the trade deals with free market companies were reached in the 70s. Similarly, before STATE CONTROLS were put on companies in the US (socialism, kiddo), the most egregious acts of pollution and ecological destruction happened right here in this country. There are 4 sites within a 30 minute drive of my home where Ford, Raytheon, and Lockheed have created horrible plumes from their activities. Paint factories poisoned the rivers nearby, and the highest chromium levels in the country thanks to the factories that decided to use the environment as their cheap disposal dumping ground. There's a word for this practice of maximizing profit while affecting the general public and allowing the state to pay for your destructive behaviors. It's called an externality.

Scarcity is a manufactured idea. The only time that scarcity is an actuality is during times of worldwide famine and crop death. Our current level of technology would allow for every man woman and child on the planet to eat 3 meals a day. It is market capitalism that decides who is deserving of the food. Much of it is thrown away and even more is destroyed before even hitting the stores. Companies are paid NOT to grow crops. Corporations have been buying up fresh water sources from corrupt government worldwide for scores of years and converting them into soda or bottling them and selling at a price the locals (who used to have free access to that water) can hardly afford.

So-called "Communist" countries (again, no such thing if you know what the term actually means) were more productive in many areas. The Soviets had a better space program. They were able to industrialize in less than 2 decades to go from a mainly agrarian society to an industrial giant that was able to defeat the Nazi war machine. They provided healthcare and education to many millions of people. The so-called bread lines occurred during times of famine (of which capitalist nations also had their share). They were also able to continue competing despite having extremely limited trading partners and all manner of trade embargoes. That's not to say that State Capitalism is great, nor do I defend it. But I just think we need to talk beyond the propaganda and rhetoric that is so well rehearsed in the US.

The fact that you think state capitalism == fascism would be hilarious if it wasn't pathetic. You are clearly very young and spend too much of your time on the internet. Bully on you for using terms like "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations" but with respect to the real world, you are lacking in your understanding of... well nearly everything. You can keep "top kekking" all you want. When capitalism finishes tearing itself apart, maybe we will get to see a real communism or worldwide socialism ala the Federation. One can only hope.

And, yes, it is odd to me that people who admire the future that Gene Roddenberry created are such staunch fans of capitalism. It has nothing to do with Infinite Diversity and everything to do with not recognizing what something is.
Luke
Fri, Aug 21, 2015, 2:07pm (UTC -6)
Whatever man. Have fun off in La-La Land where scarcity is a manufactured idea.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Sep 14, 2015, 3:23pm (UTC -6)
This does many things extremely well - the unusual viewpoint from outside of the Enterprise, the credible handling of first contact procedures - and is buoyed by some excellent guest casting. It kicks off with an unusual, almost 50s B-movie feel.

And yet... the analogy to our culture, "weather balloons" and all, is just too heavy handed and comes close to throwing you out of the story. The bizarre tonal shift to sex comedy for a couple of minutes, complete with music, provides a true WTF moment and sits heavily at odds with the rest of the episode. Overall it's nearly very good indeed. 2.5 stars.
Ben
Thu, Sep 24, 2015, 4:06pm (UTC -6)
@Luke:

Have fun in the land where 133 billion pounds of food is thrown away annually before it's even bought. But, somehow, scarcity ISN'T manufactured by the market... Pfft. Who's in la la land now?
Mike
Sat, Sep 26, 2015, 12:02am (UTC -6)
I could understand 329 or 429 days in a year, but 29 hours in a day? Just go to 30!

Then again, this planet does have one traditional way that's referred to as a singular concept. Maybe the number 29 is their trinity.
Jason R.
Thu, Nov 19, 2015, 8:58am (UTC -6)
Let me just say that I hate hate hate the Borg Queen. She's actually an effective villain and very well acted in this movie - but she wrecks the borg, which is unforgivable.

Conceptually, the borg are supposed to be a collective consciousness. That's what they were always sold to us as, and that's what made them uniquely terrifying. Episodes like STV - Unity even explore the allure of such a collective, hinting at how things may have started well intentioned, even noble, but gone horribly wrong.

But nope, scratch that. It's really an evil slimy alien lady with a big head making them do it. They're evil because she said so. The collective is like a dog on a leash and she's the one holding it. Bah! And don't tell me that she *is* the collective - this is too ludicrous to even fathom. Billions upon billions of assimilated individuals and their "collective" is represented by her? Uhh huh. Sure.

I will simply retcon this character out of existence in my own mind and avoid watching any Trek where she shows up.
mik73
Thu, Dec 3, 2015, 7:08pm (UTC -6)
Wathced the rebroadcast of this episode yesterday on Space channel. This was definitely an episode that stood out for me when it was first broadcast back in '91. I remember enjoying the 'reverse perspective' technique that placed the viewer in the shoes of a Malcorian. Seeing our stalwart Enterprise crew as 'the aliens' was fairly novel.

If I were to rate the show now from my older, perhaps more cynical, perspective. I think it would land at about 3 of out 4. It gets high marks for giving us a (mostly) likable alien culture and letting me identify with them. I enjoyed learning about how the Federation and Starfleet handle such delicate and trans-formative encounters. First Contact surely represents the core of Starfleet's 'quest for new life and new civilizations. It's good to see it given center stage for a full episode.

I take a point off mostly for the rather heavy handed way the 'Security advisor' could single-handedly decide the fate of an entire planet...as well as the rather stereotypical nature of another mono-culture Alien species with one absolute ruler speaking on behalf of everyone. I also simply could not buy the central conceit that this species is so heavily xenophobic despite having advanced astronomic, astrophysical and medical capabilities. That they think the universe exists solely for the benefit of the Malcorian species seems improbable given they've had to (presumably) work to unify their culture, politics, religion, traditions, and so forth. You would think most of the really primitive tribalism would have been purged out long ago.

Despite the unsubtle portrayal of the security official's 'beliefs', and perhaps some questionable antics regarding Riker*, there was too much good to be had in the high-concept nature of the main story arc. The reasoned and intelligent discussions between Picard and Durken were the standouts here.

A solid and enjoyable hour of Trek, no question about it.

*Personally I had no issue with the Riker 'hospital room' scene. It was played for laughs and seemed to be in keeping with the 'meta' or 4th wall breaking story beats: "I slept with an Alien!" is pure tabloid rag materiel. The discussions of weather balloons, and other reflections of our own Earthly 'conspiracy theories' regarding Alien crash landings and so forth. Riker didn't seem to mind much. Although it appears sex with a local doesn't buy you more then 2 or 3 hallways worth of freedom...
Jason R.
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 6:50am (UTC -6)
Apart from the stilted dialogue and cardboard characters, this episode illustrates a fundamental weakness of the STNG breed of scifi: a complete inability to portray the "alien" as anything other than a thinly veiled allegory or standin for human beings.

Throughout the episode we're told that the Malcorians are "different" from humans, that they have this unique culture and tradition, yet at no point are we actually shown this. Indeed, not only are they physically almost indistinguishable from humans, everything from how they talk to their politics and entertainment seems to be thoroughly human. At the end you're wondering why they should care about the Federation or first contact - The Malcorians might as well just be another colony of wayward humans.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to encounter an alien? Like a real honest to goodness alien? Do you think it would be like Jean Luc Picard beaming down into your office and sharing a cup of tea with you?

I'm not saying that it's desirable or practical for mainstream scific to make every alien species something *alien* - however, in this episode more than others, something more imaginative was called for. At the end the question of first contact really becomes pointless when you can scarcely tell the difference between the two aliens.
Jason R.
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 6:57am (UTC -6)
"Have fun in the land where 133 billion pounds of food is thrown away annually before it's even bought. But, somehow, scarcity ISN'T manufactured by the market... Pfft. Who's in la la land now?"

I'm reminded of the old cliche of the mother berating her wayward kids for failing to finish their dinner by telling them about starving kids in Africa.

I've always felt the logical response is for the kid to tell mom if she's so upset about it, she can pay the $$$ to ship the leftovers in a refrigerated jet to Africa and then the customs, duties and of course the salary of the people who are going to drive the food out to remote villages to deliver them :)
Michael Wallis
Wed, May 18, 2016, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
@Ben

"When capitalism finishes tearing itself apart, maybe we will get to see a real communism or worldwide socialism ala the Federation. One can only hope."

I only hope we won't have to suffer another 100 million murdered n order to reach your "real communist" or "worldwide socialist" dreamworld.
Vladimir Estragon
Tue, May 31, 2016, 6:21pm (UTC -6)
Standard Trek plot elements, such as humanoid aliens and world government, are concessions to television. It would not be possible to create a unique alien species for every episode in a weekly series, nor would it be practical to portray the government bureaucracy needed to make the decision the chancellor makes unilaterally.

Patrick Stewart is particularly excellent in double scenes when he has a good actor to play to. Replacing that great scene of him and George Coe with speeches before a UN-like decision-making body would diminish the show substantially.

The comedic rape scene looks to me like a last minute insert they threw in when a well-known TV actor requested to be in a show. It had no effect on the plot, and probably would not have existed except for the presence of Bebe Whatshername.

The Trek writers have often said that they were constrained from addressing issues in depth by the schedule they had to keep. The same is true with all of the production people, I'm sure. Makeup artists couldn't possibly create an effective non-humanoid appearance for each alien species week after week. The result would be more of the rubber-masked lizard and fish people from season 1. Why do all Romulans have the same haircut?

We can take our time discussing these issues over several years, but a TV crew has to do everything in a week.
Corey
Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 6:29pm (UTC -6)
"I only hope we won't have to suffer another 100 million murdered n order to reach your "real communist" or "worldwide socialist" dreamworld."

Propaganda and superficial analysis. Maoist China, for example, had better mortality rates than the feudalism it replaced, and the deaths that took place are no different to the deaths which took place in any country over the course of any revolution or social transformation. Why? Because the old order always tries to cling onto power.

Look at the French Revolution. When the Revolution began, all the monarchs and capitalist nations banded together to crush it. Hundreds of thousands died. Today all the tenets of the French Revolution we cling dearly to. The deaths - the deaths caused by resistance - don't negate those values.

Not to mention that the supposed "communist" nations, like Stalinist Russia and Maoist China, were state capitalist, and achieved none of the chief aims of communism (abolish money, abolish private property, abolish banks, the market etc). They didn't even try. Indeed, Mao explicitly said his aim was to achieve, not communism, but a capitalism on par with western capitalism.

And if you use the metrics used to denounce "communism" and apply them to "capitalism", you get far worse numbers. British capitalism killed almost 2 billion in its 200 year reign in India alone.
Rimbaud
Sat, Oct 8, 2016, 10:52am (UTC -6)
Jons:
The scene where Picard and Troi appear is unbelievably great. I truly felt they were aliens. I could perfectly understand the Chancellor's astonishment and awe. A masterful scene.

---

So much agree. The whole episode had so much Diplomacy Porn in as well. Marvellous.
Dutchstudent192
Fri, Dec 16, 2016, 10:53pm (UTC -6)
While an enjoyable episode, I woul say merely 2.5 to 3.0 stars because of massive plotholes.

*Riker had no communicator and no acces to any compute, and as such no acces to translators.
(the tech that allows you to understand others in your language while you hear them speak in yours)
-a communicator badge in itself is unable to do this, while a set of communicator badges can communicate without a computer in between,
They could not translate what is said.
As such he should be unable to communicate with the Malcorian and tank a total alien language to them.
-he cannot possibly already have learned their language (he only was there a short time)

*space is big, distance between stars is a couple lightyears, warp 5 is 213,17c, meaning even a 1 lightyear distance would at least take a day.
However it took earth 5 years to build their first engine of that speed, cockraine did build some warp 2 and 3 engines for cargo craters, warp 3 is 38,93x, meaning that trip to the nearest star would at least take a month.
even if the nearest star to this world is unrealisticly close (within 0.5c) and they have an unrealisticly fast first warp engine (warp 3 for their first version?) AND that system would be occupied it would be a problem.
They were planning to go there, go back and thats it, I don't see why first contact could not have waited AFTER their first warp flight.
it is quite unlikely they will "bump into something out there" with just their first flight.

