Star Trek: Voyager: Resistance   Rewatch 
April 6, 2017 8:47 AM - Season 2, Episode 12 - Subscribe

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

The weight of this sad time Memory Alpha must obey, Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. The oldest hath borne most: we that are young Shall never see so much, nor live so long:

- Lisa Klink was handed the earliest version of the story a month after joining the series' writing staff, tasked with crafting it into her first teleplay. She noted, "I'd been here just a few weeks when they got me started on 'Resistance'." Klink further recalled, "They had bought this story from freelancers, and it had kind of been shelved temporarily." She found the premise to be very problematic. "It wasn't an easy story or an easy script to do. First, because it's about the old guy," she explained. "How do you make it about Janeway? The second problem was [that] the story's episodic. They go here; they go there. We needed an overall arc to the story, and Janeway needed to be driving it." Klink also recalled, "It was basically a Don Quixote kind of story, which is inherently episodic and about somebody else! So, it becomes how do you make this about us? It's not going to be one of our people crazy; it's Janeway hooking up with this crazy guy, so how do you make it about her? And why wouldn't she just ditch him? You had to make him crazy, but still somewhat helpful, but not so helpful that she's not driving the story!" The challenge of organizing the plot into her first teleplay showed Klink that the series' producers were investing considerable faith in her. "It turned out to be very gratifying," she noted, "because they showed a lot of confidence in me right away."

- Some changes that Michael Jan Friedman was aware of, from his perspective of now being officially uninvolved in the episode's writing process, were the change of the Kazon character to being an alien-of-the-week, the alteration in episode title to "Resistance", and the addition of the melon scene, which was Lisa Klink's idea. Kevin J. Ryan felt that the story remained much the same as he and Friedman had pitched it, however. "The basic relationship between Janeway and the old man, which was really the core of our story, remained the same throughout," Ryan said. "Everybody who worked on it seemed to agree that it was the important element. There were a few changes in the window dressing elements but the main relationship points stayed the same, which was gratifying." Remarking on the speed at which the script was turned out, Ryan commented, "The next thing we know, [...] they have a wonderful script, so it was really a dream experience."

- Michael Jan Friedman and Kevin J. Ryan originally envisioned Brian Dennehy in the role of Maranek. However, Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey was ultimately cast in the role of Caylem after having repeatedly turned down invitations to appear in Star Trek: Voyager, never having seen an episode of the series before. Finally, he was sent the script for this episode and changed his mind about appearing on the series. "I would put it off for so long," Grey recalled, "but I couldn't anymore after I got that script. As soon as I signed on, I watched the show for the first time. I remember that being a funny experience. I just turned on the TV and there it was. I didn't even have to look for it. There it was for me to peruse. The shows I saw were pretty well done, as dramatic or as fun as they were intended to be. So, I thought "Resistance" would be an adventure."

- Robert Picardo (The Doctor) and Jennifer Lien (Kes) do not appear in this episode.

"Shh, shh. Don't worry. Everything's all right now. My little girl is home."

- Caylem, to Janeway

"Vulcans are capable of suppressing certain levels of physical pain. Beyond that, we must simply endure the experience."

- Tuvok, to Torres after being tortured

"Ralkana. He said you'd been shot."
"He was lying to you, father. I'm all right."
"And your mother?"
"Fine. She was so happy to get your letters. She wants me to tell you something. She forgives you. We both do."

- Janeway, assuming the role of his daughter to soothe the dying Caylem

Poster's Log: (Incidentally, I'm subbing for CheesesOfBrazil, who will do both summaries next week)

Wow. What a difference a rewatch makes. I didn't think much of this episode when I watched it on first broadcast over twenty years ago, but it really affected me strongly, partly for personal reasons (which I'll get to), upon revisiting it. Even without that factor, it's still a good, tight story, and like a lot of Trek stories, is based on another genre or subgenre; in this case, it's very much like a WWII thriller, with the Mokra Order standing in for the Nazis and the Resistance being, well, the Resistance. There's just enough SF in it (with the attempts to get through the sensor net while being shelled from shore--excuse me, bombarded in orbit--and hiding over the planet's north pole) to keep it from being too obvious, but Augris is your standard SS officer, putting up a good front with Chakotay one minute and preparing to interrogate Tuvok the next. (The actor, Alan Scarfe, is a veteran character actor who had previously played a couple of Romulans on TNG and is married to Lursa actress Barbara March; he doesn't overplay the character, which makes him much more effective in the role IMO.) His description of how they let Caylem go after his periodic jailbreak attempts comes off as especially cruel.

