While Star Trek is, on occasion, guilty of the ‘planet of hats’ trope, there are also numerous attempts to stop a given alien race (particularly the reoccurring aliens) from appearing generically ‘x’ - not all Klingons are warriors, not all Ferengi are merchants - somebody has to take out the trash (or calibrate the trash collecting robots) in those cultures. Still, there are a few examples of characters in either unlikely jobs or really, specifically, culturally shitty jobs.
1. Antaak, a Klingon Doctor
Don’t get me wrong. The Klingons would absolutely need doctors. But there’s simply no honour in it. There’s likely the same amount of general disdain for lawyers (and the Klingons would absolutely need lawyers), but the law is generally on the side of the warrior. Antaak’s father disowned him for becoming a healer, and with the heavy social stigma attached to the debilitated wounded who do not accept death, a doctor is nothing more than an enabler of cowardice. Tough job.
2. Joret Dal, a Cardassian Spy
Again, Cardassians need spies. And it’s almost a natural profession for many of them. But Joret Dal is working against Cardassia for the Federation (and in a round-about way, for Cardassia), and that means that unlike nearly every other Cardassian, he’s willing to put his neck on the line without a safe escape route. Garak and Damar aid the Federation, but the motivations for their actions are easily traced back to either a ‘for a strong Cardassia’ idea or their own self-preservation, whereas Joret Dal’s line of thinking is uncharacteristically vague and dove-like. I wouldn’t say that Cardassians can’t hatch complicated/convoluted plans, but in keeping with their reptile brains, if the ends justify the means, the ends must be clearly defined.
3. Dr Reyga, a Ferengi Scientist
Rom’s progression from wayward and inept businessman to competent (and somewhat brilliant) engineer says a lot about the Ferengi culture’s fetishization of one particular type of skillset at the expense of all others. Even medical doctors thrive on their ability to exact payment from patients. Much of the Ferengi technology is said to have been bartered for, rather than developed. Dr Reyga has difficulty overcoming the prejudices of other cultures, but it’s not much of a leap to suggest a Ferengi scientist, particularly one eager to share his ideas, is not afforded much prestige on his homeworld.
4. Frenchotte, a Romulan Composer
Self-exiled from Romulus, one supposes for political reasons - the usual leftist, internationalist, pacificist views of a great many of earth’s fine artists would only be magnified within the paranoid, xenophobic and militaristic culture of the Romulans. Now, it may be fair to note that the reason so many Romulans on-screen are military personnel, or spies, or scientists or politicians is because the Federation isn’t likely to have run-ins with too many Romulan artists, so how dare I assume they don’t have a rich internal culture of state-sponsored or approved art and culture?
5. Various Vulcans devoted to the Arts - Delvok, Vulcan Composer; Soral, Vulcan Tenor; T’Leel, Vulcan Artist; T’Penna, Vulcan Soprano
Tempted to lead with ‘Solok, a Vulcan Insufferable Dick,’ but Vulcans generally have their rough edges. This one’s tricky. Aesthetics may be of particular import to the philosophers of earth, but it is hard to envision artistic movements governed by logic. Perhaps this is why so few examples of Vulcan art are shown (in favour of their various games and puzzles, which are logical expressions). For aesthetics to succeed (paraphrasing Schopenhauer), the question of utility is an intrusion that ruins “beauty.” Another way - “aesthetics is for the artist what ornithology is for the birds” (Newman) - the practical constraints of a Vulcan artist having to first set-aside emotional impulse and then approach the habit of art as an act of logical applied aesthetics means that while one could not doubt the technical proficiency and ‘truth’ of a Vulcan artist, and the object itself would be active in provoking/affirming/distressing a prospective audience, I can’t imagine the life of the Vulcan artist as particularly easy. Beaming down a landing party to search for Duende, ad infinitum. I don’t see a large demand for historical or statist art either, though I’m comfortable with Spock and Tuvok and their lutes.
5 Examples of Federation Officers in Need of a Cultural Sensitivity Seminar
The Federation prides itself on the cultivation and propagation of a tolerant, all-inclusive and progressive society of equals. Because a great number of Starfleet Officers are either human (or humanoid-aliens), they are sometimes beholden to a nasty part of human-nature (or humanoid-alien nature) that insists on creating dichotomies between acceptable (us and people like us) and disgusting (them). Sometimes this makes for the thrust of a whole episode - the objectification of Data gets a bit of mileage - and sometimes a character makes an off-handed comment from the sidelines, briefly exposing a few prejudices yet linger. Kirk’s Klingon thing was effectively dealt with in ST:VI, to a point, so I’ll assume he figured it out.
5. Miles O’Brien on numerous occasions.
“The bloody Cardies can’t be trusted!”