*they can scan for biosigns, really not able to detet a human biosign? Unlikely, and if so, why not insert some biomarker into the bloodstream that IS detectable.

*the malcorians look to surprised being in orbit, and that orbit was surprisingly clear of anything?
They are building warp engines and never launched as much as a satelite in orbit, not had any man on their moon or any space station??
Again : quite unlikely.

*the malcorians talk about dark age, it's unlikely they had one, as they are a completely different culture. and if they had one, they would not call it the same.

*as many pointed out, the name of the planet should not be "something III"

*sex with an alien, BEFORE first contact? (riker had no way to know first contact had already be made)
also sex with an alien? how would you know you would not contract or pass on space-aids or space-plague?
(ok I already pointed once out that bacteria and virusses react on certain protains, aka specifficily tuned to speciffic species on a planet (thats why cows bacteria do not harm us)
as such originally their bacteria and virus should be harmless to us, and reverse, however it only takes one mutation and something complely harmless to one may be deadly to the other,
and sex is a very good way to pass them on..)
-> while it would be impossible to get offspring in the real universe, in the star trek universe half-somethings seem to happen all the time dispice their biological impossibility, imagine causing a half-human baby with this woman..
also "their sexual ways are different" they may not even have the same organs "why are you taking your soup-slurper out" imagine the damage to diplomatic relations if someone would walk in while the bloody alien is defiling one of our woman..
where;s the "death before not following the prime directive?"

*they give the prime minister wine (nice continuety though) while his very biology may not be able to digest it, for all you know certain minerals in our food may be toxic to them?

*we see a prime minster and 2 ministers (science and national security) where is the rest? clearly the goverment cannot be run by a three man show, it cannot be a dictatorship, since they speak of elections.
Also if there is a secretary of the interior, there must be an exterior, what are the other nations on the planet? or are they already protecting against possible outside treats? would than the minister of the EXTERIOUR defence not be a better spokesperson?
SteveRage
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
Wow, there are some seriously clueless people in these comments who clearly have no idea what rape is. Riker was NOT forced to have sex, he CHOSE to in order to be provided a better escape route. He could have said NO, and waited for another opportunity to escape later..... therefore NOT RAPE. Some commenters really need to grow up a bit. Besides, Riker has never turned down the opportunity to bang an alien babe.

As for the episode itself, fantastic television and up there with the true Trek greats. Full 4 stars from me.
kittykat
Mon, May 22, 2017, 8:03pm (UTC -6)
"Riker has never turned down the opportunity to bang an alien babe."

Well, except this very episode where he turns her down but she insists that it's the only way she'll help him. Were you paying attention?

Whether we call it rape or not it was clearly coercive in a pretty awful way, like an ICE agent who will look the other way in exchange for sex. Actually worse, since Riker was in captivity already. It's a little weird that calling this rape would bother you so much, SteveRage.
R.J.
Tue, May 30, 2017, 9:37pm (UTC -6)
So the writers of Star Trek: Enterprise should have watched this episode. Picard mentions a disastrous first contact with the Klingons that led to years of war. Nothing about a corn field in Oklahoma. :P
Henry
Sun, Jun 4, 2017, 4:05am (UTC -6)
The suspicions of the Malcorians is perfectly understandable, I think we would have reacted far worst. I think the story and film of 'Arrival' did much better in capturing the nuances of a response to A non hostile or even friendly first contact.

Still, I very much like to imagine a follow up to this with Malcorian Mulder and Scully. That doctor that forced Riker into sex would be locked up as a crazy for sure.
Rahul
Tue, Aug 1, 2017, 4:21pm (UTC -6)
An excellent episode -- to really understand the nuts and bolts of first contact from the standpoint of a society just about to adopt space travel was a good premise. The society is fairly advanced but also has its traditional elements and resistance to certain new things.

Trek generally sweeps a lot of the details of first contact under the rug in many episodes but if we assume similar procedures are undertaken as in this episode before contact is made, then it sets the stage for the other episode to unfold normally.

I liked the diplomacy and high-level discussions between Picard and Durken. I think Durken and even Krola's apprehension is reasonable -- although Krola goes to an extreme in shooting himself (lucky phaser wasn't on kill even though that's what he wanted. But he gets his wish in the end anyway). Have to assume Krola represents a certain segment of the population.

Have to say, the scene with the alien wanting to make love to Riker in exchange for his escape was totally stupid. Couldn't the writers find another way to have Riker near death again?? That part felt totally out of place in what was a pretty intelligent and creative episode.

At the end, I also liked how the episode said the first contact would eventually be brushed off just as it has been here with our supposed alien visitors. I don't think Picard should have taken Mirasta with them -- while I don't agree with the Malcorians' decision to avoid contact, doesn't mean Mirasta isn't valuable to their society in some other capacity.

As for how the UFP sets up first contact, the idea of on the ground surveillance for years seems a bit excessive. Yes, Picard gave the example of how first contact didn't go well with the Klingons and so they've gone to this new procedure, but it is still super-risky as Riker's case exemplified. But all these details were pretty cool to understand, as well as the reactions of the decent guest actors to the alien presence and what their intentions might be.

"First Contact" gets 3.5 stars for me. Thought it was an intelligent episode, with only some minor flaws. Much of the episode is acted by the alien species, who turn out to be very human like -- but so what? They're pretty typical of what it would be if we were to meet advanced aliens, I think.
Scotty from Detroit
Thu, Oct 12, 2017, 10:57am (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was great. I've probably seen it a few times, but watching it in 2017 was the first time that I picked up that the alien Riker nailed was Lilith from Fraser. I really liked that they didn't end it all clean. Basically, they failed their mission by f-ing up first contact, but came to an understanding and planted the seeds for a better future, but an imperfect now.
Caz
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 4:03am (UTC -6)
sigh...

I hate reading a bunch of people who don't know anything about economic ideology trying to talk about economic ideology. I studied it for too long: I have degrees in economics and history, historical emphasis on the economic history of the Soviet Union. I've read about state communism, industrial democracy, the New Economic Policy, and newer pro-socialist economists like Andrew Glyn; there are practically infinite ways to categorize the various proposals. It was an obsession, and still strikes nerves.

To save myself the trouble of going into detail, I'm just going to say that capitalism is about decentralizing agency, and all the dynamics that come with it are going to continue to come if you do not have centralized economic decision-making. That said, pure capitalism has never existed. It's all a continuum, and capitalism is cultural shorthand for any system which places higher priority on agency than on collective interests. It works fine for groups interests if the people or groups are unified by some other ideology and capitalism is a secondary cultural characteristic; when they aren't, it's a strategic game, just like politics.

Communism has never existed and can't exist without completely dissolving either all agency or the entirety of self-interest, which is what Marx' hypothetical future was predicated on: dictatorship of the proletariat and socialization of everything, leading to eventual disintegration of the individual as a self-interested being. Similar, but less radical, ideas permeate the political left in Western countries; they all feature moral authority or consensus over individual agency to some degree, at least if you recognize that the difference between education and propaganda is fuzzy at best.

I question the coherence of these ideas; you would have to assume a latent, perfectly systematic morality in people, one that all other forms of human group management have failed to come anywhere near, to think it can happen without severely compromising individual agency. Barring that, for socialism or communism to come about, people would have to have changed enough to be defined as automatons, and since most people don't like that idea, I'm pretty damn sure it never will. This is not a value judgment; if it comes, it comes. I know from experience that I can survive as a soldier, an entrepreneur, or a bureaucrat.

Star Trek doesn't get explicitly into its economic structure because, for once, the writers seem to know that their reach would exceed their grasp. There is at least one good discussion of post-scarcity economics that someone else on this site linked elsewhere, so happy hunting.

Oh, and if Riker were a woman, then yes, that would have been rape. But he's not, so it isn't. Cultural sex differences still exist here.
Peter G.
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 10:03am (UTC -6)
@ Caz,

Just to riff off one of your points, since many fans seem to take issue with the 'economics' of Star Trek (often calling deriding its 'communistic' mentality), the system in Trek that we see would simply have to be an intersection between self-interest and group success. In other words, the technology and organization of the Federation would have to incentivize and facilitate actions that benefit individuals and the collective at the same time. To whatever extent decision-making is zero sum in capitalism and communism, the decision-making in Federation society would have to be a completely non-zero sum arrangement, or ideally even better than that, such that individual initiative would concretely *improve* things for one's fellow man. And this is certainly tenable in a post-scarcity world. I hesitate to say it, but I rather think it's even tenable now as we approach that post-scarcity production capability.

The conflict between personal liberty/agency and making collective decisions will, I believe, come to be seen as the mirage it is in time. Right now there would be resistance to this idea because people who have things fear to lose them to the mob, and historically speaking this is a valid fear. See the Bolshevik 'Revolution' on that one. Guarantees would need to be in place, then that quality of life would improve, not decline, under such a system. The only losers in such a system are those who definitively want to rule others, and although there are many with this instinct hopefully the majority will realize in due time that it's no surprise that the foxes would prefer to retain control of the henhouse.
Caz
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 7:21pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G,

We have the exact opposite perspective. The idea of a a perfect intersection between individual and group success is precisely what I thought was incoherent. Believing in a social order which is non-zero-sum is a matter of faith, descended from Judeo-Christian moral belief in good and evil. It has never been proven to exist. That's the mirage.

If you note that success is relative (and trying to make success a 'personal' value and not a social one causes distinct alienation in people), and attention and influence over your society's value system is recognized as fundamentally scarce, this becomes very obvious. Power seeking is not a character flaw, it's completely rational when you take that into account. The reasons societies have worked in the face of this is because inequalities force adaptation from individuals that, once the adjustment has been made, come to be a source of stability and even comfort and trust, once solid expectations are established. But the tension between individual agency and big-picture control is permanent and there simply is no moral or distributive system which resolves it without inequalities.

A paradox of Star Trek is in the expression of respect for other cultures, but also a deep faith in perfectibility. It does not believe in non-interference because it sees "less advanced" societies as equally legitimate, it does it because it sees them as developing toward being more like them, and skipping steps is a process problem. See "Samaritan Snare". I find it telling that the culture which produced it has always believed in its own moral excellence but also rips on its execution, alternatively for interfering too much with other cultures and not interfering enough, issues which are reflected in the series. We do the same thing when it comes to the moral decisions made by individuals within. There is an awful lot of confusion here, and we can't seem to tell the difference between a resolution and political victory. People change the system, people are changed by the system, and none of this has changed the dynamics.

There are no foxes, Peter. We are alive and will remain so, moral self-righteousness notwithstanding.
Dave
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 12:27pm (UTC -6)
Ugh..."29 hours a day"

I can't imagine a society doing this...using a prime number as the number of divisions they divide a day into. The number 24 is highly divisible. Another planet's hours don't have to be the same length as ours.
Dave
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
Also...a phaser on stun setting makes Krola have to be hauled to the Enterprise for care? Crusher even later says "he was never in any real danger".
borusa
Wed, Apr 4, 2018, 3:56pm (UTC -6)
The height of societal development is the invention of star trek's bespoke faster than light travel.
A society that is advanced enough to build a warp engine is ready for admission to the glorious space empire.
One might more readily believe that the invention of warp drive creates a risk of contamination that a pragmatic space empire may wish to evaluate and warn off ( as in The Day the Earth Stood Still).
As for Riker taking advantage of the ingenue Malcorian technician-this is Star Trek sexism that would make Captain Kirk blush.

There is no way that Picard and Trois' appearance in Carolyn Seymour's lab would be consistent with a non interference policy.
But as someone observes above conducting covert surveillance by planting spies in the unsuspecting society is hardly consistent either.

