Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 117 (The Outcast)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

The Enterprise is helping a race called the J’Naii find a lost shuttle. Its range would prohibit it from ever leaving their solar system, so it’s got to be out there somewhere. There is an emission that can’t be explained, so the Enterprise sends out a probe. The probe disappears as well, but at least the Enterprise has a location for the disappearance. They realize that there’s a pocket of what they call null space, where electronic devices (such as shuttles and probes) become trapped.

The interesting thing about the J’Naii is that they’re androgynous. Some may appear more male or female, but they really have no gender. To them, gender is seen as primitive. The J’Naii once had two sexes, but they feel that they have evolved. Commander Riker is working with Soren, a J’Naii pilot, to rescue the lost shuttle and those onboard it.

Soren admits to Riker that she has female tendencies, but it’s not the kind of thing someone wants known on her planet. She tells Riker of an instance in school where a classmate was teased and bullied for having male tendencies. One day, the classmate was taken from school and reprogrammed to be androgynous and afterwards, appeared much happier. Riker and Soren get closer, but before anything happens, Soren is discovered and put on trial. Soren is reprogrammed before Riker has a chance to help her.

The only problem that I had with the episode was that Riker seemed to fall for Soren too quickly. He has the possibility of a meaningful relationship with Soren and even offers to take her onboard the Enterprise. However, he’s only known her for a short time.

It was a good episode. It does a good job of making its point. I’d hope that someone watching the episode could watch it and learn something. One of the interesting things about science fiction is the ability to make a point without actually saying something outright, even if it did come close in this case. A person in a genderless society identifying with a gender is a thinly veiled metaphor for homosexuality.

I’m not saying that this is good or bad. I’m just saying that in this episode, it’s fairly obvious. The idea of reprogramming is analogous to the theory that gays and lesbians can be made straight through therapy. Soren even makes a speech during her trial claiming that those that identify as a gender simply want to be left alone, as they have hurt no one.

I’d give the episode four stars.

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