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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Rejoined (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

For a show that is supposedly about an enlightened and utopian future, Star Trek really doesn’t have the best record when it comes to gay rights.

Many fans laud the work that the franchise did in popularising the Civil Rights anxieties of the sixties, offering memorable and distinctive parables and the futility of racism while offering one of the first interracial kisses to air on national television. Fans of the franchise are quick to celebrate these triumphs as an example of Star Trek holding up a mirror to contemporary society and championing the causes of equality and social justice. It is part of the mythmaking that Gene Roddenberry baked into the foundation of the Star Trek legend.

A Trill alone...

A Trill alone…

Of course, the reality is more complicated. As important as it was to have a racially diverse crew on the bridge of the classic Enterprise, that idea came from the studio rather than Roddenberry. The show defended and vindicated the Vietnam War just as often as it criticised and opposed it. The interracial kiss in Plato’s Stepchildren might had more meaning if it weren’t an example of telepathic mindrape by sadistic aliens, or if it had aired before I, Spy had broadcast its own interracial kiss.

As much as fans like to believe Star Trek is progressive and enlightened, the franchise does not have as strong a track record as its advocates would contest. This is particularly true of the depiction of homosexuality in Star Trek. In the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, David Gerrold’s script for Blood and Fire was scrapped. Richard Arnold claimed that it was because the script was terrible; but this was the same season that produced The Last Outpost, Angel One and The Neutral Zone. It seems “terrible” is a relative term.

Kiss me.

Kiss me.

There were other examples. During production of The Offspring, there are accounts of David Livingston sprinting down to the sets to stop a shot of a same-sex couple holding hands making it into the episode. When the show finally decided to do an allegory for homosexuality, it was careful to cast a female performer in the role of Riker’s love interest to be sure that the audience did not get the wrong idea. The mirror universe episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are populated with gay stereotypes and clichés.

No matter how alien the creatures in Star Trek might get, sexuality tends towards heterosexual. In Metamorphosis, Kirk and Spock only realise that the Companion is attracted to Cochrane once they deduce the creature’s gender. Odo’s pseudo-sexual relationship with other Founders is typically expressed in relation to the character known as the Female Changeling. (Chimera does try to fix this.) Although there have been allusions to Andorian marriages featuring four partners, Star Trek: Enterprise presents the relationships as decidedly normative.

Take a bow!

Take a bow!

What little queer content exists seems to have slipped in under the radar. There is a decidedly homoerotic undertone to Amok Time. In The Offspring, Data allows Lal to assign her own gender and Whoopi Goldberg defined kissing as something that happens when “two people” (rather than “a man and a woman”) fall in love. In Rules of Acquisition, Jadzia Dax suspected that Quark’s newest employee had a crush on the rogue trader; Dax was just surprised to discover that the waiter in question was a woman in disguise who was trying to subvert the Ferengi patriarchy.

All of this serves to make Rejoined the most successful Star Trek episode to deal with the topic of homosexuality. This is not to argue that Rejoined is perfect or flawless. It is a science fiction show that aired in 1995, and there are some uncomfortable subtexts to the whole story. At the same time, its heart is in the right place. Rejoined is a beautiful piece of work, because it represents a rare example of the franchise trying to live up to its own publicity. In doing so, it serves to emphasise how frequently (and easily) the property has allowed itself to fall short.

Just Trilled to be there...

Just Trilled to be there…

Rejoined aired in 1995. Twenty years later, there is still discussion about the possibility of actually putting a gay character in a version of Star Trek that could air on television. In an interview in January 2014, Robert Orci addressed the franchise’s spotty record on the topic. “It is an ensemble and there is lots of people to represent so no one point of view should hog it,” commented the then-director of Star Trek Beyond, suggesting that fans should not get their hopes up about seeing any queer representation in a franchise that lauds its civil rights credentials.

This was one year before Ireland became the first country in the world to recognise same-sex marriage by popular decree and the Supreme Court enshrined the right in the United States Constitution. Star Trek missed the opportunity to be a trailblazer on the subject, to incorporate the idea of freedom of sexual identity into the utopia promised by the franchise. Twenty years after Rejoined, the franchise is dragging its feet on the topic. It is no longer possible to be trailblazing, but it is possible to be representative.