Krola's actions toward Riker are unforgivable of course so when Durkin basically says' Oh,Krola-you silly old darling' as the formerly evil sadist recovers in sickbay the shaky dramatic framework of this episode crumbles away completely.
There is more though cos we then have Ms Seymour's character staying on the ship. Shades of Catherine Hicks in ST IV-I wonder what would have happened to her character uprooted from eighties Florida and plonked into the 23rd century.
The point is, I guess, not about what may happen to either character but to grant wish fulfillment fantasies for the fans .

Didn't like this one and the other Trek offering with the same title is better.
Dr Lazurus
Sat, Apr 7, 2018, 1:34am (UTC -6)
I never understood the policy of no interference/contact with Pre-Warp planets. The Enterprise does it all the time. They beam down to planets without any clue what kind of spacecraft that may have without giving it a single thought. Picard: Riker, beam down to planet XYZ and get us some dilithium crystals or some fresh apples. They help wayward aliens who need help, like the episode where the two planets barters goods because one planet was addicted to a drug the first planet supplied them. Their ship didn't have warp capability, and yet they didn't explode or become corrupted because the Enterprise crew spoke to them and solved their issues. So why sneak around and spy on the next planet because they were on the cusp of faster than light travel? All you hear is some mumble jumbo how it caused a war with the Klingons when the Federation beamed down to ask for a cup of sugar before they learned how to turbo charge their ships.

Had the Enterprise just beamed down and talked with the leaders, then Riker wouldn't had been injured and forced to have sex with Lilith.

If they want to play the no contact game, then don't bother a planet until you meet them when they are on vacation on Risa. You aren't a true warp planet until the citizens can afford to pay for trips to other galaxies and solar systems.
Cody B
Tue, May 8, 2018, 7:12am (UTC -6)
Classic episode. What Trek is all about. All time great episode
DLPB
Thu, Jun 7, 2018, 2:33pm (UTC -6)
Gotta love the Commies above... They're quick to shout Hitler and Nazi and Right Wing lunatic - but always "It wasn't real communism" to the absolute barbarism that Communism has brought and always will bring.

Stay off the Kool Aid.
Rahul
Tue, Jun 19, 2018, 4:18pm (UTC -6)
Can't help with this minor nitpick upon rewatch -- while the Malcorians are on the verge of warp-flight (so humanoids supposedly more advanced -- in some ways -- than we are now), their hands appear like those of a crocodile. Think the Trek folks erred in this poor attempt to differentiate them from humans. Such an advanced species should have more developed appendages I'd think.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Wed, Jun 20, 2018, 9:29pm (UTC -6)
If we had to do over again, I wouldn't have the Riker having sex with Lilith under coercion, but otherwise, I love this episode.

It has a brilliant opening. One of their best.

Carolyn Seymour as Mirasta Yale was fantastic. I so wished they had kept her around for more appearances.

I think this was good enough as a concept to easily be a two or even three-parter. (Which we didn't see three parts until DS9).

I found myself being really interested in the Malcorians and I would have been fine with more interactions just between them. More of the doctor and nurse, for example.

I'm going to forgive the Riker/Lilith scene and also give it four stars!
JerJer
Sun, Jul 15, 2018, 10:35am (UTC -6)
As soon as Nerdy Nurse walked in the room, I could see where that scene was going.

All she needed was to have double D's, and a shirt unbuttoned halfway down.

Bow chicka bow bow
Jb
Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 2:47pm (UTC -6)
New to the series. Can someone explain how the UT works? I assumed it was built into their comm badge but at the start of the show when Riker wakes up in the hospital he says he is missing his “metal pin” (aka comm badge) - so how were they able to communicate?
Chrome
Thu, Oct 4, 2018, 10:29am (UTC -6)
@Jb

“New to the series. Can someone explain how the UT works? I assumed it was built into their comm badge but at the start of the show when Riker wakes up in the hospital he says he is missing his “metal pin” (aka comm badge) - so how were they able to communicate”

This question gets asked so much I wonder if Jammer shouldn’t put the answer in his FAQ. It’s actually a very tiny implant in their head. It’s supposed to read the intended words of the speaker and change them into a universally understood language. The speaker can also intend to speak foreignly which is why you hear Klingon words or whatever sometimes.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Sat, Oct 6, 2018, 8:24pm (UTC -6)
I think non-interference with pre-warp societies is easy enough to explain with a policy of not establishing NEW contact with said societies. I'll give a pass to some Season 1 gaffes, but it's certainly possible for non-warp societies to establish contact with the Federation on their own or through other species like the Klingons. The Star Trek universe is very small in that regard, with many inhabited planets in close proximity. The Federation won't be the one to make first contact in those cases, but if someone else does, then the cat's out of the bag and they're not going to stay away simply on principle.

That's actually something I wish Picard would've addressed with Chancellor Durken. His response to the question, "...if I should tell you to leave, and never return to my world?" is "We will leave, and never return." SFDebris even flags that as a great response, since Picard doesn't try to entice Durken in any way. That's a fine diplomatic answer, but it's too black-and-white if you ask me.

Krola's obstinance, and possibly even the riots that Riker got mixed up in, show that some people in this society may want to roll back the progress they've made rather than simply slowing down. That's not unlike today's off-the-rails Republican party, sadly. Assuming the Malcorians at least maintain their current level of technology, rather than going all-in on regressing their society, they could attract the attention of other species that might not be so friendly. It's a fair warning that Picard probably should have expressed.
Tomalak
Mon, Nov 26, 2018, 7:12pm (UTC -6)
"it's really surprising that any Star Trek fan is so pro-capitalist since the Federation in Star Trek is a nearly pure socialist entity"

I see this argument made a fair bit and if you are making this point in good faith - rather than as some kind of "Ha! Gotcha!" - it deserves a response. Why would a keen conservative also be a keen Star Trek fan?

1. You can enjoy fiction without enjoying every specific bit of it. At least until Discovery, while Star Trek's political and moral messages have always been heavy handed and extremely unsubtle, they are reasonably rare and often confined to the closing minutes of an episode. I don't feel like I am watching a political campaign ad when watching Star Trek.

2. Similarly, it's not a contradiction to like someone's fiction while disagreeing with their politics. For all I know, Ronald Reagan would have written some awful Star Trek episodes (although he talked about sci fi themes a surprising amount for a leading politician), but that wouldn't actually alter my view of his Presidency. Ditto I can think a Star Trek writer's politics are something I would never vote for while enjoying his scripts.

3. I think there is a fair bit of liberals seeing 20th/21st century conservatives in Star Trek villains in a way that no conservative would.

Anyone can caricature ideas they disagree with, but there is this helpful notion - the ideological Turing test - that requires one to describe what your political opponents believe in a way that they would agree describes their own belief. You don't have to agree with that description yourself - you just need to be able to describe what someone else thinks so accurately that they would endorse it.

I don't think many Star Trek writers are even trying to caricature conservatives, but insofar as they do, they would usually fail the ideological Turing test. I don't feel in any way obliged to side with the evil caricatures when they don't remotely reflect my view of the ends and means in the first place! (Or, to separate ends and means, you could even happily agree with a character's verbal argument about tradition or whatever, but when they do something evil you could disagree with that bit.)

4. Perhaps above all, the notion of Star Trek as this post-economics, post-scarcity utopia has always seemed the weakest part of the franchise. Almost every time it is touched upon - which is rare - it comes up against problems like:

"Why is everyone cheering that round of drinks Picard bought everyone if it's free anyway?"
"What do humans do when meeting a society that doesn't practice post-currency economics and actually wants to be paid?" [Jake Sisko's answer was to whine at Rom for his latinum so he could bid in an auction.]
"Who exactly is allocating tables in Ben Sisko's dad's restaurant for free? Who is working in 'turbolift control' on a starship?"

This is before you even consider deeper, but rather obvious, questions like "If 4 million people all want an apartment next to the Royal Opera House, who gets to live there?".

So no, I don't look at Star Trek and think it provides any kind of example of why socialism works.

By the way, nothing I have written above is in any way meant to imply that Star Trek fans should be conservatives, either - it's just a response to the notion it would be in any way surprising that someone could be a card-carrying conservative and a Trekkie.
Lablr1
Sun, Jan 27, 2019, 10:40am (UTC -6)
One of the worst things people do is assume that, because others hold certain belief systems, those others are expected to act 100% in accordance at all times with those beliefs, as if nothing goes on in the life of a person other than his or her thinking, acting or breathing politically 24 hours a day.

I know liberals who are Trek fans and conservatives who are Trek fans. This may come as a shock to the mouth breathers, but some people actually watch the show for its entertainment value, first and foremost. A conservative friend told me he didnt care for what he called the "Dave the whales" message of Star Trek IV, but that it was still his favorite Trek movie. To claim "how could a liberal like X or conservative like Y" is also to attribute ao objectively one-way political message of every episode or movie served up. Is TWOK liberal? Conservative? I have read articles stating it is AN Ayatollah Khomeini allegory - be wary of people you exile. But even then, the film could simply be depicting the resurrection of an exiled leader without offering a political commentary. Or maybe the ending is "conservative" - Khan is defeated and the New World order restored. Can we leave this stuff in the dorm room where it belongs?
another david
Wed, Mar 20, 2019, 12:48pm (UTC -6)
re DLPB and others, it wasn't "akin to rape" it was rape. Riker wasn't consenting, he was clearly coerced into agreeing by his need to escape. The failure to escape nearly cost him his life and would have if left to the Malcorian level of technology. Consent means freely agreeing: Riker was a prisoner and desperate to escape. That's not consent.
Meister
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 9:22am (UTC -6)
8/10

This started out well and I was waiting for it to turn into a stellar(no pun intended) episode. Showing the reverse view of first contact - from the new planet's perspective - with the suspicion on one hand and the desire for all the technology to be shared on the other - is a necessary story in Trek and should be covered more often. Perhaps having different episodes showing different results based on the characteristics of the planet's people or condition itself. (would we welcome first contact now to help us with climate change?)

The first downturn to this episode showed the ridiculous Lanel character. The idea of her character was fine: there are people willing to throw themselves on aliens . But it felt out of place here. Was it supposed to be a comedic interlude in an episode with one of the most serious of Trek themes? If they had showed the encounter without the Bebe (I assume that's who it was) over the top characterization and of course Riker giving in then it might have fit - but not as comedy which was greatly misplaced. (Riker's line "I'll call you the next time I pass through the star system" showed that the writers intended this to be comedy.)

The director of security had valid concerns - how would you know the aliens were sincere? Just because we know 'Picard and Sons' doesn't mean the planet's people do or that all aliens would be like the Federation. I think his character should have been less of the evil caricature with the silly glasses and shadowy face. The story can be told without making him a cartoonish joke. That took away from a valid part of the "too early first contact" story. And later having him brutalize Riker wasn't needed for the planet leader to conclude they weren't ready. Why not let the Director be a serious counterpoint. They can still show that the planet wasn't ready in other ways.