But, as described above, it's really the interaction between Janeway and Caylem that makes the show, and both Kate Mulgrew and Joel Grey are just fantastic. The relatively mundane cruelty of the Mokra is eclipsed by Caylem's inability to remember recent events, but still able to recall his failure to save his wife. Janeway is caught between not wanting to exploit this poor man and needing to break her crew members out. (Speaking of which, Tim Russ and Roxann Dawson are also very good here, with Tuvok admitting that even Vulcan discipline has its limits, and B'Elanna showing despair at the thought of what might break even a Vulcan.)

Poster's Log, supplemental:

I found myself thinking of the last time I saw my maternal grandfather alive; he was a gruff but affectionate old farmer who had had a stroke and been put in nursing care a couple of years before he died, and when he saw me, he mistook me for my father, who had the same name as me and had died many years previously. This happened well before I saw this episode, and I'm not sure why I didn't make the connection before. Maybe it's because I'm older now.
posted by Halloween Jack (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Particle of the Week: Radions, how do they work?
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Metaphasic shields are available several different ways in Star Trek Online, including a set bonus from a mission drop and off of a special Ferengi shuttle. They were the one bit of technobabble I was surprised by in the episode, considering that they're intended to survive inside a star - something that seems far more advanced than the rest of the Mokra's technology. (But see below.)

Ongoing Equipment Tally: Just rolling it forward, no changes.
* Photon Torpedoes: 37
* Shuttles: Down 3
* Crew: 151
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: Still just 5, no change.

I honestly love this one. Usually I have to stick a caveat here: 'I love this, but [problem].' That isn't necessary this week, at least not for me. Some particular spots of joy here:

* This is the Janeway that I wanted.

Janeway's smart. She's resourceful. She's tough. She's caring. This was a great showcase for why Kate Mulgrew was the right pick for the role. She's great here, and this is more or less everything that I wanted out of her when I first heard they were finally having a female lead.

* This is the everybody else I wanted too.

Neelix is great. He's not the annoying comedy sidekick. He's not the bad boyfriend. Here, he's the skilled native guide, with contacts and information and perspective to share. Not a single Leola root stew joke, he's just on point.

B'Ellana is true to her character. They don't overdo the anger management issues, they don't let her chump the prison, but she's still her: she's mad. She's constantly testing every weak spot in confinement. She's tough.

Tuvok is classic Vulcan without going Mary Sue. Often - especially in TOS - Vulcans are clearly the Master Race. I remember being irritated when Spock couldn't go blind because, hey, nictating membrane everybody plumb forgot about. None of that for Tuvok here: he's poised and tough, but not superhuman. Also great.

Harry and Chakotay have some good material on the ship, too: the Mokra negotations, the plans, etc. Paris is also good, plus he comes in a limited dose.

* The Mokra make sense.

This is actually just the sort of planet I expected to find in Kazon Murderhobo Territory. They're paranoid because, hey, this area of space is legitimately dangerous. It would be easy for fascists to use a threat like that to take over. It also explains why their weapons tech is so good even though they plainly don't have Federation levels of science. It may even explain the metaphasic shields - probably, they care a lot about shield tech.

I also like the head fascist here. Good performance. I especially liked him opposite Chakotay, where nobody would blink.

* Caylem is great.

I think the casting's perfect, and he's just the right mix of tragic and funny. Voyager continues its streak of excellent casting, down to guest stars. He's a great Space Don Quixote.

* The problem of the week makes sense.

Voyager needing a special widget to avoid breaking down is perfectly sensible. I expected more plots like this when the show was announced.

So... yeah. Good show, show. This wasn't an instant classic the way Living Witness was for me, but it's just a great, solid hour of Star Trek, managing to combine a science fiction plot with some good emotional stakes and a believable backdrop.
posted by mordax at 9:04 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I think this might be my favorite dramatic episode so far. There's a lot of great chemistry in the pair-ups - not only Janeway and Caylem, but also the Torres and Tuvok interactions and Chakotay with Neelix and Kim. Caylem hovers the line between being creepy (he did just kidnap a random woman and dress her up and is trying to keep her from leaving their house), being pitiable, and being useful, and the way that Mulgrew plays her reactions to him works very well for her character. The aliens of the week worked well, and you can imagine that with the Delta quadrant being the way it is, more prosperous planets might become paranoid and fascistic.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Lisa Klink had previously written one of the better episodes of DS9: Hippocratic Oath. (Bashir and O'Brien taken prisoner by a Jem'Hadar who had freed himself of his addiction to Ketracel White, and was trying to do the same for the rest of his people. Bashir helps the Jem'Hadar. O'Brien objects.)