"What? You want me to risk my life to safe a guest character? I'm just a recurring guest star! You're the series regular!"

“What? You want me to risk my life to save a guest character? I’m just a recurring guest star! You’re the series regular!”

Rejoined is not overtly about homosexuality, in the same way that The Trouble With Tribbles is not overtly about the Cold War or A Taste of Armageddon is not overtly about the media handling of Vietnam. However, it is a vital part of the subtext of the episode. In fact, it so essential to the episode that Rejoined builds to the image of two actresses kissing. Even divorced from the science-fiction fantasy setting of Star Trek, that was a powerful image in October 1995, two years before Ellen came out.

At the start of Rejoined, Jadzia Dax is reunited with Lenara Kahn. Lenara is the new host of the Kahn symbiont. When the Dax symbiont lived inside Torias, the Kahn symbiont lived inside Nilani. Torias and Nilani were married, and the two symbionts enjoyed a loving relationship. Due to the circumstances of Trill biology, the two symbionts have found themselves living within female bodies. It is all a bit less complicated than it sounds when it is articulated like that; a science-fiction metaphor for that oldest of tropes. Rejoined is a story about forbidden love.

Jadzia's practically walking on air...

Jadzia’s practically walking on air…

In the documentary Charting New Territory, writer Ronald D. Moore explained that the metaphor was so apparent that the actual framework of the story was irrelevant:

To the audience, you’re playing out this metaphor of a taboo that you’re not supposed to be involved with somebody. And the audience looks at these two women who are in love together, but the show will never ever comment on it. Because it’s really about this Trill taboo. It’s about this completely other issue. But the idea of homosexual love is going to stare the audience in the face, no matter what they do. We never have to mention it in the show.

It is impossible to watch Rejoined without understanding the underlying allegory. This is a story about two women who love each other, only to be told that their love is a “taboo.” What else could it be?

"The whole room is watching us." Even Bashir. Especially Bashir.

“The whole room is watching us.”
Even Bashir.
Especially Bashir.

The script to Rejoined is quite candid about this. Nobody objects to the fact that Jadzia and Lenara are both women, but the objections framed by the Trill characters are all instantly recognisable as the stock rhetoric employed by homophobes in these situations. Nobody actually calls it “unnatural” or “indecent”, but the subtext is there. “They’re very friendly today,” Pren observes. “They had dinner last night. Alone.” When Bejal asks what exactly Pren is saying, Pren replies, “I shouldn’t have to say anything.”

Even in conversations with Lenara, Bejal is careful not to appear openly bigoted or reactionary. He is never accusatory, even as he presses the issue. There is something akin to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy at work here, an attempt at a silent erasure of a sexuality considered to be deviant. “I don’t want to ask you anything, but I’m beginning to wonder if I should,” Bejal explains, as if Lenara’s sexual desires have caused him some discomfort or inconvenience. “You tell me nothing’s going on, then nothing’s going on. I just want to hear you say it.”

Gold standard....

Gold standard….

It is not too different from the sort of rhetoric that was typically used to justify keeping gay characters off the Star Trek franchise. The logic used by individuals opposed to featuring gay characters would frequently insist that characters romantic and sexual lives were their own, and that would be distracting or pandering to write them into the show, that viewers should just accept that there are gay people in the future and that they shouldn’t be too bothered that they never actually see any, because what people do in their own time is their own business.

It’s probably the strongest argument in favour of keeping gay characters out of Star Trek, because it is only implicitly homophobic rather than explicitly homophobic. It is still a terrible argument from a logical standpoint. Such arguments ignore the fact that romantic and sexual lives of  heterosexual characters are given ample development. If Kirk can make out with alien space babes, why couldn’t a gay character have orientation-appropriate hook-ups? If Bashir and Ezri could wake up in bed together, why not Bashir and Garak?

Gotta love how offended O'Brien looks when Eddington has the gall to spout a line of technobabble. "Hey, that's my job."