In fact there are two themes in the security director's objections that I wish had been separated - the fear of the change of the planet's culture and the fear of the aliens' intentions. I think there should have been two opponents - one for each of those objections. After all, the planet's culture was changing anyways and people were objecting to that even without the Enterprise's arrival. I would think the security director would be interested in acquiring the Enterprise's weapons for example. This episode just wasn't nuanced enough.
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:11am (UTC -6)
Just my take on the Bebe Neuwirth thing: I agree that what she did was bad and that it's inappropriate, etc. However I don't think the episode needed to have explicitly made a big deal that Riker was sexually assaulted, or that it's wrong for the ep to play this point for laughs. The tradition here is spy story narratives, where James Bond or whoever sleeps his way out of trouble, and it's no more or less tongue in cheek than when he fights his way out of trouble, also played for comedy. It's also a bit of a play on Kirk escaping some situation by playing the seductive alien, but this time it sort of falls in Riker's lap rather than being something he sought out. Moreover, the plot is about Riker risking his life and keeping his cool throughout as he dissembles, improvises stories about his alienness, etc. He is not traumatized by any of the other adventurey secret identity alien stuff, all of which is also treated as an important but very adventuresome mission, the more exciting counterpoint to the more contemplative Picard material, and so I don't think trying to pin a realistic take on the Bebe Neuwirth scene is necessary. Thematically, arguably the main thing we learn is that the Malkorians at large are maybe too star struck by aliens to react appropriately, which reinforces the general themes. I honestly think that the scene could play a similar way if it featured a female spy character who was open about sex - - like Barbarella, for instance.
Chrome
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:35am (UTC -6)
That's a wonderful insight, William B. It's also worth noting that there's an actor allusion to the audience here for Bebe Neuwirth's Lanel as well. She is famous for portraying another popular character who is a cold vessel repressing immense sexual urges in Cheers.
Peter G.
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:37am (UTC -6)
I might have to watch it again to be sure, but yeah, I never detected anything other than adventure hijinx in that dalliance. People are too quick to employ an ultra-contemporary American judgment on an interaction between a non-human and a human from the future, which the episode pretty clearly portrays as being a bit on the light side. Now I would agree that we could have used a bit more detailing on what the interaction actually meant to either of them, since the default is to sort of assume that the standard TNG sex values would apply to it (i.e. if it's fun then go for it). But arguing that we're witnessing a rape is sort of like looking at any romance between Riker and a willing lady and evaluating it based on 1930's social values and accusing him of violating her chastity and humiliating her father. We're supposed to be looking at a future society, and if the show portrays an interaction as basically ok, while we're still in the right to disagree, we should also be observing the interaction as (in theory) taking place under futuristic conditions.

Where Trek fails most often is to skirt its responsibility to make sure that all interactions are indeed understood to be 'futuristic' and to lazily use modern tropes when writing them. I think Elliott makes this charge against DS9 pretty frequently, but I see it in all the series to an extent; in my view this happens most often in ENT and now DISC. The question to ask here is whether TNG sees this as being two modern people, or whether we really are meant to see Riker as being from the 24th century and her as being non-human. I think it's actually a mix in this case, where Riker's values are clearly not contemporary, but on the other hand due to their relative technology level she would be acting more closely like a modern human. So therefore it might not be unreasonable to suggest that her side of the equation is a bit rapey, but that on Riker's side of it everything is ok. That being said I still don't really read that from the interaction.
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:48am (UTC -6)
@Peter, I largely agree. I think the thing that bothers people is -- UNDERSTANDABLY! -- that they think it's wrong for someone to basically only agree to offer someone *life-saving aid* if they have sex. That's coerced consent and I think even within TNG's looser sexual moral system that's still bad. However I think that it's worth keeping in mind that Bebe Neuwirth's character was also taking a big risk in letting him go, that she had no obligation to help this weirdo alien escape, that there are really no strong moral scripts in place about what to do in this crazy situation, and that Riker didn't seem to view it as any more arduous or crazy than any of the other adventure highjinks he had to get up to in this episode. I do think that if it were, say, Worf or Geordi it would play differently -- Worf would object on principle to meaningless sex and Geordi would be way out of his comfort zone and doesn't seem to want to be placed in unusual social situations as much as Riker -- but that's also to an extent why they would be worse candidates for the mission Riker is on. He's the improviser, and the most at home in this type of adventurey narrative.
William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:52am (UTC -6)
@Chrome, very good point. Part of the joke is that it's crazy that *Lilith Sternin Crane* would be a sexual volcano start coming onto a random alien like this, and the extratexual oomph is part of what pushes it into joke territory. I think it's worth considering Riker as a kind of Sam Melone-type guy in this situation, where part of the joke is that he's reluctant and it's funny because this is one of the only times he doesn't want to have sex. I guess what I mean to say is, of course in real life it's bad to use sex as a bargaining chip when someone's life is in danger, but this scene is obviously not a typical realistic situation.
DRB
Sat, Apr 27, 2019, 1:55pm (UTC -6)
Nice review. Thanks.
Danno
Sun, May 19, 2019, 6:53pm (UTC -6)
I have a hard time believing that a society on the verge of warp travel seems to have never traveled in space. When the scientist comes to 10 Forward she is amazed at how her world looks from space. Humans figured out our place in the universe long before the first airplane flight. Do they not have any space program or even ground based telescopes? They are going from zero to warp speed and I don’t buy it.
Strejda
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 5:44pm (UTC -6)
@William B The difference is those James Bond examples usually play it as Bond clearly not having a problem with it, with him "having to do this" being the irony of it. Here, Riker seems quite uncomfortable with it (and even if not, you could argue it's a sexist stereotype a man wouldn't be). It's also worth pointing out modern Bond movies don't do this.

@Peter G I'm sorry, but that's nonsense. If you consider it rape (and even if not, it's one of those "if you gotta argue it, you've already lost" situations), that's what it was 1000 years ago, it's what it's now and what it will be 1000 years from now on.

Also, how are Riker's values not contemporary, at least regarding things like this? Outside of season 1 speechifying, which I think is fair to say has been pretty much entirely abandoned at this point of the show, he is potrayed as pretty normal (handsome and sexually active) modern man, who just happens to work on a space ship. If he has particularly alien attitudes towards things like this, it needs to be established, otherwise the natural and logical assumption is that is what he is in this situation.
Jason R.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 8:29pm (UTC -6)
It's impossible for me to see what happens to Riker as a "rape " in context. This comes from my perspective as a man, which I think is reasonable in light of Riker being one too. There is just nothing in his performance either that could possibly indicate that he has somehow been violated by this.

If I have to pinpoint the reason for my feeling, apart from just having a gendered idea of what sexual violence is - it comes down to power, who has it and who doesn't. Riker may be on the ropes temporarily, but he's still the First Officer on a starship that could level this lady's planet. He's not being trafficked or sold into slavery. He might die I suppose but either way, he's got plenty of support. It's like Thor getting hit by Natalie Portman's car - we can laugh because whatever the present circumstances, he's still an Asgardian God so we aren't seeing it quite like we would if someone did the same the other way around.

If you have to say: "imagine if the genders were reversed!" you are kind of conceding that the gender isn't an incidental detail but actually matters quite a bit.
Strejda
Tue, Aug 20, 2019, 3:46am (UTC -6)
@Jason R. I'm a man too. TBH, I not that bothered by the episode-I would if it was done now, but I can accept a 90's TV writers not knowing better. I was more bothered specifically by Peter G's arguments. But she does have power in his situation. She is offering a life-saving aid in exchange for sex and Riker at the moment has no access to any of his support. And he still almost dies.

Your last point is a non sequitur. So because there is a double standard as to how something is treated, that means is it's okay for that double standard to be there? And nobody here HAS TO say it-it's only said to point out there would be no discussion in that situation and that the thing plays into a sexist stereotype. You can still object to it in isolation-a character being coerced into sex with it being treated as wacky hijinks-as many people do.
Ildaf
Tue, Aug 20, 2019, 4:41am (UTC -6)
I'm quite surprise by the strong feeling of 'Riker got raped'. I never saw it as Riker got raped and pretty much agree with @ William B and Peter G take on this.
Mainly because Riker character been potrayal as a ladies man, who's enjoyed this kind of thing as long as both party agreed and liked it.
At best, we could say that Riker being coerced into it, and he hesitant and reluctantly agreed to the term. But nothing even remotely suggest that Riker got raped. My take could be different if the character was someone else, such as Wesley or LaForge for instance.

If the reversal gender being applied, i still feel the same way..
It depends on who's on it. If it's Vash... I wouldn't see it as rape. Vash character been potrayed as a woman who wouldn't hesitate to do dubious thing if it's suit her need.
My take could be different if the character was someone else, such as Beverly or Pulaski for instance.
Jason R.
Tue, Aug 20, 2019, 6:27am (UTC -6)
" You can still object to it in isolation-a character being coerced into sex with it being treated as wacky hijinks-as many people do."

Agreed. But I still wouldn't use the "R" word to describe this situation. You stated I applied a "double standard" which implies an *unfair* application of a principle. I already stated straight up that I see this sort of thing through a gendered lense - but I don't think it's unfair to Riker. I just think that whether it's 1990 or 2019 this situation is apples and oranges with the reverse gender, especially with Riker being this big shot officer with a whole starship backing him up. If he was some kind of anonymous slave I might see it a bit differently, although even then not quite the same.

Although it's funny someone mentioned Vash because kind of the same thing happened to her in Q Pid with Sir Guy or I guess would eventually have happened if Vash hadn't gone soft and tried to rescue Picard.
Ildaf
Tue, Aug 20, 2019, 6:53am (UTC -6)
@Jason R
"Although it's funny someone mentioned Vash because kind of the same thing happened to her in Q Pid with Sir Guy or I guess would eventually have happened if Vash hadn't gone soft and tried to rescue Picard."

Yap, Exactly. Vash more or less face the same situation in Q-pid, forced by Guy to marry him. What Vash do? Taking advantadge of that situation and try to deceive Sir Guy. No way i see it as Vash got raped if the marriage come. Coerced, maybe, but not a rape. As she's depicted willing to manipulate the whole situation, took advantadge and even go along with it if necessary.

This also happen again when Vash dumped Picard in favor of Q. She's willing to dump Picard for Q because the latter offer more and it suit her need.
Vash is a maneater version of Riker. In no way i could she her got raped in both situation.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 26, 2019, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
Decided to re-watch this one, especially in light of the 'rape allegations' but also to observe how balanced the presentation is of this new race. In particular, are they extremely paranoid? Acting completely rationally and it's the Trek viewer that's biased?

So first of all, in terms of the claims made above, it is *not* the case that RIker was denied medical aid unless he slept with someone. I don't remember who said that but it's incorrect. The plotline at this point is that first contact has already been made, and Riker has recovered and wants to escape. And orderly/nurse who has a 'thing' for aliens offers to help him escape if he'll sleep with her. He is in no immediate danger, and has recovered from his injuries, so from her perspective 'he's fine' and she has no reason to break the law other than she sees it as a trade off for her: risk herself to get something rare and risky, and he in turn has to play James Bond as others mentioned and 'do the deed' and he gets a reward. It feels nothing like rape onscreen, *except that* Frakes does play the scene as having a negative reaction. Is it because he's being raped, or is it because he has no time? Or does it mean revealing straight-out to an alien how alien he really is? Up until this point he has insisted he's genetically Malcorian but deformed. This would be like taking off the mask. It's too loaded a scenario for us to plumb out exactly why he's negative about it. Now, as things stand Riker actually does see himself as being in trouble because the longer he stays there the more chance they'll do extensive medical tests on him, which cannot be allowed. So from his side we can see the urgency; but she knew none of that and wasn't using his situation to blackmail him.

Regarding the broader plot, I see two things happening. The first is that the Malcorians have a diverse cast both including liberal and conservative thinkers. They're also described by Picard as being almost certain to have a negative reaction to first contact, which implies they're probably xenophobic, and tradition-bound in ways they'll have trouble adapting from. Maybe they're even paranoid; this is certainly the gist we get from Krola, who portrays our worst nightmare of a conservative war-hawk who will not only die to protect his precious traditions, but will also torture and kill a space alien just to get the upper hand...against a ship that could delete his planet. Yeah, he really is that stupid.