The characterizations in this episode are stellar. As Halloween Jack notes, we have none of the unlikable aspects of Neelix' personality. Tuvok shows his vulnerable side. Chakotay gets to sit in the big chair. Janeway's story with Caylem is wonderful. The "A" storyline reminded me of TNG's Inner Light, (Picard lives an entire life on a doomed planet and learns to play the recorder) which was one of that series' best.

One of the things I like least about this show's early seasons was how unnaturally forced some of the dialogue and stories felt. Janeway's in particular. Kate Mulgrew is a fantastic actress, but she spent a lot of time on camera sounding and looking terribly stilted. (Think: "Get that cheese to sickbay!" Maybe that should be Stiltoned? :D) Neelix and B'Ellana had the same problem. It took at least 2 or 3 years for that to fade and for their roles to fall naturally on their shoulders. This isn't a problem that is restricted to Voyager. All Trek incarnations have had it to some degree. The forceful deliveries can be distracting. But this was one of the first episodes where the story and dialogue and emotions flowed naturally -- a nice preliminary view of how the show would evolve once good writers came aboard.

Klink, who began as an intern on DS9, would eventually become Voyager's executive story editor, making her responsible for both Living Witness and Demon. The Best and the Worst of Voyager. But her debut here in this episode marks a positive, gradual, much-needed turning point for the show's writing quality. Thanks to her influence, it will get better from this point forward, with some clunkers thrown in, too.
posted by zarq at 11:27 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:04 PM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Lisa Klink had previously written one of the better episodes of DS9: Hippocratic Oath.

Oh, nice. I love that story too. :)
posted by mordax at 12:15 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, there really isn't a lot to gripe about here within the context they have to work with, though I still will a bit because I'm just that kind of guy.

But the good stuff first, this episode, by former Jeopardy champ Lisa Klink easily has the best characterizations of the crew working as a crew while still showing their individual character traits out of any so far, and I can't remember there being many to come that will beat this for that aspect of the show. Everyone shown is given moments that emphasize their abilities in a way that provides good example of why they have the positions they do. Neelix is useful, clever without being too much, Chakotay shows his command ability and resourcefulness as captain, Harry gets all ops happy and even countermands Chakotay on an instant decision he has that will shield Voyager, Paris is daring and able without being excessively snarky or inapropriate for the moment, B'Elanna doesn't get much chance to show her engineering skills directly, but makes what use of them she can, along with her temper driven determination in the cell, while Tuvok provides guidance in a officerial way and shows his Vulcan stoicism and fortitude. And Janeway gets a little of most of those traits at the center of the episode as she works without ship aid to solve their dilemma. Nothing at all to complain about in any of that, it's all top quality stuff for the show that the rest of the show writers would have done well to note.

The story around Caylem and the Mokra is good in broad strokes, with Alan Scarfe's Augris being as solid a representation of an entire government system as one could hope for, even as his singular importance makes no sense whatsoever if one really wants to get picky about it and as such some of the resolution to the episode comes across as weaker than one would ideally desire, but given the constraints of the show that isn't exactly unexpected. It is also balanced a bit by the way they dramatize the planetary defense shield, which at least gives some illusion of a wider security structure while posing a serious challenge for Voyager. That aspect was a nice touch.

Caylem is too a reasonable singular representation of the larger scale horrors that exist on the planet, along with the usual random acts of cruelty to bystanders in the bazaar area. Some elements of his story are quite touching, especially given the hook of how it relates to Janeway, given it was his wife and daughter that were the more heroic, while he was the more domestic, an inversion of the more usual format of the trope. Mulgrew is in fine form reacting to Caylem, her eye roll of realization and concern when it becomes first evident Caylem isn't all their was a particularly memorable little touch, but she has quite a few of those in the episode as she tries to balance her different concerns. Grey is such a fussy actor that there are some moments I winced at his performance, such as during the "Have you seen my hat?" act he puts on, but on the whole it all works together and the little payoffs along the way keep me from being too critical of it since in does work well in the big picture. (I have to admit though I would have loved to see an engaged Brian Dennehy take on the role as his bulky masculinity could have provided an even more interesting contrast to Janeway and the norms of this sort of trope, but getting Dennehy to really engage with the role effectively might have been difficult as he doesn't have Grey's plasticity, so the end decision to go with Grey probably was best for all involved.)