Gotta love how offended O’Brien looks when Eddington has the gall to spout a line of technobabble.
“Hey, that’s my job.”

Despite the fact that the language used was careful not to appear too bigoted or too provocative, the underlying point remains the same. The reason that there were no gay characters in Star Trek was because none of the highest-ranking individuals wanted them there. As Ronald D. Moore noted in his infamous exit interview:

“Tell me why there are no gay characters in Star Trek,” says Ron Moore. “This is one of those uncomfortable questions I hate getting when I was working on the show, because there is no good answer for it. There is no answer for it other than people in charge don’t want gay characters in Star Trek, period. This stuff about, ‘How would you know? Maybe there are lots of people walking through those corridors that are actually gay. What would you have us do? Show them holding hands? That would be ridiculous. Our regulars don’t hold hands,’ which its own kind of a sad commentary on the state of human relations, that they can’t even hold hands. Just think about what it would say to have a gay Starfleet captain. It would mean something in Star Trek. It would mean something in science fiction. It would mean something in television. Why isn’t Star Trek leading the way anymore, in the social, political front? Gene always said, whether this is true or not, that he saw Star Trek as a way to explore social issues, without the networks catching on. Because it was all couched in space aliens, and ray guns, and space opera type stuff, it gave him a chance to explore these other issues.”

As with any element of any story, gay characters do not appear by accident or fluke; they are also not absent by accident or fluke. They are either there or not there based on the choices of the production team – writers, executives, producers.

The direct(or) aproach...

The direct(or) aproach…

It seems entirely appropriate that acknowledging the attraction between Jadzia and Lenara would end with them “exiled from the Trill homeworld.” After all, it seems like any potential LGBTQ characters have been exiled from the canon. They might appear in tie-in fiction or spin-off merchandise, but the franchise has never comfortably acknowledged any of its characters might be homosexual. As if to offer a case a point, the character of Lieutenant Hawke could only be identified as gay in tie-in fiction, published after his death in Star Trek: First Contact.

In some ways, Rejoined can be read as a response to the closing scene of The Host. In the episode that introduced the Trill to the Star Trek universe, Beverly Crusher could not continue a relationship with the symbiont she loved once that symbiont was placed in a female body. (As if to underscore the possible homophobic subtext of it, Beverly was more comfortable – if still weirded out – when the symbiont was placed in Riker.) It seems like it is not what is inside that matters when it comes to love. Rejoined essentially reverses this, suggesting love is more than skin deep.

"What do Klingons dream about?" Captain Worf spin-offs, mostly.

“What do Klingons dream about?”
Captain Worf spin-offs, mostly.

There are a number of legitimate criticisms to be made of the allegory at the heart of Rejoined. The most obvious is that the relationship at the heart of the story is still grounded in heteronormative relationships. Jadzia and Lenara rekindle the marriage between Torias and Nilani. As M. G. DuPree notes in Alien Babes and Alternate Universes:

But of course, as LGBT viewers and others are quick to point out, this was not strictly speaking a lesbian kiss at all. It was the expression of lingering sexual attraction from a heterosexual marriage, and far from being a celebration of lesbian sexuality, the encounter was a kind of repudiation of it – Dax and her/his former life are draen to each other in spite of their current bodies, and alternative sexuality is represented as a kind of willful ignoring of the physical rather than an embracing of it.

This is certainly a legitimate criticism of the episode. It might have been a more convincing commentary of homosexual relationships without the past life section of the story, or if the past life relationship had been a same-sex relationship. It does undercut the episode’s moral slightly.

Egging her on...

Egging her on…

There is also an argument to be made that the taboo featured in Rejoined makes a reasonable amount of sense, as opposed to homophobia. “Well, the whole point of joining is for the symbiont to accumulate experiences from the span of many lifetimes,” Bashir explains. “In order to move on from host to host, the symbiont has to learn to let go of the past, let go of parents, siblings, children, even spouses.” This is a reasonable argument on its own terms, but the depiction of Trill culture on Deep Space Nine suggests there may be other good reasons for the taboo.

