Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Perfect Mate"

3 stars

Air date: 4/27/1992
Teleplay by Gary Perconte and Michael Piller
Story by Rene Echevarria and Gary Perconte
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise provides transport for the ambassador (Tim O'Connor) of a world that's attempting to negotiate with a neighboring system the end of their long-standing conflict by way of special negotiations and reconciliation ceremonies. The ambassador has brought aboard mysterious cargo that will be used in these negotiations. It turns out the cargo is actually an empathic metamorph — an exotic woman named Kamala (Famke Janssen) who has the unique ability to sense what a mate wants and be exactly what he wants her to be.

Her entire life has been in preparation for an arranged marriage; she is to be a gift in these negotiations (though the episode is very clear that she does this of her own free will and is not a slave). Kamala was supposed to spend the trip in stasis, but the meddling of some mischievous Ferengi releases her prematurely, leaving her with several days to spend aboard the Enterprise, where she attracts a great deal of attention.

First, let's get this out of the way: The Ferengi (including one played by Max Grodenchik, the future Rom) are an egregiously dumb piece of business here. They provide their typically annoying and contrived role. Why are they so easily able to access the cargo bay, which is supposed to be under lock and key because of the special cargo? Simply because the plot requires it, just like it requires the Ferengi later to bumble their way into accidentally knocking down the ambassador and putting him in a coma, requiring Picard to step in and carry out the negotiations.

But forget about the Ferengi. "The Perfect Mate" is really a story about Picard, and the relationship that he has — or, more to the point, doesn't have — with Kamala in the course of the days leading up to the arranged marriage. Kamala's diverse education has prepared her for all possibilities, and her empathic nature allows her to adapt to almost any situation. What's interesting here is not just that Picard finds that Kamala may actually be exactly the kind of woman he needs, but that Picard may be exactly what Kamala needs in return. The fact that Kamala will miss out on a much richer, fuller life aboard the Enterprise, instead being a diplomat's trophy wife, is not lost on her.

What we have here are two people trapped between their duty to the greater good and the possibility of a meaningful relationship. And what most struck me about this episode was the unspoken but clearly conveyed message that a man like Picard is essentially destined to a life of solitude because his responsibilities as a starship captain do not allow him to make a relationship a priority. Here's a man who's the paragon of integrity, sometimes at the expense of his own personal happiness. That all sounds like a cliche, but in its quietly effective and unassuming way, this is a character study examining that sacrifice.

Previous episode: Cost of Living
Next episode: Imaginary Friend

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181 comments on this review

grumpy_otter
Wed, May 11, 2011, 7:14am (UTC -6)
This episode is also good for presenting the funniest line of TNG:

"I'll be in Holodeck Four."
Nic
Wed, May 11, 2011, 8:20pm (UTC -6)
This is a wonderfully tragic episode, mostly because of the ending. They really are perfect for each other, in a way no two people could ever be, but they still must separate "for the greater good".
bigpale
Wed, May 11, 2011, 11:52pm (UTC -6)
There is but one reason to watch this episode a second time.

And it aint the Ferengi.

Seriously, this is a 2 star show. Maybe 2 and a half.
startrekwatcher
Thu, May 12, 2011, 12:12pm (UTC -6)
I would only give this episode 2 or at most 2.5 stars myself. I thought it was boring. The first half of the episode centers on the Ferengi which was terrible then halfway through the show shifts gears to a "love" story which I found pretty boring. TNG could do an effective romance of the week--"The Host", "Lessons" for instance but I though this one dragged.

One thing I didn't like about it was the casting of a young hottie for Picard's love interest. Why are tv shows always casting young women for older actors?

It just felt off to me. In a year they would wisely cast an age appropriate actress in "Lessons" with Neela Darren.
Sxottlan
Fri, May 13, 2011, 3:01am (UTC -6)
This was an interesting "Age of Innocence"-esque episode.

Lots of interesting subtext:

-I think this was Famke Janssen's debut and then eight years later her and Patrick Stewart team up again for the X-Men films.

-Love the hilarious holodeck line, which was the one time it was pretty explicitly stated that the holodecks were used for sex, but that Riker uses it for that purpose was an interesting quirk.

-Geordi's throwaway line later references the dolphins that the TNG Manual said were onboard.
Elliott
Fri, May 13, 2011, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
Minor disagreement : I think the social-commentary aspect with Kamala held that indoctrination into a "free-willed" duty is a form of oppression and even slavery. This idea would later carry into and be developed between Janeway and Seven of Nine (make whatever lesbian joke you want). The tragedy as I see it is magnified by the fact that while Picard's sacrifice has a point, Kamala's is ultimately an empty one as the episode seems to indicate the Ambassador wouldn't really care if Kamala were his trophy or not, but goes along for the ride for the sake of the negotiations.
Reciprocity
Fri, Jul 22, 2011, 2:49am (UTC -6)
You smacktards who found this episode boring have absolutely no concept of character development, character study, or nuance in acting. Just because shit isn't blowing up doesn't mean the episode isn't interesting. Advice: Pick up a book and read....and spend less time in dark closets talking to coat hangers.
Rachael
Fri, Aug 19, 2011, 10:30am (UTC -6)
I agree with the star rating for this episode and the general commentary, but I do disagree that it was made explicit that Kamala did what she did out of her own free will. The breakfast conversation between Picard and Crusher early in the episode makes clear that Beverly is appalled by the way Kamala is being treated, and her umbrage is what prompts Picard to look into it rather than just washing his hands of the fact that the Enterprise has become a de facto human trafficking vessel. (His apologia for arranged marriages in Earth history is pretty squicky, here, too). The episode regains its moral compass as Picard realizes that what Kamala is and is being forced (whether by gun or by overwhelming social pressure is rather beside the point when it comes to servitude this thorough), but I don't think it does anyone any good to pretend that Kamala and Picard are equals who have chosen of their own free will to deny themselves happiness for the "greater good," unless a woman subsuming her identity in order to become the embodiment of a man's desire is actually seen by the male writers and fans of TNG as "the greater good."
pviateur
Mon, Aug 22, 2011, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
What I want to know is where are the rest of the negotiating teams representing both parties? You'd think with something of this importance, more than single ambassadors would be sent so that an outsider like Picard wouldn't have to be relied upon to fill in for one of them.
John
Mon, Aug 29, 2011, 5:57am (UTC -6)
The Ferengi issues are easy to overlook in an otherwise excellent episode. I believe its best quality is that it leaves a lot to the imagination in that the viewers are asking themselves many questions about love and life throughout the hour. Great acting. Thoroughly enjoyable.
TH
Fri, Sep 9, 2011, 6:19am (UTC -6)
@Rachael I think Jammer's point is that once Picard confronts her about it, it seems clear she is doing it out of her own free will, not because any character (i.e. ambassador) is putting any pressure on her.

This episode reminds me of the reasons I don't buy The Game. Picard is able to resist a woman that no other man on the ship can resist; but not a video game? (it was unclear to me whether the whole crew is smitten because she is their perfect woman, or if she actually has some magical/chemical/whatever force that actually has a controlling influence, but either way, Picard resists it).

I like this one a lot more as an adult than I did as a child; likely because the concepts of loved-and-lost, and the great subtle performances did not register with me at that age.
Percivale
Sun, Oct 23, 2011, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
I almost disagree with Jammer's star rating here - the refreshingly interesting dialogue and tense plotting of this episode make it deserve four stars. But, unfortunately, the Ferengi bring it down a whole star.

There was really no purpose for them. There was no reason for Kamala to be in the cocoon - they could have made a mysterious request to have her transported to quarters from the beginning. Captain demands that the identity and purpose of all passengers be known to him, there's a conflict with the ambassador, who then informs the Captain who is coming aboard, and there you go.

The beginning actually made me angry - it was another episode where you really can tell the show was written by people who have never worked in positions of authority. You simply require that all cargo be disclosed and lock the doors they go into. No questions need to be asked. You're not being "mean" by doing so.

And the ambassador could have tripped in the holodeck or something.

But back to the substance of the episode. Yeah, great. We see Captain Picard in a situation that truly challenges him, and the tension, the resolution and subsequent tragedy of it packs a real emotional punch.

Also, this is perhaps the closest any tv episode has been to actually convincing me that two people fall in love in a 43 minute tv episode. Kudos.

I forgive them for not going into the ethics of the situation deeper than they could. I was hoping for the second conversation with Dr. Crusher to go a little deeper, but it was helpful in its way - perhaps giving a hint that relationships built on shared experience go deeper than ones based on telepathy.

An interesting way to go into the ethics would have been to do something I find they do not do enough in Star Trek: portray aliens has having different natures than "human" nature (I always cringe when Guinan advocates "human" nature - shouldn't it be "humanoid" or something like that?). Maybe it's not unethical, because she actually does fulfill her role by doing what she does in a way that humans can't entirely relate to. But then again, they can barely be bothered to make the aliens look different from humans, so I guess it goes the same way for the insides. They had to have her learn how to think differently. Which means her actions are culturally enforced and unethical. Which, granted, ends the episode on a relatively profound note, as this casts a small shadow on the practices of the federation. I don't think they made the wrong decision - it's just that the episode skillfully leads you to doubt it enough for there to be something at stake.

After writing all that, I almost want to give it 4 stars. Damnit, Ferengi!
Tim
Tue, Oct 25, 2011, 8:51pm (UTC -6)
She might've been young, but she had a great voice that made her seem older and wiser. Actually, the actress did well to change her voice based on who she was imprinting upon.
Ben
Wed, Nov 9, 2011, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
Does anyone else besides me think that Picard DIDN'T resist completely, that he in fact gave in at the end. The scene from "the night before" when he's in her quarters talking, the scene fades with him still there.

I think he stayed, they made love, and that's when she bonded. It actually seemed pretty clear to me that that's what happened, but no one else has mentioned it.

I think also that when the ambassador asked how the captain could resist, he was just dying to say "I DIDN'T!", but instead held it all in and just wished him on his way rather than address the question and have to lie.
JimJ
Fri, Dec 30, 2011, 10:21am (UTC -6)
I've been doing a rewatch of TNG thanks to Netflix. Most of the episodes blend into each other, and the ones with Ferengi always go from amusing to annoying quickly.

This episode has many other flaws: the clumsy use of the Ferengi in moving the plot; the unsecured cargo bay, and (biggest of all for me) the fact that nobody thought to simply have a female chaperone for Kamala.

All that said, Famke Janssen was outstanding. Her performance hit exactly the right notes each time - from her open and confident demeanor on her emergence to her gregariousness in Ten Forward, she was utterly believable in what could have been a very hokey role. Stewart's Picard - as we all have come to expect - was just as effective in his task of showing the gradual erosion of his carefully constructed walls.

The sidebar discussion about free will was also compelling considering the relatively small amount of screen time devoted to it.

3 of 4 stars seems fair to me, on the strength of the two leads alone.

Thanks for this site!
procyon
Wed, Jan 25, 2012, 4:29pm (UTC -6)
I loved the ending where the ambassador asks Picard how he could resist her when they spent so much time together.

I totally expected him to say it was because he respected her or something, but he doesn't answer the question, so we're left to wonder.
Tim
Thu, Jun 7, 2012, 3:45pm (UTC -6)
Enjoyable, interesting episode, with much better acting than the normal love stories on TNG. Picard falling for a woman seemed far more convincing than 'Captain's Holiday' (I think it was called). Agree with a lot of the positive comments above, including the ambiguity of the ending. Holodeck 4, Worf all got a laugh out of me too.
John (the younger)
Thu, Jun 28, 2012, 10:42am (UTC -6)
Ah, the lonely man's wet dream.

Probably one of the best examinations of Picard in the whole series. Stewart is phenominal in this.

And I even laughed in a couple of places. Outrageous!
grumpy_otter
Mon, Jul 16, 2012, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
Ben said, "Does anyone else besides me think that Picard DIDN'T resist completely, that he in fact gave in at the end. The scene from "the night before" when he's in her quarters talking, the scene fades with him still there.

I think he stayed, they made love, and that's when she bonded. It actually seemed pretty clear to me that that's what happened, but no one else has mentioned it."

Oh yeah, of course. But every time I watch it I decide something else. I keep waiting for Picard to give more away one way or the other--and he doesn't.

Today, I think it went as you describe.
Jack
Sun, Oct 28, 2012, 9:59pm (UTC -6)
@ grumpy_otter...

yeah the "I'll be in holodeck 4" line was funny, but I suspect on a ship of 1000 the holodecks are pretty much in use all the time and scheduled at least a bit in advance. Holodeck 4 was surely not just waiting empty in case Riker "needed it".
Cail Corishev
Wed, Dec 26, 2012, 11:26pm (UTC -6)
I had to stop watching this one after about 30 minutes because I was falling hopelessly in love with the woman. That face, that voice .... "becomes the perfect match for the man she's talking to" indeed. Yowza.
T'Paul
Fri, Jun 14, 2013, 6:42pm (UTC -6)
I don't know, for me this one's more like a TOS episode... beautiful woman, everyone (i.e. the male characters) falling all over her, a dubious and fumbled moral message.

Plus the supposedly profound bits with Picard I think were simply the metamorph finer-tuning herself to Picard's desires, not poignantly realising what she was missing, and then the Picard scenes were simply him being taken in (or resisting being taken in) by this, regardless of whether she was consciously being manipulative or not. But I don't think it was a great character study - not that I wish to fight with anyone who does.

Not wanting to offend... but does Jammer's high rating for this one have to do with the fact that the aliens of the week look like the DS9 Trills?
dipads
Sun, Jun 23, 2013, 11:03am (UTC -6)
This episodes runs on the same storyline (almost) to the ST-TOS episode Elaan of Troyius
mephyve
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 5:58pm (UTC -6)
I really liked this episode. I would have loved it but from the start the professional incompetence displayed was burning me up. The Enterprise is supposed to be the best of the best of a disciplined military force. So when an ambassador says he has delicate cargo in the cargo bay, some sort of security should have been in piace, both before and especially after you pick up two Ferengi. It's exactly as the Ferengi said, this was too easy. The whole misfortune can be blamed solely on Picard's uncharacteristic incompetence. Riker behaved more professionally here.
Still the ensuing shenanigans balanced things out to make the story enjoyable. The ten forward scene was played out perfectly, ending witha turned on Worf who couldn't help himself. 3 and a half stars.
William B
Mon, Jul 29, 2013, 2:55pm (UTC -6)
You know what, I assumed going into the episode that the Ferengi would prevent me from giving this a full 4, but I really don't think they do. Yes, they are annoying and silly, but they are also only on screen for brief bursts. Their plan to sell Kamala is only a more extreme version of what the Kriosians plan to do with her (i.e. to sell her for peace), and so their actions are thematically on point (and their hurting the Kriosian ambassador is appropriate, as a result). In general, their presence seems to me to be in the same vein as, say, the Porter's speech in Macbeth -- not even comic relief so much as tension relief, an opportunity to take the time to catch our bearings in what is ultimately a very tragic tale.

No one dies in this one, but it's still a brutal ending, especially if you believe, as I do and as some commenters above have suggested, that Picard stayed and slept with Kamala and that is what led to their bonding, which leads to Kamala's permanently being with a man she is not meant for. Unlike "The Masterpiece Society's" fairly forced tragic ending, the one here feels genuinely earned because each step (aside from the inciting scenes involving the Ferengi) feels natural and inevitable. Picard goes to Kamala because he is concerned that she is going to be married against her desires and he wants to save her from that fate; and in the process, he *creates* the scenario wherein she is bonded against her desires. Each scene plays delicately, as Picard tries to balance the demands of his conscience with his duty with his desires with *her* desires, and tries to figure out which of her desires are really just reflections of his. Kamala slowly works her way through his walls and in the process "discovers" herself, though the self she discovers is really one she creates, and one that dooms her to a life of duty. Their combined impulse to allow Kamala (and Picard) to have something for themselves outside of duty is what leads to their bonding, which is what leads to Kamala knowing Picard's sense of duty and being unable to defy it.

Stewart is amazing, of course, but Famke Janssen is extraordinary too. I read on Memory Alpha that she was the first choice to play Jadzia but had to drop out -- and it almost hurts to read that. Watching her in this episode, I feel like she could play the conflincting impulses from many previous hosts convincingly and effectively, or at the very least turn on a dime from one to another, in a way that Farrell never managed. Sigh.
Anthony Pirtle
Sat, Oct 19, 2013, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
I'd give this one and a half stars, purely for Janssen's and Stewart's performances. The plot is poorly written (especially the Ferengi bits) and morally objectionable, basically a fantasy for teenage males who aren't good at attracting women. That Kamala's been brainwashed since she was four years old to believe it's her job to get men off sounds like the opposite of free will to me.
JoeW
Fri, Nov 1, 2013, 11:34am (UTC -6)
I have a completely different take on this episode than the rest of you. I think this episode is about being able to resist temptation. I also don't think that Kamala was ever anything more than what Picard wanted her to be. Picard wanted her to be a free, independent, intelligent woman. That's exactly how she was portraying herself to be toward Picard. Her ability is to sense what a man wants and be exactly that. I don't think she was ever who we saw, but merely a projection of Picard's ideal woman.
Mark
Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 5:46am (UTC -6)
This episode makes me proud to be a Star Trek fan and proud to be Dutch, since Famke Janssen is Dutch! What better way to start your career in the USA than to make your debut in Star Trek? To this day she has always been proud of the chance she has been given and to make way for her Goldeneye and X-men fame. And now she's a director as well!
Love her part as Kamala here. Who wouldn't fall for her? Picard not answering that final question says it all.
Moonie
Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 6:56pm (UTC -6)
Three stars for *this*?

Lemme guess, you're all male.

Doesn't it sadden ANY single one of you that civilizations who develop the technology to travel the stars, still use women as pawns in war&peace? Annoying, outdated, sexist, stupid. Zero stars.
Moonie
Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 7:10pm (UTC -6)
Thank you, @ Anthony Pirtle, you just restored my faith in Star Trek fans. Well said.
Mr. Wizard
Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 2:08am (UTC -6)
@Jammer: Your site is excellent. I've been reading your reviews as I watch through TNG for the first time as an adult and I really enjoy wrapping up each episode with a trip here to compare my experience and evaluation with yours.

@William B: Your comments are very insightful. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I find your interpretations and ratings to be spot on.

I agree with both of you about the Ferengi. When the cold open mentioned an alien race transporting valuable goods and suddenly a Ferengi vessel in distress appears, I was prepared for the worst. Luckily, this episode took a turn for the best and I really enjoyed the ride.

William mentions that Picard creates the situation that he fears: the one in which Kamala is bonded against her desire. Picard also creates the situation he desires: that Kamala makes a choice to become her own person. Throughout the episode Kamala acts as a mirror to whatever potential mate she shares a room with. In her final conversation with Picard, Kamala reveals that she has chosen to bond herself to Jean-Luc. In that moment Kamala stands in front of a full-length mirror and we see her reflection, not Picard's or anyone else's. In that moment Kamala has become her own person by making a choice for herself.

However, isn't this exactly the behavior that mirroring Picard would produce? Kamala's self-awareness, her personhood, is gained *because* she mirrors Picard. Before Picard arrived she didn't know she had a choice to act for herself and become her own person, she simply wantonly mirrored every man she came in contact with. Yet, wantonly mirroring Picard is what drove her to this realization.

When thinking of the causal sequence I picture the infinite regress of a hall of mirrors, which is a perfect metaphor for what Kamala becomes. She becomes herself because she chooses to bond with Picard because she emulates Picard who upholds freewill but who is bound to duty. In a way, Kamala's marriage to the Ambassador is a metaphor for Picard's love life. She is herself because of him and she is giving herself to duty and responsibility and he is acutely aware that his actions made her that way.

Kudos to Patrick Stewart during those last few scenes. The subtle emotions visible on his face were perfect to be ambiguous about what happened the previous night and whether he knows the extent of his influence upon Kamala's decisions, but suggest he is fully aware of what he has done.
Locutus
Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 11:56pm (UTC -6)
Moonie... While the way this episode played out may not have been ideal, the way the "perfect mate" is ultimately being used as a bargaining chip isn't depicted positively.

What's "annoying, outdated, sexist, stupid" is the way that you accuse us of "all being men" as if male genitalia is just cause for anger. That outburst reads like a caricature of the irate, irrational misandrist. You do your own feminist ideology a disservice.
me2olive
Sat, May 24, 2014, 10:54am (UTC -6)
As good as this episode is, it does suffer from one enormous plot hole - wouldn't the ambassador or Kamala have thought to mention the possibility of her bonding with someone that wasn't Alrik, given enough exposure? It's not like there aren't plenty of women on board the ship that could have kept her company instead, but we barely see any of them around her throughout the episode and no explanation for this is given.
Elliott
Sat, May 24, 2014, 11:18am (UTC -6)
The answer to your first point is, there would be no story and the answer to your second is the homophobic producers who would not abide Kamala's pheromones effecting fluid sexuality in the female crew. That's of course until they realised over on DS9 and later ENT that fluid sexuality is fine so long as it's ratings-boosting sexy lesbians!!
SkepticalMI
Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 8:42pm (UTC -6)
A nice, quiet, subtle, thought provoking episode. I'm glad a couple people mentioned what I suspected after watching it: Kamala wasn't exactly becoming an independent during the course of the episode; she was still just performing her mimicry abilities. We saw how easily she adapted to different people in Ten-Forward, and we saw that Picard was doing everything he could to resist trying to influence her. So naturally, Kamala picked up on the fact that Picard was not being willing to fall for her unless she became independent.

Which leads to interesting free will vs biology arguments. Kamala was being "forced" to become independent, so was she really becoming independent at all? Or was she simply following her instinct and only "pretending" to be thinking for herself? Isn't her personality just an extension of what Picard wanted and not real? But in the end, does it actually matter? We want our kids to become independent and think for themselves, but it's still with our guidance. You can't make a child completely an independent person; they will always have some remnant of their upbringing as part of them.

So should Picard have felt guilty at all? He spent his time trying to be as dull as possible to keep from imprinting himself on her, and yet it happened anyway. He was all righteous about keeping her an independent person, and then he went and formed her in his image. Shouldn't he have realized that would happen? And shouldn't he have avoided her entirely? Isn't he just being hypocritical? Does he just feel loss at the end, or does he feel bad that his attempt to give her a life outside of imprinting was itself an imprinting?

The fact that these issues are shown rather than told is part of what makes this episode pretty good. And the fact that it's all told as a great character story between Picard and a guest character, with fantastic acting from both, also makes the episode pretty good. And the fact the Ferengi... well, I'm having too good a time being positive so I'll just ignore that part.

As for the "did they or didn't they" question, I am firmly in the didn't they camp. First of all, I hate the accidental/sympathetic adultery trope. There's nothing accidental about it; you know what you're doing. There's enough time between the first moment of passion and the final act that the knowledge of what you're doing will creep in. And if you don't want to do something, you won't. You'll stop it. Heck, even a horndog like Riker managed to break away even after getting an impassioned kiss. So no, I have no sympathy for the "I didn't mean it to happen" excuse.

Which is important, because the episode then eliminates this possibility. Kamala specifically mentioned that she learned the meaning of duty, and is willing to sacrifice her desires in order to do the right thing... and that she learned it from Picard. Given that, how could they possibly have had sex? She would have imprinted on Picard's desire to throw away duty in favor of personal desires!

Seems pretty cut and dry to me.

That said, it's not like they didn't share a personal connection. It's possible to share a deep emotional bond with someone without it being physical, and it's likely that that is what happened between them. Perhaps he did stay, at least most of the night, but did not retire to the bedroom. That's why he didn't answer the ambassador at the end. He resisted her physically, but not emotionally.

OK, one final thought directed at those complaining that this is some kind of sexist fantasy. Huh? First of all, they did mention that males could get this power too, but just didn't focus on them (since the plot didn't need them). More importantly, the plot had nothing to do with a adolescent male fantasy. And isn't that more important?