And this is where I feel the episode has writing problems. I *think* that this planet is meant to show us what present-day Earth might look like to Picard's crew: paranoid, hostile, and basically stupid where it counts. The show seems to be saying that some of us are smart enough to know better, but that enough would push for violence and idiocy that this would be the result. Maybe that's true. When looking at 'our leaders' it doesn't seem like they are the best of us. They might be among the worst. From a Trek perspective this is completely backwards. It does make us pretty stupid. But I wonder whether the regular people of the planet are as dumb as some of their leaders are. Durken is portrayed repeatedly as being reasonable, and having to balance both sides. And yet when it's revealed that Riker was already on the planet, he accuses Mirasta of hiding this and feels betrayed by Picard, as if surveillance of a planet like his is somehow wrong. He basically bullies an apology out of Picard, despite already agreeing that Picard's explanation technically makes sense. So even when Durken is being reasonable he seems not really able to be reasonable. The script wants us to see the logic of Mirasta's side versus Krola's, but it doesn't work, because Krola doesn't have a side. Any attempts by Durken to balance towards Krola's side just seem to reiterate to us that these people are paranoid and at least a little irrational. And hey, so are we too in the present day. But any leader with two brains cells would know that objecting to what a superior Federation does because *you don't like it* is really completely out of line. If the Klingons had been here first they'd already be a slave colony. The Federation is literally going out of its way to avoid harming them and to make sure first contact is well-received, and we're then supposed to accept that Picard "made a mistake"? No, sorry, doesn't work. If these guys can tie their own shoelaces they should be able to figure out the following:

-This Federation could wipe them out with zero effort.
-The Federation says it wants to be friends with them, and proves it.
-The Federation is willing to admit wrongdoing, even when there is none!
-There are no red flags in terms of missing people, experiments, violence, etc.
-If the Federation really is hostile then the Malcorians are screwed anyhow. There is literally nothing they could do about it either way.
-Therefore the choice is between taking the Feds at their words, or else pissing them off and risking being the cause of your own fear: that they become violent.

That this is even a debate that goes on is sad. The Malcorians have no leverage room in any other scenario than that of the Federation being benevolent; so what is there actually to talk about in terms of planetary security and interrogating Riker? That whole plot arc is absurd. Mirasta is obviously correct and anyone who doesn't agree is obviously a moron. I wish the episode really had found a way for the 'paranoid side' to be making sense, and there probably could have been a way to do that. Like, 'what terms are we agreeing to', or questions like that. But "don't surrender to them!" sounds like kindergarten logic. Is that supposed to be us? Ugh, I fear it might be.

As an indictment of the viewers this episode probably works. Was that all they were going for? If so I think they did it. Everything about Krola is moronic, exemplified by his ludicrous glasses prescription. But if they were trying to show us how easy it is for the Federation to mess up first contact I think they failed. If they wanted to show us how a young race has good reasons to fear being contacted, I think they failed there too. I've never liked this episode all that much, because frankly much of it is boring and the philosophical side has always seemed vacant to me. This is Measure of a Man without the deeper content. It's just a procedural.
William B
Mon, Aug 26, 2019, 8:41pm (UTC -6)
@Peter, you might be correct, but I feel that the writing on the Malkorians is a little more nuanced. For instance, here's what Krola actually says to Riker:

KROLA: Perhaps, like many conquerors, you believe your goals to be benevolent. I cannot. For however you would describe your intentions, you still represent the end to my way of life. I cannot permit that to occur. Eventually, Durken would choose to welcome your people with arms open and eyes closed. I must force him down another path.

So Krola is basically acknowledging that the Federation is possibly being "honest" in describing what they believe their intentions to be. But the bottom line is that benevolent hegemonies still tend to destroy and displace whoever they encounter, if Malkorian history is similar to human history up to our present.

The way I see Krola, he sees two possibilities (and I do think this could have been spelled out more, if I'm correct):

1. The Federation is actually malevolent, and so they might as well do everything they can to resist them. They will probably be destroyed, but it's preferable to go out fighting than meekly submit. Better to die in a blaze of glory than of a thousand cuts.
2. The Federation believes itself to be benevolent. So either his planet will be subsumed into the Federation, and thus destroyed, or they will remain apart from the Federation. In this scenario, the benevolent Federation will leave when told to do so, which they will do if they really believe themselves to be benevolent.

But even aside from these, Krola is sending a message to Durken. The Enterprise will do what it will. It's Durken who will control whether their society becomes a cargo cult/vassal state/whatever or resists being swallowed up. And I tend to think Krola is correct that the Federation might well overload their actual society, at this moment. Mirasta is actually a good argument for this: her allegiance immediately merges with the Federation. Presumably in some societies, the Mirasta and Krola wings are more able to communicate with each other, but here one gets the sense that whatever thread connects them would be broken in the transition to Federation membership.

Similarly I think Durken is reasonable in calling Mirasta out for not telling him about Riker. Her loyalty should be to their species if she's to remain a trusted advisor. Even if it's correct for Picard to have not told Durken about Riker, it shows a real lack of trust to tell Mirasta and not Durken about his presence. This is largely because of Mirasta, so I don't blame Picard much, but I believe it's a mistake.

In general, I would argue that Durken, Mirasta and Krola all act like the Federation is a force which they cannot really hope to control. The only question is how they respond. Either Picard is telling the truth or he isn't, but either way Mirasta wants to take the plunge and Krola wants to hang onto what they have. It's sort of like Picard's dealings with Q, in that he knows that he can be destroyed at any time, but still has to try to make decisions that are best for him and his crew.

Moreover, I'm not really sure how Krola's position is more stupid than the Federation's before the Borg or the Dominion, in terms of the futility of resistance. His belief is that he is facing an existential threat, even if the Federation is claiming to be benevolent, and so whether they win or lose is immaterial.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 26, 2019, 11:25pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

Thanks for the feedback. If you don't mind I'll go point by point since there's a lot.

"So Krola is basically acknowledging that the Federation is possibly being "honest" in describing what they believe their intentions to be. But the bottom line is that benevolent hegemonies still tend to destroy and displace whoever they encounter, if Malkorian history is similar to human history up to our present."

The problem here is that what Krola really wants is to go backward in time to before they had warp drive, and he basically says as much. His position is as useless as it is stagnant, and presupposes that they could exist forever without ever going into space for any reason. Kirk would have slapped this guy as he's like having some dumb computer holding them back. You can't realistically expect to stop progress forever unless you intend to permanently enslave your own people. And once you're in space - BAM! Alien races. You can't stop it, so the only thing to do is to find your way the best you can once you know you're not alone. Trying to pretend it ain't so is the definition of stupid.

"2. The Federation believes itself to be benevolent. So either his planet will be subsumed into the Federation, and thus destroyed, or they will remain apart from the Federation."

All part B of this means is the Klingons will come along one day and enslave them. This is exactly the sort of issue tackled in TOS episodes like Errand of Mercy, and this episode doesn't even seem savvy enough to be aware of the problem. You can ignore the Federation all you want, but it doesn't mean that you will be ignored by other alien races. At least they know this one seems friendly. The idea that it wouldn't even occur to them that there are outright hostile aliens out there is...I mean gah! It's sci-fi 101.

"But even aside from these, Krola is sending a message to Durken. The Enterprise will do what it will. It's Durken who will control whether their society becomes a cargo cult/vassal state/whatever or resists being swallowed up. "

I totally agree, which is why the topic brought up by the conservative side should have been *how* to protect their culture now that interactions with aliens would be a given. What steps can actually be taken to preserve your language, values, etc, when you're active with other species? And this is exactly the issue Earth cultures have faced, and deal with it in different ways. The way *not* to deal with it is to tell the seafaring race that owns the seas to "go home". Yeah, ok there. If you're lucky they'll just refuse. If you're unlucky they'll be nice enough to agree so that you can be outright invaded by someone else. There is no option C. That's the issue TOS brought up, re: cold war.

"Similarly I think Durken is reasonable in calling Mirasta out for not telling him about Riker. Her loyalty should be to their species if she's to remain a trusted advisor."

An interesting point. But what if her logic told her that the only rational way to be loyal to her planet was to cooperate with this Federation? It's sort of like modern day America-logic that being loyal to your country must entail being either hostile to or competitive with every other country. Heaven forbid you serve your people by working with another people. That would make you a traitor or something! I know you didn't quite mean it this way, but I just can't help but feel watching this episode that anyone arguing against Mirasta just makes me groan in aggravation. Durken telling her she's serving the Feds instead of her own people presupposes that they don't have a common course that is best. As Trek viewers we should probably be believing already that - of course! - yes, they should do what Picard wants because it's actually best for both sides. It's not just imperialism here, because if we don't believe that free exchange with other cultures is objectively 'best' then basically the UFP is nonsense in the first place. They should be free to refuse, but would also be stupid to refuse just on principle. *We* know that UFP membership is very nice, and also that even refusing to talk to the UFP won't stop the cultural invasion that comes of being among many races. It can be slowed, not stopped, and slowing it doesn't help.

"The only question is how they respond. Either Picard is telling the truth or he isn't, but either way Mirasta wants to take the plunge and Krola wants to hang onto what they have."

A reasonable description of what's presented. My problem with it (i.e. what they tried to present) is that Mirasta isn't even given a chance to say what she thinks is best for her planet. All we get out of her is that she wants them to cooperate in talking to Picard peacefully. That talk could involve refusal, or setting terms, or whatever. Krola wants to torture Riker to gain some upper hand before even talking to Picard. Wtf! This is grade A stupid, and is basically a recipe for making an enemy out of a potential friend. Like, good job guy, you've just screwed over your entire planet because you killed their officer instead of opening a dialogue. That dialogue could even have included "go away!" But no, he didn't even want to talk. He claimed to be a preserver of tradition, but all he showed me is that he'd rather use violence to gain an advantage even prior to just speaking to people. This isn't real conservatism, it's something outright bad for all concerned.

"Moreover, I'm not really sure how Krola's position is more stupid than the Federation's before the Borg or the Dominion, in terms of the futility of resistance."

If his position could be reduced to "any contact with any other civilization is like fighting the Borg" then I sort of just rest my case that this is an indefensible position. Basically it's a race bent on suicide and would rather die then talk to anyone. I would seriously question whether the average Joe on this planet would rather die than even *talk* to Picard. Maybe Krola is that much of an extremist, but I would hope that most aren't. If they are, and really do see any communication with others of any kind as being tantamount to extermination, then they may as well get ready for real extermination someday. I don't say that lightly: making plans for the future is the responsibility of a planet's leaders. If they would rather not face that future to preserve their people then they are bad leaders.
Booming
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 3:30am (UTC -6)
I think the episode gives a pretty good representation of ideal types (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_type). In the big five (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits) right wing people are less open to new ideas (openness) and score lower on agreeableness which means that they are less capable of seeing the viewpoints of other, in other words empathy.

Mirasta is the ideal type of a left wing person: open to new ideas, trusting, easy going
Krola is the ideal type of a right wing person: opposed to new ideas, suspicious, orderly

It is almost like a representation of cutting edge sociological knowledge in the 90s. But to mention it. These are ideal types. Most left or right wing people have tendencies but there are of course orderly left wingers and easy going right wingers.

Peters argument shows a right wing mindset which curiously let's him dismiss the right wing viewpoint because he has a hard time emphasizing with Krola. Krola knows nothing about the Federation but one thing. The Federation means change. Change means to a certain degree chaos. A threat to the very core of right wing thinking. There are numerous instances in history were people defended the status quo !in hindsight! against all reason.
We know that the Federation is benevolent. We know that the Federation values cultural diversity, even celebrates it. Krola does not.

The USA before the second world war was a very isolationist power. There are other instances were countries pursued isolation like China (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haijin) and Japan(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakoku) or Great Britian to a degree (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splendid_isolation). All these countries were either forced by outside powers to change (Japan, China) or changed by themselves to avoid the downsides of isolation(GB, USA).

But I think what irks Peter is the representation of right wing people (he calls it conservative) and that cannot be dismissed. The problem is that in my opinion Star Trek is a leftist show because the Federation is like an ideal type left wing state. open to new ideas, trusting, easy going compared to the other great powers. The Romulans for example are an ideal type right wing power.
So it really doesn't matter how Krola is portrayed because through the lense of TNG we will always see Mirasta as reasonable because she is the impersonation of the Federation when it comes to personality traits.
Jason R.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 4:46am (UTC -6)
There are lots of First Contact themed science fiction stories where the aliens are seemingly benevolent, but do have a nefarious agenda. We even saw this with characters like Weyoun who were iron fists in velvet gloves for the Dominion. A better comparison might also be the Overlords from Childhood's End, who weren't nefarious per say but certainly pursuing a hidden agenda that not everyone would have chosen had they been aware.