While ostracising those “deviants” and refusing to allow the symbionts to find new hosts seems harsh, particularly in light of the revelations made about Trill society in Equilibrium, it is understandable that the inhabitants of Trill might feel deeply uncomfortable with a functionally immortal upper class who mingle repeatedly and excessively in the same incestuous circles. Imagine what would happen if a new host could slip comfortably into the life and position held by the old host? How would that impact on opportunities and social mobility for “unjoined” Trill?

Earring none of it...

Earring none of it…

Scripts like Invasive Procedures and Equilibrium made it quite clear that Trill has a very strong class-based society. There was a firm delineation between the “joined” and the “unjoined”, with Trill children encouraged to apply for “joining” so that they might merge with symbionts that have been jumping between hosts for centuries – if not longer. It is quite clear that there are very few symbionts, despite the large number of applicants. Being “joined” is something of a status symbol, and it is interesting to argue whether Trill society is designed to exploit the “unjoined.”

In these circumstances, it might be a good idea to prevent all that power and experience from coalescing and reinforcing itself time and time again. After all, studies suggest that wealth and power tend to be drawn towards wealth and power; influential and successful families tend to accrue more influence and success. Imagine the possibilities if the people controlling that wealth and power were capable of living forever. The class structure on Trill would become completely disproportionate and impossible to conceal.

A symbiotic relationship...

A symbiotic relationship…

While the social consequences of this taboo might be unreasonable and even malicious, there is a certain internal logic to it. It makes a great deal of sense, given what we know about Trill culture. But then Rejoined is not really about Trill culture, because Trill culture does not actually exist. The literal reading of the episode is very much secondary to the thematic and moral reading of the show. This isn’t a show about the rigid class structures of an alien society, this is a story about true love.

Which is why it is so important that Rejoined builds to the kiss between Lenara and Jadzia. That puts the issue in stark terms. Strip away all the world-building and technobabble, clear away the make-up and the sets; the scene is about two women having the freedom to express their love for one another. It has been suggested that Rejoined was only the fifth lesbian kiss to air on American broadcast television; some affiliates in the southern states actually cut it from the broadcast, demonstrating the power of the scene.

Holding it together...

Holding it together…

That excuses any of the awkwardness of the metaphor. As Becky Chambers pointed out, Rejoined was an episode that told its audience that there was nothing wrong with two women who loved each other expressing that love:

I did not see Rejoined when it aired in 1995 (to put things in perspective, Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997). I must have seen it some time in high school, as a rerun. The metaphor about cultural taboos was lost on me at the time. What had me rapt that no one on the show had a problem with Dax falling head-over-spotted-heels for a woman. Gender was a total non-issue. There wasn’t so much as a “I’ll be in my bunk” (that reference didn’t exist yet, but you get the gist). What I got out of that episode was that in the United Federation of Planets, a place that had captured my imagination since I was in preschool, you were free to kiss whoever you wanted. That was a wonderful, affirming feeling.

Even as it is impossible to ignore some of the problems with structuring Rejoined as a metaphor for same-sex attraction, it is also unfair to deny the very real and substantial impact that the episode had on people who watched it.

"We knew each other in a former life..."

“We knew each other in a former life…”

It is an example of the same logic that makes Uhura such a vital character. There are a lot of problems with how classic Star Trek tended to portray Uhura, but the character did a great deal of good. For all the issues with scripts like The Changeling, Uhura did inspire women like Whoopi Goldberg and Mae Jemison. If even one gay child saw that kiss and learned to accept themselves because of it, or felt a little less excluded because of it, or even just hoped that there might be a more understanding world somewhere ahead of them, then it is all worth while.

The kiss is what makes Rejoined the best gay allegory that Star Trek has ever constructed. The writing is great, the performances are wonderful, the ending is honest. But actually having two women kiss each other on screen without sensationalising it or exploiting it? That took real courage from all involved at the time, making it impossible for anybody to deny what the show was actually about. It was a moral courage that was sorely missing from the final scene of The Host or that was deliberately undercut by the casting of The Outcast.

A romantic Trill...