I mean, Star Trek is just some liberal adolescent fantasy. It's some magical land where all problems are solved and there's peace and harmony and no difficult problems and you get to do cool stuff like gallivanting around the galaxy on a magic starship. How is that not an adolescent fantasy? And yet, none of us care, because the stories themselves aren't. The adolescent fantasy is just a backdrop for an interesting tale and interesting stories. And that's the case here.
msw188
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 6:18pm (UTC -6)
I just want to point out agreement with SkepticalMI above (and others). To me what makes this episode great is that the more you think about it, the more sad it seems. The woman becomes independent, yet duty-driven, only in the sense that Picard would want her to. In this way, everything about her is a deception of sorts, but I would never accuse her of lying. This is how her body and mind operate! It makes one wonder what the concept of free will would even mean to a creature like this.

I would probably make a similar statement (as others have) about her claim to have 'bonded' to Picard. As far as I can tell, there's no way to know whether she's correct (and if this 'bonding' idea is real in-universe at all), or if the claim is simply an automatic response to Picard's innermost wishes. The truly sad thing about it is, just as we don't really know, it would seem she doesn't really know either! A being like this could never have a meaningful notion of 'self'. I'm pretty sure that's the saddest thing that was ever sad.

It also means now I'm attached to her too. So her fictional power penetrates the 4th wall. This is clearly pure fact.
Fin67
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 6:51am (UTC -6)
Just a funny fact. Kamala means in Finnish: awful, atrocious, dreadful, fearful, gruesome... Which is quite the opposite of her role. As Etana some episodes ago means a snail. Co-incidence, or did the writers use a Finnish dictionary to pick alien names?
Peter
Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
I find it hard to believe the Ferengi were ever conceived as replacements for the roles the Klingons and Romulans played in TOS. They are just too bumbling and stupid to be seen as threatening. It's as if the Three Stooges were cast as mob enforcers. They were also 100% unnecessary to this plot. Kamala could have simply been beamed onboard and explained her role. The episode loses a full star for the Ferengi farce.

I agree that Janssen's performance was great -- especially how she changed her voice and mannerisms in the scene with the "ebullient" miners. As others have pointed out, the role of free will in someone who has basically been raised from birth to fulfill a particular function, and on whom an entire planet pins their hopes for peace, is questionable. Especially given that her mate-to-be makes it a point to say that the trade agreements are a much bigger concern to him than the "gift," I was expecting Picard to offer Kamala an out. Even if he'd just said, "It won't be easy letting down your people, but peace can proceed without you having to make this sacrifice to duty. You do have options." Or something to that effect.

As pretty as Kamala appeared in this episode, I couldn't help thinking that "an empathic metamorph" would not make the ideal mate for a mature man with a strong sense of self. This reads more like a 13-year-old boy's fantasy of the ideal girlfriend. There exist women (and men, I suspect) who so want to be in a relationship that they will mold themselves in accordance to what they perceive as the other person's interests, hobbies, attitudes, etc. Ugh! What a turnoff. The dating advice "just be yourself" has merit. Ideally, you find someone who shares some things with you and differs in other things -- perhaps even challenges you in some respects. That's what really makes for attraction, in my opinion.
Fabbeaux
Sun, May 24, 2015, 2:16pm (UTC -6)
Of course they had sex. She explained the final step of the "finnis-ral" or whatever as bonding permanently. Whether it was because she saw him first when she emerged, or her words on her wedding day, combined with Picard's non answer of how he resisted (in order not to lie to the ambassador), it was clear they spent the night together. I think this is a beautifully tragic episode with remarkable acting by pretty much everybody, but Janssen is outstanding at conveying the reality of the being she is playing. And the Ferengi are the Ferengi - they are, as someone else mentioned, the perfect echo of the diplomatic drama playing out among the pricipals. Her dress is just amazing too - she plays the goddess with true conviction.
lina
Wed, Jun 3, 2015, 2:07am (UTC -6)
I love the actress. She is graceful and plays this role as such. She was captivating I agree with Crusher that she was conditioned for the marriage. It seems odd that upon imprinting with Picard she still chooses to marry into slavery. He allows it regardless of the fact Picard fights for the "freedoms" of others in past episodes. The prime directive has always been a bit of a crutch for TNG. Convenient to the whim of the plot lines but easily set aside. The time period of the show are clearly still hovering in a past preception of a woman's place. Not to mention how everyone seems to "fall in love" in only a few days. This episodes at least a good job if creating believable reasons as to why Picard is drawn to her. Both actors have clear chemistry and that aspect of it is compelling.
dash
Fri, Jun 12, 2015, 1:30am (UTC -6)
Fin67, I think the name Kamala is a nod to the courtesan of the same name in Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha.
Luke
Fri, Aug 21, 2015, 3:30am (UTC -6)
Hm, another episode I'm torn on. There are things in "The Perfect Mate" I like and lot I don't like.

First, what I like - I like that they took the time to do some serious character work in this episode. The scene that really stands out for me is the one with Picard and Crusher where Picard lets his feelings for Kamala be known. It's a great piece of development for both characters as well as a great window into their relationship. The acting is also very good all around. There's some really great performances here, and not just from Patrick Stewart. Finally, there's some decent enough humor - the holodeck line and Data's antics when he plays chaperon to Kamala.

But there's the bad - obviously starting with the Ferengi. You know, this is their first true appearance in almost two seasons. They had cameos in "Future Imperfect" and "Unification, Part II," but this is really their first time in major roles since the dreadful "Ménage à Troi." And, of course, they're still their stupid, bumbling, caffeine-overdosed selves. And, of course, poor Max Grodénchik has to suffer through yet another stupid Ferengi role before getting to play Rom. Maybe they could have worked in this story if the writers had allowed them to have some dignity.

But the Ferengi aren't the biggest problem with "The Perfect Mate." The biggest problem is this - "the unspoken but clearly conveyed message that a man like Picard is essentially destined to a life of solitude because his responsibilities as a starship captain do not allow him to make a relationship a priority." I got to admit that I am so sick and tired of this kind of "message" in Star Trek. Leaving DS9 aside (which actually doesn't do this), every other series seems hellbent on saying that Starfleet officers simply cannot have committed long-term romantic relationships. What a crock of shit! You can have a life of duty and still have relationships. It just takes a writer with the ability and the willingness to write that relationship convincingly. But so many Trek writers seem perfectly content to simply write romance-of-the-week stories and not even attempt something more challenging - like a relationship spanning multiple episodes. The only non-DS9 examples I can think of are Paris and Torres on VOY and possibly O'Brien and Keiko on TNG (if you can count them as they're only recurring characters here). Does Kirk ever get a committed relationship? No. Do any of the TOS crew ever get one? No. Do any of the TNG crew get one? Well, Riker and Troi finally get married in "Nemesis." But does that really count? Do any other VOY characters get one? I suppose Neelix and Kes qualify, but the writers never really did anything with them. Do any of the ENT characters get one? There's the Trip/T'Pol relationship. But that was so fucked up that it's almost not worth mentioning.

And therein lies the greatest weakness with "The Perfect Mate." I'm expected to believe that Picard and Kamala have so thoroughly fallen in love with each other in just a few days that she's going to spend the rest of her life pining away for him? That might, might, work if we ever had another mention of her and how she affected Picard in a future episode. But, of course, we all know that by the time the next episode rolls around she'll be completely forgotten. Obviously the end of the episode is supposed to be gut-wrenching in that we're supposed to be crushed by the fact that Picard and Kamala didn't end up together. But, come on now, did anybody honestly expect they would? Maybe if they had actually had the ambition to make this a long-term (meaning multi-episode) relationship, then the tragic end of it would have felt tragic to me. As it sits, however, it leaves me feeling cold.

Ultimately, while superbly acted with a few other good bits thrown into the mix, "The Perfect Mate" is just another predictable romance-of-the-week. It could have been so much more

6/10
Robert
Fri, Aug 21, 2015, 10:28am (UTC -6)
@Luke - I really agree with you on this. And this is one reason that DS9 shines really, really high above the others. I feel like with Worf/Dax, Kira/Odo, Sisko/Kassidy and O'Brien/Keiko we really hit a point where the DS9 staff realized "romance of the weeks" don't work and shelved them for most characters.

The ones they did do on DS9 like "Second Sight", "Meridian" and "A Simple Investigation" mostly all sucked. Even if some people weren't huge fans of every single one of DS9's long term relationships, they all fared better than romance of the week episodes (IMHO).

I also really liked Paris&Torres and Seven&Doc/Janeway&Chakotay had some nice building (though that was a really hard FAIL at the end there guys!!!). Voyager wasn't nearly as bad as TNG with this.

I WILL say I'm glad you gave this a 6/10 because while it was still a "romance of the week" it was one of the best of those. The only one I think was better was DS9's "Rejoined". And maybe it was tied by Voyager's "Counterpoint". I think the big thing that "Rejoined" and "Counterpoint" did was give the characters back story together.

I think this might be the most effective episode where they met and romanced and parted in the span of an hour. So that's pretty impressive. But I still think a 6/7 out of 10 is fair.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 7:44am (UTC -6)
In some ways this is reminiscent of a TOS episode, and yet one that doesn't concentrate on the typical 'sexy alien' but drives a much more multi-layered and subtle characterisation. In the end it's difficult to conclude what we've actually seen, and that is, I think, the point. My take - that Kamala is 'programmed' to reflect what Picard desires and reflects that nobility and independence. It's less clear whether that reflects her actual will. That she imprints on Picard is a question of timing (there's a narrow window, as the episode makes clear), not choice. But Picard's surprise at that revelation suggests that nothing intimate took place.

On the downside we have the Ferengi as a crude and wholly unnecessary plot device that could easily have been dispensed with.

"I'll be on holodeck 4" indeed. 3 stars.
Anna
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 9:36am (UTC -6)
This episode was just another chance to showcase hot women. Star Trek is so horribly sexist, bordering on misogynistic - all the time. It culminated in the fetish wear of seven of nine, but has been in place pretty much forever. The new series will suck too because I doubt this aspect (or the many other really dopey and often offensive things about ST) will change. There are endless examples, which I won't list, but having some super attractive woman born to be a slave and living as currency and a whole show about how all the men are stiff over her is just pathetic and no amount of "moral of the story" can undo the fact it is just another step in a long, long path of spitting on women that is Star Trek. Star Trek is poor science fiction, and that could be forgiven because people find it enjoyable and the soap opera of the characters keeps folks entertained. But it isn't brilliant commentary and the subtext is often pretty disgusting.
Chrome
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
@Anna

While I'm not going to deny this series doesn't have its sexist moments, it's also fairly progressive. Look at characters like Tasha, Crusher, and Guinen. They wear unisex clothing and admired for their leadership and guidance skills. And since you brought up Voyager, why not talk about Janeway? Instead of cherry-picking what is sexist and how bad everyone related to this franchise is for it, maybe you should try to promote what female characters you like.
Anna
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 4:41pm (UTC -6)
I have to respectfully disagree Chrome. The sexist portrayal and treatment of women far outweighs anything positive in my opinion as the examples are too extreme and too common. To be fair, on the whole Dr. Crusher, and Dr Pulaski, probably fare the best as they are not often hyper sexualized, treated as chattle, etc. But Yar? First off, I would argue they created her character as they thought it would be sexy to have a woman in that role - and they were quick to sex her up. The second episode of the series in fact. They had her weeping like an hysterical woman in a crisis, had her in some sexy battle to be the property/wife of some primitive patriarchal culture in another episode. Guinan? Such a minor character and had Whoopie Goldberg not wanted so very much to be a part of the series that they created the role for her, I have no doubt the resident bar tender would have been a sexy young thing in a form fitting, low cut outfit. There are many examples, and we could debate forever, but I don't think a dash of occassional, incidental respect mitigates some of the truly awful stuff in this series. I wouldn't want my daughters watching it, as I'd have a lot of explaining to do. And it isn't just TNG.

And look at Counselor Troi! Or worse, her mother - an older woman portrayed as some irritating hag desperately pursuing men who are all horrified, yet Picard is so often coupled with much younger women. And why is she so despised? Even when she isn't behaving in her ridiculous, let's all laugh at the lonely older lady caricature, who isn't young and sexy enough to be taken seriously, and is in fact behaving professionally, she is still barely tolerated. For example, in Dark Page, the opening scene when she is discussing with Picard the challenges of creating a platform of communication with a new species so they can participate in the Federation, he's practically rolling his eyes in disgust. Had the same discussion, her exact explanations and words been from a man, or a woman deemed not the object of nothing but contempt (and the reasons for that are really offensive, in my opinion) he'd have been very interested, in that establishing relations with new races of beings is supposedly their mission... I think it is cherry picking to find examples that aren't offensive - though this is my opinion, and I know you will disagree, which is fair enough if you don't see it this way. I never expect greatness from this franchise and ultimately it is meant to entertain the largest number and is television, so least common denominator will prevail. But I wish it would stop being so backward and offensive so often.
Robert
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 8:53pm (UTC -6)
Considering the men wear padding and ENT used to have the men bee half naked as much as the women you'll have to do better than Seven's catsuit for proof. TNG could be pretty sexist. TNG occasionally had issues not being TOS, but I'm not sure you could find good proof of the later series being sexist without cherry picking. Especially to the extent that you're sure the next one we'll be?
Anna
Tue, Dec 22, 2015, 9:25pm (UTC -6)
Find me an episode in any of the series in which the moral question is should women be enslaved prostitutes - and the premise is some super sexy woman who is designed by nature to please men. It is subjects like this that make the show so sexist. Or take the pathetic "Angel One" where they try to make a woman-run society. Having zero understanding of women (or men for that matter) in a truly prehistoric way of thinking they simply reverse roles and create a patriarchal society based on subjugation and domination, but the women are the men and the men are the women. They are SO backward they can't even conceive of other ways of men and women interacting. And the "alien" cultures are so frequently just male dominated, chest beating nonsense - the Klingons with Worf barking they like strong women, but in a poker match declares women are weak and need extra help, and they cannot hold the highest level of political roles... The Kazon (or whatever that crappy alien species was in Voyager) in which the men constantly declare how women have no voice... And there are others, but it takes to long to enumerate.

The only time women are treated as equals is when they are barred from participation in romance/sexuality for the most part. And yes, there may have been some instances of men in revealing costumes, but there are no characters created specifically to be sexualized, or men who throughout a series cannot wear the normal uniform. Why is Troi always in some form fitting low cut dress? Why the cat suits on seven or even on Kes till they decided she wasn't sexy enough? It isn't just the costumes though - that is just the icing on the cake... It is the themes of so many of the episodes, the portrayal of the characters, the dopey misogynistic alien cultures that so frequently present themselves.

Someone described ST as "progressive"... Not sure what that is supposed to mean. But do we REALLY need to examine whether or not male dominated cultures are good or bad, or whether women should be sex slave? Are we REALLY at the stage that we need morality tales to explore these kinds of issues, or science fiction to explore this caveman way of thinking? No... But the creators and writers can't see beyond that thinking. And science fiction can really be anything - it allows for a kind of exploration of ideas that other fiction doesn't. If I were a man, I would be even more disgusted, as I don't know men who think like this.

The tip of the iceberg is the disgusting costumes, and tripping over themselves to find excuses to put women in such costumes. I understand why people love ST... But I really can't understand loving it to the point that it's flaws can't be examined.. And I would argue sexism is a minor flaw... there is so much that is even worse. I think what annoys me the most is that ST poses, strives to be, social commentary, and thought leadership... And people take it that way. It isn't. People who care about it should hold it to that standard.
Robert
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 7:33am (UTC -6)
Anna, I acknowledged some of TNG is problematic. I think it's a product of it's time (and at points an annoyingly retrograde product of it's time and a marriage of TOS). So I asked "I'm not sure you could find good proof of the later series being sexist without cherry picking".

Your response to me then started off with Angel One and a stupid comment Worf made during a poker match. Ok, so if you want to complain a little more about TNG fine. I write Angel One off in the vein of "half of season one is offensive" and Worf's comment was pretty horrifying by the point at which it was uttered. Especially for a Klingon who grew up with humans. Really Worf?

That said, your next comment is absurd. You are aware that characters can be racist/sexist without the EPISODE being racist/sexist, right? That's why "Far Beyond The Stars" is not racist just because it has racist characters. You can't POSSIBLY think that a show with a woman captain that encounters a race that LITERALLY looks like Neanderthals is sexist because the Neanderthals are sexist... right? You don't get much more heavy handed "sexism bad" than that. And Janeway doesn't even respect their stupid "culture" and let them deal with Chakotay like Picard might when dealing with a society that is ruled by women. Nope Janeway just doesn't have any of his stupid sexism and she is always painted as right. That's not sexist TV, those are sexist characters. Having a brilliant accomplished female scientist/captain go up against sexist neanderthals is the OPPOSITE of sexist TV.

"But do we REALLY need to examine whether or not male dominated cultures are good or bad"

No, but I'm not convinced that we're doing that. To take the Kazon for example... the Kazon aren't examining if male domination is good/bad, it's flat out saying it's bad. It's holding a mirror to our society. And frankly considering women in our society, even at the top, still deal with sexism it's not a bad idea to have the first woman captain deal with it either. It's relevant, albeit heavy handed in the case of them being LITERAL neanderthals.

"But I really can't understand loving it to the point that it's flaws can't be examined"

I'm happy to talk about it's flaws...

"It is the themes of so many of the episodes, the portrayal of the characters, the dopey misogynistic alien cultures that so frequently present themselves."

So pick something. Let's talk about a few episodes. Preferably DS9/VOY since I'm most familiar with those (I never watched all of ENT and already acknowledged that TNG, especially the early years has issues).

I will say though that things are a product of their time and it's easy for us to say something is sexist in 2015. In 1965 Gene Rodenberry aired a pilot with a woman first officer. I'm sure he's was sexist too, a product of his time, but let's just acknowledge that FIFTY years ago, when we had only 2 women in the senate and they were only the 9th and 10th women EVER to be senators that man thought that a woman would be the first officer on the flagship of the fleet. Just think about that for a second.
Robert
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 7:38am (UTC -6)
Oh, and just to add to the Kazon thing... if we end up with a woman president next year she will undoubtedly have to negotiate with leaders of other countries that consider her beneath them because she is a woman. The Kazon sexism issue is actually a very relevant concept.
Anna
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 9:54am (UTC -6)
Robert, you make some good points, and clearly care very much about these series. I don't think though we are going to agree. I hear what you are saying about it being a mirror of society. But I think therein lies a lot of my issues. It is science fiction, and the possibilities are limitless, limited by the imagination, and yet in the incomprehensibly vast galaxy so very, very many of the alien species have evolved such that women are abused, inferior, objectified. It's at best unimaginative, but it also says a lot about the fundamental view of the female gender. It feels like being pounded over the head with the notion, and is incredibly tiresome and so frequent.
If the galaxy were populated with seemingly endless alien species that despised and disparaged blacks, and coupled with that were characters and episodes that portrayed some ugly stereotypes, it wouldn't feel like a brilliant commentary - it would feel like the writers/creators have some serious issues. They have choices - and they so often choose to present women in this way. It's relentless. Coupled with characters who seem to exist to be the female sex element, the really offensive portrayal that often happens, the choice of subjects of various episodes, the relentless message doesn't feel forward thinking.

As for Voyager, you are right that they accomplished something with Janeway, and that aside from a few moments where they asserted her femininity (or whatever they were trying to do) with some questionable episodes, she was a strong figure. But that show lost any credibility with me with the introduction of Seven, her absurd corsetted catsuit and heels, and the incredible intense focus that was given to it. And not just with me. Kate Mulgrew: " Certainly, I could see with my own eyes that she was a va-va-va-voom and beautiful-beautiful bombshell of a girl. Sexuality was brought into Voyager, and that’s what I resented. I chose not to use sexuality. I thought that if Paramount and UPN and Rick (Berman) were being exceptionally prescient and brave, they would give a woman a shot at commanding without sex. “Can we do this without sex?” There are always other ways. So I resented that and I was hurt by the immediate, extraordinary attention given to this character."

As for TOS, I almost don't include it when I assess this, as it is so over the top but as you point out, it's ancient. We could debate forever. I respect that you don't see it my way, and I don't think I will convince you. As I said, what bothers me is that it presents as some kind of brilliant thought leadership, but I don't think it is. I think it is uncreative at best but the choices say more than that to me - and it is stuck in a thinking that is hard to stomach.
Robert
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 10:59am (UTC -6)
I do agree that it says something that when DS9 wanted a ratings boost they went with a Klingon Warrior and VOY went with Jeri Ryan's breasts. The fact that many of the writers made her a multi-dimensional character who was amazingly acted doesn't change the behind the scenes ick factor.

But I actually find the fact that so many planets are sexist and those aliens are usually darker than me to be more racist than sexist I suppose.

You've been silent on DS9 and Kira is probably my favorite female TV character. I wonder what your thoughts on her are. I personally wish DS9 had more women, 2/8 is low... even TNG would have more if Crosby had stayed. And VOY had 3 as well. But on the whole I thought DS9 respected their women.
Anna
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 6:13pm (UTC -6)
Robert, to be honest, I am not super familiar with DS9. I have watched most of the episodes, aside from those I just couldn't plow through - just to awful to watch all the way through. I know Kira was popular as a female character, but I think that speaks to how very much people wish, deep down, that women were not portrayed, on the whole, as they are in these series and thus they grasp at every possible counter example as antidote. If the gender were not portrayed as it is in general, ST would not need these desperate attempts at "tough" girls to try to counter it. And as such, I wasn't impressed with Kira. I found her character annoying - partly as I disliked the actress and thought she was a bit of a ham. But aside from that, her chasing powerful men gets disturbing, and again is a disturbing gender commentary. As I said before, sexism is just one of the failings of ST, in my opinion, and there are many... One is a race of victims - Bajorans, or whatever they were called... It is obvious, so very painfully, dully obvious, what the historical rehashing is here, but 1. I found it boring and terribly uncreative. 2. The victimhood was so emphasized so constantly with all that race that it is hard to see past it and view them as strong individuals. Personally, I don't think Kira is much to write home about, and certainly her existence, for what it is, doesn't go far to undo the sexist nastiness that rears it's head so often- if that's the best they've got, there is a long, long way to go.

Women are notable in their absence on DS9, as you remarked, except for a couple and of course some guest appearances that truly offend - see my other comment on Troi's mother - the lonely old man chaser who is scorned - not sexy/young enough to be anything but a despised joke since she's female - it's such an ugly caraciture. And oh dear, Vash... What is that about? I think we must assume that the massive attraction is based on her looks? Because it has to be the most uninteresting, undeveloped character - she isn't particularly smart, she's unethical, she isn't funny, or clever, or in any way special that I can see and has limited back story. But a woman doesn't need much on ST to be the object of all men's drooling - not once the writers have decided we are having another hot girl scenario. Both these women and the sexism that brought them into being were the focus of DS9 episodes... Again though, we could debate instances forever.

As you point out, the creators of these series tend to create what they feel are mirrors of human culture and society. I think the choices in that regard are often disturbing, and far more telling about the mindsets/viewpoints/bigotries and total lack of creativity of those creating this stuff than commentary on much of anything else. And, as I said, it is science fiction, and a huge galaxy - they could do anything...Yet look where their minds always are - look how they think. And this is the future too... And so much is just some rehash of human cultural cliches that they can't see beyond, can't think beyond. The choices involved are often offensive. But I am going to stop... this is a site for fans of these shows. And believe it or not, I suppose I have to grudgingly class myself as one - somewhat... Though one who is forever very, very disappointed.
Anna
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 6:29pm (UTC -6)
Robert - one last comment... I know my opinions are strong, and as I said, I respect the fact that not everyone will agree or see what I see. My gripe is with the shows - not the fans of the shows - so hopefully no one is offended.
Jay
Tue, Jan 5, 2016, 6:46pm (UTC -6)
Enjoyed the episode and thought it had decent character development. It was interesting that at the beginning of the episode we learn that male metamorphs are common whilst female ones are extremely rare. I suspect the episode may have come across less as a male orientated thing if one of these common male metamorphs that would mold themselves to nearby women was featured in the episode (perhaps as part of the ambassadors team).