Krola does behave foolishly, but his viewpoint, which Derken is forced to consider, is not stupid inherently. He doesn't know he's a character in Star Trek as opposed to one of those episodes of the Outer Limits where inviting the friendly aliens in is definitely a mistake :) He doesn't really know for sure that it's not a Dominion he's talking to.

As for Peter's argument of "well if the Federation is hostile then they're dead either way..." he doesn't know that either. So far he has encountered a few individuals and one ship. I will agree it probably makes sense to learn more of the lay of the land before deciding, but isolation isn't always a bad thing in these situations.

The Aztecs would have been wise to riddle Cortez's people with arrows and burned the bodies before they came within a million miles of Tenochtitlan, rather than inviting them (and smallpox) into their midst. Open mindedness to aliens doesn't always have a happy ending in scifi as in real life. The history of colonialism is full of examples of such examples.

We actually don't know, incidentally, that the alternative to Federation membership is slavery or invasion. The Melkorans have evolved for millions of years. The Klingons didn't enslave them 100 years ago so why now? Did Picard put a beacon on their planet or something? Maybe in 100 years they will become like the Breen - insular xenophobes but content with whatever they have. I don't see welcoming the Federation in as their only logical choice, even if, as viewers, we know they should (because who wouldn't want to say yes to Picard?)
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 11:45am (UTC -6)
@ Booming,

"Peters argument shows a right wing mindset which curiously let's him dismiss the right wing viewpoint because he has a hard time emphasizing with Krola."

Nice dismissive ad hominem there. You should take note that you fall into doing this a lot in your posts, which had led to some dust-ups. I won't get into one with you, but I find it amusing that you attribute my mindset to being right-wing when my post stated outright that Mirasta is right, who you classify as a left-wing person. How does that make any sense?

"So it really doesn't matter how Krola is portrayed because through the lense of TNG we will always see Mirasta as reasonable because she is the impersonation of the Federation when it comes to personality traits."

No, what irks me about Krola's portrayal is that there should have been an anti-chaos representative who wasn't also trying to needlessly interrogate a member of an advanced species prior to opening up a dialogue. He ends up being both the "can't deal with reality" nut while also being the "force of conservatism" person. The first discredits the second and his temperamental position is undermined from the word go.

@ Jason R.,

"There are lots of First Contact themed science fiction stories where the aliens are seemingly benevolent, but do have a nefarious agenda. We even saw this with characters like Weyoun who were iron fists in velvet gloves for the Dominion."

Right, but if Picard was like Weyoun then any "discussion" could only ever end one way, and the rest would be going through the motions. I agree it would be good for the young race to figure out what the situation is, but imagine if it really was the Dominion here: by capturing a Vorta (let's say) and torturing him, that might well result in the Jem'hadar coming in and everything being much less pleasant. The leaders have a responsibility to protect their people, not to throw them under the bus in trying to show Weyoun who's boss.

"Krola does behave foolishly, but his viewpoint, which Derken is forced to consider, is not stupid inherently."

I think his viewpoint is stupid not because he thinks that his culture is being threatened. It totally is. His viewpoint is stupid because he thinks that taking violent preemtive action can do anything about that. All he's doing is endangering his people beyond just the cultural issue. He's stupid because he thinks that he, individually, can fight back against an entire galaxy of sentient beings with various agendas, and do it right under their noses with no conequence.

"Open mindedness to aliens doesn't always have a happy ending in scifi as in real life. The history of colonialism is full of examples of such examples."

Too true. But this isn't the year 1500, it's sci-fi. There is no possibility going far into the future of "let's hope no one happens across our island." And that was never a long-term possibility on Earth either.

"I don't see welcoming the Federation in as their only logical choice, even if, as viewers, we know they should (because who wouldn't want to say yes to Picard?)"

Actually I agree. But *this* discussion was never had. Instead almost the whole episode was about "should we have developed warp drive in the first place", and "look at how all of this 'progress' has gotten us into trouble." And it's a flat out strawman. Certain things are inevitable, like technological advancement, and coming into contact with others. Huddling up on your little planet will prevent neither, but will definitely make you unprepared for both. Japan went through an isolationist phase where they literally tried to keep out all technology and culture to preserve their ways. They were the real deal and did it as much as any culture could. But even for them it was eventually impossible to hold up the floodgate forever, and when it came down the foreign culture and tech flooded in like no one's business, totally out of control, and made way for a wave of insane militarism and conquest.

If we're going to look at history as a guide, it does show that your culture will get 'invaded' by other cultures. But it also shows that navigating this is tricky and requires careful cultural efforts and developing relations in a certain way. It most definitely shows that huddling up and hoping you never meet strangers is just a non-starter. So what I have against Krola is that his position is totally reactionary and involves zero logic or planning. He's not just conservative/right-wing, but in fact is just not even part of the conversation about what to do next. His contribution to "how do we go forward" seems to be "we won't go forward!" It's just a non-position, and doesn't aid any side, including the side of people who want to preserve their culture. What he's doing does not achieve that goal, or any other.
Jason R.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 12:17pm (UTC -6)
"So what I have against Krola is that his position is totally reactionary and involves zero logic or planning. "

I guess I agree in this case, but my point was sometimes a "reactionary" approach really is the right one.

Take Montezuma for instance and see where a "wait and see" approach got him and the Aztecs. What he should have done was just obliterate Cortez's expedition before it came even close to Tenochtitlan although admittedly that is with hindsight.

Interestingly, Cortez had an arrest warrant out for him from the Governor of Cuba and was in no way officially speaking for the Spanish Crown despite what he might have represented. Of course Montezuna wasn't aware of that - which goes to my point that the Melkorans don't really know what the lay of the land is and if Picard is really on the up and up. Assuming anything about the Federation or Picard's true capability is perilous.

The point is there are extreme xenophobic races in Trek like the Tholians and the Breen who seem to have done just fine, and there are many examples in our history of civilizations that could have benefitted from a little xenophobia.

I know that is not what the writers had in mind for this episode, but they did make clear that the Melkorans had a choice. What is the point of that if there was ever only one "right" answer?
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 12:37pm (UTC -6)
@ Jason R,

Yeah, I basically agree with you. I know they didn't really set out to investigate "how can xenophobia work for us" but at the same time if the true position of the Malcorians was going to be investigated we needed to see one side in favor of total integration with the Federation and the other in favor of keeping as separate *as reasonably possible*, and defining those terms. It would have been interesting to see how they tried to carve out those terms, or what kind of relationship might be possible for xenophobes. If they wanted no contact at all, I'd have liked for Picard to have to deal with discussing that with them, rather then "um, we'll think about it in the last 1 minute of the episode and give you a yes or no answer." As if such enormous matters of planetary future would be settled in a brief discussion. And a brief discussion is all we got, because most of the episode was spent showing us how scared or intrigued or whatever they were about Riker, and how Mirasta saw through the fear but couldn't get her people on board.

Like I said before, if what we're supposed to take away is that some peoples are not fit to have exchange with the Federation I don't think they adequately told that story, nor did we get a nuanced position on the xenophobe side that went any futher than "we're afraid of you! you are different!" Maybe emotionally that's true to life, but even emotional people can have rational discourse. It seems more to me that this episode shows, if anything, that Earth *right now* is not fit for first contact. Maybe that's true, but if so I don't even think there's any impact yielded in the episode from that. I had to think about it a bit to come up with that interpretation, so whatever it is they thought they were telling I don't really get much of anything from it.
William B
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 3:43pm (UTC -6)
@Peter, good points.

I can't really get into it much more right now, at least without a rewatch. To be clear though, what I meant (clumsily communicated) with my last point is that IF the Federation is malevolent and will destroy their society, then I don't think it's stupid for Krola to resist, even if such resistance will be unsuccessful. That's the purpose of the Borg comparison: it is worth resisting even if it is to be unsuccessful.

You're probably correct that the episode doesn't sufficiently justify Krola's reasons for believing that the Federation is an existential threat. This seems to me to be somewhat self-evident (for reasons similar to what Jason lists), but yes his position is extreme. Mirasta's reasons for regarding the Federation with optimism also seem to me to be self-evident. But yes, the episode should be more careful to supply all the evidence.

I have some thoughts about how this episode deals with the Mirasta and Krola perspectives by developing it via the hospital plot, but they're not fully coherent so I'll sit on it for now.
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 27, 2019, 11:26pm (UTC -6)
Thanks for clarifying about the Borg analogy, William. Yeah I had somewhat misunderstood your point. Saying that if they're doomed they should go down with dignity and their own culture is reasonable. However that sort of argument seems to me to reinforce what I was arguing above, which is that Krola is off his rocker. Imagine a first contact where you have no idea what the aliens really intend and what the future of your race is, and you're jumping directly to "we're doomed anyhow so we might as well go down fighting!" Oh lord. I would *so* not want anyone like him in a position of power. And again, I dreadfully fear that there are plenty like that in power. Argh.

I'd like to like to reiterate something to Jason R that I wasn't clear enough about, which is that I completely agree that the *sort* of position Krola represents should be taken seriously. What damage to the culture, and to the planet, might come from contact? What steps might need to be taken to prevent being conquered in one form or another? This is absolutely a position that should have been represented - and wasn't. Not really. I get that Krola is supposed to be 'that guy' who is pointing out dangers rather than jumping towards opportunities, and which some see as a stick in the mud but who's more analytical than the dreamers and hopers. That's a fine character to portray, and I wish they had. As a thought experiment I could appreciate a story about a guy like this, but the reality of *this script* with *this directing* is that we get a nutjob who will more than likely get his planet in trouble for no reason, who has panicky emotional reactions in the face of every unknown, and who refuses to listen to arguments made by anyone else. It's one thing for his peers to view him as stubborn, but it's more like he's stuck on repeat and can't process new information.

What I'm uncertain about is whether his portrayal is an error, or is deceptively deliberate. If they wanted me to think that the 'conservative' position is dumb, they failed: I just think this guy is dumb. If they wanted me to think that he made a good point, they failed there too: he didn't make any good points, even though his caution may be in common with some other guy who could express that caution by making better points than Krola did. But I'm a little bit tempted to suppose that they actually wanted us to find him an impossible dolt, always doing the wrong thing, so that we could see how stupid it is to fight against the forces of peace and conciliation. It would surely be a resonant Trek message to presuppose that peoples *should* come together in harmony, and that those who oppose it are shortsighted fossils who can't overcome their fears. In fact the more I think about it the more I feel like that's the point of the episode: that first contact can be "failed" by a civilization that's too afraid or too unwilling to compromise. That would certainly be a relevant message about the real world, in terms of people refusing to cooperate with others because they're just too afraid and stubborn. In fact, until further notice I really think this is the thesis of the episode.
Booming
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 1:07am (UTC -6)
@ Peter G.
"Nice dismissive ad hominem there. "
Oh I didn't mean it negative. It sounded like you had right wing leanings and didn't like it that a viewpoint more closely aligned with yours was presented in certain and arguable negative way.
And of course you admit that Mirasta is right. In the setting of TNG she will always be right no matter how the other side is portrayed because Mirasta is pro Federation. She is basically pro us (fans).

And it is true. Krola is not framed in a very nice way. He is kind of ugly, his voice and general demeanor are a little annoying. It would be more interesting if they hadn't turned him into this sniffling bureaucrat with hysterical tendencies.

"No, what irks me about Krola's portrayal is that there should have been an anti-chaos representative who wasn't also trying to needlessly interrogate a member of an advanced species prior to opening up a dialogue."
That is why I pointed out personality traits typical for right wing people. He is very emotional because he senses that Durken will side with Mirasta which is ture. He has to take action and to be fair his suspicions are to a degree justified. From his viewpoint the Federation has infiltrated the planet for reasons he doesn't know. So when he gets the chance to interrogate one he jumps on it. Interrogating Ricker is way of getting back a bit of control about a completely chaotic situation. The Federation presents itself as "good", if that is true then interrogating one of them won't change that. If they have malevolent intentions then it doesn't matter, too and it would be better to know sooner than later.