A romantic Trill…

On the DVD special features, actress Susanna Thompson recalls just how hard director Avery Brooks worked to protect the two actresses while shooting that scene:

I know that some TV news magazine wanted to come in and shoot the day we were filming the kiss, and he kept them away. Which I thought was very interesting. He was the one who said that it also paralleled the taboo in the story. That Trills were not ever to be rejoined again. And what does society do in terms of their judgment when they view you going against their code, their laws their morals? And then here was all the sensationalism in our world, the viewing us doing this episode. It was interesting.

It is a credit to all involved in every stage of the production that the kiss made it air, and made it to air in a way that didn’t feel tacky or cynical or crass.

Food for thought...

Food for thought…

Of course, Deep Space Nine would never quite have the same reach and penetration as the original Star Trek. The kiss between Jadzia and Lenara would never have the same impact that the kiss between Kirk and Uhura had, even if the handling of the kiss was a lot more sensitive. While it was still controversial to depict a same-sex kiss on television in 1995, it was not entirely unheard of. It had been four years since L.A. Law had aired network television’s first lesbian kiss in He’s a Crowd. Friends was three months away from a lesbian wedding.

However, none of that really matters. It doesn’t matter whether the show was first. It doesn’t matter whether the show was trendsetting. Those are just details waiting to get spun into a mythology. It does matter that the show had the courage to do it at a time when it was still a risky creative decision, and that the show did it with a great deal of dignity and pride. If only fandom had responded in kind; the show prompted a surprisingly strong backlash from viewers. There are all manner of stories about viewers ringing up the studio with complaints.

Old flames...

Old flames…

Interviewed by The Official Poster Magazine, Ira Steven Behr reflected on the irony of the situation with his typical bluntness:

“I know they [Paramount Pictures] got a lot of negative feedback, which only goes to prove a point I always believed in, which is that science fiction fans and Star Trek fans are much more conservative than people want to believe, and this whole Gene Roddenberry liberal Humanistic vision is truly not shared by a significant portion of them.”

Behr is entirely right. There is a very strong streak of conservatism in mainstream genre fandom, as the furore over the 2015 Hugos demonstrated.

Everybody's a party to this...

Everybody’s a party to this…

That conservatism tended to express itself in both narrative and political terms. This is most obvious in the production of Enterprise. Not only was the last Star Trek show launched as an excuse to take the franchise back to its roots (narrative conservatism), but it also featured the least diverse cast in the history of the franchise (political conservatism). After an African-American captain and a female captain, the franchise returned to a white male all-American captain leading a predominantly white and predominantly male crew on old-fashioned adventures.

In many respects, Behr’s stewardship of Deep Space Nine can be seen as a rejection of that conservatism. Sure, the writer made his share of mistakes – Profit and Lace, anyone? – but he instilled in the show a skepticism and cynicism around the complacency that had built up around the franchise. Star Trek was so proud and so assured of its own progressive liberal credentials that the franchise was at risk of being just as self-satisfied and stale as Behr’s vision of the Federation.

Keeping it handy...

Keeping it handy…

Deep Space Nine genuinely challenged this complacency. It was frequently provocative and cheeky. Episodes like Rejoined and Chimera are perhaps the most obvious example of this rebellious liberal tendency in matters of sexual orientation, but this also reflected in the show’s interrogation of Federation morality and foreign policy as an exploration of contemporary American values. In narrative terms, the Dominion War was an episode that shook the very idea of what Star Trek could be to its core.

Rejoined is very much an episode of Star Trek that could only have come from Deep Space Nine. It is a tremendous accomplishment, even as it serves as a reminder of how far the franchise has yet to come.

You might be interested in our reviews of the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:

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17 Responses

  1. “It seems “terrible” is a relative term.”

    Unless we’re talking about Gene Roddenberry. Then the adjective is appropriate.

    I was debating with someone the other day about Nicholle Nichols. When Neil Degrasse Tyson was talking to Takei about how Uhura was an example of how “progressive” the show was, Takei shot back, “Please! Uhura was the secretary. She answered the phone…” (Go George!) What Takei was referring to is the fact that women were accepted as telephone switchboard operators and secretaries on television. Anyway.

    reply: “casting a black woman in the role was a HUUUUUGE deal! Right behind the captain’s chair!”