I do however think that unless they used the male metamorph moments to replace the ridiculous Ferengi scenes that it may have compromised the brilliant character development (if they had to cut the Picard scenes). A sad but enjoyable episode.
Dave
Sat, Jan 30, 2016, 2:20am (UTC -6)
side note....

Back when I wathed this during it's first run I couldn't get out of my head why they named this beautiful woman after a 1980's fat wrestler (Kamala was a quite famous, and horribly racist, character throughout the 1980's in various wrestling territories). At the time I figured the writers were wrestling fans.
david g
Tue, Feb 16, 2016, 6:48am (UTC -6)
A beautiful, subservient woman falls in love with a middle aged man.
erasmus palmer
Fri, Apr 8, 2016, 7:45am (UTC -6)
About the Ferengi getting into the cargo bay...

I'm not a regular so maybe this has been discussed elsewhere, but aren't you all fascinated that, in as recent a decade as the 90s, the makers of a popular TV science fiction can't conceive of a future where video surveillance is all pervasive?
Living as we do in the 21st century, don't we find it pretty much unbelievable that there's even so much as a square centimetre on board the Enterprise that isn't subject to video scrutiny?

I'm prepared to accept that in the goody-two-shoes world of Star Trek might be exempt from video surveillance, but cargo bays..? corridors...?
Stig
Tue, May 3, 2016, 8:51pm (UTC -6)
@erasmus palmer: I'm not justifying it, but it's been handwaved away in the past for a couple reasons, usually because of the ol' "in the 24th century we've erased all bad behavior" reasons and that the Enterprise crew generally seems to allow guests mostly free reign of the ship for some reason (Picard offered Kamala the same, though).

Of course it is silly that there were a) no locks on the doors on the ferengi doors, b) no guards posted, c) no computerized logs of people leaving their quarters, d) no alerts of the ferengi getting to the cargo bay, e) no crew saw them (or thought it of interest to report it), f) no logs of entry into the cargo bay (with sensitive diplomatic cargo in it, nonetheless - cargo that for some reason needed to be in a ridiculous contraption (why not have a box around it?). You'd think there'd be the equivalent of key fobs on a starship.
michael
Tue, May 31, 2016, 3:45am (UTC -6)
First rule.: Any TNG episode with a Ferengi is going to be bad. That said, I still don't get the appeal of watching one of the most trite plots in TNG -- The Visiting Ambassador. Visiting ambassador comes aboard, shit better not happen or the blah, blah, blah is doomed. Shit happens. Picard steps in. War averted, treaty signed, whatever. bittersweet ending.

The classy whore made it only slightly better
Dan
Thu, Oct 6, 2016, 2:01am (UTC -6)
With a title like "The Perfect Mate", I was not optimistic. Reading the plot summary would not have helped: the premise is such a trope—the perfect robot girlfriend—and hearkens back to many bad TOS stories. So, really surprised when this turns out to be one of the great ones.

There is some sexism in choosing this trope to tell any story at all, but if you're going to do it, this is the right way to go about it. It's like The Dark Knight of robot girlfriend stories. :-) I'm not sure if I could say it deconstructs the premise, but at the very least it takes it seriously and closely examines it. We're left with so much to think about: Does Kamala have free will? Perhaps only after reflecting Picard? If so, has Picard unwittingly created that in her, sort of like Data created a sentient Moriarty? Is she better off with the "higher" sense of purpose that came from bonding, or is it pure tragedy? Is Picard's worldview really superior, or just more familiar? Did she choose this? Does she want it? "Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me man?" Pretty deep stuff for a fantasy about a perfect girlfriend.

Appreciate the great comments above, too. They've made me like the episode a bit more.
Zero
Mon, Oct 10, 2016, 11:36pm (UTC -6)
I'm surprised there's been no mention of the line, "I am for you..."

There had to be knowledge of the history of that line in universe. Was a double meaning intended?
Peter G.
Tue, Oct 11, 2016, 1:53am (UTC -6)
@Zero, are you referring to "That Which Survives?"
Zero
Wed, Oct 12, 2016, 1:06am (UTC -6)
@PeterG - I am! I don't see the connection but it is, to me, such a singular line that it always jumps out at me.
Peter G.
Wed, Oct 12, 2016, 8:08am (UTC -6)
@ Zero, the line is indeed singular. If the writers wrote it knowingly with "That Which Survives" in mind we can conclude that they did so from a sense of humor. In TOS that line referred to a woman designed for a specific man to end his life. It's not too hard to figure out what they meant by implying that an impending marriage would mean the same thing!
Zero
Fri, Oct 14, 2016, 12:22am (UTC -6)
@PeterG

I don't disagree with your analysis but I'd pull the sex of the character from it. One of the things I found most chilling about the empath situation was her total loss of self upon meeting her intended.

In this case, "I am for you" becomes a statement of absolute surrender and the death of her individuality. If not for coming out of stasis she would never have spent a moment identifying who she was.

Jammer says in his review that she is not a slave. I'm afraid I can't agree. She clearly shares that she has never, in her life, been alone. There has always been someone there to tell her what she was and what she would become.

In this exchange with you, what I have processed is that the women (a computer in TWS, I grant you) in both episodes have no real control over their actions. They've been programmed.
Peremensoe
Sat, Nov 12, 2016, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
erasmus palmer: "Living as we do in the 21st century, don't we find it pretty much unbelievable that there's even so much as a square centimetre on board the Enterprise that isn't subject to video scrutiny?"

Stig: "Of course it is silly that there were a) no locks on the doors on the ferengi doors, b) no guards posted, c) no computerized logs of people leaving their quarters, d) no alerts of the ferengi getting to the cargo bay, e) no crew saw them (or thought it of interest to report it), f) no logs of entry into the cargo bay..."

But... the cargo bay *was* being monitored. There *was* an alert of the Ferengi entry, visible on Worf's security panel on the bridge. He knew at once who it was, called for a detail to meet him there.
Tara
Tue, Jan 31, 2017, 7:16pm (UTC -6)
Mixed feelings about this episode. As many have pointed out, it's impossible to know Kamala or what she wants. Even Kamala doesn't know what she wants; she only knows what the man she's with wants.

When I saw it the first time. I took her final imprinting on Picard as, in fact, a choice -which is how she explained it to him - but of course it was just as likely his desire rubbing off on her, his sense of duty rubbing off on her, or his man-parts rubbing her on their last night together. I mean, I guess I'm glad she ends up becoming permanently the brilliant and adventurous type Picard desired, but.... It's still problematic.

The throwaway line at the beginning, "Male metamorphs are relatively common" was hypocritical BS on the part of the show. It was clearly meant to take some of the venomous misogyny out of the premise, but only a moron would be fooled.

Producer: "Hey, I want an all-white cast for my show about lawyers ... Don't want any black or brown people or Jews, but I gotta cover my ass from accusations of racism."

Writer: "Easy! Let's just start off the pilot with one lawyer mentioning "Our black, extremely respected CEO is on a five year sabbatical in GHana visiting his grandma".... Then we get your all-white show and the NAACP can't do squat to us!"

Obviously, they could have had the same episode but given us one of those very common male metamorphs, being given as a gift to a female head of state. Could have had the same identity struggle, same discussion of ethics and free will, same thwarted love affair - except it would be between the enslaved male and that main female .Enterprise crew member. You know, that major female character who is independent and duty-bound and stoic and self-controlled and central to the series.

Hmmm, gosh, I just can't imagine why they didn't do it that way....
Peter G.
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 12:19am (UTC -6)
@ Tara,

Your feminist reading of this episode seems to miss the context of Kamala as she features in the story. You have zeroed in on the fact that a female slave is the centerpiece of the episode, but failed to note in what way the episode treats her.

We can begin with the title itself: The Perfect Mate. Should we infer from this that Star Trek is factually asserting that she is, indeed, the perfect mate? If so it would certainly seem sexist. However I don't think this assumption would be accurate.

Kamala is shown to be able to become whatever a man wants, and at the start of the episode this is made to sound like a splendid thing. Maybe just the sort of thing many men would ask for if they could have it. The fact that a little havoc on the ship ensues can be ascribed to no more than her early release, if one wanted to find excuses for it. But actually it's a taste of what's to come in the theme.

When she adopts Picard's traits we are again lulled into thinking this is a wonderful ability, since we respect Picard and surely would celebrate having a female around who is like him. In fact, since Picard leads a lonely private life we are probably even being led to hope he'll somehow end up with her (we know he won't, but the image of it happening is still there in the imagination). But the real meaning of the episode comes at the end, when the pig of a man who's to marry her shows the true face of what it means to want a malleable slave. I believe we are meant to reflect back to her adopting Picard's traits and to realize that even that was as gross as someone who'd want her to be servile and weak. Regardless of whether one wishes for her to be noble or slavish, either way she is being reduced to an object of desire. We should no more celebrate her being Picard's ideal mate than we should her being a sex slave. The ending almost seems to suggest that she's happy to have ended up at Picard's ideal woman, which would imply that she got lucky in some sense to have bonded to him, but even so her evaluation of that is conducted as his ideal mate! Of course she'd think that was a better way to be, since it embodied Picard's values by definition. We don't get to know what she would have wanted, because her wants never really came into the picture.

I don't know that this was intended specifically as such, but I would suggest that if anything this is strikingly a feminist episode. The ironic title seems to me to suggest that desiring another person to be exactly what we want objectifies them; that trying to match a human being up against a personal fantasy makes them into less than what they are. So rather than being all about how great it is to have a female slave, as you suggest, I believe the episode's conclusion is meant to show how horrible it is for someone like her to be used like that, even by someone like Picard.
Tara
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 5:33am (UTC -6)
Peter G,

I don't know. I hear what you're saying. And for the record I called the episode problematic, not flat-out disgusting like others. (For a typical early TNG female, see Minuet on 1100101. She says nothing but "Oh commander Riker! You live a fascinating life! Please tell me more!" And Riker and Pucard indeed talk about how wonderful she is and how easy it would be to fall in love with such a perfect mate!)

Here are the reasons we did not see a male metamorph being given to a female head of state:

1) the show wanted to present a sexy woman guest star to titillate the male TV audience

2) culturally it's considered normal for a woman to please/obey/be what her man wants. (Again see Minuet, or the various devoted wives of "Too Short a Season", "We'll Always Have Paris", Sarek's episode etc). The reverse in a man is considered weak, slavish, unmanly, hen-packed. A male guest changing to be the ideal mate of Troi or Crusher would have been sniggered at

3). Assuming heterosexuality, a male metamorph would have been given either Crusher or Troi. But those characters are written without the gravitas and stoicism Picard is awarded. They are also far less important characters than the male lead (Picard), the second lead (Data), the third lead (Piker). A show about their love affair with a male metamorph would have been lightweight fluff because their characters are written as lightweights.

So the sexism I see is more meta or out-of-universe. We have:

-- a guest role clearly meant to titillate the male audience
-- a plot that we're comfortable with because it's only a hair beyond What socially expected of women in relationships
-- in a TV show that has depicted many sex other female guests as sex toys, vapid women, and devoted wives circling their "great man" husbands.
-- a TV show in which the three most important, powerful and interesting roles are taken by men,
-- and in which the female characters are written to be dull, one-note, and therefore hard to build episodes around..

I didn't hate the episode. Actually I kinda liked it. I like the conversations between Picard and Kamala; I like that Crusher speaks up for her ethics; I like the fun scene in Ten Forward and I love Stewart's and Kamala's acting. I too am not completely immune to the charms of a beautiful metamorph! It's entertaining and a bit thought-provoking. But it is built on a scaffolding of past TNG in-universe sexism, inside a larger world of TV producers' and writers' sexism, inside a surrounding world of societal sexism that determines how women are often portrayed (objects to be gazed at or owned) and how they're generally expected to treat men (please him and change for him).

And all these onion-like layers are what created this plot.
Peter G.
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 8:27am (UTC -6)
Both your (1) and (2) imply a sexist *context*, and I think it's absolutely clear that the episode works within such a context, knowingly. It knows the audience likes attractive females and that there is a cultural stereotype of women being subservient to men. The episode delivers what people would like to see, and in spades. And that is the entire point: it shows that the audience's expectation is not so virtuous, and this becomes clear towards the end when we begin to realize that wanting such a character (or a mate) is problematic, as you put it. It allows the audience to feel it's getting what it wants, only to subtly turn that on its head when it becomes clear how awful it is that she is destined to be nothing more than a possession to some client. This puts the mirror up to the audience themselves, who are the clients behind TNG and to whom the producers cater to an extent.

Granted, I don't think "The Perfect Mate" hammers this point home bluntly, but I think the message is there, all the same. I certainly feel revulsion when I watch her new owner show up, and although it's true that this is partly due to how he's represented, at the same time it's quite notable that we are expected to feel badly for her in the end rather than drooling over her.
Robert
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 8:28am (UTC -6)
@Tara - But Minuet wasn't a woman. Minuet was basically 24th century pornography and Picard and Riker were treating IT as such. That conversation was basically amounting to... "With the internet and a free left hand, who needs a woman amirite??" Early TNG guest stars are problematic, but it's worth pointing out that Minuet is not a woman but a piece of tech designed to "stimulate" Riker.

FWIW I agree with your assessment that there aren't many (any) females in Trek that could have pulled this episode off the way Picard does. Neither Troi nor Crusher really could have, Kira is too fundamentally broken personally (though I love her) to have made that work, Jadzia could possibly have done it... as could Janeway (when written correctly). But that's probably it. Whereas there are probably 10 or so men that this episode could have been done for.

Also, to throw my 2 cents in... I think that she did make a choice. I think she spent years mostly alone and she knows what she's like when she's alone. I think she realizes she's going to have to eventually absorb part of SOMEBODY'S personality and I think she liked herself with Picard. I think maybe when she went back to her quarters each day she missed the piece of her that left with him.

It may still be not her ideal, but it doesn't sound like staying blank is possible. So Picard may have been the next best thing.
William B
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 10:13am (UTC -6)
My take:

I think that the TOS model was supposed to be that Trek is post-sexism, post-racial. Hence Lincoln's line to Uhura saying he should have realized that racism was so far in the past that he did not have to choose his words as carefully to avoid imagined offense. TNG, I think, is/was meant to be similar. However, the three white male adult actors are still the three top officers on the ship, with he twor playing human adult white men being the top officers. Crusher, Pulaski and Troi are highly-ranked women but outside the chain of command, with Troi's job only intermittently being taken seriously. Yar was probably the next in command after Data in season one, as a full lieutenant who was part of the chain of command, but the character was poorly executed (writing and acting) and then was...poorly executed (by Armus).

So TNG didn't quite present a post-racial, post-sexism TV show, but I think Starfleet itself, and Picard, is still meant to be beyond 1980s/90s sexism. For the most part I think Picard is. But I think Peter's read, which I agree with, indicts Picard to a degree -- for failing to fully recognize Kamala's plight until he is confronted, first by Crusher, then by a Kamala specifically imprinted to speak his language. And that implies the episode takes place in a sexist world, which Picard is ultimately not above. Now, I think the analogue to Kamala is mostly princesses or other royals who are meant to make peace between warring faction by marriage, and so whose "job" is to be beautiful. I think it is a reality of human history that this exploitative role was more often expected of women than men, and I think this episode comments on that. However, it is hard to see Picard coming under the criticism that he is part of the sexist institution, because we don't think of Picard that way and the show generally does not portray him that way. In that sense, this episode seems like a criticism of all of TNG for failing to note some of the show's biases...but it is subtle enough that this episode could rightly be criticized for still living within those boundaries. And the critique the ep puts forth, if Peter is correct (and I believe he is) is not something the show maintains.

So IMO Tara is absolutely right about the show in general, it is just a question of whether this episode suffers from the same faults of the show as a whole or whether it undermines them -- but maybe is insufficient on its own at underlining the limutations of the ostensibly utopian future.
William B
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 10:32am (UTC -6)
@Robert, I get what you mean about Minuet, but Riker and Picardy treat it/her as being very different from other holodeck characters, and in Future Imperfect we are told that Riker still has a strong emotional attachment to her years later. I don't think Minuet *was* intended as a sex toy on the authorial level, or rather she was meant to be person enough to floor Riker.
Robert
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 10:38am (UTC -6)
Why can't it be both? Why can't 24 century sex toys be so advance that we have emotional attachments to them?
William B
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 10:46am (UTC -6)
Well, sort of. I think it says more about Riker's issues (commitment-phobia, dead mother) than it does about he world that Riker gets attached to Minuet so much. But I think Minuet is still "supposed to be" really special -- and thus Tara's point that she is depicted as a certain kind of woman's role in the show makes sense. Although, she was always meant to be a too-good-to-be-true fantasy; it maybe just sucks that this is what Riker's fantasy is. She is not wholly subservient; she is meant to have some spark and aggressiveness and challenge Riker a bit -- but, obviously, only enough to entice him and not enough to be independent enough to scare him. I think 11001001 is pulling some of the same trick as Peter suggests this episode is, but is less sophisticated about it -- though 11001001 also has more plot elements than this one, and Min is less central to that than Kamala is here.
Peremensoe
Wed, Feb 8, 2017, 3:59pm (UTC -6)
It may be that the writers choose to write this around a female character so we can have a hot babe of the week. But in-universe, I always understood that her diplomatic value, and thus appearance on the Enterprise, was *because* of the rarity of female metamorphs.

I'm wary of the proposition that Kamala has no agency here. Within the terms of what she is and the situation she's put in, she has two significant choices: who she bonds to; and, whether she fulfills the diplomatic role, to the greater good, despite her personal preferences. I think she *makes* these choices. Why would we denigrate her by inferring that she's both incapable of choosing in full knowledge of the implications, and also dishonest about it?
Outsider65
Sat, Mar 18, 2017, 12:56am (UTC -6)
I have to agree with what other people have been saying, not a great episode, for several reasons.

First off-Picard's an idiot. He left the cargo bay unlocked and unguarded after the ambassador told him the cargo was essential and irreplaceable. They could have at least thrown a few guards in the corridor to make it look like he was semi-competent this episode. The ferengi just walks right in and helps himself! But even that wouldn't let him off the hook, as he still let a couple of ferengi go roaming around his ship unsupervised. Confine them to quarters or at least place a guard with them at all times, you know they can't be trusted! The ferengi weren't even necessary to the plot, and just served to make Picard look like a fool. (It was kind of funny seeing them trying to cozy up to people and imagining Geordi taking one snorkeling, though.)

Love stories between Picard and women who are young enough to be his daughter are, as always, completely unbelievable. Are viewers really supposed to believe there are really so many young women out there lusting over his gleaming noggin, or is the career of starship captain more lucrative or respected than is implied? In this case she'll go for anything male so it's excusable, but I'd really prefer to see him with a woman his own age and with similar interests, and then watch a natural thing happen between them instead of making poor Picard do the Kirk and uncharacteristically fall for any pretty thing that makes eyes at him. (Isn't that Riker's job?)

I'm not seeing what's so "deep" about this episode. She's being exactly what Picard wants her to be, as she told him she would do, and he starts to take it at face value and forget himself and what she is. She would have done the same with any other man, acting how he wanted her to. Maybe she truly is more attracted to Picard because he's an authority figure or because he respects her and doesn't just lust after her. How would we know? The whole time she's just telling him what he wants to hear, for all we know she really didn't care about what he thought. She was vulnerable because he wanted her to be, interested in him because he wanted her to be. Oh, he didn't want it consciously, but on a subconscious level he was reacting and she was responding by being exactly what he was into.

He did her a great disservice by bonding her to him, because it turned her into a woman who would be dissatisfied with her fate, a fate she previously told him she was fine with. As tragic as that is, in the end she's just a plot device to give us a little more on the captain. Depthen and torture the character a little by giving him a forbidden fruit that's just to his liking. She's just a one episode character we'll never see again, and we know it going in, so the focus is really on Picard and how he reacts to her, how he muddles through the moral dilemma he's given after Beverly tells him the girl may just be a slave. (Star Fleet hasn't had any trouble dealing with slavers in the past though, so I was a little surprised she brought it up.)

The episode isn't about love so much as how Picard reacts to it.
Pierre
Sat, May 20, 2017, 3:06am (UTC -6)
I think this is an interesting episode because it's like the star trek version of in the mood for love. Which works so well for a character like Picard. I know some people have accused this episode of being misogynistic in its portrayal of a woman as an object with the sole purpose to please a man but I think that's just people getting a bit too SJW happy. The episode does in fact tackle that issue and explore it, basically using the 'she's an alien and aliens work differently from normal people" argument to justify the situation. Which is a fair way out I think, while still highlighting the human view of the situation as exploitative. But also it highlights the prime directive idea that you shouldn't judge and interfere with how others choose to live their lives. The sexual tension is very palpable and it is an interesting episode for seeing Picard put on the spot and his own repressed desires highlighted. If you look at it another way too you might also say that the metamorph was the one exploiting the men in this episode. I mean they were trying to do their jobs and she never spared an opportunity to try and seduce them so she could get her satisfaction. How many times did Picard have to ask her to stop her sexual advances for god's sake?
Daniel Blumentritt
Sat, Jun 10, 2017, 1:39am (UTC -6)
{ As pretty as Kamala appeared in this episode, I couldn't help thinking that "an empathic metamorph" would not make the ideal mate for a mature man with a strong sense of self. }

That's kind of the point.
Paul Carson
Wed, Aug 2, 2017, 2:03pm (UTC -6)
"Curious isn't exactly how I'd describe it."

Made me chuckle.

You never see Picard leave, and he doesn't answer the ambassador's question.

And Famke bonded with him.

Fun episode, Famke acts it well.
HNC
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 12:35pm (UTC -6)
I like to think that although Picard might be intrigued and tempted, he wouldn't have interest long term in a mate that was "designed" for him. It would be too inauthentic. Besides: what you think or feel you want isn't always what you actually want or need. There's something profoundly powerful about having conflicts and misunderstandings due to fundamental differences in interests and personalities, being able to explore those things, finding some sort of common ground or compromise, and always choosing to maintain a partnership. I feel like Picard would be more interested in someone who loved and respected him while having their own strong sense of self, their own standards and values and opinions, and vice versa.

A relationship with a metamorph would be like dating a character in the holodeck. Perhaps suitable for some, but not for the captain.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
@ HNC,

Don't forget that the metamorph can completely read a person's desires, and that this isn't limited to their base or sensual desires. If Picard has a mix of things that may be either immediately attractive or that he would prefer in the long-term, it's a safe bet that Kamala would tune into that and make adjustments. I think it's fair to assume that she would be the *ideal* mate for any man, not just a phony surface version that wouldn't be that interesting long-term. The premise is simply that she is actually Picard's ideal mate, and that Picard gave that up. Think about that one for a minute, but the episode actually understates how crazy it would be to literally give up the woman of your dreams who wants you for the sake of a diplomatic mission. *That* is why Riker would rather serve under this man rather than have his own command.
William B
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 2:00pm (UTC -6)
In addition to what Peter said, the way in which Kamala operates seems partly to anticipate and disarm Picard's various objections. That's why, for example, she indicates that she likes the person that she's become as a result of Picard, and paints a picture of herself as lonely in her previous life and seems to go straight for the philosophical issue of whether her identity can be meaningful if it is constructed around Picard; she even anticipates and disarms Picard's *ethical* qualms about her by finding a way to make it Picard's ethical duty to keep her company in the interim. I think that the idea here is that the way in which Kamala adapts is "smarter" than the way in which Picard can respond, at least emotionally -- she seems to get to the point of being what he needs before he can even recognize it. Part of the episode's tragedy is that the kind of woman that Picard could love with all her heart is also a woman who would sacrifice herself for the greater good, as he would. It also suggests, maybe, why it's so difficult for Picard to have a relationship; this episode reminds us that Riker or Worf's needs are pretty straightforward, and that of course Data has no "romantic needs" in the traditional sense, but Picard's perfect mate needs to be "imperfect" for him in just the right way, and it's even possible that this perfection would not only be unattainable under normal circumstances, but would immediately lead to the relationship self-terminating. (Kamala's ultimate nobility is maybe a signal of why Picard/Vash could never have worked as anything more than a fling.)
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 2:12pm (UTC -6)
"Part of the episode's tragedy is that the kind of woman that Picard could love with all her heart is also a woman who would sacrifice herself for the greater good, as he would."