You view Krola's actions through your knowledge of the Federation and what you would generally see as reasonable behavior in an encounter with a superior civilization. You forget that Krola doesn't know anything apart from the fact that they are outsiders and that they have transporter tech. He doesn't know that their ship is powerful or how many other species are out there. He doesn't even know for sure that they have a ship.

Are they actually part of a powerful state? Are they some form of scam artists? Why didn't they tell us about their spies (because that is what Riker and the others are)? Have they manipulated society with their spies? All these questions and more can be answered by Riker. Interrogating him makes perfect sense from Krola's viewpoint.
And let's not forget two other things. Krola is the security minister so his very job is to keep the people save. Knowing the intentions of a great power is very important and second more importantly: He succeeds. The status quo is maintained a while longer.

That's why I mentioned the personality traits more typical for people of the left or the right. Both can be negative in some contexts.
Peter G,
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 1:35am (UTC -6)
@ Booming,

"And of course you admit that Mirasta is right. In the setting of TNG she will always be right no matter how the other side is portrayed because Mirasta is pro Federation. She is basically pro us (fans)."

It's not that important that she's right, but rather *why* she's right. As I mentioned above, she's right because there is no logical course of action other than diplomacy for her planet at this point. I don't believe (unless I remember incorrectly) that she actually advocates for joining the Federation or anything so drastic. It's not that I want to agree with her because I'm a Trek fan; I agree with her because she is being rational and Krola isn't. Once they sat down at the table there would be much more room to agree with him, if he would be willing to do so. And I do think now that this is by design: she is right because dialogue is being advocated by the episode, and not just because we're always going to root for Picard no matter what.

"You view Krola's actions through your knowledge of the Federation and what you would generally see as reasonable behavior in an encounter with a superior civilization. You forget that Krola doesn't know anything apart from the fact that they are outsiders and that they have transporter tech. He doesn't know that their ship is powerful or how many other species are out there. He doesn't even know for sure that they have a ship."

If you're going to go based on blind gambling on his part then the 99.99% gamble is that if aliens came to your planet it's either on a ship, or using technology so terrifying that it's beyond a ship (like an Iconian Gateway). It becomes trivial at that point to trifle about whether it's a ship, or a teleportation pod, or anything else. And yeah, it's safe to assume they are more powerful *at first*. If they're not he'll have plenty of time to discover that later on.

As for your argument that if they're benevolent then interrogating RIker is "safe", have you seen Babylon 5? That show does a good job showing that "benevolent/malevolent" are really useless terns. SPOILERS for anyone who hasn't seen B5, but the incident with the Minbari comes to mind, and is actually quite similar in a way to this one. Not so much in scale, and not involving Earth's greatest leader, but still involving a senior officer's life and a race he knows nothing about. That show went through a few seasons fleshing out how much of a catastrophic mistake it is to open fire on an alien race without knowing their intentions. This is just as bad: imagine if the humans had a deep taboo against murder, and that the murder of one of their officers would be an unforgivable offence that could result in holy war. The stakes are so high that "protecting your culture" just doesn't stack up against the risks of pissing off this new race. And that's putting aside the ethical questions about shooting first and asking questions later, or diplomacy, and all the rest.
Jason R.
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 5:40am (UTC -6)
"imagine if the humans had a deep taboo against murder, and that the murder of one of their officers would be an unforgivable offence that could result in holy war. "

Your comment reminded me of Ender's Game where (spoiler) we learn that the insect civilization didn't realize that slaughtering thousands of humans was such a big deal, and their actions unintentionally trigger a genocidal war against them!

But that's another example of a truly well done first contact scenario with the B5 example being a more watered down version (on the hard versus soft scifi scale)

What we get in this episode doesn't even qualify because the Melkorans are essentially indistinguishable from human and their portrayal is basically just allegory.

I am not against allegory per say when it fliws from an otherwise solid plot but it is disappointing that one of the icons of popular scifi exercises so little imagination when it came to this kind of scenario. Darmok may have been a bonkers episode but at least it was an *attempt* at a serious first contact scenario.

Did I mention I don't care much for this episode? I just find it tiresome and emblematic of the weaknesses, rather than strengths, of the TNG era Trek. By this time they had the budget and the wherewithal to do better.
Booming
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 8:12am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.
I think the problem is mostly time constraints. In 45min you have to use broad strokes. Why are there only two ministers? where is the military? and so on. You have to admit going into specifics would have needed far more time

That is why i pointed out that Krola and Merasta seem to be ideal types. They are not actually people but representations of left and rightwing thinking. These two ideal types are pretty accurate but as mentioned a more convincing Krola would have elevated the story.

It will never happen but man watch this whole Malcorian situation unfold over the length of one season would be awesome. *sigh*
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 10:11am (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.,

"What we get in this episode doesn't even qualify because the Melkorans are essentially indistinguishable from human and their portrayal is basically just allegory. "

Exactly, which is why I now think that this episode is a condemnation of us (or at least us in the 90's). Basically it's saying to Trek fans "you think it's obvious how good the Federation is? If they came to us right now we'd reject them."

@ Booming,

"That is why i pointed out that Krola and Merasta seem to be ideal types. They are not actually people but representations of left and rightwing thinking."

This is a problematic way to view media. Characters in a story can't *just* be representations of something abstract. If they don't work as literal characters then the show is a failure. I agree with you and Jason that Krola is *supposed* to represent something. What I'm now learning towards is that he's supposed to represent all of our worst instincts, which is different from my initial take, which is that he was a botched attempt to portray the conservative/security position. Now these are not necessarily at odds with each other, because if the episode was written by a hardcore leftist then it might well be the case that the writer was implying that right-wingers embody all of our worst instincts. On that part I'm still unsure. But I dislike this aspect of the episode because I don't enjoy watching characters that are annoying just to be annoying in order to prove a point. The colony leader in Ensigns of Command suffers from the same writing problem IMO.
William B
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 11:41am (UTC -6)
You know, while it may be that the episode fails to sell Krola's POV very well, I don't think it's because the writers were deliberately trying to make him entirely wrong. Maybe the glasses were not a great touch. But the episode goes out of its way to have Krola be the one to discover Riker and bring him to Durken's attention, to point out that Riker comes bearing a weapon, to expose that there has been secret surveillance, to point out that many conquerors believe themselves to be benevolent (and to acknowledge that Riker et al. may be telling the truth from their POV about what is happening). If we put it in left/right terms, Mirasta is indeed the forward thinking one, but she can barely hold her contempt for her whole planet in, whereas Krola is absolutely willing to self-sacrifice and martyr himself for the cause. Durken calls Krola "my friend" even as he reacts to Krola's foolishness. It seems to me the episode tries to keep saying that Krola is wrong about the Federation in his excess but has a point. Mirasta, meanwhile, is correct about the Federation but is so future directed she doesn't really sympathize with her own people. If I had to pick which of Mirasta or Krola cared more deeply about their people it would really be Krola, even though my values overall align more with Mirasta's.

I think the intent of the episode is further to use the hospital plot to comment on and reinforce the political side. Riker's presence in the hospital causes chaos and seems to be starting a panic. Some sympathize with him, some fear him, some want to bone him, but they don't yet have the cognitive framework as a society for how to deal with him, his presence being such a shock. Of course a society with no real conception of other life in the universe will be unprepared to deal with it; it is probably necessary to take time for a society to adapt to that planet not being the centre of the universe before actually accepting its smallness. In this manner, Krola is "right" that their society as is is unable to cope with the shock of entering into the stars. I don't think the intent is so much that regressive attitudes are holding them back, so much as it is necessary for a society to actually mature before entering a new stage, and the fear/paranoia is actually a reasonable circuit breaker to prevent change that is so rapid that social cohesion etc. can't handle it.

Maybe the episode failed at this but I genuinely believe Krola is meant to be misguided but well meaning, not just a prop to be knocked down or someone who ruins a perfectly good opportunity. Mirasta is also well-meaning, and "more correct" about the Federation, but misguided about her own people, refusing at first to acknowledge that not everyone shares her desire to move into the future and unknown. Where the episode falls down is in underlining exactly what.

As to what this episode is "about," I think it is mostly about 20th century Earth. Mirasta is the Star Trek fan who wants to bring the 24th century Utopia to Earth. (Bebe Neauwirth is the fangirl who writes erotic fanfic.) I think the episode uses the alien invasion/first contact story partly as backdrop to talk about what it means psychologically to approach an uncertain future. Of course there is much disagreement on the board about which aspects of the TNG-Era future would actually be good, but let's assume that most of us like at least *some* aspects of that future better than our own. But still, we can't rush into them too much, certainly not if a large number of people aren't on board.

This is maybe a circular argument about what Krola's position is: Krola is partly right because there are people like Krola in their society! But mostly I think it's arguing that it is a human trait (and yes the Malkorians are effectively human) to only be so adaptable to new changes, and that change has to happen gradually, and people have to be able to work with each other. Traditional values have to be incorporated into reforms. Arguably the episode is inattentive to how to do this, why this is important. However I'm convinced that Krola was correct in the narrow sense that contact with the Federation would have led to the destruction of their "way of life" via social disintegration, which might not be the case a generation or a few hence, and I think this is the intended takeaway. I honestly quite like the episode and think it "works" on an admittedly highly abstracted level, but it is apparent that it doesn't work on others.
William B
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 11:50am (UTC -6)
Just a bit more:

We know their society is in turmoil already, as Riker was injured in a riot.

The main thing Durken wants, all episode, is more time. Time to adjust to new *ideas*. Riker continually gets head injuries in the episode.

KROLA: Will he survive?
BEREL: I didn't think he would have survived the injuries.
KROLA: I have to interrogate him before he dies.
BEREL: At least give him time to regain some strength. Come back tomorrow.
KROLA: It cannot wait until tomorrow.
(Mirasta enters)
MIRASTA: Krola, we can get help from his ship. With their medical technology, he might recover.
KROLA: We're not giving him back. He's the one advantage we have now. Use your drugs to revive him.
BEREL: Those drugs increase cardial rate and vascular pressure. That's the last thing we need to do to him right now.
MIRASTA: It will probably be enough to kill him. You can't do it!

The point being: it takes time to recover from a head injury. Try to make someone recover from a head injury too fast, and they might die - - may be what is needed to fix their head will be too much for their heart to bear, for instance. The "head injury" for the planet is the relatively recent notion that they are not special, not the centre of the universe. The society can indeed adapt, given enough time. But they have not had time, yet.
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 12:34pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

Interestingly, I agree with pretty much everything you wrote, especially the metaphor about the head injury (wound to pride) taking time to heal. And also about your point (and Jason's) that Krola is right that the culture shock is dangerous. I actually see that as being quite clear. What I am trying to say is that Krola in this sense represents, at best, the reeling shock that many in his society will feel. He's not just right because there are others like him, but I think he's right even on behalf of people like Mirasta who don't yet realize what this will do to them. That is, his feeling about what's happening has merit. But that's where my problem is: his position is restricted to not liking a situation on mostly an emotional basis, like "I am panicking! And others will too!" Well, sure, that can happen; it may even be inevitable. But it's not a plan, and he's supposed to be a leader, not an average person reacting like average people would. He might well embody the fears and insecurity of those types of people; but if he can't take that and do something constructive with it then...well, he's just a crap leader. He basically is just like one of those people in the hospital, and that's super depressing in terms of this society. And I'll certainly say that I see signs of that in how our governments work.

And it's not remotely plausible at any point in the story that Krola's actions will help him or his people. We might abstractly note that he's on about something real, but in terms of his participation in the story, we're mostly just thinking "Stop!" every time he wants to do something to sate his paranoia. His choices are mostly aggravating facepalm moments like in the scene you just quoted, where Riker can easily be saved and Krola would rather try to leverage the "one advantage" they have. There's no way we can be expected to sympathize with his decisions or to even come remotely close to saying "yeah, he has a point, Riker needs to be interrogated." And it's not just because we already know Riker: this would be a facepalm moment in any scenario. For me, at least. It's the sort of Lord of the Flies logic of "better just beat up the problem" when you feel threatened. It's definitely realistic, but not at all better than children losing it.