Augris having a history with Caylem also works as singular representation of a larger concept, but makes little sense beyond that, so accepting it, like the rather easy prison break requires not focusing too much on the logic of the "reality" and more on the symbolic logic involved, which is fine, but sometimes I still wish both could work at the same time. Also I'm not sure how I feel about Janeway dressing up as a "woman of easy virtue" to break in. She played it well, and there's a good payoff with Grey, but it's still not m favorite look, and it is pretty damned cliche as well.

This episode even had one of Voyager's better filmed world/city sets, which isn't saying a lot really, but it at least it didn't totally scream back lot as they so often do. I'm still tired of how lazy representations of other worlds are in so much sci-fi when their surely must be some production designers out there who could provide some new visions of otherness. It always seems to be either a damned agoralike setting with people in backwards looking outfits, often quasi-tribal or Roman or some such, or generic seeming bland "futurism" with more clean lines, less dirt, but basically the same dull vision of how a population interacts, with updated version of those tribal/Roman/backwards looking costumes.

This episode pushed the costuming to be more reminiscent of the forties, but a future alien version, as if we needed that to drive home the fascist thing, while the set structure is pretty much the same as ever, generic outdoor marketplace, generic bar, generic bystanders and so on. It's fine, it's Trek, that's what they tend to do most of the time, but it really does pay off when they spend the time to create a more vivid individualized culture/look. That's not a small part of what makes the Borg so vivid, for example.

I watched Rogue One last night, and the same thing, with a much bigger budget, goes on there, it's a bit depressing really. (But at least not as depressing as reading the Rogue One thread (And they say we're too critical and Trek fans get too into their show. Yikes) Anyway, that isn't so much a complaint about this episode especially since it was at least a bit better than others, but something that I hope the new series will address as it does have a cumulative effect of making the show seem cheap and unimaginative in some ways.

When Augris and his security team started pounding on Caylem's door and he signals Janeway to go through the torn matting, did anyone else immediately think of this scene? It wasn't the only time during the show I had that kind of flashback either, which I think goes to show how tropey some of this all is.

Anyway, it's now three good episodes in a row! Dare I hope for four?
posted by gusottertrout at 11:44 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

it's now three good episodes in a row! Dare I hope for four?

Not to pre-game things, but "Alliances" continues the Kazon/Seska arc and introduces the Trabe, who have been mentioned a couple of times, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:11 PM on April 7, 2017

Anyway, that isn't so much a complaint about this episode especially since it was at least a bit better than others, but something that I hope the new series will address as it does have a cumulative effect of making the show seem cheap and unimaginative in some ways.

Yeah, this is something that a lot of action sci-fi suffers from, and it's a shame.

Anyway, it's now three good episodes in a row! Dare I hope for four?

I honestly don't remember Prototype well enough to say, but I do seem to remember Alliances being all right? Then there's Threshold, and - though terrible - I'm super curious to see how it holds up in retrospect.
posted by mordax at 1:49 PM on April 7, 2017

I had Prototype rated as highly as the last few from my first watch, and Frakes directs it so I'm hoping it holds up to a second viewing. I don't remember it too clearly from the summary since it conjurs up parts of what I think are a few different episodes trying to place it.

Yeah, this is something that a lot of action sci-fi suffers from, and it's a shame.

The combination of TOS, that "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" idea, and Bladerunner have really dominated the vision of how to address future/alien settings, definitely something that needs more alternatives.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:26 PM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oops, I lost a bit there. I meant to add that one of the problems in relying on those sources is in how heavily they rely on a lot of conservative visions of progress themselves. The scale of design in Nazism, the love of machinery over people in Italian futurism, the conservative values of forties and fifties America via Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, and the constant call back to older problematic cultures in real life or fantasy, with its fetishizing of agrarian life styles and tribalism.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:57 PM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

That's a really good summation, and it's really prevalent. I do wish more time were spent coming up with alternative visual cues for this stuff.
posted by mordax at 4:58 PM on April 7, 2017