Great point. One way the ending could have been stronger would have been if, rather than submitting to her fate because Picard willed it, if Kamala herself had become Picard's ideal mate to the point where she, herself, developed the discipline to step away from him and do her duty. If there had been a scripted moment where her identity "took" (which we never see, we're only told it already happened) and at that moment she suddenly understood that she had to fight the desire just as Picard did, that would have been a truly awesome moment.
William B
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 2:22pm (UTC -6)
Actually, that's how I do read the ending:

PICARD: You can't go through with the ceremony.
KAMALA: Would you ask me to stay and ask two armies to keep fighting? Having bonded with you, I've learned the meaning of duty. He'll never know. I'm still empathic. I will be able to please him. I only hope he likes Shakespeare.

Now, I think that Picard here is mostly being selfless -- his instinct is not, I think, to keep Kamala for himself, but a recognition that she will be unhappy in her new life and that she no longer wishes to go through with the ceremony. But now her sense of duty is activated.

In a larger sense, it's not only a tragedy because of what Picard lost, but because of what Kamala lost -- and how Picard has inadvertently been party to her fate. (Inadvertently because Picard never intended for her to be bonded to him, and, indeed, actively resisted it.)
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
William, yes, but I specifically meant I would have liked to see the actually moment where her personality 'clicked' onscreen so we could see the sudden shift of her desire to be with Picard immediately change and have her realize that duty is first. It could have been timed maybe even at a moment of weakness for Picard, where her own strength, coming from him, could bolster his own resolve. The ending certainly indicated that the change had happened, but based on the plotting it really just coincided with when her intended husband showed up anyhow. The timing of it created an immediacy that trumped whatever desires they may have had; it sort of forced the issue, whereas I would have liked them to have resolved it on their own beforehand. The ending is sad and tragic, but it would have been made more poignant, I think, by a last minute role reversal with Kamala taking the reigns of putting the brakes on and giving Picard a moment to express just what she might mean to him.
William B
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 2:59pm (UTC -6)
Peter, oh, I see what you mean. That would have been interesting, and could have been very powerful. I like the way it played out, and the one thing I'm not sure about in your scenario is that I'm not sure if there would be such a "snapping" point where she goes from being sorta-adapted to Picard to being fully imprinted on him. Obviously we are told there *is* a difference, but I'd imagine that when she's temporarily imprinted on Picard, she would still have his sense of duty, and that the major change isn't so much that she's incorporated his values (which she had already done) as that it's permanent.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 28, 2017, 3:14pm (UTC -6)
William, I see that objection. But the thing is that in theory her personality would only be like his while he was around, which was often but not all the time. So in his absence she'd presumably revert to wanting to have him around. I mean, if the episode went to the full extreme of what we're discussing I guess the moment she was ever first in his presence she could have just stopped asking to mate with him since she'd already have his values, but then there would be no show, right? So I think the difference here lies not so much in whether her personality is permanent, as the fact that she *knows* at first that it's temporary. When with him, even if her version of instincts would tell her that duty comes first, she's not just an automaton, and she would understand that these feelings would only last so long as he was around, so in a way she could indulge them without 'getting in trouble', sort of like playing out a fantasy. Knowing he was going to resist anyhow, she could pursue him without risking the mission, to sort of tease herself, almost, with having him be the one to push her away. But at such a time as she knew the personality was permanent she wouldn't be able to pretend anymore and would have to take on the responsibility that Picard himself takes upon himself as the guiding force of his life. It's one thing to have a sense of duty emanating from Picard that she feels; it's quite another to knowingly embrace that duty as her first calling, to decide to take it. Don't forget that she was meant to function on instinct in the first place; there was no need, really, for her to have to choose her destiny, it's sort of what she's designed for, if I can put it that way. When she was with Picard initially it was much the same; her instincts led her to be what he wanted. It would be different, though, for her to *override* her insticts and subsequently to *choose* duty as a principle unto itself. In other words, to reject her training and choose to accept her same mission for a totally new reason - Picard's reason. I guess I mean that it would be a chance to show her accepting her mission for the right reason for the first time, rather than just going along with what her genetics tell her to do.
Alex
Fri, Nov 3, 2017, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
Basically just a ripoff of the TOS episode 'Elaan of Troiyus'. Surprised to see it still happening in Season 5.
Mads Leonard Holvik
Sun, Feb 11, 2018, 8:37am (UTC -6)
I liked this episode. And I liked the review. Picard's sense of duty reminds me of Horatio Hornblower. Hornblower marries a woman whom he does not love, and he does it because she loves him so dearly, and he remains true to her until she dies. These philosophical and ethical discussions is why I love Star Trek so much.
Bill
Wed, Feb 14, 2018, 4:59pm (UTC -6)
One word - DULL. This is the only Star Trek episode ever I fell asleep during while watching for the first time.
Mike Latoris
Sun, Feb 25, 2018, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
"Picard is able to resist a woman that no other man on the ship can resist; but not a video game? (it was unclear to me whether the whole crew is smitten because she is their perfect woman, or if she actually has some magical/chemical/whatever force that actually has a controlling influence, but either way, Picard resists it)."

No, he didn't. He obviously stayed in her quarters overnight when she asks him to, and when he's asked how he resisted her charms, he doesn't answer the question. Because he didn't.
Sean Hagins
Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 5:25am (UTC -6)
I have to agree with Bill on this one. I hated this episode when it came out, and rewatching it now, my opinion hasn't changed.

Also, as I have said before in reviews on this website, my taste in girls is vastly different than most people here. I do not find Kamala attractive at all! I didn't in X-Men and I didn't here. But that truly is besides the point-I can't abide the plot here. It's just not enjoyable to me
Sean Hagins
Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 5:50am (UTC -6)
Another thing: Why did they not send Data to be the liason for Kamala, and LEAVE HER IN HER QUARTERS? That is something that I thought of at the very beginning. This entire situation is absurd! She should have been confined to quarters-it is obvious that she is a temptation to the men on the ship! It's honestly crazy how Picard doesn't see this
Rahul
Tue, Jul 31, 2018, 7:22pm (UTC -6)
This one's a snooze-fest. We know Picard is uber-dedicated to his career but can have still feelings for all kinds of women (Vash for example) but ultimately it wouldn't work out. Certainly Kamala makes herself perfect for him, whereas the dude she's supposed to marry shows little interest in her -- trophy wife indeed. There really isn't much of a plot here other than a character examination of the loneliness of Picard -- simply not enough here for an entire episode. Another solid acting performance from Stewart -- a few good scenes with Crusher as well.

Give me "Elaan of Troyius" any day over this bore-fest. This one's slow pacing just dragged for me. I think it needed a B-plot.

And we get the stupid Ferengi again causing mayhem. So they cause the ambassador to fall through a glass table and he falls into a coma for several days? Perhaps because he's super-old. But we don't really need to see Ferengi stupidity -- thought that was something of Seasons 1 & 2... And how do they get to roam all over the ship and enter a supposedly locked cargo bay?

Not sure what stance this episode takes on slavery or arranged marriages. Sure, Picard lets Kamala run free (some humor with Data as chaperone) but she wants to fulfill her duties and then there is the PD to observe, so there should be no meddling.

1.5 stars for "The Perfect Mate" -- not much here other than giving Picard the ultimate temptation, which he knows he can't take. Some goofy scenes with the Ferengi, Kamala/Data and a stab at moralizing about a sentient being owned by others. I liked Picard's line "nothing lies beneath" when he was trying to be dull!
GMC
Sun, Sep 2, 2018, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
Just rewatched. I have the same conclusion that I had 25 years ago. Famke was the most gorgeous creature on earth.
Thierafhal
Mon, Oct 8, 2018, 8:13pm (UTC -6)
One thing I found very interesting in this episode, although it was played for laughs, was Riker's overt racism against the Ferengi. When they were beamed aboard, he hadn't even met them yet and already, on the assignment of quarters, he says: "not too close to mine".

I think Riker has every right to distrust them considering he was leading the landing party of humanity's first "known" contact with the Ferengi, in the first season episode: The Last Outpost, and he saw how deceitful they were. He was also captured by them in season four's Ménage à Troi.

The reason I find all this interesting is because of a line in another first season episode from Riker. In Lonely Among Us, we hear the tail end of a conversation Picard and Riker were having about the Antican and the Selay peace delegates the Enterprise was ferrying to a peace conference. I may have the exact quotes off a bit, but basically what is said about their hostility to each other:

Riker: "I never understood that kind of hostility even when I studied earth history."

Picard: "...oh yes, well they feel such passionate hatred for one another on customs, god concepts, even strangely enough, economic systems."

I guess Riker learned fast from practical experience. One of the Selay even asked about how close their quarters would be to the Anticans, something echoed by Riker in The Perfect Mate as I have already referenced. Funnily enough as well with Picard mentioning "economic systems", I'm guessing Riker is not a fan of the Ferengi's capitalistic nature either.
MadStupid
Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 10:44pm (UTC -6)
What was up with the goofy groups of thugs in Ten Forward? All the sudden it looks like the Star Wars Cantina... I don't remember big groups of rowdy aliens hanging around before.
Polly
Wed, Oct 17, 2018, 10:36am (UTC -6)
I hated this episode so much! It encapsulates everything that was wrong with the depiction of women in the first two series of Star Trek.
Sean Hagins
Wed, Oct 17, 2018, 10:55am (UTC -6)
@Polly

In what way? I'm not sure what you mean
Polly
Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 4:04am (UTC -6)
@Sean Hagins

Anna back in 2015 outlined the often obnoxious depiction of women in Star Trek more coherently than I can, although I don't judge the various series quite as harshly as she does, and don't believe that any of the episodes was deliberately misogynist. Peter, also in 2015, points out that the character of Kamala '... reads more like a 13-year-old boy's fantasy of the ideal girlfriend', ie a hot organic fembot with no personal ambition other than to be what the man who owns her wants her to be. Famke Janssen does her best with the part (Kamala growling at Worf was very funny) but the writers' attempts to stave off accusations of sexism,
or of titillating their audience with a comely sex-slave are just laughable: 'We're not being sexist because in this society there are also male metamorphs but we're not going to depict them just .... cos. And she's not a slave because we say so, even though she has absolutely no other purpose in life than to be imprinted on a man chosen for her by other men.' As for the notion that the noblest and most self-sacrificing action this person can take to help her people is to spread her legs for the enemy .... don't make me puke. This episode could only have been redeemed for me if Kamala had come to the realisation that she was smarter, better educated and more accomplished than any of the males she had met and had formed a metamorph army to conquer both worlds.
Thomas
Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 4:29am (UTC -6)
Polly -

Ambition is a negative trait, male or female. Perhaps it isn't seen that way in our neurotic modern age, but TNG is supposed to be an evolved culture and not one centered around materialism.
borusa
Wed, Nov 21, 2018, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
I do not agree with Jammer here.
I cannot believe that the writers have pulled out that worn out plot of incapacitated ambassador replaced by Picard in a rush again.
As for the core business of Picard falling in love, Kirk-like- with the babe of the week-just give me a break guys.
Ok-she is an empathic metamorph who imprints herself on her one true love-so far so Disney channel,causes random rowdy rough types in ten forward ( huh-how did they get on board?) to act like jerks and gets Riker's magic trouser snake going.

The allegedly tragic ending is clumsily telegraphed and mishandled.

I really do not care one jot about it.

One star for having Tim O'Connor in the show as a nod to fans of First Season Buck Rogers
Intergalactichegemon
Tue, Jan 15, 2019, 7:22pm (UTC -6)
Ever overhear a group of women yapping when they're lubed up with a few glasses of wine? They wrote the book on sexism.
meister
Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 10:23am (UTC -6)
This episode starts off gross..it takes us down the slutty men trail....

Oh by the way Riker: pheromones aren't sensed by empaths. They aren't feelings or thoughts. Just ask the carpenter ants in your home...they are something picked up by your nose.

And there is Riker kissing the woman whose attraction to and "sexual bonding with " the other world's leader is key to a peace deal. Would that be considered risking interference in the development of two planets and millions of lives? I can't wait to see him fall on his sword and beg forgiveness of the captain for interfering in another world...what? not going to happen? Star Trek : Where no Double Standard has gone before...aaaand...gross.... Riker runs off to wank off in Holodeck 4.


And then we have Crusher appealing to the captain to investigate the circumstances. And Picard goes off to check in on the Insta-Mate. And he starts asking questions which could also be interfering couldn't they? They are fair as he wants to ensure that there isn't some breach of the Insta-Mate's fundamental rights. And Insta-Mate tries to sell herself as adventurous and independent to the captain...yes! very independent says the most dependent female in the sector. (the one who gets her life's pleasure from molding to another one's wishes and is uncomfortable discussing what happens if there isn't another one...the irony, the irony)

The scene in her cabin with the captain where the lights were dimmed and she was wearing that 1930s gown, made my wife wish they remade movies from the 30s and 40s but with serious plots and discussions, themes such as covered by Star Trek. The 30s glamour and the 2019's social development. Hmmm...

Look at the men turn and ogle and make comments when Insta-Mate walks into 10 Forward. That's rude behaviour, men, if you weren't sure. Data telling them specifically was hilarious. I think no one had ever told them before. A fellow man too! My wife fell over laughing at that scene.

My wife liked the Insta-Mate. She liked how she manipulated each man in turn and they had no idea. Purring at Worf had her rolling on the floor. Funny how the captain caught wind of it but Riker was taken hook, line, and sinker. At least Worf gave his head a shake. I'm glad Riker was booted from the rest of this episode. It worked best with nuance, not his strong suit.

Funny how the women on the crew aren't enlisted to keep Insta-Mate company or interact or as chaperones. Data was a good choice and made for some humour as chaperone, but it would have been more interesting and nuanced to see the other women get to know her and acknowledge parallels and tradeoffs in real life decisions. (Imagine Ro and Pulaski, even Troi..one could dream)

Nog Interlude


The scene in Kamla's cabin with the captain was very interesting. she is trying to say she is attracted to him because he isn't other men, because he puts up a wall. Once again she is changing to be what Picard wants: a strong woman like Vash who likes a challenge and keeps trying . But the show introduces that idea that all of a sudden she is lonely and nervous about the next day. I don't buy it though. The scene was excellent due to Stewart's acting. As was the next scene with Crusher when Picard gives an honest and human account of his feelings for Kamala and the struggle to resist.

The episode would have been good if it could have focussed more on the solitariness of Picard's life. Kamala touched on it but it really wasn't central after that. And since the episode turned from a more general discussion of the rightness of Kamala's circumstances to The Picard Show once again, they should have gone all the way,


7/10 for an interesting sci fi idea that could have been good or great.
Meister
Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 10:29am (UTC -6)
sorry, Rom not Nog

It is interesting Jammer you point out that Kamala realizes what she loses out by having a life with the diplomat rather than a life with Picard. What about her own life? Why isn't that the third option? This episode was better as it started, exploring the rightness of Kamala`s situation. She gave the far greater sacrifice by giving up her whole life . Picard gives up the higher likelihood of a life partner. Nothing forbids him from having one, there is just less chance.

If they were going to make this about Picard`s solitariness, which would have been a good one, they should have modified it. As it was, I feel the episode was about Kamala`s sacrifice and Picard`s isolation and both became watered down.
Theo
Tue, May 28, 2019, 12:57am (UTC -6)
@Polly

You'll probably never read this, but I think you're being too harsh.

Yes, this episode is a bit of the born sexy yesterday trope. In the context of a series that has already had problems with it's depiction of women, I can see why this would be another annoying offense.

However, judged on it's own, I think it's alright. There's nothing particularly sexist or juvenile about being attracted to a mate built solely to transform seemlessly into a fulfillment of your every desire. Rather, it takes a certain degree of humility and maturity to admit that in spite of our lofty pretenses, we would probably find such a mate ideal.

I know you think you want to be challenged, but you don't actually want this. You want a bit of pushback to keep things spicy, but overall you want someone on the same page as you. Your desires are not nearly as sophisticated as your internal narrative would have you believe. Much like Picard, the deception necessary to seduce you may require one additional step, but the game is still the same.

Here's the kicker though: there is no deception. The mate in this story is actually changing into the thing that you want. They are not pretending, they actually are that thing now. In that way it is an honest relationship. In fact, your tendency to automatically describe it perjoratively (slavery, fembot) is reflective of your inability to see past the limitations of your own cultural paradigms (this was Dr. Crusher's problem as well).

I think this episode presents a sufficiently interesting premise, explored well enough, as to forgive the obvious androcentrism this time around. It's a shame that the rest of the series was so problematic.

PS: The only things I didn't really like here were that: 1) There were no major interactions between female crewmembers and the mate 2) We really should have gotten to see a male transformer-mate too.
Chrome
Tue, May 28, 2019, 11:02am (UTC -6)
@Theo

Yes, I think what this episode has going for it over other types of male "wish fulfillment" stories is that it analyzes the material seriously. That is to say, this episode doesn't seem to be interested in titillating the audience as much as carefully examining what it means to be born for a specific purpose and the negative and positive connotations of that machination. The concept is similar to European and Asian monarchical systems, many of which remain to this day, where a person is raised and bred into a family and expected to be used for a specific public - and noble - purpose.

This is not to say that there isn't some ugly business to this episode. And, I think we see that depicted well in the Ferengi who act to strip away the "noble purpose" of the system and expose how, in terms of human rights, it's all sort of a VIP-as-commodity exchange akin to slavery.

It is notable that Kamala's story is intended to be tragic, yet she maintains a sort of stoic poise through the whole episode that is admirable. Likewise, Picard's story too is tragic as he falls for a woman he knows he can never be with. That the system makes the immediate individuals involved miserable on some level is an indictment the episode itself serves. Though, we are left with a few difficult questions; is the sacrifice of a few people's personal freedoms worth the exchange for peace to the whole society? Is such a society even worth preserving or is the sheer existence of the system proof that the society is already in trouble?
Theo
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 7:32am (UTC -6)
@Chrome

I've gotta disagree with your last paragraph.

I can't take Picard's tragedy seriously. I think the show betrays its serious reflection on this alien custom by using it as another opportunity to build on the reputation of Picard as this "stoic, solitary, sea captain."

The truth is, he put himself in this situation by brazenly ignoring every warning given to him and behaving like he knows better than everyone. It comes off as either incredibly stupid or some masochistic desire to put himself in a position of maximum emotional suffering in order to play out a savior fantasy.

I can't take Kamala's romantic tragedy seriously, because it is unclear that it is really a tragedy. She will say *anything* to make you like her. There is no reason to believe anything she said to anyone throughout the episode, including the idea that she "permanently imprinted" with Picard. She's a stripper, and strippers spin stories.

It also doesn't help that Patrick Stewart is bald and 25 years older than Famke Jansen. Kinda drives the point home in a very meta way.

I really liked this episode, but I think the least interesting part is Picard's blue balls. At least Riker is a bit more good humored about it.
Chrome
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 11:42am (UTC -6)
@Theo

Late reply! Been brooding on this episode for 3 months? :-) I see your point about Picard, but I’m not sure being solitary is really presented as a good thing for him in this show. By the time “All Good Things” and Generations come about, we see that Picard is in terrible pain from leading this type of life.

“I can't take Kamala's romantic tragedy seriously, because it is unclear that it is really a tragedy. She will say *anything* to make you like her. There is no reason to believe anything she said to anyone throughout the episode, including the idea that she "permanently imprinted" with Picard. She's a stripper, and strippers spin stories.”

We’re supposed to take Kamala’s statement that she’s imprinted at face value. I know this because she says she’s imprinted and *because she’s imprinted* she can’t stay with Picard despite his wishes. If she were trying to lure by lying to him like you claim, why would she deny him? That’s nonsensical.
Boooming
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 3:31pm (UTC -6)
@Theo
" She's a stripper, and strippers spin stories."
You know who also spins stories for their personal benefit?!

EVERYBODY
Theo
Mon, Aug 5, 2019, 4:08am (UTC -6)
@Chrome

I agree that at other points in the series, Picard's solitude is presented differently, peaking (IMO) with the brilliant depiction in All Good Things. But that's not how it's presented in this episode. I think his comportment throughout this episode is presented as being venerable and his self-abnegation as honorable. In actuality it is indulgent, and his decision-making is pretty myopic.

Remember Kamala's job is to be the perfect mate. This is different from actually mating. If she encounters a person for whom the perfect mate is the one he is denied, she will behave like that.

For example, if I'm only interested in a woman that makes me wait 10 days to mate, Kamala *must* make me wait 10 days. Even if she knows her plane leaves in 5 days, she would sooner sacrifice mating, as long as she knows that what I truly prefer is pining after her eternally, than having her in less than 10 days. So she'll give me the tearful dramatic airport goodbye I crave, promising eternity. But that won't stop her from seducing some guy on the plane.

She is not a complete person. She is a pathological liar who is only capable of telling you what you want to hear, a child trying to impress every adult, an automaton following an unyielding program. She only looks like a person.

As humans, we find that concept so deeply repugnant that we don't want to see it for what it is. But the Kriosians understand, and therefore do not treat her like a person. Crusher and Picard, ultimately make the same mistake interpreting an alien situation through a purely human paradigm. This is small minded and self-centered. It's ethnocentrism (kinda). But Picard makes it worse by additionally playing out his romantic fantasies upon this alien landscape.
Theo
Mon, Aug 5, 2019, 4:14am (UTC -6)
@Booming
Yeah, and both me and Michael Phelps swim.
Boooming
Mon, Aug 5, 2019, 7:09am (UTC -6)
@Theo
Oh man, when you find out that there is an entire industry called advertisement that makes trillions by spinning stories for personal benefit it will blow your mind. And here is the kicker. They do it all while not undressing for assholes.
Have a nice one, pal.
Theo
Mon, Aug 5, 2019, 10:22pm (UTC -6)
@Booming

You seem upset. I'm not sure why. Or even exactly the point you're trying to make. I can't tell if you're angry at me or strippers or everybody.

Yes, when your livelihood is directly attached to creating a false narrative, you tend to do so more often and more fluently. This is precisely the point i was trying to make.

I guess I could've said Kamala's an ad man, but considering the fairly obvious sexual/seductive angle, stripper seemed apt.
Boooming
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 1:55am (UTC -6)
@Theo
In this day and age of growing madness I never get to being upset. I barely reach annoyed.
I think that your comments are either misogynistic or ignorant.
Now that I have severely insulted please you give me a minute to explain :)

What is Kamala?
She is a product (underline this word) of a society that turned her basically into a sophisticated sex slave. She was trained to be that slave her entire life and the few parts that aren't twisted want to escape by falling for Picard.
So your stripper analogy is quite fitting but in a different way than you intended. Why do we have strippers? Let me rephrase that. Why do we almost exclusively have female strippers? Because men like to objectify women. (Let us ignore male objectification for this debate)
Who is responsible for female strippers being what they are?
You seem to think that strippers or Kamala are to blame for being objects (underline this word, too) of male affection while the episode pretty clearly conveys that it is society that made her a commodity (underline :) to be traded away.

"Remember Kamala's job is to be the perfect mate."
This is a sentence I find pretty troubling. In my opinion Kamala is the opposite of a perfect mate. She is only a perfect mate for a man who wants the most risk free relationsship ever. She is not the perfect mate, she is the perfect slave. If you want a willing slave as a mate then yes she is perfect.

In my opinion you took exactly the wrong lesson from that episode (society turns women into objects for male affection= society shouldn't do that) because you don't blame society, you blame women and specifically Kamala.

Did I misunderstand you?
Theo
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 5:27am (UTC -6)
I think you are so eager to launch into a feminist/progressive rant that you're not actually paying attention to either the episode or what I'm saying.

First, I never judged either strippers or Kamala. I like both of them. I don't see stripping as some sort of evil that needs to be blamed on anyone. It's a job and it pays pretty well. I am capable of describing what something is without the need to indict it.