    Forgive my french, but: Fuck you. Mannix had a black secretary who spoke more in one episode than Uhura did in season one.

    It’s very fitting that TOS is so intertwined with JFK, who real role in the civil rights movement was not pretty. But somehow the imagery has succeeded, even if the reality was never there…

    Nevertheless, it is pleasing that Star Trek couldn’t wriggle out of the gay rights struggle as easily. No one is ever going to mention the Thompson-Farrell kiss as a watershed in politics. I was watching DS9 at the time and “Rejoined” was generally viewed as a ratings stunt. Which it was.

    • You’re right about Uhura. What she inspired is important; the fact that she can be cited by women like Whoopi Goldberg and Mae Jemison makes her an important pop culture figure almost in spite of way that the show behaved towards her. (See, for example: The Changeling, where her memory is wiped and it’s no big deal.)

      One of the things I’m really excited about Bryan Fuller’s Star Trek is the fact that it will be diverse; not necessarily in a preachy way, in an organic “people are complicated” way that was largely untrue of the Berman era. (And, if we’re being honest, the Roddenberry era.)

      • Cosigned.

        I will say this for Uhura: Would you look at that six pack! Most people don’t realize Nichelle was ripped back then. She could probably keep up with Zoe in the “kicking ass” dept.

      • I noticed that on a recent rewatch of Mirror, Mirror. (Yes, I do have Nichelle Nichols crush, why do you ask?)

  2. Hypothetical Question: If you were in charge of doing a new Star Trek show, how would you go about it? What areas could be explored that haven’t been done before?

    • I think every Star Trek fan has their own theories about what they’d do.

      Last time I really thought about it was when I was a teenager,which would have been around the time of the Iraq War. I remember thinking it would be fun to do something based around a colony, but tied into issues of colonialism and exploitation. (Basically an even more cynical version of Deep Space Nine.) It would feature a crew and support staff in a remote sector of non-aligned space with rich dilithium deposits following the collapse of a dictatorship and the descent of the sector into chaos. The region would be something of a nexus point for various overlapping political interests.

      I liked the idea of having a colony planet-based setting alongside a ship-based setting. The ship would do some patrolling and investigating, but attention would be split between it and the space port. Not in an a-plot/b-plot way, but we’d occasionally spend a string of episodes here and a string of episodes there. You could do fun narrative stuff, like having the colony/space port under attack while the ship is away or even something as mundane as following what it is like to wait for news across the gulf of space when the ship goes away.

      I wanted the system to be populated by a handful of different species with their own unique cultural histories and dynamics; a recurring sense that the Starfleet crew were in a situation that they didn’t fully understand the nuances of. (Like that Trip breathing scene in Broken Bow.) My plan was to reintroduce TOS-style intrigue with the Klingons but across a long-running arc, with the Klingons obviously competing for resources, but legitimately pointing out that Starfleet wasn’t being entirely altruistic.

      I was speculating that it’d be picking from Enterprise, so it would have been set around that time frame. I thought it might be fun to do a Romulan War that looked a lot more like the War on Terror than a conventional war, with intrigue and terror attacks. Nuclear weapons as suitcase nukes, or even used to irradiate planets. A lot of what I was hoping to do was eventually done a lot better with Battlestar Galactica, but I thought it might be fun to play on the Romulan/Vulcan similarity by having Romulan sleeper agents.

      (I’d already plotted a number of episodes, as teenage fan writers tend to do. My favourite was one in which a body was recovered from a crashed Romulan ship on the edge of the sector. The discovery that the Romulans look exactly like Vulcans causes all manner of tension among the staff on the colony. Eventually, it is decided to keep that fact a secret, for fear that revealing the Romulans look like Vulcans would shatter the peace between Earth and Vulcan; this would allow the show to keep continuity with Balance of Terror while still using the Romulans easily enough.)