While the good chief refrains from using the straight up derogatory slur ‘Spoonhead,’ there’s always something distinctly hateful in the way he says ‘Cardies.’ His struggle with the lingering racism of conflict is a part of his character, so there’s not much surprise when his old grudges re-surface, but considering the steps he took in ‘Cardassians’ and ‘Destiny’ toward not making snap judgments about the whole race, it’s always a bit disheartening to see the ‘common man’ slip back into old habits. He might not need the seminar, he knows what’s going on - “It’s not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became because of you.”
4. Archer, as a matter of policy.
“Very disrespectful, but, boy, did it feel good!”
I’d rather not re-live Archer-diplomacy.
3. McCoy to Spock, in Bread and Circuses (and most of the time)
“I’m trying to thank you! You pointed-eared hobgoblin!”
Oh, they love to joke around. They love to argue. But while McCoy’s inability to understand Spock (and vice-versa) is an integral and fascinating part of the original series (and a somewhat necessary audience-surrogation device), there’s really no need to resort to ugly slurs, Doctor.
2. Worf to Troi & Dr Crusher, in The Outcast
“That is a woman’s game…a man’s game has no wild cards.”
In an episode pulling the reverse allegory about gender roles, Worf is chosen to be the crew member who finds the J’Naii off-putting, and throws out this gem while playing poker with two women who were just talking about the equality of the Federation. And given other chest-puffing about Klingon women being ‘equals,’ Worf looks especially foolish. Worf was already booked for the seminar for the across the board racism culturally inherited from his Klingon-ness, but the sexism has him stay another day.
1. Paris to Chakotay, in Caretaker
“Isn’t there some Indian trick where you can turn yourself into a bird and fly us out of here?”
Now, perhaps Tom thought Chakotay was a shape-shifting alien… but he uses the word ‘Indian’ and knows full well that Chakotay’s just a regular guy. Chakotay responds with a joke, as Native Americans have learned to do over 700 years (and counting, Voyager) of dealing with the great white jackass. Does nicely reinforce that Tom’s a real dickhole at this point.
The Splendid & Myriad Abilities of Elim Garak
2. Tax Evasion
- Deceit, Sharpshooting, Hacking, Slinking/Mincing around, (alleged) Assassinating
5. Campy dialogue, should the need arise
6. Justifying the means
7. Bottling up his emotions
8. Survival (A general Cardassian trait)
9. Arson/Insurance Fraud
10. Humouring the poor girl
Kind of useless in a fist fight, however.
5 Strikingly Familiar Aliens
Differentiated from ‘this week’s big guest star’ and ‘my goodness, that’s Max Headroom/Oh great, Andy Dick,’ by a definite sense of ‘I know who that is, but who is that?’ A certain amount of disguise blended with the actor coming through is required for this effect - Mick Fleetwood in a silent role as a fish-man doesn’t quite qualify, and neither does Vanessa Williams with a coin on her head.
1. Iggy Pop as Yelgrun
2. Jason Alexander as Kurros
3. Heidi Swedberg as Rekelen - Susan Ross on the left.
4. Kurtwood Smith* as Thrax
5. Gabrielle Union as N’Garen
*Annorax, on the other hand, is ever-so clearly Red Forman.
12 Romantic Trek Pairings that make me go ‘Ergh’
As much as Trek is concerned with social behaviours and humanoids interacting with each other, there are some pretty horrible relationships in the franchise canon. Might be because writing realistic and organic romantic relationships against the backdrop of ‘space future’ in largely stand-alone episodes requires either 42-minute relationships (Kirk-Whoever) or gradual, piecemeal sub-plots over the long term, to say nothing of the Roddenberry Doctrine of denying the possibility of deep interpersonal conflicts (until his death, Ro, DS9, Maquis…). ‘Fling of the Week’ style relationships dominate the franchise (not many penicillin-resistant space STIs, as it would turn out), but even when major characters shack up, this viewer gets the feeling it’s very cold in space indeed. Can’t always put the blame squarely on actor chemistry or writing, but there’s something very amiss in the following 12 romantic pairings. (Multi-episode couples only. Kirk-Odona, Crusher-Ronin would crush this list. Pre-apologies to slash fans, I know nothing of your culture. )
12. Wesley Crusher - Robin Lefler
- The Boy and Ashley Judd. She finds him intriguing through nothing of his own volition, she’s so quirky and cute that she’s a dreamy indie rock montage away from the title of Enterprise’s resident MPDG.
11. Archer - T’Pol
- Sexy Trek’s exploration of the ‘opposites attract’ trope doesn’t make no sense, but Archer’s inter-office lechery isn’t particularly evolved for a show taking place 190 years after Mad Men.
10. Picard - Vash
- Nothing good comes out of going to Risa.