My comparison of Kamala to strippers is not that they are both bad. It's that they're both unreliable sources of information given the nature of the activity they're engaged in (creating fantasy). Kamala saying she imprinted on you is like a stripper telling you she loves you. Not evil, just impossible to believe without verification.

Second, you are wrong regarding how Kamala became what she was. As explained in the episode, Kamala is not a product of some oppressive social engineering. Metamorphs are born this way genetically. They literally cannot do anything else but adapt to their mate's preferences. I was using the phrase 'job' metaphorically. It's not her job, it's literally what she is. You shouldn't waste your time trying to find a human analog as there is none.

Third, calling Kamala a slave is fairly bigoted of you. You are forcing the paradigm of human sexism on an alien situation. By virtue of her very DNA Kamala is at her peak state of self-actualization when she is perfectly adapted to her mate's wishes. She isn't pretending to want to mold herself to her mate, this is sincerely what she wants and to deny her this is cruel.

Finally, it's important to understand that once she imprints, she is permanently actually the thing she has adapted to. It isn't an act. If what you want is a woman who will challenge you, she will actually be that. If you want a submissive woman, she will actually be that.

For humans, risk tolerance is admirable in the pursuit of long term romantic relationships because it plays a specific role: It is a proxy for honesty, since the only way you eliminate risk is if one person commits to forever subordinating their own desires to their partners'. With an empathic metaphorph, the relationship is already equal and honest since both sides are sincerely pursuing their peak happiness. In this context, pursuit of risk simply for the sake of risk is pointlessly reckless and destructive.
Theo
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 5:43am (UTC -6)
To be clear, Kamala does receive training, but the training is to assist her in attaining what she already wants naturally (genetically): to imprint perfectly on a mate and thereby receive a personality. She explains, that in the absence of a mate, she is basically an empty shell. Thus her training is not a system of oppression, it is actually schooling for her benefit.

The closest comparison we have on Earth, is a system in nature known as symbiosis. Symbiosis comes in 3 forms: Commensalism (1 organism benefits, 1 is unaffected), Parasitism (1 organism benefits, 1 organism is harmed), and Mutualism (both organisms benefit).

For empathic metamorphs and their mates, the relationship will always be either Commesnalist or Mutualist, since the empaths will always benefit (they need the mates to achieve their final stage of development), but the mates may not necessarilyl get much benefit from the empaths (eg: the mate already has another lover and is fairly indifferent about the empath).
Boooming
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 9:05am (UTC -6)
@ Theo
Thanks for a well argued answer.
I haven't seen the episode in for ever and I'm visiting family in a very rural area. My days consist of meat eating and alcohol. I have lots of time on my hands.

I think I understand your point about strippers better now. You mean when they work the create a fantasy not that people who strip are more prone to lying.

If Kamala is actually part of species that only exists to satisfy the wishes of other... well I find this troubling but on another level.

----
I rewatched it.
So, it is all a little creepy and I guess I'm with Beverly on this.
The whole idea from a writing standpoint is kind of creepy. They mention that most of the metamorphs are male which is very convenient because without that one sentence it would be very creepy, not just kind of creepy. I bunch of male writers creating a female character that only desires to fulfill the wishes of men without any consideration for her own feelings. She doesn't have independent desires.
And not only that. She produces pheromones that make men want her.
Any would want her.
Sound s almost like some kinky nerd fantasy.

Lets look at the information given. Kamala was taken from her mother at the age of four. This is already problematic. From that age she was trained to marry a man she never met before. She was never encouraged to think for herself. All the information we get about metamorphs and what they desire is given to us by unreliable people: the ambassador who obviously would sacrifice more than one life to preserve peace and Kamala who was told from early childhood that her only purpose is to be a peace offering, a gift. Without society telling her that she has to marry Alrik who would she have chosen? The first man she meets? Or does she have desires but was told that they didn't matter because all that mattered was that she brings peace by marrying Alrik.

You see her like one would see a crazy person. In other words, you can never trust a crazy persons word because they are crazy even if they tell the truth.
It doesn't matter what Kamala says because she is a metamorph. You say that we can never believe her. The problem of the episode and kind of a plothole is that they could have just sent Beverly in to ask her what she wants or just have a chat about what a metamorph is but that never happens.

In the end we only know that Kamala was taken from her home as a small child and trained for every waking hour to be a gift by people who even decided who to live with Alrik until he dies. Beyond that we don't know anything.
Maybe she has desires of her own, maybe not.
Chrome
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 10:45am (UTC -6)
The stripper analogy is wrong and in bad taste.
Theo
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 11:43am (UTC -6)
@Chrome

We'll have to agree to disagree on that. If it's any consolation I've literally provided you with 6 equivalent analogies to choose from.
Peter G.
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 11:48am (UTC -6)
If we're going to look at the meta-narrative here, rather than just called Kamala a sci-fi alien of the week, it's not really tenable to argue that her nature is the way it is because she's totally alien and that we shouldn't judge that. It's pretty clear that these kinds of episodes are written to portray some aspect of humanity using the sci-fi setting. In this case I think we should be obliged to conclude that Kamala is a portrayal of the patriarchal ideal of days yore of a woman being a thing to satisfy a man. The episode seems to explore what effect this has on *both parties* in that kind of sexist scenario. It's bad for her, since her 'real desires' become something so obscured that it's difficult to tell if she even has them; and it's bad for the men because they're constantly up against some weird reflection of their own desires that can shift depending on which man is doing the looking. It not only objectifies the woman, but in a strange way also trivializes the man's desire for love. If both parties are focused on the man's desires then that's not a love-situation, and is destructive for both parties. The men on the Enterprise end up going crazy when around her, and I don't think it's just because she's just so damn awesome. Rather, it's actually destabilizing and harmful when you are granted more ownership over someone else than you have any right to. So from this perspective I have to assess the scenario as being about the harms caused by a culture objectifying women. I tend to agree with others who have mentioned that it's 'convenient' that the writers neglected to include an example of a male metamorph.

But actually let's discuss that for a moment. What if the mention of male metamorphs being very common shouldn't be thrown away just yet. Could it imply that in a culture of objectifying women the men will be prone to do anything it takes to get their prize, including changing their behavior to fit whatever will help them score points? Maybe I'm reading too much into this and presuming the sexist angle. But I wonder whether the fact that there are many more male metamorphs than female is supposed to be a balancing thing or not for the viewer.

In the case of Kamala's interactions with Picard, it's true that we could view her statements to him with just as much suspicion as with her interactions with others; that she's just saying it to get to him. However in his case maybe we should be assuming that since he'd be averse to someone flattering him and lying (unlike Riker who probably enjoys a bit of coy games) that her statements would be coming from a place of integrity when with him. As I mentioned much earlier in the thread this would still make it objectification within a patriarchy, that she should adopt his values, even if they are good values. However maybe what the episode is trying to say here is that in a culture where women just adapt to be whatever men want, the way out of this is for some men to begin wanting them to be independent. The compliance of the women might still be influenced by their reliance and weighing what the men want, but on the other hand being molded into that particular image could well act as a 'last stop' of their objectification. It's kind of like if we were playing Simon Says and I gave the command "Simon Says to never obey what I say again". The game would then effectively end if they were following the rules, and maybe we're supposed to take Kamala locking into Picard-mode as being analogous to this: that once a woman adopts those particular values (dignity, integrity, duty) that the game of objectification would naturally come to an end and she would cease feeling the need to change for every man that comes along.

Would this reading not make it a rather feminist episode?
Theo
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 1:31pm (UTC -6)
@Booming

I agree with essentially everything in your previous post, down to the meat & alcohol diet lol.

Despite the internal validity of the Kriosian social structure, it's definitely creepy fantasy fulfillment on the writer's part. Especially considering they: a) didn't balance it by having male metamorphs in the episode. b) didn't have Kamala interact with any females on board. c) portrayed Picard's comportment and decision making as honorable and the relationship as a legitimate tale of love & loss.

Also, yes everything I said previously falls apart if the ambassador is lying. I didn't focus on that since it's fairly clear by the end of the episode that we're supposed to accept this premise as true. I think that distinguishes this episode from many others where the seeming moral quandary is resolved through the escape hatch that one side is lying about the true nature of the situation. But I think it's important you brought up the possibility.
Chrome
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 5:14pm (UTC -6)
Peter's reference to the day's of yore is closer to the writers' intent here. Kamala's arranged marriage for peace is similar to Henry VIII of England offering his sister to Louis XII of France for a peace treaty. Henry's sister has no agency; she's simply carrying out the marriage because she must obey Henry VIII and - perhaps she knew that someday this would be her fate because it's part of being royal Countess. Kamala's tragic duty mirror's the Countess' in this scenario.

The stripper analogy is clumsy because it suggests that Kamala is performing services for *her own gain* - that she's trained to handle many men and earn personal income from it. That's not at all what's happening in this episode.

I'm not sure where the notion that Kamala is lying came from; it comes off as an inexplicably cynical head-canon for the episode. If Kamala's last conversation with Picard was a big fat lie it essentially guts the entire piece - we can't take any part of the climactic dialogue seriously.

This a story by American writers from 1992 we're talking about. They understand that forced arranged marriage is *not a good thing*. As has been stated, it's more likely the writers wanted to show us that despite knowing that Kamala's role is an unjust one for her, there is dignity in self-sacrifice. Being forced to sacrifice is wrong; but choosing to sacrifice, as Kamala ultimately does, is something we can respect.
Theo
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 9:29pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

1) "If we're going to look at the meta-narrative here..."

The meta-narrative is actually a jumble of contradictory points with hints of commentary at many things (arranged marriage, cultural relativism vs imperialism, utilitarian morality vs virtue ethics, etc.) but no commitment to any specific position.

The authors chose to reject telling a strongly allegorical tale in favor of turning it into a fun ride culminating ultimately in a very personal story of romance. In order to do this, themes are hinted at and then undermined elsewhere. Nothing so strong as a unifying message or coherent stance ever emerges.

The idea that Kamala's freedom of expression is being suppressed is hinted at, then undermined by the fact that she is literally biologically incapable of having a personality of her own. The idea that Kamala is being imprisoned is suggested, then undermined by the genuine danger to herself that she is if not quarantined. The idea that Starfleet are actually the oppressors is suggested by Picard's admonishment of Dr. Crusher's cultural imperialist attitudes, but then undermined by the juxtaposition of Picard's endearing behavior to recipient Kriosian's boorish attitude. Even the idea that the existence of a female empathic metamorph is seriously dangerous to men is undermined by how indifferent her recipient Kriosian is to her. For some men she will be very valuable, for others she's just a toy.

Kamala is indeed "the portrayal of the patriarchal ideal of days yore." But this is not unambiguously suggested as a bad thing in the episode. Consider that without Picard's interference, all parties would be happy. Kamala, the husband, and all the Kriosians. It is only Picard's insistence on doing things his way that causes anyone any misery (even that is ambiguous since it's unclear anyone besides Picard is suffering).

So I don't think the story holds any real allegorical weight. Honestly, the second you establish as a true premise that your character is incontrovertibly genetically linked to their social standing, the social commentary ship has sailed.


2) "Maybe we should be assuming that since [Picard would] be averse to someone flattering him and lying (unlike Riker who probably enjoys a bit of coy games) that her statements would be coming from a place of integrity when with him."

But see, she and others already tried honesty and integrity with him. They told him she is an empty shell with no personality and it really turned him off. So she corrected.

3) "In a culture where women just adapt to be whatever men want, the way out of this is for some men to begin wanting them to be independent. "

This is a morally deranged message that I think even occasionally thick-headed Star Trek writers wouldn't be so reckless as to make. It might make sense on a totally alien planet, but the risk that any viewer draw any comparison to anything even remotely human is too great to ever write this kind of garbage.

Persecution of any social class is not primarily a result of the victim not understanding their own humanity. Nor is the way out for the oppressor to teach the victim how to be free. This is some white man's burden shit that wouldn't even fly in the 80s.

The suffrage movement, feminism, the civil rights movement and decolonization were not gifted by the oppressors to the oppressed. They were fought for by people who insisted on their humanity in spite of a staggering effort by the oppressor to tell them otherwise. They were assisted by a changing balance of power that weakened the oppressor. But one ingredient that wasn't there was the oppressor teaching the victim dignity. Even in a fictional context, this is too dangerous and offensive a suggestion to even hint at.
Theo
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 9:37pm (UTC -6)
@Chrome

" If Kamala's last conversation with Picard was a big fat lie it essentially guts the entire piece - we can't take any part of the climactic dialogue seriously. "

That is *exactly* my point.
Skeptical
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 10:43pm (UTC -6)
Why does everything have to be an allegory? Why does everything have to be a moral story about the human condition? Why does everything have to be teaching us a lesson?

So, so many of the worst Trek episodes were allegories or trying to give a moral message. I am absolutely, 100% with JRR Tolkein. Screw allegory. Just give me a good story. I have no proof that Gene Roddenberry or Michael Pillar or Rene Echevarria are smarter than me or more moral than me or in any other way have some sort of authority over me. The only thing I know is that they were far more talented in coming up with an interesting sci fi universe and producing interesting stories in that universe than I am. So that's what I want out of them. Just good stories. And that's what this one is. By coming up with a truly alien alien rather than someone with silly putty on their nose and one human trait exaggerated to the extreme, that's what they did. Trying to fit an allegorical message to it just screws it up. Which I think is what Theo is saying.

It occurs to me that many of my favorite Trek episodes are the ones where the aliens really are different. Latent Image is my favorite Doctor episode because it is the one where he is most clearly an AI. I like the Worf stuff in Birthright better than most because it really stands up for the Klingon-ness of Klingons, even if it's different than Hollywood morality. Rocks and Shoals is so great because it shows what the Jem-Hadar are truly like, regardless of what Sisko wants them to be like. If any of these stories decided to be twisted in favor of a Sunday School lesson, they would be far worse for it.

But I digress, back to the episode.

Theo, do you think Kamala actually did lie to Picard at the end, and she is only claiming to have imprinted on him because that's what he really wants? I mean, I can see how that could be possible logically, but I don't see anything in the episode to hint at that as the conclusion. The whole reason she was in a cocoon was because she was so easily imprintable and thus had to be isolated. My impression was that the attempts to keep her away from all the men on the ship was as much for her sake as it was for the men. So if Picard did spend that much time with her, given everything we know about her genes it seems reasonable to conclude she did indeed imprint on him. And, given his strong sense of duty and self sacrifice, that she would imprint on that aspect of him and mirror that works as well.

But here's something else to ponder. We are assuming that she imprints solely for mating purposes, that it is the only imprinting she can do. Certainly, that's all they talk about and all the show is about. And I suppose that makes sense for most men (and here is definitely a place where interactions with women would make sense). But Picard, based on his own morality, does not see her as a potential mate. Not only because his own sense of duty makes him realize such a pairing is impossible, but also because he is attracted to independent women with their own interests outside of him (Crusher, Vash, the judge in Measure of a Man...). So of course, the Kamala imprints on that and becomes independent, and one who cares about duty, etc...

But there's a third point, as seen in his conversation with Crusher. Despite Picard's speech on respecting other cultures, he undoubtedly agrees with Crusher in many respects. He undoubtedly does add his human value system to it and sees it as unfair to Kamala, and thus sees any relationship with her as being taken advantage of her. He, undoubtedly, wishes that she had a better life, wishes that she could be her own person.

Regardless of Picard's hormones at the time, I think his brain would still override them (even Riker's brain won out against his urges). I think, for most of the time with her, he is not seeing her as a potential mate at all. He is seeing, essentially, a child. Maybe she was imprinting on that? Maybe, rather than the typical sexual attraction, Picard was seeing her more as a daughter?

It turns the ending, rather than a tragedy, into something a bit more heartwarming. If Picard was simply accidentally turning her into his perfect woman and then they had to leave, that would be sad. But what if, instead, he gave her the gift of independence, gave her the gift of a new rewired, better brain? What if he accidentally molded her into the perfect daughter rather than the perfect mate? One might think that it's still a tragedy that Kamala can't do whatever she wants or whatever, but who's to say that she doesn't still want to marry this dude? She's still a metamorph or whatever, she still is attuned to pleasing others. But she now has the gifts that Picard passed along to her with it.

We are led to believe that this other guy is kinda scummy, and that imprinting on him would be a miserable experience for her (at least from our value set). Thus, we end up with the best of both worlds: Kamala still is able to perform her duties and peace between the two worlds is achieved, but she is also able to imprint on someone that is actually good for her, and thus will live a better life for it. It's not a smarmingly happy ending, but there is some good that came out of it.

Of course, this all hinges on my theory that the imprinting could be in a non-sexual way, but even if it wasn't, it's still at worst bittersweet. Like I said, some exploration of that would have been nice. But as much as everyone brings up that they should have had male metamorphs in the show or whatever, well, there's only 43 minutes available. What would you cut?

And as a final aside, Theo, I'm generally in agreement with you that Picard was probably too arrogant to assume he could spend all that time and not imprint on her. But did he have much of a choice? It's been years, but I was under the assumption that Kamala insisted on teaching him the role that Old Dude was supposed to have. He may have just been trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Boooming
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 1:44am (UTC -6)
So, while I prepare my liver and digestive system for the next round of even bigger festivities let me just say that I enjoy this little debate here quite a bit.

As it is my job, let me give you a sociological perspective because that is really the only thing I can still add to this.

Isn't it nice how a bunch of reasonable men (or did a woman slip in?) can so rationally debate the pros and cons of two patriachical societies exchanging a woman as a gift under the supervision of another man. :)

Yeah, that is what really gives me an uneasy feeling. Let's really step out of the story and look at the whole process. It is a story written by men in a patriarchical society about two patriarchical societies that have no moral quandries to use woman as gifts. She then interacts with a wise older man who then teaches her about duty and self sacrifice which is the patriarchical cherry on top of the testosterone cake. Beverely is the only other woman in the episode and she makes it pretty clear what she thinks (strongly opposed) but that has no influence on the story. In other words women have no power and are forced into passive roles from beginning to end of the episode.

The writers probably thought that they wrote a somewhat feminist story but fail.
It reminds me of Code of honor. The writers of that episode probably thought that they constructed an episode that portrayed a proud African like people doing their thing but in reality they wrote a pretty racist story about how dark skinned people are different from "us".

I want to recommend Lindsay Ellis vids where she uses all the major film theories to analyze the Micahel Bays Transformer Movies. She for example addresses the whole no allegories vs authorial intent debate. It is really insightful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRXI__Wixas&list=PLJGOq3JclTH8J73o2Z4VMaSYZDNG3xeZ7


ps: Maybe I will write a longer answer later on but I don't have time right now. ;)
Boooming
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 1:47am (UTC -6)
PPS: Sorry, reading my own post it is not a really deep sociological analysis based on theory. My bad but I'm on a vacation that slowly kills me. watch the Ellis vids :)
Peter G.
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 1:54am (UTC -6)
@ Theo,

(1) I don't agree that Kamala would have been perfectly happy if Picard hadn't interfered. She would have been perfectly *suited* to Aldrik, but his ideal mate may very well have been someone who would suffer while he was happy. Just because it's her nature to imprint on a guy doesn't mean any result at all will make her happy. It will fulfill her biological need to imprint, just like eating fulfills my biological need for food. But if the food I eat is poisonous I'm both following my nature and harming myself. As far as I can tell she was basically being forced to sacrifice herself. The only difference between what would have happened and what did happen is that imprinted with Picard's values she knowingly accepted the sacrifice and was happy to do her duty. That is worlds away from the other ending, where she follows her nature and is sacrificed without really understanding that being unhappy isn't 'good'.

(2) I really don't recall anyone insisting she's just an empty shell. Are you sure that was actually said? I can barely even see how that's possible anyhow. What if she's in a room with just a computer - what, she becomes an iPhone?

(3) "Persecution of any social class is not primarily a result of the victim not understanding their own humanity. Nor is the way out for the oppressor to teach the victim how to be free."

Not what I said. I said that a step towards freedom/equality is the oppressor *wanting* the oppressed to be free. I didn't say that is literally the only way it can come about. Especially in systems where both the oppressors and oppressed would fight to maintain the system, as we see in certain societies right now, it takes *someone* in a position of power to say that it's not right for things to begin to change. But even this is more specific than what I intended. My main point was that in the case where you have a literal slave, they're not going to go free unless (a) they overpower you (usually they won't be able to) or else (b) if you want to free them. There is nothing dehumanizing about suggesting that slavers actually have to agree to free slaves for them to be freed. This can basically be classified under 'duh'. The point isn't that Kamala needs Picard to teach her what freedom is. I'm sure her education is fine. What she needs is for someone like him to *value* her freedom, so that she in turn can copy that value by wanting what he wants. Think about it in terms of someone you actually care for. If they'll tend to do what you ask of them, then consider that it may be a kindness to ask them to do something you feel is good for them. That's actually a good motivator sometimes!

@ Skeptical,

I don't disagree with some of your points, and I actually like the "child imprint" idea. I don't think this was intended, but it's a neat head-canon to go with for fun. That said, I don't really see your point about meta-narrative being superfluous. Sure, it's *secondary*, since nothing can replace great story writing. However plenty of stellar episodes like BOBW have oodles of meta-narrative and they work just fine, never bogging us down in metaphor. Having a multi-layered story only hampers the experience for us if the main plot is a thinly veiled morality piece strung over little content. And I agree that this is a very bad approach to fiction writing. But I think The Perfect Mate works fine as both a literal story as well as a meta-narrative about treating others as objects. I mean it's pretty plain, isn't it, that in this episode we at least briefly imagine how awesome it would be to have someone like that to ourselves; that is, before we realize how unfair it is to that person and in a way unfair to ourselves as well. If you view Kamala as nothing more than an alien alien that we can't relate to then I actually care much less about her. The fact is, I do care about her in the show and therefore I must conclude that this interpretation doesn't fit - at least not for me.
Theo
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 2:31am (UTC -6)
@Booming

At this point pretty much everybody has already accepted that the script is obviously an androcentric expression of creepy fantasy fulfillment by an an all male writing team. We all get it. We've kinda moved past that at this stage.

We are discussing more nuanced things like the internal consistency of the story, the degree of allegory, and the certainty or ambiguity of the plot, etc.

"Isn't it nice how a bunch of reasonable men (or did a woman slip in?) can so rationally debate the pros and cons of two patriachical societies exchanging a woman as a gift under the supervision of another man. :)"

Literally no one is discussing this. There is a more nuanced conversation as to whether Kamala qualifies as a woman at all. As she is essentially a symbiotic organism that requires an external host to achieve full sentience. What are the preconditions to her happiness, etc.

Lindsay Ellis is good, sometimes I feel she stops short of great. My favorite is her Guardians of the Galaxy series. I liked Anita Sarkeesian's old videos more and obviously Contrapoints is a boss (but these are general social & pop culture commentary moreso than film specifically).
Theo
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 3:09am (UTC -6)
@Skeptical

"Trying to fit an allegorical message to it just screws it up. Which I think is what Theo is saying."

Basically yeah. But that doesn't mean I always hate allegory.


"Do you think Kamala actually did lie to Picard at the end?"

I think it's pretty obvious the writers meant for us to believe she genuinely imprinted. But I think if we follow the premises they established the truth is that it is impossible for us to know. As we would expect her to say exactly the same thing in exactly the same way whether she had imprinted or not.


"I think, for most of the time with her, he is not seeing her as a potential mate at all. He is seeing, essentially, a child."

This is a cool and unique idea, but I think everything about the way these scenes are acted and filmed clearly indicate a romantic if not outright sexual subtext. Obviously they're not mutually exclusive since in both real life and fiction there is often some paternal/maternal dimension to a May December relationship.


"she still is attuned to pleasing others. But she now has the gifts that Picard passed along to her with it. "

The problem is that before she was attuned to pleasing others, and derived pleasure from it. Now (if actually imprinted) she is attuned to pleasing others, but derives pleasure from actions diametrically opposed to this (free will, independence, adventurousness, etc.). Picard trapped her in precisely the paradox that her handler was trying to avoid.