I really don't mean that to pick on Voyager or the other Trek series so much since they, at least ostensibly, have some inherent reason for their choices as the alien planets they visit are generally intended to stand in contrast to the Federation. So in that sense relating the styles of costume and set to history can serve as a sort of symbolic shorthand to obstacles the Federation has or has to overcome. The big problem for the shows though is that Federation life, outside the starships and space stations is so hazily sketched in that the comparisons almost determine the feel of the shows overall save for the fine ship set designs, which tend to avoid most of the sorts of problems above other than sometimes in crew quarters, which are often rather spartan and in the dominant militaryesque uniformity of costume the crew wears. A little more variety, a little more normalcy, and greater contrast of actual Federation life to serve as a base would be a good step for a new show to take, and less "old timey" holodeck visits. Maybe check in on a big modern city sometime, which is what I'd have to imagine many of the crew would do.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:28 PM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

A little more variety, a little more normalcy, and greater contrast of actual Federation life to serve as a base would be a good step for a new show to take, and less "old timey" holodeck visits. Maybe check in on a big modern city sometime, which is what I'd have to imagine many of the crew would do.

I've thought about this too. When I was running Trek RPGs, every now and then I'd have to describe a typical civilian Federation community, and I'd be like "Uhhhhhmmm." It also made picking a homeworld for a given Starfleet PC or NPC sort of a tricky and arbitrary prospect. I am trying to think of even one "typical civilian Federation community" we ever get a feel for in canon Trek, and nothing comes to mind that really counts:

- San Francisco, even the low-key section of it seen in VOY: "Non Sequitur", clearly doesn't count because (A) it's Starfleet Headquarters and (B) one gets the sense that much of it is preserved for historical purposes, like Dubrovnik today.
- There's New Orleans in DS9, and we don't see much of it—pretty much just one restaurant, and in what looks like a "historic quarter."
- There's Paris in Picard's holoprogram, see above…maybe Earth is just straight-up not "typical Federation" anywhere?
- We go to London in one of the J.J. Trek movies IIRC, but it's surely there only to be ravaged.
- Janus VI was fairly well-realized in TOS: "The Devil in the Dark", but that's a mining colony.
- Argelius II (TOS: "Wolf in the Fold") and Risa are well-developed, but both are "pleasure planets" and thus not representative.
- TNG spends enough time on Turkana IV in "Legacy" to get a feel for it, but that one's DEFinitely not "typical" (that's the "rape gang" planet).
- TNG had a couple of other one-shot visits to colonies with somewhat distinctive cultures (the Mariposans from "Up the Long Ladder," the Tanugans from "A Matter of Perspective"), but always in the context of facing some weird little intercultural quirk, and they often weren't Federation members.

I guess it makes sense that we wouldn't have seen MUCH of typical Federation life, since the shows are about boldly going and everything, but to have seen basically none is kind of surprising. Maybe what we are meant to infer is that the Federation is so multispecies and IDIC-y that there IS no such thing as "typical Federation culture," although I doubt this was a conscious decision on Roddenberry's part, because if it had been I'm sure some character would have remarked upon that aspect of "Federation culture" at some point.

And let's not forget the perception among the Klingons in The Undiscovered Country that the Federation is a "Homo sapiens only" club, which could be a distortion based on Klingon propaganda, but could also be (or could have been in the late 23rd-century) a partially accurate assessment of Human cultural dominance or influence over the whole Federation. Maybe a bit like how Hollywood influences all of Earth right now, and how not everybody is happy about that.

Even if all of those speculations are true, it still doesn't explain why so many Starfleet personnel insist upon spending their holodeck time in historical versions of Earth, unless the nature of holodeck programming is as resource-constrained as 20th-century TV series production budgets are—such that holo-programmers have to rely on preexisting templates to the same extent that the Trek producers had to rely on backlots. This is actually marginally plausible, given my own experience with "creating" environments in Skyrim—that is, it's always quicker and easier to clone an existing environment and tweak it just enough that one hopes it won't be noticeable. And, well, shit: if holodeck programming does indeed tend to rehash the same Earth-based content, that in itself might have contributed to Human culture having such an outsized influence across the quadrant. Boom: retconned.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:17 AM on April 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

Even if all of those speculations are true, it still doesn't explain why so many Starfleet personnel insist upon spending their holodeck time in historical versions of Earth