So I agree Krola is right that there's a problem. But he's wrong that stamping his foot and complaining will stop it. If he wanted to deal with the problem head on he'd find a way to try to get involved immediately in Durken's council with Picard (rather than Durken meeting with him alone) to see for himself how trustworthy this potential friend/enemy is before doing anything rash. But no, Krola is the shoot first type of guy, rash actions justify themselves because you're "doing something". That is a very definite type as well, but just not on the left vs right axis. Both sides of the political spectrum have people like that, who scramble to try to control things out of their control and refuse to confront facts reasonably. They are usually the type to make things worse and then blame their opposition for not supporting them.
Booming
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 1:47pm (UTC -6)
Very good analysis from William.

"And it's not remotely plausible at any point in the story that Krola's actions will help him or his people. We might abstractly note that he's on about something real, but in terms of his participation in the story, we're mostly just thinking "Stop!" every time he wants to do something to sate his paranoia. "

I think Krola is successful. No contact with the Federation. No space flight. Could he be wrong. Sure but maybe the Malkorians would have gone crazy when they heard of first contact. As William mentioned the breakdown in the hospital is a good indicator.

I also don't think that Krola is paranoid. He is justifiably fearful which is another right wing tendency. People on the right tend to be more fearful which correlates with the desire for more security and order.

"There's no way we can be expected to sympathize with his decisions or to even come remotely close to saying "yeah, he has a point, Riker needs to be interrogated." "
In our barbaric times spies either get shot or imprisoned but they definitely are interrogated. I don't think Krola means torture or anything. He just means questioning. Questioning a spy is a pretty reasonable demand. That he risks Riker's life is certainly questionable, though.

"Both sides of the political spectrum have people like that, who scramble to try to control things out of their control and refuse to confront facts reasonably."
narcissistic control freaks can be found left and right. That is true. They are also very successful in politics because people confuse narcissism with confidence. That stuff about personality traits on the left and on right I knew (the big five are very often used in sociology) but the narcissism stuff I had to research a little.

to quote from the American Journal of Political Science:
"We address this lacuna by identifying the relationship between narcissism, political ideologies, and partisanship in a nationally representative sample taken days before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Overall, we find those on the left and right are equally narcissistic. However, liberals and conservatives differ in which dimensions drive their narcissism. Specifically, we find that the entitlement facet of narcissism is uniformly related to more conservative positions, whereas exhibitionism is related to more liberal values, including political party identification."

And after all that science we all deserve a little treat. The best scene from the most beloved Trek show.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if-m-bWGrsw

or was it this one?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5UQFMxB1vY

Sadly I couldn't find the yum yum scene.
DLPB
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 5:44pm (UTC -6)
I also don't think that Krola is paranoid. He is justifiably fearful which is another right wing tendency.
-------
lol... fear is now a matter of political opinion? Are you really that daft?
DLPB
Wed, Aug 28, 2019, 5:46pm (UTC -6)
Speaking as a "right winger" [a meaningless tag really, since most people have a variance of opinions], I want order and peace because that leads to prosperity and a happy life. It has nothing to do with fear.
Booming
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 12:53am (UTC -6)
@DLPB
Well look who got triggered here.
Oh believe what you want but an endless amount of studies have proven these tendencies beyond a reasonable doubt.

I also promised myself that I wouldn't discuss certain matters with people who have no background in sociology or political science and that obviously includes you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-Yk0Yz5-tk
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 6:30am (UTC -6)
"@DLPB
Well look who got triggered here.
Oh believe what you want but an endless amount of studies have proven these tendencies beyond a reasonable doubt. "

Do the studies say anything about arrogance and sociologists?
Booming
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 8:31am (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.

I know what you are hinting at and it is true I can come of as arrogant. It is to certain degree insecurities but also the damn comment virus. Men have so fragile egos it is crazy. Maybe it was always like that. I always have a hard time understanding why especially men cannot accept the expertise of somebody else. I'm different. If I meet a geologist and he tells me something about earth I feel no need to argue with him/her about a topic he knows a thousand times more about. I would listen and see if I can profit from her/his far greater knowledge.

I guess at one point I had one argument too many where I knew I was right and that the other person was just arguing because of idiocy or insecurities but certainly had no real grasp of the discussed topic. In Germany they have a popular expression (literal): the smarter gives way.

It means something like: "The wiser head gives in", or the the famous "discretion is the better part of valor".
So that's what I'm doing now.

If somebody is interested then I'm happy to discuss sociological topics but DLPB obviously isn't.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 8:52am (UTC -6)
Hi Booming, I'm guilty of being overly aggressive on these threads as well so I get it. I have also been accused of being so from time to time personally and professionally.

If you were an astrophysicist and we were discussing, say, neutron stars, that would be one thing. That is such a discrete arcane discipline that most people wouldn't dream of challenging a bona fide expert.

But unfortunately, sociology is a discipline that overlaps with a lot of everyday topics like politics, philosophy, anthropology, that everyday laypeople must be entitled to an opinion on and can't just agree to defer to "experts" on without effectively surrendering their inherent human right to participate in the public square.

It isn't that sociologists don't have arcane or technical knowledge (I'm sure you do) but it just comes across sometimes like you want to use your credentials to knock aside opposition. Sometimes it comes across like a false appeal to authority.
HackFarlane
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
Booming said:

"@DLPB
Well look who got triggered here.
Oh believe what you want but an endless amount of studies have proven these tendencies beyond a reasonable doubt.

I also promised myself that I wouldn't discuss certain matters with people who have no background in sociology or political science and that obviously includes you. "


Booming, it seems like you are the one who's been triggered (yet again). After you rant, you always seem to apologize a couple of comments later once you're in a better place, or back on your meds, or whatever, to say something to the effect of, "Oh, I know I can get angry sometimes," or "I didn't mean to come across as arrogant." Why don't you take a few deep breaths, count to ten, or wait a day, before replying from now on?

And by flaunting your sociology credentials and promising yourself "that I wouldn't discuss certain matters with people who have no background in sociology or political science ," you sound like one of those posts from the Reddit "I'm so smart" discussions, just begging to be ridiculed. You can learn a lot from the opinions of other people, which you should know as a "sociologist." We have a saying here in America--if you're the smartest person in the room, find another room.
Booming
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 12:08pm (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.

I understand the issue. I have no problems with opinions but every now and then I refer to actual scientific principle. For example in this episode Mirasta and Krola always looked like ideal types (left vs right) to me. To separate my opinion from scientific knowledge:
- My opinion is that these two are constructed that way intentionally? Do I know that? No.
- Scientific knowledge is that ideal types are still important and what tendencies certain political affiliations have. That statement you can take to the bank.

Then people like DLPB come around: "read right wing people tend to be more fearful?! Being fearful is bad! Insult that heretic!"

Most of the time it isn't a false appeal to authority but a justified one but I overshoot sometimes.

I also try to balance my statements that is why I don't say left like this, right wing like this but use terms like tendencies or beyond a reasonable doubt.

You wouldn't believe how often you get insulted for stating scientific facts and I'm tired of that. That is why I more and more often now just shrug and ignore debates as most scientists do. I did go into science to do research not to educate people.
Booming
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 12:13pm (UTC -6)
@HachFarlane

Insult me all you want. Your opinion means nothing to me. If you want to believe that watching a certain type of behavior of mine once or twice gives you a deeper insight into my personality. Fine.
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Thu, Aug 29, 2019, 8:47pm (UTC -6)
@Booming

"It is to certain degree insecurities but also the damn comment virus. Men have so fragile egos it is crazy. Maybe it was always like that. I always have a hard time understanding why especially men cannot accept the expertise of somebody else."

Seriously? The only reason you can fathom for people disagreeing with your views, is that they have fragile egos? Talk about hubris...

"If I meet a geologist and he tells me something about earth I feel no need to argue with him/her about a topic he knows a thousand times more about. I would listen and see if I can profit from her/his far greater knowledge."

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but you don't come across as a person with "far greater knowledge". You come across as a person who is completely clueless about the human condition. No offense, but that's how you come across.

Especially when you start quoting articles as if they are some gospel truth. I have nothing against sociology, but it is not a hard science. Human nature is far too complex for it to be a hard science. So the minute you start claiming that such a simplistic model is "a scientific fact", you lose all your credibility as an expert in the field.

This is doubly troubling when we realize the stakes involved in making an inaccurate statement. If an astrophysicists makes a mistake, nobody gets hurt. If a sociologist treats a simplistic theory about human behavior as a hard fact, the result is usually prejudice towards certain groups of people.

And I'm saying this as a person who actually suffered greatly in his youth due to precisely this kind of dogmatic thinking.

So get off your high horse, alright?
Booming
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 1:04am (UTC -6)
@ Omicron
"Seriously? The only reason you can fathom for people disagreeing with your views, is that they have fragile egos? "
Obviously. Human behavior is clearly always mono causal.

"No offense, but that's how you come across."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMVbsz9gv3A

" I have nothing against sociology, but it is not a hard science. Human nature is far too complex for it to be a hard science."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8jlHTkWIwc

"Especially when you start quoting articles as if they are some gospel truth."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=830KwNb3Fbs

"Human nature is far too complex for it to be a hard science."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nmj-Hdo_Z8

"If a sociologist treats a simplistic theory about human behavior as a hard fact, the result is usually prejudice towards certain groups of people."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37OWL7AzvHo

"So get off your high horse, alright?"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MZhaX8P3W8
OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 3:40am (UTC -6)
Well, there you have it folks. The expert has spoken.

We now return you to our regular programme.
Trent
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 11:35am (UTC -6)
Peter said: "Everything about Krola is moronic, exemplified by his ludicrous glasses prescription."

I always thought this was brilliant. He's literally myopic and short-sighted.
Peter G.
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 12:00pm (UTC -6)
@ Trent,

"I always thought this was brilliant. He's literally myopic and short-sighted."

Yeah, that's one the reasons I think they intentionally portrayed Krola as a dope, rather than as having a legitimate argument. Others have argued that *there is* a legitimate argument here, but I don't think Krola successfully makes it, nor does the episode focus on that side of it. It really is about foresight vs myopia, so I think your phrasing hits it perfectly.

PS - to those I've been debating these points with, I watched the 2nd half of the episode *again* to re-assess whether I see your side of it more. And actually my opinion has shifted - even further away from seeing Krola as having a legitimate position. Whatever position he *thinks* he has, and even if there are many others like him, his actions are simply reprehensible. He's basically a total villain. I cannot watch a scene where someone is going to frame someone else for murder in order to damage any chances for peace, and think of this in any different way than the conspirators in Star Trek VI. He's basicallly a terrorist.

More than ever I think the episode is a condemnation of *us* rather than a balanced look at the right vs left positions on openness with a good case being made for the 'against'.
Booming
Fri, Aug 30, 2019, 2:31pm (UTC -6)
@Trent
Good catch. Frasier's ex wife aka Dr. metoo also wore glasses. She is a little rapey, isn't she? So Krola is an irrational ass and Dr. Naughty is weinsteining it up. What is this anti glasses crusade on TNG?!

@ Peter G.

I rewatched it, too. I even watched the first scene with Krola at the beginning. Two sentences stuck with me. Picard says that the Federation expects a negative reaction to first contact and in another conversation between Mirasta and Durken, Durken supports interrogating Riker before returning him. So Krola had the go from Durken and wasn't acting on his own.

I was also a little puzzled that Krola is only in 3-4 scenes and not more.

"and think of this in any different way than the conspirators in Star Trek VI. He's basicallly a terrorist."
I think that is a little harsh. He wasn't trying to start a war. He also seemed to be in a very emotional state.

"More than ever I think the episode is a condemnation of *us* rather than a balanced look at the right vs left positions on openness with a good case being made for the 'against'."

Yeah, I guess I somewhat agree. Krola comes of so annoyingly especially compared to the calm Durken and especially Picard. Another superb performance by Patrick Stewart.

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