Whether an empath has a good or bad husband, she will be happy, as upon imprinting, her personality and preferences will align with his. The only real risk they face in their lives, is that they are imprinted on (a) and married to (b). This is why their courtship is so tightly managed. The rigidity of the system is designed perfectly to complement the rigidity of the empath's biology.

The story tries make us feel this is better, because (a) is in the abstract a superior man to (b), but because the system is too rigid to accomodate a change up, introducing a wild card only causes pain. There is no point in giving someone a love of Shakespeare right before condemning them to a life with only Miley Cyrus albums on repeat.
Theo
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 4:38am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

1) " Just because it's her nature to imprint on a guy doesn't mean any result at all will make her happy."

Solid point. Both her behavior and things that she and her handler said, suggest that she does derive happiness from service. That to be the ideal mate, is not just an imperative, but also her desire (ie: what brings her happiness). I agree that it's reasonable to think there might be some upper limit to that. The there is some upper limit of direct harm that can't be displaced by the pleasure derived from fulfilling her mate's wishes.

However, one thing that really helps is that in addition to deriving pleasure from service, her opinions and genuine preferences are altered to match her mate's. This helps push that upper limit even further up.

As such, her unhappiness is probably not a realistic risk when the structure is aligned properly and she is married to the person she imprinted on.

However, when the situation is misaligned and she is imprinted on (a) and married to (b), when her attitudes and preferences are directly opposed to the actions she is required to undertake daily, and when she knows hurting the person she imprinted on is inevitable due to the paradox she is trapped in, the robustness of her ability to absorb difficulty is greatly compromised and unhappiness is probably a more real risk.

So beyond very fringe cases, it seems the only real risk for an empathic metamorph is imprinting on (a) and being married to (b). The rigid structure of Kriosian courtship system in instances where this is a threat, is designed to compliment the rigidity of the metamorph's biology.


2) They didn't use the words empty shell, but she basically said she's incomplete, purposeless, etc. If she's in a room with a computer, she probably has no personality of her own (assuming she hasn't already imprinted). I tend to think they've basically set her up as a symbiotic organism that requires a host to graft a personality from.


3) This whole section you wrote is an absolute mess.

"in the case where you have a literal slave, they're not going to go free unless (a) they overpower you (usually they won't be able to) or else (b) if you want to free them"
"... There is nothing dehumanizing about suggesting that slavers actually have to agree to free slaves for them to be freed ... it takes *someone* in a position of power to say that it's not right for things to begin to change."

First no, this is definitely not true. You don't overpower them outright. You raise the cost of their continued persecution of you by resisting. This forces them to re-evaluate their strategy. Usually this is precipitated by some external destabilizing event that hinders their ability to absorb the cost of resistance.

More often than not, "No" is not followed by "this is not right", it's followed by "this is not worth it any more... and it's probably not right." Even in instances of "this is not right" it's usually as a result of a shitload of subversive groundwork that has already been laid.

They "want" you to be free in the same way I "want" to give a mugger my wallet. I'm responding to duress. This is where slave revolt, wars of independence, terrorism, boycotts, repeated legal challenges, writing and circulation of literature, public protests, theft, strikes, work slowdowns, underground railroads, etc. all come to play.

Second, in all of these cases you're describing a simple power imbalance, between sides that are fundamentally equal beings. One side is not learning to be human from the other, they just have less guns.

"What she needs is for someone like him to *value* her freedom, so that she in turn can copy that value by wanting what he wants."

In this case there is no power imbalance, the sides themselves are actually unequal beings as one is a complete human and the other is not, but can be taught to be.

**There is no paternalism in the human history of freedom movements. Whereas Kamala's path to freedom is entirely paternalist.**

Even hinting at this analogy is a tone deaf, patronizing, regressive backslide into the ideologies that underpinned the most embarassing periods of human barbarism.
Boooming
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 9:15am (UTC -6)
@Theo
"At this point pretty much everybody has already accepted that the script is obviously an androcentric expression of creepy fantasy fulfillment by an an all male writing team. ... . We are discussing more nuanced things like the internal consistency of the story, ... ."
Time well spent. Have fun with your more nuanced debate about a creepy fantasy. :D
Theo
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 11:36am (UTC -6)
@Booming

I'm gonna wear a trench coat so it's extra creepy.
Skeptical
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 6:50pm (UTC -6)
Theo,

Fair enough if the subtext of Picard and Kamala's time together was clearly sexual. Like I said, I'm going by memory here. Obviously her request that he stay the night can easily be seen that way, but I didn't remember the rest of it being obviously of one nature or another.

But as for the notion that there is no way of knowing if Kamala lied? Let's look at it further. There appears to be two forms of her emotional morphing: a temporary, immediate morph like with the miners(?) and Riker, or the permanent imprinting that the story revolves around. So suppose she lies about being permanently imprinted on Picard in order to make herself look more appealing to him. Thus, that act of lying means that she is in the midst of her temporary imprint. (Admittedly, there could be more than just 2 forms, ie, a short term, mid term, and permanent imprint, but let's just keep things simple). So that means that she is picking up on Picard's desire to see her change in order to become someone he could be attracted to. Are we in agreement?

But Picard's surface level, conscious desire is specifically that she NOT imprint on him, since his surface level desire is to fulfill his duty with minimal problems. So she must be picking up on his deeper, more subconscious desires. Again, seems reasonable.

But let's put that to the test with Riker. IIRC, her imprint on him involved no personality, no intellectual or emotional attachment, just pure physical attraction by making out with him. That's less personality than even the show she put on for the catcalling miners. So does that mean that Riker's idea of the perfect mate is nothing more than a hot body that's ready to go? Yet, we already saw an artificial perfect mate for Riker: Minuet. She was hot, sure, but also sultry and seductive. And what did Riker do when he was alone with his perfect mate? Spend a lot of time, perhaps even hours, flirting with her. He didn't go straight to bed then. And we see multiple instances of Riker flirting throughout the show. It seems reasonable to assume he enjoys the chase as much as the prize, if you know what I mean. He wants to flirt with his mate and enjoy a little back and forth as well.

But Kamala didn't pick up on that. Why not? Meanwhile, what was Riker's conscious state while being with her? Like Picard, he undoubtedly didn't see her as a potential suitable mate due to his duty. But unlike Picard, I could imagine that Riker, as a fan of the female form, did have idle thoughts about how hot she was and perhaps some curiosity about what she would be like in bed. Not a real fantasy, not dwelling on it, but still. And since it was just idle fantasy and not dwelling on it, it wasn't connected to any specific personality, just the physical curiosity. And so that's what she picked up and morphed into, a purely physical mate.

In other words, her transient imprint picks up on his conscious desires, even if her permanent imprint would pick up on his subconscious desires. I suppose there's a certain amount of logic to it, that it would take time for her own subconscious or whatever to understand the subject's true desires and thus time for her own brain to be rewired. But either way, we seem to have evidence that the transient imprint acts on surface-level desires. And if so, her transient imprint would also act on Picard's conscious desires. But the "lie" would be for the benefit of Picard's subconscious desire. Ergo, it is not a lie at all, but a truth.

Again, it's not an ironclad proof. Maybe there is a midterm imprint as well, or maybe my split between conscious, current desire and subconscious, true perfect mate isn't exactly how it works. But whatever, it's more evidence in its favor. I think the evidence is definitely weighted towards it being the truth.

Whew, this is getting long... Anyway, next topic: on whether Kamala imprinting on Picard is a tragedy for her or not:

Yes, there is a clear tragedy if someone is a perfect match for person A but must be with Person B, even if her Person A personality is a better ideal than a Person B personality. If she imprinted on a stuffed shirt like Picard and then married someone who loved adventure and excitement and wanted a partner to share those loves, that could be a tragedy. But that's not really what happened here. IIRC, it was pretty explicitly laid out that her husband-to-be didn't really care about obtaining her as a person or as a wife, but rather just saw this ceremony as a means to an end. She was nothing more than a tool for his political position and power.

If that's the case, what would she be like if she imprinted on him? If he sees her as a mere tool, will that be how she sees herself? Will she just sit passively in a chair for the rest of her life waiting for the few moments when she will be useful either in the bedroom or in state functions? Is that even much of a life?

But back to Picard. In a way, Picard and the king are similar: they both have some strong desire for independence and solitude. Presumably, for both of them, the idea of a perfect mate is someone who is not around them all the time. The difference, though, is that the king doesn't care about her one way or another outside of when she is pleasing him, while Picard presumably wants her to live a rich and fulfilling life when they are not together. So her new Picard-centric personality is one where she wants to fulfill her duties, wants to make her partner happy, but also is perfectly fine with her partner being alone for long periods of time and will happily find fulfillment by herself in those time periods. Her king-centric personality would have been wanting to fulfill her duties, wanting to make her partner happy, but would be a passive blob during the long periods of time when she is left by herself. Nothing of the Picard imprint would contradict what the king would want, and perhaps there's some tragedy that she would rather make Picard happy than the king, but at least the 80% of her life where she would be alone is much better for the Picard imprint.

So I disagree with your analogy. Instead, she may not be able to, say, pursue being a Shakespearean actress, and she may be forced to go to Miley Cyrus concerts once a week, but she is now perfectly able to read and listen and watch Shakespeare in her downtime when she wouldn't have been able to before. Thus, introducing Shakespeare into her life is making it better, even if it isn't the perfect life. It's not that she imprinted on a good person like Picard that makes her life better, it's that she imprinted on a good person AND a loner.

---

Peter and Booming, I'm not saying that there should never be any deeper meaning or anything, but that it is WAY too easy for that to distract from the story itself. Dune is the story of an extremely valuable commodity critical for transportation being found only in a desert region populated by individuals who have a suspiciously large number of Arabic words in their dialogue. It is sooo easy to say that this is an allegory, or that the message of the book is about Middle Eastern politics and oil and such. But it really isn't. There are so many other plot points and messages that have absolutely nothing to do with oil, and the main resolution of the "oil" conflict relies on a solution that is absolutely impossible in the real world. Frank Herbert may have taken inspiration from the real world here, but uses it only as a springboard to create a richer, better story. Same here. Even if the origin of the story was the fantasy of the perfect girlfriend, allowing the alien story to progress without worrying about the "messenging" of an imaginary perfect girlfriend wish fulfillment story.

I mean, Booming, it seems pretty clear that you are looking at this from a feminist perspective. But why? Yes, guys can have fantasies of having a perfect girlfriend designed for their happiness. But do you really think that girls don't have fantasies of having a perfect boyfriend designed for their happiness? Seriously? So is it misogynistic for a man to have this fantasy, but perfectly natural for a woman to have the fantasy? If the roles were reversed, and this was a male metamorph, would we be complaining about the societal problems of expecting a man to change on a woman's whims?

If both men AND women can have this fantasy, what is the point of looking at this from a feminist perspective just because this one happens to be from the male fantasy point of view? If it's a problematic viewpoint, shouldn't it be an equal opportunity problematic viewpoint? And even if you say that the male fantasy has a more prominent problematic history due to political marriages, well, why should I care that deeply about what a few nobles did hundreds of years ago? Shouldn't the female fantasy be more socially relevant in MODERN society given the general societal pressure of telling men that the women are ALWAYS right when it comes to relationship issues, and that a man who marries should get used to losing every argument?

So in order to properly talk about this social concept, we need to bring in male metamorphs. We need to bring in the emotional impact this has on these metamorphs, even though as Theo pointed out they are aliens and human-centric emotional values are kinda dumb for them. We need to bring up what it means to be in a relationship and the values of independence vs submission and blah blah blah blah blah. And most importantly, we need to do ALL of this in ONLY 43 minutes while STILL fitting a good, engaging story in.

Is that possible? I don't think so. Even if the time restriction is out, it's still nearly impossible to weave an engaging story in with trying to present a full, fair moral argument. 9 times out of 10, it comes off as terrible preaching. Since there is no dialogue with the viewer, there is no possibility of the writer changing his/her viewpoint. Thus, the dialogue/preaching is all one-sided. Which means that, in order to accept it, one must accept that the writer knows what he or she is talking about.

And as I said previously, I simply do not accept Hollywood as my superior. Booming brought up Code of Honor. Yes, I can see that it was a jumbled, screwed up attempt to talk about racism. But you know what? Strip away ALL of the African subtext (or text, as the case may be) from the episode. And what do you have? A message about how we should bend over backwards to appease people who kidnap our family (and implied to rape them) when we invite them over as guests. What the bleeping bleep??? What kind of a message is that? Now yes, the writer did try to paper that over by saying these people had a critical vaccine or cure or whatever that was needed. In that case, the story COULD be how far would we go to humiliate ourselves or even support evil actions in the face of the "greater good", but based off the rest of the episode, the rest of Season 1, and Gene's philosophy in general, I reckon that the vaccine bit is just an attempt to hide the true message that I said earlier. A message that is very clearly morally repugnant to me. So again, why should I listen to them? One could argue that MAYBE I'm wrong, MAYBE they might have a point, but that would require extensive dialogue to convince me, not a pat 43 minute show where I have no input.

So frankly, stop trying to teach me something and just entertain me instead. I have no problem with real world inspirations or examining real world truths, but I'd much, MUCH rather they be twisted to improve the quality of the story rather than the story be twisted to put more emphasis on the inspiration.

And it doesn't help that the messages are all so simple. Peter, the "message" you provided, about the fantasy girlfriend and how it really isn't fair to either her or you to indulge in it, is certainly true. But do you really need this story to tell you that? I'm sure you knew that already, even if you don't think about it constantly. And yes, this is only 43 minutes long so you can't expect complex messages. But that just means the "message" can stay way in the background and tell a good story instead.
Theo
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 7:51pm (UTC -6)
@Skeptical

Ok, so your first argument rests on too many assumptions to be very strong. Eg: that Minuet is in fact Riker's true ideal, that the strategy for seduction taken will be based solely on what the person's ideal is, and not other factors (time available for the game, person's current mood/objective, who's watching, etc.), that Kamala's escalation would proceed along a linear trajectory and not have twists and turns and ups and downs, and so on.

Your ideal mate will behave very differently depending on whether you've come to a bar specifically to focus your attention on her for some time, or she is trying to hook your attention while briefly passing you in a hallway.

But your second argument - damn! I'm trying to debunk it and I can't. I'm going to read this a few more times but I think you may have changed my mind on this. Which is pretty unexpected having felt the same way about the episode's ending for a long time. It makes me actually feel a little happier about Kamala's fate.

Obviously, it was still a boneheaded move by Picard because this entire argument rests on the very unique and rare personality that Picard happens to be. It could have easily gone sideways.

In either case man I really like the way you think and construct arguments. I'm gonna think about this for a bit.

Note: don't take any of the prior as agreement with what you wrote to Boomer. We probably have different opinions here, but I didn't really read that section carefully.
Boooming
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 2:19am (UTC -6)
@Skeptical
Before I write anything I want to mention that we are discussing topics of a pretty mediocre episode.

I haven't studied film but of course writers uses cultural cues to create believable/ understandable worlds. In Nazi Germany they made lots of movies about Jews, often without the protagonists being called Jews. The social cues were clear. A lot of people already had prejudice towards Jews (sexually deviant, greedy). So allegories can be really important, especially if you have negative intent. Let's use something more current. Breaking Bad is a story about a white middle class self perceived loser who then shows the world and his wife that he is really a tough guy. He also kills evil Latinos every season. Apart from the last season where he kills Nazis. Phew without the Nazis at the end this could have looked a little racist.
As always context is king (or queen).

"I mean, Booming, it seems pretty clear that you are looking at this from a feminist perspective." No, not really. You are looking at it from a masculinist point of view which you perceive as normal.

Again. It is a show written by men in patriarchical society about two patriarchical societies that exchange a woman as a gift and that gift is the "perfect mate" for men because she will always do what the man wants. This gifting is all made possible by another man who is the higest authority and the only female voice in the episode has absolutely no impact on the outcome whatsoever. Does the Federation have to help these people directly in their little pervy deal. Could they not just recommend a trustworthy shipping/taxi company?

"If the roles were reversed, and this was a male metamorph, would we be complaining about the societal problems of expecting a man to change on a woman's whims?"
If it was written by women in a matriarchical society about matriarchical societies exchanging men as gifts you can bet your ass I would object that as much as I object this but I guess we will have to wait until such a situation actually arises. How many female presidents did the USA have, how many Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, how many female supreme court justices (4 out of 114), how many CEOs of Dow Jones companies, how many women are in the fortune 500
I get called feminist quite a bit these days for upholding ethical principles like sexual slavery=bad.

"why should I care that deeply about what a few nobles did hundreds of years ago?" It wasn't a few nobles a few hundred years back. It was the scoietal norm for almost any women until a few decades ago, basically until the early 60s. Plus in many parts of the world it is still the norm, enforced by society.

" given the general societal pressure of telling men that the women are ALWAYS right when it comes to relationship issues, and that a man who marries should get used to losing every argument?"
I guess this is where this whole rant of yours comes from. Your perception of reality seems a little off. I guess it is understandable because of President Hillary Clinton. People had the choice between a racist, misogynistic buffon and her. Of course she won. Now with the next election coming around two women are leading the democratic field. Their names are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Strange names for women, though. Oh and let's not forget that in quite a few states in the USA you are sent to prison now sometimes for life for having an abortion. And these laws were all written and then passed by all male legislatures. I could go on (read the part about positions of power in the paragraph before this one) but I think it is pretty obvious that society in the USA is not the matriarchy you perceive it to be. To give you a personal opinion of mine (not my opinion as a social scientist) I have quite a few friends with a good chunk being women. You know how many of them told me that they were raped? About half of them. Now guess how many went to the police? None. I'll leave it at that. A personal experience, sure but still.

" Booming brought up Code of Honor."
I mean Code of Honor is so racist. It even has the classic "Birth of a nation" trope of the black man craving white women. A thing that is very important for right wing narratives: The foreign man wants to steal OUR women.

" A message that is very clearly morally repugnant to me" That is why this episodes fails so horribly because it isn't only terribly racist but it also makes quite a few people, you included, think: The Enterprise (so us) should just bomb the shit out of these savages. It is not only racist but for people like you it justifies imperialism (we enlightened people have the right to do what we want to these uncivilized primitives)

"But do you really need this story to tell you that?"
Ok, this was aimed at Peter but I want to end my little piece here with it.
Yes, we do need stories to tell us right from wrong because Humans are not born with an ethical world view. I think that is one of the reasons we nerdistas still love Star Trek because it was one of the shows that was philosophical, that was analytical, that examined the role of society and culture and how the forces form, deform and sometimes destroy us. That we should always try to overcome our own prejudice. To try to be reasonable because to quote from a book (which was also pretty sexist) which I love nonetheless: "but the hearts of Men are easily corrupted" (women too, I guess)

So if you are JUST looking for a good story then Star Trek maybe the wrong franchise for you because the allegory has front and center in most epsodes even if it fails sometimes or didn't age well.
Maybe science fiction which is mostly about allegories is not the right genre for you.

I feel the need to point out that English isn't my first language. Misunderstandings can happen.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 5:11am (UTC -6)
""I mean, Booming, it seems pretty clear that you are looking at this from a feminist perspective." No, not really."

Uh yeah you are buddy. Straight out of Women's Studies 101.
Boooming
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 6:03am (UTC -6)
@Jason R.

"Uh yeah you are buddy. Straight out of Women's Studies 101. "
I never was in such a course/seminar. Could point to specific points or arguments and also explain why you see them as feminist?
Could you also explain why you felt the need to make that statement about me?
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 6:41am (UTC -6)
"Could you also explain why you felt the need to make that statement about me?"

Why? Is it offensive to you?
Boooming
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 7:20am (UTC -6)
@Jason R.
"Why? Is it offensive to you? "
No. Could you answer the questions, please.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 8:04am (UTC -6)
"No. Could you answer the questions, please"

Okay. Well re: question 1 your assertions about us living in a "patriarchal society" etc... seemed pretty self-evidently feminist to me so it was curious to me that you were insistent that you weren't coming from a "feminist" perspective. And yeah I did take a women's studies course once upon a time. Not claiming to be an expert on the subject by the way. But yeah, if the word "patriarchy" appears multiple times in the same sentence, it's probably a feminist perspective dude.

As to your second question, apart from the fact that my assertion was plainly true? I dunno - I got this my ideology isn't ideology but obvious truth vibe from your post. Like admitting that your perspective was "feminist" and not "self-evident truth" was a big deal for you. This was after you labelled another poster "masculanist" (whatever that means) - which I guess was your way of accusing the other guy of being ideological and not factual (like you).

So what's your deal anyway? Is "feminist" a pejorative label in your milieu?
Boooming
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 9:00am (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.
"Your assertions about us living in a "patriarchal society"etc... seemed pretty self-evidently feminist to me"
Would you not say that a western societies in the 90s were overwhelmingly ruled by men? If you would answer yes then the word patriarchical society is fitting.
To quote the Oxford dictionary:" A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it."

The societies portrayed (the Kriosians and the other ones) have only male representatives and have no problem with using women as peace offerings. If women were equal in their societies and the female metamorph poses such a risk to men why not just send a female ambassador? The thought apparently never crossed their minds There is no indication that they are not patriarchical societies.

So far I see no feminist perspective. I'm just using standard sociological terminology and stating the obvious.

"As to your second question, apart from the fact that my assertion was plainly true? I dunno - I got this my ideology isn't ideology but obvious truth vibe from your post."
Would you say that the USA were not a patriarchical society during the 90s? If so then I would love to see your prove for that.

" This was after you labelled another poster "masculanist" (whatever that means)"
You do have google, don't you? The word is masculinist.

"And yeah I did take a women's studies course once upon a time"
How did that come about? Didn't you once mention that you have no higher education?

"So what's your deal anyway? Is "feminist" a pejorative label in your milieu?"
No again. I find it more interesting why think that someone who mentions easily verifiable facts about male female relations is a feminist.

You on the other hand seem determined to label me in a way that you think devalues my opinion?
Let's make this easy.
Do you agree with Skepticals statement:
"given the general societal pressure of telling men that the women are ALWAYS right when it comes to relationship issues, and that a man who marries should get used to losing every argument?"
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 9:28am (UTC -6)
"So far I see no feminist perspective. I'm just using standard sociological terminology and stating the obvious."

Do you think modern sociology might be influenced by feminist ideology? As for what's "obvious" this is, by definition, an opinion not a fact. Which brings me to the next point.

"Would you say that the USA were not a patriarchical society during the 90s? If so then I would love to see your prove for that."

It is not for me to prove or disprove a claim you asserted. We seem to be having some confusion on opinion versus fact.

That the majority of government officials in the 90s US were men is a factual statement. The claim that US society was "patriarchal" is an inference from fact, perhaps even a strong one, but is nevertheless an opinion and one that has been asserted most prominently by a certain ideological movement, namely feminism.

"How did that come about? Didn't you once mention that you have no higher education?"

I never commented on my own education either way in this thread.

"Let's make this easy.
Do you agree with Skepticals statement:
"given the general societal pressure of telling men that the women are ALWAYS right when it comes to relationship issues, and that a man who marries should get used to losing every argument?"

It's factual that this message has been promulgated from certain quarters in popular entertainment, advertising and some other corners of pop culture. It's literally a cliche for comedians to tell men in the audience that their wife is always right or some variation of that joke.

Since I never made the assertion, I don't see why I have to defend it or refute it.

I made precisely one claim: that you are obviously approaching this topic from a feminist perspective.

So is feminism a dirty word in sociology circles? Why the hesitation to concede this small pittance?
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 10:35am (UTC -6)
@ Jason R & Booming,

Jason, I assume in this context the word "feminist" is being taken as a dig because of the "feminism 101" moniker.

Booming, despite the fact that the use of "feminist" in regards to your comments may not have sounded like a compliment, I see no reason to deny it anyhow; your arguments are plainly of a strongly feminist perspective. I mean, that's ok, I presented a feminist argument regarding this episode too. But let's face it - I don't think it's even possible to use a term like "masculinist" without it being a feminist argument. I just want to say for my own part I think that's totally ok, and absolutely great to present feminist arguments regarding 90's tv and how those portrayals play now.