      I still have a fondness for this premise, despite the fact that there are several glaring issues:
      (a.) it is VERY similar to the initial pitch for DS9, which was subsequently heavily reworked to de-emphasise the elements emphasised here;
      (b.) it is even more cynical than DS9, which suggests it would be more difficult to produce;
      (c.) heavily setting it on a colony would be more expensive than setting it on a ship or station;
      (d.) heavily setting it on a colony would make it even less “Star Trek-y” than setting it on a station;
      (e.) given that Enterprise was cancelled, we are unlikely to set anything in that time period again;
      (f.) a lot of it is blatantly fan service-y and unlikely to appeal to a broad audiece;
      (g.) the War on Terror is so 2002/2003;
      (h.) Battlestar Galactica already did the “sci-fi war on terror” thing much better than I would have.

      Still, I have a fondness for the premise, even if it is absolutely not the ideal premise for a new Star Trek show launching in 2017. I’d probably rework it now to look a bit more like a Star Trek Game of Thrones, with a more even narrative split between the Starfleet/Romulan/Klingon/locals/civilian characters. Obviously not Game of Thrones in term of tone or plot or outlook or moral perspective, more in terms of storytelling.

      Truth be told, there’s a big difference between what I’d want to do and what’d be safest to do. If I were doing it now, I suspect the safest bet is do another Next Gen style leap forward chronologically. Give the creative team freedom to define the universe. De-emphasise the Klingons and Romulans for the first two years. Set it on a ship exploring. Keep it relatively simple, all Starfleet. Keep it relatively optimistic, but never as smoothering as the first few seasons of TNG. Have arcs, but respect the self-contained episode.

      In fact, make the optimism part of the plot. Make it Starfleet’s first exploration mission in decades; trying to recapture sixties idealism, like Interstellar but shaving the “save the world” narrative element out. Make it wondrous. Fill it with iconic moments that are aware of how cool it is to have Star Trek back. Indulge nostalgia, but make it work. Spend the first hour of the two-hour premiere on Earth; give us a few familiar notes when we first see the ship, with its recognisable “saucer and nacelles” shape. Acknowledge that cynicism exists, but never be overwhelmed by it. Don’t be too knowing or ironic, but don’t be overly earnest.

      • Woah, I love your ideas!

        Why not sorta combine the two pitches? You can have Starfleet sending out a ship for the first season, but have the crew return to previous locations to discover problems going on and explore the forced colonialism you described in your original pitch. That way you can keep the Star Trek feel but also explore new territory to an extent.

        As for a new enemy, I would say a cross between the original idea for the Ferengi and the Xindi; this sort of capitalist xenophobic imperialist race capturing territories as a sort of dark reflection of the Federation.

      • I think my plan was very much to mirror the emergence of the Federation with the politics of the region; I didn’t have an antagonist mirror in mind like the Borg or the Dominion or the Xindi.

        I remember having the series finalé loosely planned. I was going to cheekily call it “A Less Perfect Union”, ending with the cease-fire between Starfleet and the Romulans. The twist would be that sector in question would be declared part of the Neutral Zone, and so you’d have the Federation withdrawing to leave the natives to their own stability and security, free from interference from either side. Again, this was a continuity patch as well; the reason these aliens never showed up in TNG/DS9 was because they were in space the Federation had solemnly sworn not to interfere with under penalty of war.

        You’d also have had the founding of the Federation at the end of the show, but you’d also have the dissolution of the cast and crew at the end. The idea being that the time they had was finite and all things pass. Again, I was heavily influenced by DS9, so the plan was to pull a surprise twist and end the war about five episodes before ending the show; to allow space to unpack the consequences and the legacy of conflict rather than rushing the ending like Voyager (and, to a certain extent, DS9) did.

        As I said, I was a teenager with a lot of time on his hands and a massive fondness for DS9.

      • I don’t blame you. Deep Space 9 is a great show. The Original Series is still my favorite one though.

      • “I liked the idea of having a colony planet-based”

        So, basically, “Shadows of P’jem”, as explored from the pov of the colonists.

        You know, I found the imperialism of Enterprise to be one of its less savory elements. In the old days, only bad guys ran intersteller empires.