9. Garak - Tora Ziyal
- I’m all for Andy Robinson’s suggestion that Garak was a pansexual epicurean, but that makes it even more bewildering that he’d have any interest in Ziyal, whose third actress was still twenty years younger than Robinson. (That, and Garak only truly had eyes for Bashir.)
8. Kira - Odo
- Written strongly enough, and an interesting relationship to think about in context, but hard to watch. Kira’s ‘intimate, happy’ voice is the worst thing.
7. Kes - Neelix
- I don’t care how quickly Ocampa mature, this one’s creepy. Their behaviour once they get onto Voyager illustrates clearly that when Neelix can’t hold the power in their relationship, Kes would prefer him as a protector-friend, not a protector-lover. Again, interesting, but ookie.
6. Dr Bashir - Leeta
- Bashir’s frustrations with Dax culminate in a surprisingly resilient relationship with a bubbly Dabo girl. I picture a lot of Julian either dominating conversation or insisting on silence in a passive-aggressive way. Bashir needs someone to keep him in check, lest that air of arrogance lead to some gentle misogyny. Risa, it’s no good for you.
5. Jadzia Dax - Worf
- Again, it makes sense. The pansexual, wise-to-the-cosmic-joke Trill gets down with the dour Klingon. But damn it if, even in the 24th century, putting the wild woman in a relationship doesn’t just settle her right down. Of course Farrell lost interest in her character. They also go to Risa (and there are gold underpants).
4. Vedek Bareil - Kira
- Kira’s got to lighten up somehow. We’ve got to see that she’s not all barbed wire, but I really don’t know what makes this relationship tick. It seems like at least half of Kira’s criteria is ‘experienced the occupation, now has some clout.’ Keeps pragmatism in her character, but leaves chemistry on the sidelines.
3. Chakotay - Seven of Nine
- Seven’s playing around in the holodeck, trying to make up for the fact that her experience of humanity was stunted at age six, and attempting to understand ‘stirrings’ and navigate around other developmental holes… and holo-Chakotay seems nice enough. That Real Chakotay goes along with what is one of her first ‘crushes’ and gets right in there… Errrgh.
2. Will Riker - Deanna Troi
- Yeah, yeah, Imzadi. Riker is a documented creep. Troi is.. grating, to say the least. Also, there’s
that horrifying bubble bath shave Tom Riker getting in there. Your transporter clone shouldn’t eat where you shave, or something.
1. Deanna Troi - Worf
- Nothing can dethrone this one. What the blue hell. Worf is annoyed by most everybody, but the soothing voiced ship’s counsellor gets in there? She isn’t exactly built to last… and all the fun (horror) he had picturing a life with Troi in Parallels is what precipitated this? That it happened once in the whole general mishmash is enough to plant the seed?
Top 9 Instances of ‘Talking back to “god”’ in Star Trek (with an obvious winner)
9. Janeway to Q in The Q and the Grey
Q: It’s an overwhelming honor, isn’t it? I can’t get you out of my mind. You’re confident, passionate, beautiful…
Janeway: And totally uninterested.
8. Worf to Q* in Deja-Q
Q: Q, the miserable. Q, the desperate. What must I do to convince you people?
7. Bashir to Q in Q-Less
(after being told to stay away from Vash)
Bashir: My God, you’re an impertinent waiter!
6. Worf to Kira in Homefront
Worf: Our gods are dead. Ancient Klingon warriors slew them a millenia ago. They were more trouble than they were worth.
5. Kirk to Apollo in Who Mourns for Adonais?
Kirk: Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate.
4. Chekov to Apollo in Who Mourns for Adonais?
Apollo:I am Apollo!
Chekov: And I am the tsar of all the Russias!
3. Sisko to the Wormhole Aliens in Sacrifice of Angels
Sisko: You say you don’t want me to sacrifice my life - well FINE! Neither do I. You want to be gods? Then BE gods!…I need a miracle. Bajor needs a miracle…STOP THOSE SHIPS!!!
2. Picard to Q in Tapestry
Jean-Luc Picard: [laughs scornfully] You are not God!
Q: Blasphemy! You’re lucky I don’t cast you out or smite you or something. The bottom line is, your life ended about five minutes ago, under the inept ministrations of Dr. Beverly Crusher.
Jean-Luc Picard: No… I am not dead. Because I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you. The universe is not so badly designed.
(and “My only regret is dying and finding you here.”)
1. Kirk to “God” in ST V: The Final Frontier
Kirk: What does God need with a starship?
McCoy: Jim, what are you doing?
Kirk: I’m asking a question.
“God”: Who is this creature?
Kirk: Who am I? Don’t you know? Aren’t you God?
Sybok: He has his doubts.
“God”: You doubt me?
Kirk: I seek proof.
McCoy: Jim! You don’t ask the Almighty for his ID!
*Well, Worf believed him to still have his god-like powers.