As it happens, I'm doing a watch-through of Frasier now with my wife, and we're occasionally dumbstruck as the casual sexism that passed for 'comedy' in the early 90's. Like guys in an office slapping a lady's butt, which is supposed to be taken as "oh, that guy!" or the casual sexual harassment of people in the office constantly referencing her sex life in pejorative terms. So yeah, I'm down with re-evaluating 90's stuff from a modern perspective to see how it's aged.

That being said, I think you need to try to balance that approach to analyzing material with not jumping to conclusions about other people being "part of the patriarchy" when they don't agree with you. You seem to have insinuated, for instance, that this episode is just a pervy ritual and that those of us who discuss it in any terms other than condemning it are just part of the problem. But the actual tenor of the conversation has been precisely about whether Kamala is presented as having agency, about whether the episode portrays all of this as being good or bad, and about whether Picard did right or wrongly by her. I think so far zero people have said how great it is that there's a perfect mate on the scene, and at any rate Skeptical and I have both agreed with each other that it's destructive for both sides to view women as objects. So this remark -

"Have fun with your more nuanced debate about a creepy fantasy. :D"

- seems out of place to me and not really on point, even though I get the idea that it was sort of snarky on purpose.
Boooming
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 10:54am (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.

You know Jason I wrote a really long piece calmly explaining lots of things about your warped view of sociology and other things but then I remembered what a fellow soldier once said after falling down next to me after we finished a 20 km march with 40 kg of material and one last glorious stumbling/crawling/climbing and running through the obstacle course.

What for?

Enjoy the summer.
Chrome
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 11:05am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

"As it happens, I'm doing a watch-through of Frasier now with my wife, and we're occasionally dumbstruck as the casual sexism that passed for 'comedy' in the early 90's. Like guys in an office slapping a lady's butt, which is supposed to be taken as "oh, that guy!" or the casual sexual harassment of people in the office constantly referencing her sex life in pejorative terms. So yeah, I'm down with re-evaluating 90's stuff from a modern perspective to see how it's aged."

Wait, people were slapping women on the butt without objection in Frasier? You know, Frasier often looks at things from Martin's time (the 1950s), but as far as I can remember it always couches those quirks from 1950s culture with a sense of "that's not how things work now, Dad". Moreover, Frasier is a show that presents strong successful women on a weekly basis. Lifetime (the women's network in the USA) aired the show regularly after its run in the 2000s and it was lauded by many women's groups for its positive portrayal of the working woman. So, I mean say what you will with 2019 values, but Frasier was way ahead of its time *in terms of feminism*.

The rub in looking back at these old shows with a wagging finger is that you need to put the show into historical context (which I think is your larger point, Peter). TOS and TNG may have had their problems with gender, but remember that without them pioneering progressive ideas there would never be a Voyager with a female captain, let alone Discovery with a female lead. I hope you all can meter your discussions with a little perspective. I know Jammer does.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 11:22am (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

It's not that butt-slapping is portrayed as good. When Bulldog does that to someone (like Roz) the show intends you to chuckle and say "haha what a jerk" and find him lovable, which absolutely clashes with a modern view of such an action, which would be "he is a sex criminal and that is a fireable offence." Now because the show is so good he actually does come off as lovable, but my point is more that it's not in vogue nowadays to even try to pass an action like that as funny rather than as sexual assault. It's just a dated thing, because it's still clear that in context of the show we're meant to condemn the action itself. So I didn't mean to say the show is regressive in terms of women's roles. If anything Roz and Daphne are the only characters that have their heads screwed on, while the men are nuts. I just meant to say that some things that could be taken in stride in the 90's wouldn't pass muster now, and that observing such things is ok, so long as we don't start saying it's a "fact" that Frasier is a sexist show.
Chrome
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 11:36am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

That's a good point with Bulldog. The show itself largely diminished Dan Butler's role on the show after season 3 or so perhaps because such behavior elicited a negative response from some viewers. Though, the character's kind of interesting case, because he's almost pathologically bad at handling women and I wonder if Ross isn't reporting him to HR out of pity. Another layer to all this is that Dan Butler's a gay man, so his role as Bulldog is kind of like farce wrapped in another farce.

Anyway, sorry to interrupt the discussion with the side-note. I'm just a big fan of Wings, Cheers, and Frasier. :-)
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 11:47am (UTC -6)
"Jason, I assume in this context the word "feminist" is being taken as a dig because of the "feminism 101" moniker. "

Yes, but not in the sense that "feminism" is some kind of pejorative.

A man walks into a bar dressed in a priest's robe waving a three foot cross in my face and says "sir do you realize drunkenness is a sin against God?" And I politely reply "I disagree with your Christian perspective" and he in turn replies: "it's not a Christian perspective, it's God's truth."

I just don't understand how a sociologist (literally a person who studies human society) feels it necessary to get so pedantic on such a small point. It's not like I called him a Marxist or something. Within his field, most people I'd wager would be insulted if you *didn't* acknowledge their perspective as feminist.
Peter G.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 12:02pm (UTC -6)
@ Jason R,

"It's not like I called him"

'Her', just for the record.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 12:05pm (UTC -6)
"'Her', just for the record"

I could have sworn it was a he from past discussions. Mea culpa.
Boooming
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 12:06pm (UTC -6)
What you guys don't understand is that explaining very basic concepts to you isn't the least bit interesting for me. For example what feminist theory (not Feminism) means in sociology and why what I said about patriarchical societies has nothing to to with femnist theory or feminism.

If an economist explains that the Athenian economy was dependent on slaves then that doesn't mean that he is for or against slavery. He is stating generally accepted fact.

In sociology these days we mostly deal in statistics which means very complexe math and programming languages. This believe that feminists are important in sociology is just nonsense and to me it feels more and more like the bullshit climate scientists have to endure.
Jason R.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 12:13pm (UTC -6)
"What you guys don't understand is that explaining very basic concepts to you isn't the least bit interesting for me. For example what feminist theory (not Feminism) means in sociology and why what I said about patriarchical societies has nothing to to with femnist theory or feminism."

This debate was never about sociology nor were you ever called on to provide an expert opinion as a sociologist. You have lost sight of the main point which was that your critique of the episode, and the perspectives of others on this thread, was overtly feminist.

That's it. Everything else you said is you bringing baggage into this that has nothing to do with it.
Theo
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 6:09am (UTC -6)
@Booming

I agree with basically everything you said in your last comment. Obviously the concept of patriarchy exists independently of feminist theory, and is commonly referenced in the social sciences. It's crazy that you even have to explain this.

It's equally obvious that you can arrive at a number of conclusions that feminist theory shares without ever having analyzed the issue from a feminist perspective (eg: humanism, marxism, libertarianism, game theory, pareto optimization, etc.).

In the same way a Christian can arrive at the same conclusion as a Buddhist without being accused of being a Buddhist. Or a geneticist and a paleontologist can arrive at the same conclusion without being accused of ascribing to one another's theoretical frameworks.

Your analogy to the problems climate scientists deal with is particularly apt.
Boooming
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 4:33pm (UTC -6)
@ Jason R.
I know what your angle is. I know the Jordan Peterson talking points. Thats why you try to prove that a generally accepted sociological fact is actually some brainchild of feminism which would then gives you what you want: Calling scientific facts ideology.

I'm not playing your little game anymore and I'm done with you.
Jason R.
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
I read Peterson's book about a year ago out of curiosity but I have no deep familiarity with his views, let alone his "talking points" on this issue, whatever those are. I don't watch his videos.

In any event I apologize for the tone of my posts. I don't think the narrow point I was making was wrong, but I was being passive aggressive about and deliberately confrontational.

Have a pleasant summer.
Trent
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 8:44pm (UTC -6)
lol, Booming sniffed out that Jordan Peterson link fast.

Jason, Jordan Peterson is a Koch funded, Big Oil, climate denying, Heritage, Cato shill, paid by some of the biggest conservative think tanks on the planet, who's rolled out by banksters to speak at the The Trilateral Commission, who, along with George Bush, is the face of PHP Agency, a multilevel marketing company denounced as a ponzi scheme, who platforms self-identified white nationalists, who defends chicks who promote the Great Replacement conspiracy, who promotes the "rapid onset gender dysphoria" conspiracy (an echo of the "they're not really gay, they're faking it!" hysteria that homosexuals once had to endure), who regularly outright lies about the scientific papers he cites, and who's book quotes papers by actual scientists who've had to denounce him for mis-using their data.

The guy is all kinds of uber-conservative evil, but he does it in a sneaky, low-key way, so he's expert at convincing people that "the patriarchy is not a thing", "feminists are evil" and "sociologists like Booming" are OUT TA GETCHA WITH THEIR TWISTESD, SATANIC, TRADITION-KILLING POSTMODERNIST LINGO.
Theo
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 11:30pm (UTC -6)
@Jason R

In fairness to you, @Booming has a fairly insufferable passive aggressive tendency to resort to academic snobbery, argument from authority and to be excessively dismissive. So, I think tonally speaking, you have nothing to apologize for. I mean it doesn't get much worse than engaging a conversation while constantly reminding everyone you don't have time for this & you're better than this.

As stated before, I agree wholeheartedly with @Booming's explanation of sociological terminology, and the episode in question is so obviously blatantly sexist that it's unlikely even the writers would defend it today. I mean the episode is really almost its own caricature in that regard (@Anna laid it out briefly in 2015, but you could really write a whole essay on this).

In spite of that, I don't think @Booming's actual episode analysis is particularly good and I think he's a bit quick on the white-knighting trigger to the detriment of that.

I also don't think we should refrain from appreciating the episode or analyzing various aspects of the storytelling as we have been. Discriminatory art can still be good art and many adults learn to balance their progressive concerns with their aesthetic appreciation of a piece with problematic elements.


@Trent

Tell us how you really feel.

Jordan Peterson is a tool who survives by exploiting that segment of society that has just enough smarts to recognize a street level hustle, but insufficient education and experience to distinguish between legitimate academia and pseudoscientific hucksterism (eg: Joe Rogan). He's also a remarkably bad writer.

I do have to admit that he's very business savvy and has an excellent mind for marketing.
Boooming
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 3:15am (UTC -6)
@Theo
Well, I have had these kind of debates where people watch a few videos or whatever and think that their view on sociology is relatively deep when it is actually just a twisted fantasy created by well poisoners like Jordan Peterson.
It is spreading like a fever. There is no place on the internet where you are save from this notion that sociology has been taken over by feminists to create an "unnatural" society.

It is kind of funny that we have this debate while discussing this episode because the men who push these ideas are in a way like Kamala. Capitalism and pop culture have created a problem. Wealth distribution is very unequal, which means that bigger and biger chunks of society are lower class or lower middle class. These people cannot find meaning in their wealth. Pop culture especially in the USA has created a culture in where you are only living a meaningful life if you are special (sport star, war hero) of course only a very small number can be special. Women have a different approach to this and I wont go into that. For men from the lower classes life basically doesn't make sense anymore. They do what they are told like Kamala (work and so on) but that doesn't fullfill them. They realize at some point that they just exist to exist.

In come people like Jordan Peterson who first writes a pretty standard self help book and then starts to tell these men that there is a conspiracy out there, which is aimed at diminishing men and promoting the well being of other groups. That scientists aren't scientists but ideological warriors who promote a anti men world view. These men who feel disempowered while living a perceived meaningless life hear this and now feel a little special. They are now part of a group of people who knows a deeper truth and the self help stuff ist mostly about feeling in control (clean your room and so on). So people like Peterson have given these men two things that are very important for anybody: confidence and the feeling to be special. At that point these men are willing to do a lot for somebody who gives them that feeling. To quote President Trump:" I could shot somebody on fifth Aveneue and not lose any voters." He told it as a joke but I think it is true. He makes them feel important and valued.

They are attacking scientists because we know the numbers, we know how it actually is which is often in conflict to what they want, plus we are not good at defending us against outside critique, especially when it is immediatly clear that the person talking has no understanding of sociology (insert scientific field here) whatsoever. During the first few debates you try to be reasonable, provide sources, explain what the scientific viewpoint is, pros and cons. You basically do what you would do when you talk to another scientist because that is what we normally do when we discuss these things but then you notice that the other person just flat out denies what you are saying and tries to push certain topics which at first just confuse you because they make no sense. Sooner or later you reach a point where you realize that this is not about reason but emotions. At that point it also becomes hurtful because these people basically tell you that what you do, what you have dedicated your life to is some devious conspiracy aimed at harming people and that is where the intellectual snobbery and the passive aggressiveness starts.
Peter G.
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 3:37am (UTC -6)
@ Booming,

I don't want to push this line of the argument any further, but just consider that not being a sociologist doesn't actually disqualify people to make commentary about human society. If it did - which you're making it sound like - then others could play the same game but with different specialties. Like, how about someone who's studied logic: "you have no business arguing points of logic with me, you don't even have a degree in logic!" or how about philosophy (so much broader): "don't presume to debate symbolic meaning with me when you don't know squat." We could play these games forever. And since we're talking about Jordan Peterson (though heaven knows why): "how ignorant to criticize a clinical psychologist when you haven't read the literature." Or the best maybe would be "how can you analyze fictional TV when you aren't even a qualified art critic or dramaturge?"

But of course all of these lines are utterly ridiculous. Anyone is capable of speaking on matters that are common to our experience. We all live in societies, use our brains, and consume lots of media, so are qualified in our own ways to speak about these, although perhaps not as 'experts' per se. Shutting down good discussion from some kind of "you haven't done the math, begone" perspective doesn't particularly help anyone at best, and at worst actually shines a bad light on the discipline that's apparently trained people to discourse like this (in this case, sociology).

I'd like to suggest we stick to the episode rather than to flash credentials around. The ideas we put forward will speak for themselves, and more often than not good discussions come from people of differing backgrounds without anyone having to prove they're an expert.
Boooming
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 5:18am (UTC -6)
@ Peter G.
Ok. I just don't like be accused of pushing certain ideologies when I make a statement that no sociologist would question.

"We all live in societies, use our brains, and consume lots of media, so are qualified in our own ways to speak about these, although perhaps not as 'experts' per se."

We all have brains, use knives and know where organs are so should we go to a doctor and say:"You know I think you should make the cut here to get to the appendix."

We can all read and we are all confronted with contracts and laws regularly so should you trust me giving you advice about the law more than a lawyer?

In my work for example I have never used feminist theory. I normally use rational choice theory and capital theory. All of that stands on a foundation of very complex methodology.

Most people seem to think that sociology is just talking about groups and stuff, so obviously anybody can do it.

I know I know. I'm snobbish again.
Jason R.
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 6:26am (UTC -6)
Booming to be clear I never said that sociology was feminism or based on feminism. I implied that most of the people in your field are feminists, and suggested that feminism must have influenced modern sociology (and if that isn't true then mea culpa) but that point was tangential and basically incidental to the main one, which is:

1) Claiming "society" is patriarchal isn't just a fact like saying 93% of senators are Male or that there has never been a female president; it is certainly an opinion, based on a certain ideological perspective, namely a feminist one; and

2) Yes when you talk about patriarchy in this context you are certainly engaging a feminist discourse.

You are the one who conflated this meager narrow point into a claim that sociology is based on feminism. I never made that claim. Frankly, I didn't even realize your original comment was based on "sociology" - it just came across to me as an opinion.

Anyway I have been less than innocent on this thread. But in all seriousness, why do you keep implying that people who disagree with you are uneducated or the "lower classes"?

Do you know how condescending that is?

Speaking of assumptions can we just clear up the pronoun thing? Are you a woman as Peter said and have we been using the wrong pronouns? I could have sworn you had said you were a gay man on another thread but can you just clear it up?
Thomas
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 8:46am (UTC -6)
I don’t mean to walk into a hornet’s nest here but:

“"We all live in societies, use our brains, and consume lots of media, so are qualified in our own ways to speak about these, although perhaps not as 'experts' per se."

We all have brains, use knives and know where organs are so should we go to a doctor and say:"You know I think you should make the cut here to get to the appendix."

We can all read and we are all confronted with contracts and laws regularly so should you trust me giving you advice about the law more than a lawyer?”

Mr/Ms Boooming, you’ve missed Peter G.’s point that you don’t need to be an expert to talk on certain subjects. No one is saying a sociologist like you isn’t most qualified to speak on sociological constructs from a professional POV, but that doesn’t mean a layman’s take on those same constructs is worthless. To use your examples, many layman can treat illnesses (that’s why WebMD exists) and interpret contracts on their own.

We’re just discussing art here and whatever sociological points you are getting into are still only tangential to artistic critique.

Sorry to walk into this hornets’ nest, but I feel like if someone doesn’t do it you’ll keep talking in circles.
Skeptical
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 12:38pm (UTC -6)
Booming, you have completely and totally misrepresented practically everything I said, made absurd and frankly vicious and mean-spirited assumptions about my beliefs (I'm suddenly an imperialist trying to bomb everyone else into submission? Where the bleep did that come from???), seem to believe that your view of the world is the only possible correct one, and have essentially proved my point far better than I could. But rather than get into some stupid tit-for-tat war, let me try again...

Point #1: should we get life lessons from Star Trek? Well, let's assume that we should, that Star Trek writers are soooo much smarter than us and can impart great wisdom to us lowly, stupid peons. So let us learn from these great folks, starting from the beginning of TOS. Actually, let's skip ahead to near the end of Season 1 and start listing are important lessons:

Errand of Mercy: Pacifism, even in the face of evil and oppression, is good!
The Alrernative Factor: Don't make a Star Trek episode when you're on drugs...
City on the Edge of Forever: Pacifism may sound good, but in the face of evil and oppression is bad!

Um... what? So, if I'm getting life lessons from Star Trek, how am I supposed to know what is good and just when they are providing contradictory lessons literally TWO EPISODES APART! And that's not the only time either. Using the power of the Q to save people from disaster is bad in Hide and Q, but good in Deja Q. The Prime Directive is the upmost good (ie, prime), except all the times when it's not. Using technology from a sadist is bad in Nothing Human, but stealing Borg technology is A-OK in Dark Frontier. And, as the piece de resistance and breaking TOS' record for whiplash, our hero Sisko says that an organization in the Federation that does shady things to protect the Federation is totally 100% evil literally THE WEEK BEFORE he does a bunch of shady things to protect the Federation.

If you're relying on Star Trek to find good life lessons, you're gonna have problems, because it's all over the place. There is no hope of having an actual cohesive moral code when you have dozens of writers wanting to tell dozens of stories.

Ah, you say, but there's subtle differences. Pacifism was bad in COTEOF but good in EOM because the situations were different. Oh really? What is the nice dividing line between the two situations? What makes it ok in one situation and not the other? That's not to say that there CAN be subtle differences, that different situations can call on different actions, but is that what Star Trek taught? Is the difference clear and easily understandable based on these episodes alone? Of course not.

Because, in both instances, the writers were trying to tell a story. And getting into all the details on a life lesson would turn it into a lecture instead.

And this is even ignoring the fact that the TRUE message in EOM is completely effed up: pacifism is good, and if other don't agree you should use your own violence to impose it on them!

But actually, that brings it to Point #2: people can take different messages from a story because, again, the story is prevalent and you can't just stand up there and lecture. So, what does that mean? If we SHOULD take messages from Star Trek, but people take DIFFERENT messages from the same episode, what then? Are they both right? Is one wrong?

And if one is wrong, why? Why are they a miserable failure at interpreting a TV show while the other person is a super genius? Who is to say which one is right? If a story can be interpreted as an analogy for one situation, can it be interpreted as an analogy for a much different one? And again, who says one is right and the other is wrong?

I suppose the author can say so. But if the author wasn't smart enough to realize how his or her moral message can be logically applied to unapproved wrongthink, why should we listen to the author?

Since Booming appears to be a pretty clear liberal, let's do something crazy here. Measure of a Man is about the Civl Rights movement, right? Of course it is. Guinan's statement makes it pretty clear. And yet, and yet... The final judgement of the judge lady was, quite clearly, that she does not know if Data counts as a "person" and does not feel qualified to judge on that particular matter, but instead chooses to err on the side of caution and give Data the right to choose in this interest, given the particular downside of judging incorrectly. So if this is an analogy of the Civil Rights movement, is that the right message? "Who knows if them black folk are really human, but I suppose we ought to give them rights just in case" Is that the lesson we should learn, that there's a legitimate reason that we can't be sure people of a different color than us are really human?

Of course not. The author clearly didn't intend that to be the case. But it made sense to make that ruling in our analogy to fit the story of Data. And yet, and yet... That judgement - when we aren't sure about personhood, we should err on the side of caution - DOES show up in a modern political debate. But it shows up in the Pro-Life movement, where all the good liberals who think Star Trek is on their said is 100% against. So of course, all the good liberals will shriek and holler and say that this is twisting the true intent of the episode and HOW DARE THEY! But why? Like I said, the analogy of the actual judgement fits the Pro-Life movement far better than the Civil Rights movement, even though I'm sure that wasn't the author's intention. But if we are to take moral lessons from Star Trek, we have to apply those lessons to areas outside the limited scope of the episode. So who's to say that this application is 100% false?

I've said it before in a tongue-in-cheek manner, and I'll say it again in a tongue-in-cheek manner, just to prove that different interpretations are possible, but... Star Trek is actually a right-wing utopia fantasy, not a left-wing utopia fantasy. The utopia was created by an act of pure capitalism and due to a singular private citizen's will and drive rather than a government program, the military is highly respected and full of good people rather than uneducated morons who want to kill stuff, the prime directive is a way to stop moral liberal busybodies from imposing their nanny-state isms on other people and let them have their freedoms, and the single greatest threat to the galaxy is the clearly communist Borg. See, 100% right wing! Why should that not be the message we get out of it?

But Booming thinks only Booming's interpretation is correct. That was my point with the alternate interpretation of this episode. Fact #1: Both men AND women can have unrealistic expectations that their partners should act and behave exactly like they want them to. Fact #2: for both men AND women, these unrealistic expectations can produce seriously unhealthy relationships. Does anyone actually disagree with either of those two facts (and, if so, perhaps you ought to look in the mirror to find the real sexist...)? So, given that, why can't the "moral message", if you want to find one in this episode, be applied to both men AND women? And yet, when I suggested that women could get a moral message out of this episode, Booming started ranting about presidential elections and a bunch of other crap. Why isn't this interpretation of the message a valid one? Apparently Booming thinks it's impossible, but I have no idea why.

The reason these alternative messages exist, of course, is because the authors are trying to tell a story. In order to ensure no other possible message except the intended one gets through, the author would have to constantly push away from the actual plot and keep manipulating the story to make sure the one true message gets across. And when that happens, the story suffers. And that makes for bad fiction. We call it "Season 1 of TNG."

But in any case, back to this idea that "only one true message" exists, as it segues nicely into Point #3: More often than not, the people who claim lessons can be learned from Star Trek aren't actually learning lessons themselves, but rather think that OTHER people should be learning the lessons that THEY want them to. Pretty convenient that the one true message of Perfect Mate is a Perfect Match for Booming's worldview, and that all other interpretations and all other worldviews are self evidently false, right?

Here's a fun little game for everyone: go read the comments for The Drumhead. Look for all the comments that say something like "this is such an important episode, and is so relevant for today!" Got it? There's plenty of them. Now, notice that EVERY SINGLE ONE of them thinks its relevant because they believe that THEIR POLITICAL OPPONENTS are the ones that are crazy, conspiracy spouting unhinged maniacs like Satie while THEIR POLITICAL ALLIES are the calm, rational Picard. Every. Single. One. Even those on polar opposite sides of the political aisle.

There may be a supposed message of the Drumhead, but the TRUE message that everyone looking for a message got out of it was "You are so much better than those stupid evil people you despise."

Does anyone who wants messages in their fiction actually want to learn from those messages, or do they just want to use them to feel morally superior?

I mean, I've been on this website for a LONG time, and have seen a TON of these dustups and stupid arguments appear. I guess the takeaway is that Star Trek fans have never learned the main message of Star Trek, that of tolerance and respect for other people. So if Star Trek fans who claim to care SOOO much about moral messages in shows can't even learn the most basic one, why should we have them at all?