        Enterprise adopted a more cynical (some say realpolitik) view, that oppression and exploitation is (and should be) sometimes tolerated. That even in space, we will have a permanent underclass… Other shows have flirted with this (hell, Blake’s Seven was doing it in the seventies), but it was a really damming admission on the part of Star Trek that the future would be more of the same. Wars will b fought over the mineral rights to Pluto.

        “the War on Terror is so 2002/2003”

        I’m amused at how your ideas have all be nicked by other shows – because every Trekkie has an “alternate ENT” rummaging around in their heads, and also because my ENT was already done better – in my case, Babylon 5. As an origin story for the “Federation”, it works much better than Enterprise.

        Do you remember the TOS episode “The Savage Curtain”, where the crew is confronted by the worst killers in history of the galaxy? And when ENT came around, the most we saw of Colonel Green (the Hitler of his generation) was a lousy soundbite? That’s the sort of fanservice that annoys people, because it’s a Trivial Pursuit answer. Or how about the Augments (who JUST HAPPEN to be led by Data’s grandfather) and look like Vidal Sassoon terrorist hippies, with pre-cut t-shirts because Khan looked like that in a movie once (never mind context).

        Whereas if you take a slightly difference approach to the material, we can actually MEET Phillip Green or that weird-looking space witch, find out what they’re really about. Maybe deal with the fallout from the Eugenics Wars, when augments are forced to go underground and conceal their identities for fear of persecution or imprisonment — not randomly going evil, just because “superior ability equals superior ambition” or some bollocks.

      • Now that you point it out, and given I’ve rewatched Shadows of P’Jem, I think you’re right. Perhaps a less apocalyptic Shadows of P’Jem, but only because I imagine week after week of that would get depressing. (Of course, being a Star Trek fan, I imagined one of the planets looking a lot like the Vasquez Rocks.)

        I think you’re on to something with your “alt ENT” observation. Although the show had LOTS of problems, I sense that was one of the biggest hurdles for it overcome, and it never really did. Enterprise probably had higher expectations from the fanbase than any Star Trek product ever (although we’ll see how hype builds to Fuller’s Trek), if only because it was something every Trekkie had been speculating about for decades at that point. Everybody knew what they wanted from a story like Enterprise before the production team even decided they wanted to do a prequel.

  3. Great review and I think Ronald D. Moore’s comments were spot on about why Star Trek wasn’t more progressive at the time (and still isn’t!) I do think ‘Rejoined’ was a very smart way to do a gay story in Trek. When contrasted with modern Doctor Who, with its frequent and casual inclusion of LGBT supporting and background characters (and in what is ostensibly a family show), Star Trek really does seems particularly dated.

    • Thanks for the kind words!

      Yep, I really do hope that Fuller’s Trek updates itself like RTD (and to a lesser extent Moffat’s) Who have done.

  4. I wonder why Bashir gets a ringside seat in that picture? So it was Tobin and not Joran who knew magic tricks? Oh wait, that was the actor who played Joran and not the character itself. Dax shouldn’t hug Lenara in front of her future husband. I’m sure Bashir wants to gouge his eye out with that fork and then move on to the more vital areas in that picture.

    • I love that the basis of Equilibrium was pretty much “we have some performers who can do performance art… we should put that in a show somehow.” In a way, it feels very Behr-ian old school Hollywood scripting. Film/television as spectacle, with story a secondary concern.

  5. Hi! Really enjoyed your review. I just rewatched “Rejoined” after reading a recent interview with Terry Farrell where she mentioned how much she enjoyed doing that episode. I think that, the criticisms of it aside, the show really works. I remember watching it when it first aired and, not knowing anything about the episode going in, being pleasantly surprised by its willingness to depict a truly heartfelt, passionate romance between two women. The two actresses did really good jobs of selling their feelings for each other. Your comments on Trill society are extremely interesting. I only dimly remember the episodes you reference, but you raise some really interesting points.

    • Trill society is fascinating, more for the outline that exists of it than for anything actually said; the trill symbionts seem almost like opportunistic parasites, while the class structure is unlike anything seen in the rest of the franchise, because it’s largely implied rather than explicitly codified. It’s a shame that they were so under-developed.

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