Lot's of good stuff there, but just to hone in on this one bit. One other little difficulty about the historical Earth preference is in how the Federation is supposed to have, more or less, addressed so many of humanities problems, yet instead of enjoying that, people turn back to older "idyllic" times like in Paris' Irish village. It raises questions about what it is they find in those "olden days" that is superior to modern life, other than novelty. Given how much greenery and open spaces we do tend to see in snippets of "current" Earth life in the various shows, there seems to be ample area to roam, but where then is the population and how do they live? The heavy layer of nostalgia that tends to accompany views of Earth given it often comes through some significant memory makes that hard to judge as well, but also makes one a bit suspicious of their repeated preference for agrarianism, as if modern Earth was somehow lacking in that area.

One other repeated element is such a distinct lack "lived-in-ness" to crew quarters and what little we do see of Earth homes. They are spacious and, more or less, comfortable seeming, but also largely devoid of the kind of clutter one would expect to see in a home of our own time, leaving them feeling more impersonal than one would expect from a personal dwelling. There's a strong whiff of Singaporeism to Federation life, as if heavily regulated in how one is allowed to enjoy one's personal time and space in some strange way.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:45 AM on April 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

One other repeated element is such a distinct lack "lived-in-ness" to crew quarters and what little we do see of Earth homes. They are spacious and, more or less, comfortable seeming, but also largely devoid of the kind of clutter one would expect to see in a home of our own time, leaving them feeling more impersonal than one would expect from a personal dwelling.

I've got a bit of a theory about that, which is that it's Roomba-type robots, that not only vacuum but pick up and put away stuff when everyone's asleep. That's based mostly on the next episode, "Prototype", in which B'Elanna says that robots are common in Federation society but aren't sentient (and specifically mentions Data as the one exception; obviously she's not including the ship's own EMH, for some reason). That really doesn't explain one of the few exceptions to your rule, when we saw that the quarters that Jake Sisko was sharing with Nog after the latter had been away at Starfleet Academy were a mess, but it's possible that Nog had deactivated the cleaning robots out of habit, since Starfleet cadets are expected to keep things ship-shape at all times by themselves. (That may also explain the orderliness of starship quarters.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:48 PM on April 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sure, I think it'd be easy enough to provide an explanation for the phenomena to fit either the "reality" of the Federation and, of course, how it's necessary within show constraints of budget, time, and whatnot.

For me though the concern is less about trying to think about how to get around the issue if one notices it and finds it troubling, and more about what sorts of messages the design and attitudes of the show are communicating and finding success with as it has been shown to date.

Instead of Singapore, of which my knowledge is only second hand and shouldn't have used as an example, the utopian vision exemplified in/by Disney World would perhaps be the more apt comparison as to how it often seems Federation life is shown as having diversity mostly within some narrow or "acceptable" parameters. Diversity in the sense of attitude, representation, and cultural difference. There is a real problem in having something of an utopian idealism at the core of a show since our own world is so far from ideal that there will necessarily be some tension in what constitutes a vision of improvement, or correct behavior in some imagined future. Who is measuring betterment is a difficult issue, so I don't want to throw too much shade on Trek for trying or for being more than a bit vague about some of the outlines, but the problem is also too big to ignore and has some meaning for how one responds to the shows as they are, rather than as one might imagine the reality of their life to be.

There are a number of different ways I sort of want to pursue that thought, but I'm sure it will come up again and I don't want to overburden the thread or the concept too much, so I'll just say, one area that concerns me is in the way the shows rely so heavily on representative symbolic encounters with alien cultures. It's a method that can work to some degree, where the clash of ideals is pared down to essentials, but it's constant use simplifies complexity and through that diversity in ways that are difficult to enjoy easily.

In this episode, for example, Augris is seemingly in charge of the planetary defense net, runs the security state, knows Caylem, and he and all the important events happen to all be in one small area of the planet which is where Voyager needs to obtain its tellerium. Pretty much a standard sort of plotting for Trek, but its one that carries something of a feeling of theme park to it, where one wanders into Mokraland and immediately sees the main attractions as that's all there is to offer. In a like way, the Federation too is greatly simplified, paring down diversity to a fairly narrow range of possibilities that carry more representational weight than they can bear at some point in its repeated and common use.

This sort of simplification carries implications for how we process the show and its values and, for me, poses some difficulty in cumulative effect as that sort of narrowing becomes its own signifier of values in a way.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:57 AM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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