And, finally, we get to Point #4: there is a difference between thematic fiction and message fiction. By no means am I arguing for the Tom Paris route of just make a silly, zany show with twists and turns and no weight behind it. But themes don't need to be life lessons. Themes don't need to create us vs them attitudes. Themes are naturally interwoven into the story and arise naturally from the story rather than exist in a tug of war with the story. That's good fiction.

Let's look at what could probably be considered a consensus pick for best Star Trek, namely Wrath of Khan. There are two very clear themes in the movie: Pride goeth before a fall, and getting old is a part of life. Are those "messages" we need to "learn"? We probably knew them already, and certainly didn't learn them from this moview. And it's not like the authors are constantly shouting them from the rooftops either. For one, the fact that there are two of them makes the movie more organic rather than feeling like a morality play. For two, they both come up in different ways. Obviously Khan's arrogance takes center stage, but we also have undercurrents with Kirk arrogantly ignoring Saavik's request to raise shields despite protocol and the Marcus' arrogance of not realizing or not caring that they were also developing a WMD. Kirk coming to accept life took several twists and turns, from the start complaining about his age and feeling useless, to the middle-end talking about Kirk refusing to face death but now being forced to, and of course the more subtle bit of Kirk reconnecting with his son as a reminder that growing old also means passing things down to the next generation and the joy of watching that generation grow.

All of that is GOOD writing. All of that is THEMATIC writing. Much, much better than message writing.

So to sum up:
1) Star Trek's messaging is poor and all over the place anyway, so it's hardly a moral authority.
2) People can interpret Star Trek episodes in different ways, so there's no moral authority.
3) People inevitably interpret Star Trek to fit their preconceived worldview anyway, so that hardly counts as a moral authority.

Ergo, when it comes to fiction, it's better to have good themes and a good story than to try to tell a message.
Yanks
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 4:50pm (UTC -6)
What too many comments on this episode fellas :-)
Shannon
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 5:03pm (UTC -6)
Yanks, it makes me think the writers were more clever about writing this one than I first suspected.
Theo
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 5:07am (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

"Not being a sociologist doesn't actually disqualify people to make commentary.."

@Booming didn't say that, he said that it makes it less likely that you are correct. Particularly as your analysis begins to shift from general episode commentary to thoroughly uninformed meta-analysis of technical terminology and contemporary research trends in an academic field you have no expertise in.

There's a reason why Trent, myself, and (I'll bet) pretty much anyone with more than a passing familiarity with social sciences got a laugh out of how easily @Booming sniffed out Jordan Peterson's prejudicial influence on @Jason R.'s ostensibly autodidactic impressions of Sociology.



@Skeptical

"when it comes to fiction, it's better to have good themes and a good story than to try to tell a message."

Seems like very presumptuous over-generalization and false dichotomy. I'll be sure to tell George Orwell & Nathaniel Hawthorne they're trash. Maybe Tom Clancy can tutor them.

Nah, for real I can see how a good writer can do either or both well.


"And yet, when I suggested that women could get a moral message out of this episode, Booming started ranting..."

Perhaps because it's a bit perverse to suggest that women claw through 20 metric tonnes of sexist bullshit to find a single nugget of fortune cookie advice that I guess maybe applies to everyone kind of, if you jig it a little. Not saying it's not there, but I'm damn sure not telling my local rabbi he might get a moral message out of Mein Kampf. (and with that I announce the Christening of this thread with Godwin's Law. We made it people, cheers.)


"Star trek's messaging is poor and all over the place"

Definitely true. But @Booming's conclusions are not only based on the writer's intentional narrative and thematic decisions, but also the implications of fairly radical choices that they clearly did not even notice they made (or at least, failed to understand the importance of). In that sense we can glean a distinct sense of a patriarchal world view, even in the presence of some divergent thematic directions. (Although tbh, even the conscious thematic & narrative choices, while differentiated, certainly skew overall in a clearly androcentric direction).



@Jason R.

"I implied that most of the people in your field are feminists."

Sounds like you're guessing. Dude most of the people in the developed world are feminists, so this is a good, if meaningless, guess.

Since the conclusions @Boomer arrives at are not exclusive to feminist theory and have widespread interdisciplinary support, bringing it up just sounds like an attempt to apply a reductive and often purposely misconstrued label to a group of people in order to subtly suggest that their objectivity is compromised by the limitations of a narrow ideological framework. We can see what you're doing.

You might as well sneer "most of you are *academics*." Technically it's not an insult, but clearly their is an implied appeal to the popular trope of a disaffected ivory tower intellectual masquerading his myopic prejudices as universal truths.


"Claiming 'society' is patriarchal isn't just a fact like saying 93% of senators are male..."

Nah, it's more like saying, "evolution is real" or "the measles vaccine is generally safe" or "Real Politik driven alliances in an increasingly multipolar world were a major factor in triggering World War I"

One is an easily verifiable fact, and all the others are more complex theories that through mountains of inter-disciplinary work have overwhelming acceptance across virtually all related fields. The idea that the society that produced this episode ('92 USA) was patriarchal is so generally accepted across not just Sociology, but many other social sciences that questioning it at this point puts you in the same fringe company as climate skeptics and anti-vaxxers. Not saying you can't do it, but the burden of proof is fairly high.

I guess as an alternative you can claim a shared consipiracy across the social sciences. I mean, social scientists have gotten it wrong before. It was not so long ago that ethnocentric and androcentric bias created anthropological, economic and sociological conclusions that reinforced white supremacy and patriarchy. Similarly, doctors once considered heroin and tobacco healthy.

However, the difference here is that reform emerged from within the field, in the form of scholarly work and critiques that stood up to peer review, and were as intellectually unassailable as they were damning. Often this work was produced by representatives of marginalized and under-privileged groups in the face of immense opposition.

This is a far cry from the current trend of self-interested heavily financed pundits and entertainers rousing large groups of uninformed people to rage against positions they don't understand and don't care to read about. There's a reason why conservative forces have chosen to wage this war on the battleground of popular entertainment and political strategy as opposed to scholarly work that seeks to produce knowledge. hint: It ain't because they don't have the money.



@Booming

"I know I know. I'm snobbish again."

No way man. I appreciate how quickly you changed your tone and appreciate even more your taking the time to respond to me directly.

I understand exactly what you're saying. I think you probably have a lot more experience being in this frustrating situation than I do as I am not in academia and am blue collar as fuck (for now).

I agree that the increasing wealth gap has contributed to greater political polarization. Tbh, I'm pretty sure this whole regressive nativist uproar is just a clever redirection of the rage created by elites' capture of the surplus generated by globalization and their escape from the worst fallout of the financial crisis.

Silly me, I thought globalization surpluses were supposed to be channeled into the welfare state in order to facilitate transitioning displaced workers into more productive industries. Ironic that they would be used to construct a white male identity politics wherein the disenfranchised would be taught to rage against the welfare state that never was. Well, I guess it's easier to just #LearnToCode your bigotry.

That said, I think it's important not to catastrophize. Every few years another Jordan Peterson emerges, captures the public's interest and is shortly thereafter relegated to the wrong side of history, as the work of people like yourself moves society forward.

Remember Herbert Spencer, or Jihad vs McWorld and the Clash of Civilizations.. or the Brontosaurus? Yeah me neither. Believe me, one day soon people will look back at the events of this decade sheepishly and you'll be able to put on your best Picard voice and say: "We've grown out of our infancy" (S1E25: The Neutral Zone).
Theo
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 5:28am (UTC -6)
@Yanks & @Shannon

I think it's more that a bunch of interesting people happened to hit the forum at the same time. That said, IMO it's a dope episode.
Jason R.
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 6:52am (UTC -6)
"The idea that the society that produced this episode ('92 USA) was patriarchal is so generally accepted across not just Sociology, but many other social sciences that questioning it at this point puts you in the same fringe company as climate skeptics and anti-vaxxers. Not saying you can't do it, but the burden of proof is fairly high. "

Those are scientific theories that are falsifiable. Pretty much all that needs to be said and the last substantive point of rebuttal I intend to make on this thread.

"There's a reason why Trent, myself, and (I'll bet) pretty much anyone with more than a passing familiarity with social sciences got a laugh out of how easily @Booming sniffed out Jordan Peterson's prejudicial influence on @Jason R.'s ostensibly autodidactic impressions of Sociology. "

I haven't been influenced by Peterson, to be perfectly honest with you, and might have made the same points years ago before the guy was even known outside of his faculty - but even if I was influenced by him, so what?

Anyway I don't think this discussion is really reflecting well on any of its participants, myself included frankly.

Getting sucked into these bitter ideoligical debates is something I need to avoid in the future. As Booming said, it's not worth it. So that really is my last word on the subject.
Peter G.
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 10:29am (UTC -6)
I don't see any value for anyone in trying to answer a hateful diatribe. My last post was a request that we stop trying to flash credentials in attempts to shut down discussion, and that we not treat each other condescendingly. And this got pushback! That's really all I can say about that.
Theo
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G .

Wow. You're super sensitive. I called you (and everyone else who's been contributing) an interesting person and established that I'm not an academic and am 'blue collar' That's credential flashing? I'm guessing you haven't experienced real 'hateful diatribe'.

I mean, I was waay harder on @Booming and he took it remarkably gracefully.


@Jason R.

"These are scientific theories that are falsifiable."

Everything is a scientific theory that is falsifiable. The difference between the theory that "93% of senators are male" and any of the other theories listed above, is that the observational evidence required to strengthen your confidence for the first theory, is much easier for you personally to collect given your limited resources.

In either case, you will rely on scientific consensus at the end. Sure, most senators look biologically male, but if you really needed to be certain, you would want DNA tests and medical exams. You are not capable of collecting this information yourself, so you would probably end up relying on expert consensus to validate your theory.

With social science theories, the data capture and analysis is even more difficult for you to collect personally. For that reason you should be even more suspicious of your personal judgement and double down on the scientific method.

"I don't think this discussion is really reflecting well on any of its participants ... bitter ideological debates"

Strongly disagree. I think everyone has acquitted themselves pretty well. I've taken shots at pretty much everyone on all sides and been generally impressed with everyone's ability to articulate their thoughts.

I don't think anyone here has been inflexibly ideological and I would've never characterized the conversation as bitter. I actually thought it was kinda cool that we have a fan base that is so diverse in their opinions and can so seemlessly jump from topic to topic while talking about a simple tv show episode.

Anyway, if it's your preference I'm always comfortable having the last word. That's just the kind of guy I am. [double finger snap, spin move, applies more hair gel]
Trent
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 6:06pm (UTC -6)
Theo said: "In either case, you will rely on scientific consensus at the end."

The social sciences tend to expose forms of past and present exploitation which modern western conservatism deems natural, good or non-existent. Academia, and academic consensus, thus quickly becomes "the enemy".

This leads to a weird kind of double-motion. The conservative is always ranting about "postmodernism" and "the evils of relativism" (which supposedly "destroys our traditions"), whilst simultaneously incessantly pointing out that the sciences are "just pushing subjective theories" because "everything is falsifiable" and "that's just like your opinion, man" because "I believe in different facts". Conservatism, then, as postmodernity writ large.

Along with stuff like denying climate change (or racism, or class, or non binary genders etc), one of the most popular buzzwords to contest over the past few years (in the West; almost nobody cares about this stuff outside the US) has been "the patriarchy".

So you get a lot of guys seeing "the patriarchy" as a "feminist conspiracy designed to attack men" (despite the term - or terms like "kyriarchy" - being used to also describe men being victims of other men), whilst also believing the "patriarchy is natural" and "beneficial to everyone" anyway, or "just a hierarchy of competence" or a "result of biology". So it simultaneously doesn't exist, and is good anyway, and a figment of "feminists' imagination".

But the idea of a "patriarchy" spans different fields. Experts in language, literature, history, anthropology, religion, law etc have all detailed countless forms of covert/overt female oppression throughout history. But all of this is casually dismissed as a "feminism101" plot.
Trent
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 9:20pm (UTC -6)
I rewatched this episode today, to see what all the reignited fuss was about - I'd last seen it decade ago, and remember it being a clever, subversive piece of writing by Trek savior Michael Piller - and once again found it to be a genius piece of writing.

What you have here is an alien who's literally a male fantasy object. She instantly becomes and does what men unconsciously and/or consciously desire, and her entire culture and upbringing gears her toward such subservience.

This is not a "sexist episode", or a "juvenile fantasy", as others have labelled it above, but a critique of sexism, and how even women internalize their own oppression, integrating the attitudes, values, standards and the opinions of others into their own identity or sense of self. As Peter explains above, the episode's title is clearly ironic: what constitutes a perfect mate oft hinges on a denial of another's subjectivity.

But Piller's script goes further, pushing the episode into far more interesting, and creepier, territory. The episode pretends to be about "Picard helping the metamorph", gallantly leading her into enlightenment. The episode pretends to be about a guy chivalrously attempting to save a slave and nobly teaching her to cast off her chains. The episode pretends to be about an alien who "gets smarter", "learns to value herself" and "nobly sacrifices herself for peace". But as the constant shots of the alien posed in a mirror emphasize, the metamorph's merely reflecting back to the watcher what the subject wishes to see.

In Picard's case, he's suckered into a romance (and presumably sex) by an alien who echoes back to him a sexist fantasy which he smugly deems enlightened and compassionate. The more the metamorph drifts toward Picard's ideal - self-sacrificial, interested in archaeology, music, the greater good, existing to boost his enlightened self-image etc - the more he cares about her well-being. Her value, then, remains still bound up in the preferences and desires of men.

Picard's realization at the end isn't that he failed to rescue the damsel, or that she'd finally become an "autonomous female character", or that she "tragically and nobly sacrifices herself". No, his realization is that he's little better than every sexist creep who'd been using the metamorph. "How did you resist her?" the ambassador asks, before leaving the ship. But Picard didn't, and that's what disturbs him. And it's a profoundly disturbing realization; the sexism of the "nice guy", the "white knight" etc.

The episode has some flaws. The Ferengi - obviously inserted as a kind of reference to their sexist culture - are unnecessary, and the hangar bay scenes in which the metamorph is "birthed" from a cocoon, are silly. Better to have her simply arrive in the first act on the transporter pad. Some of the "sexy dialogue" is also silly in a soft-core porn/1940s femme fatale kind of way.

But these are minor problems. The episode's premise is clever, its scenes with Crusher and Picard are great, the glimpses of the alien cultures are neat (Picard plays a giant alien xylophone), and the whole thing is creepy, ambiguous, and filled with behavior and dialogue operating on a level both Picard and the metamorph seem blind to.
Theo
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 10:34pm (UTC -6)
@Trent Re: Comments on social sciences

"The social sciences tend to expose forms of past and present exploitation which modern western conservatism deems natural, good or non-existent."

I'd be careful here, because it almost sounds like moral judgement, which for the most part is not a part of scientific research (pretty sure that's not what you intended). To be clear, exploitative relationships may be detailed, analyzed, etc. but social scientific work also frequently reframes historic events we've come to see as evil and exploitative, simply as amoral strategic responses to external factors.

"The conservative is always ranting about..."

Correction: POP-conservative/pundit. There has been plenty of legitimate work in social sciences that has supported and lined up with politically conservative viewpoints. My criticism was regarding the unscientific, biased and sensationalist nature of a host of media pundits, politicians and activists who have gained traction in attacking academia. Political leaning itself is not really the problem, as there is a long tradition of respected work from "conservative" schools of social science. I would welcome any legitimate work to debunk the notion of gender roles (for example), but that's not what we're getting.

Finally regarding "patriarchy" it's also important to remember that this label doesn't carry any moral judgement one way or the other. It is just a useful way of describing the structure of power and decision making in any given society. There are certainly conditions under which patriarchy can be the more efficient option.
Theo
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 10:35pm (UTC -6)
@Trent RE: Episode

"But as the constant shots of the alien posed in a mirror emphasize, the metamorph's merely reflecting back to the watcher what the subject wishes to see."

This is a very cool observation that I missed.

"The more the metamorph drifts toward Picard's ideal ... the more he cares about her well-being."

I disagree here. He clearly cared deeply about her well-being before he even met her. His concern over her treatment is what set the entire plot into motion. I'm sure he probably liked her more later, but that's pretty standard.


"This is not a "sexist episode", or a "juvenile fantasy", as others have labelled it above, but a critique of sexism,

I understand how you came to this conclusion but I don't think the writers injected a sufficiently unambiguous repudiation of the tropes they apparently celebrate elsewhere to firmly establish this as a critique of sexism as opposed to an indulgence in it. I think it can really be seen both ways. I think the writers purposely left a lot of things ambiguous to both avoid taking any strong position, and to allow people to entertain themselves by projecting their own interpretations.

"""How did you resist her?" the ambassador asks, before leaving the ship. But Picard didn't, and that's what disturbs him."

This is a good example of that intended ambiguity. They keep Picard silent so that you can fill in the blanks however you like.

@Skeptical wrote a pretty brilliant hypotehtical interpretation that comes to precisely the opposite conclusion as you, suggesting that Picard may have actually 'saved' her to a degree (Wed, Aug 7, 2019). It's worth reading and I'm going to paste it below:


"Yes, there is a clear tragedy if someone is a perfect match for person A but must be with Person B, even if her Person A personality is a better ideal than a Person B personality. If she imprinted on a stuffed shirt like Picard and then married someone who loved adventure and excitement and wanted a partner to share those loves, that could be a tragedy. But that's not really what happened here. IIRC, it was pretty explicitly laid out that her husband-to-be didn't really care about obtaining her as a person or as a wife, but rather just saw this ceremony as a means to an end. She was nothing more than a tool for his political position and power.

If that's the case, what would she be like if she imprinted on him? If he sees her as a mere tool, will that be how she sees herself? Will she just sit passively in a chair for the rest of her life waiting for the few moments when she will be useful either in the bedroom or in state functions? Is that even much of a life?

But back to Picard. In a way, Picard and the king are similar: they both have some strong desire for independence and solitude. Presumably, for both of them, the idea of a perfect mate is someone who is not around them all the time. The difference, though, is that the king doesn't care about her one way or another outside of when she is pleasing him, while Picard presumably wants her to live a rich and fulfilling life when they are not together. So her new Picard-centric personality is one where she wants to fulfill her duties, wants to make her partner happy, but also is perfectly fine with her partner being alone for long periods of time and will happily find fulfillment by herself in those time periods. Her king-centric personality would have been wanting to fulfill her duties, wanting to make her partner happy, but would be a passive blob during the long periods of time when she is left by herself. Nothing of the Picard imprint would contradict what the king would want, and perhaps there's some tragedy that she would rather make Picard happy than the king, but at least the 80% of her life where she would be alone is much better for the Picard imprint.

So I disagree with your analogy. Instead, she may not be able to, say, pursue being a Shakespearean actress, and she may be forced to go to Miley Cyrus concerts once a week, but she is now perfectly able to read and listen and watch Shakespeare in her downtime when she wouldn't have been able to before. Thus, introducing Shakespeare into her life is making it better, even if it isn't the perfect life. It's not that she imprinted on a good person like Picard that makes her life better, it's that she imprinted on a good person AND a loner."
William B
Tue, Aug 13, 2019, 12:23pm (UTC -6)
@Trent, Theo (et al.)

Interestingly my view of the episode aligns pretty strongly with Trent's -- and indeed I was going to post something similar but fuzzier, before I decided it'd been too long since I'd seen the episode, my view was too poorly-formed, I didn't want to stir things up again etc.

What I'd add to what Trent says is that I think that the episode's use of the Ferengi is actually pretty clever. I think that the Ferengi are used as representatives of clownish sexism, oppression -- human trafficking, even! -- in order to make it easy to recognize Picard as being far above them, *initially*, only to loop back around into criticizing Picard at the end. The Ferengi's total objectification of Kamala raises the question of whether her own civilization, and then eventually Picard, actually treats her better. And I think the answer is that, in some respects, they don't. Something similar goes with the scenes of the catcalling blue collar types (a classist stereotype but from my observation not one with no basis in reality), and even Riker and Worf. The types that Kamala inhabits with the Ferengi (where she's just a golden egg), the miners, Riker, Worf etc. are all easier to spot as fantasy fulfillment figures than the type she inhabits with Picard, which is far more complex but (arguably) not any more "free." I might even add Beverly's take on Kamala to the list -- she views Kamala as a perfect victim, who has no agency at all and cannot possibly enjoy the life set out for her, which requires Beverly to gloss over the apparent alien biology of the situation, and also seems to not involve Beverly actually talking to her.

I also think that the episode highlights a fracture in Picard's ethical framework. Picard both values commitment to duty, self-sacrifice and self-abnegation, the greater good, peace, AND to justice, individual rights, countering oppression, the importance of subjectively lived experience, etc. This is reasonable -- most of us probably value both. This is a situation in which the two conflict. Picard himself would, I have little doubt, lay down his life to end a horrific war (provided it was his place, and not a Prime Directive issue), and so he does actually walk the walk with the self-sacrifice thing, but he also is not being asked to enter into what is a sham, symbolic marriage for the rest of his life, to have to live a lie for decades until he dies. Perhaps as Skeptical indicates she will have lots of time to herself to explore other features of her life, but I don't know whether that will be the case. Anyway, I think the inability of Picard to resolve the contradictions of his value system ends up cornering Kamala into a, if not worst-case scenario, arguably a very tragic one. He (and who his image of the perfect mate/partner) ends up inadvertently requiring her that Kamala understand the value of the freedom she cannot attain and the sense of duty and self-sacrifice required to put aside what is best for her. Kamala's imprinting on him produces the effect that she understands on a deep level what she is giving up, because Picard could not truly bear *either* that she commit deep down to the role she has been set out nor to actual rebellion against her circumstances.
Trent
Tue, Aug 13, 2019, 1:23pm (UTC -6)
Theo said: "He clearly cared deeply about her well-being before he even met her."

Only after prompted by Crusher. Picard rationalizes her "slavery" - using old school cultural relativism, and hiding behind the Prime Directive - until Crusher pushes him to visit the metamorph's quarters.

Theo wrote: "@Skeptical wrote a pretty brilliant hypotehtical interpretation that comes to precisely the opposite conclusion as you, suggesting that Picard may have actually 'saved' her to a degree"

That's the common reading of the episode; the metamorph "tragically imprints on Picard" whilst "forced to dutifully marry the King". I would say whether this works out best for the metamorph or not, is beside the point.

We're talking about an alien who meets Picard and is instantly ordering "Tea, Earl Grey" for him. She knows him inside out.

What unfolds is then a kind of game of self-delusion. Picard convinces himself of his nobility ("Have I not done everything possible to discourage this?", "I don't want to use you as other men do") and convinces himself that there is no manipulation involved in their relationship. Her pheromones aren't affecting him, he believes, and his desires aren't affecting her. The sham culminates with a wedding on a holodeck, a place itself dependent upon shared delusions.

The metamorph, meanwhile, is continually (and instantly!) mirroring back to Picard everything he wants. The MOMENT he sees her standing before a mirror in a wedding dress, she out of the blue says "I will never truly love him". She then flatters Picard's vanity: he, she reveals, "opens her mind and heart to endless new possibilities" and she "only likes herself when she is with him". She essentially paints Picard as a Kirk-figure: the one-of-a-kind spaceman who tames every alien gal he encounters!

Of course Picard doesn't believe he's being duped. After all, she imprinted on him! And him alone! He's special! The chosen one!

But imprinting is itself a kind of lie; like the giving of one's virginity, or finding a "true love" or "soul mate", she plays to his ego. Picard is suddenly the only one in the universe worthy to take her, the cause of her awakening, the special one who irrevocably changed her, brought her into womanhood and fullness. They may be forced apart, she says, but he will always be in her heart! This kind of romantic male fantasy is exactly what Picard wants. "For a metamorph," she then tells him, "there's no greater pleasure and no greater wish than to bond as I've bonded with you. Who I am today, I will be forever." And Picard laps the deception up.

Ultimately, however you read the episode, it's a really ambiguous and deliciously open-ended little story. It's a shame the bad stuff in it is so corny, because its one of Trek's best "romance episodes" and a really cool piece of SF writing.

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