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Star Trek: Voyager – Retrospect (Review)

Star Trek: Voyager is a very nineties show. Sometimes that is endearing. Sometimes it is not.

Retrospect is an episode that made a great deal more sense in the context of the nineties. It was still troublesome and reactionary, structuring its central allegory in a way that was deeply problematic. However, Retrospect made a certain amount of sense when considered in light of the McMartin Preschool scandal and the satanic panic driven by regression hypnosis in the early part of the decade. Retrospect is very clearly an attempt to turn that talking point into a twenty-fourth century allegory about witch hunts and persecution.

Assimilate this…

However, there are a number of poor choices made over the course of the episode. The most obvious is build the episode around the character of Seven of Nine. There are any number of reasons why this would be written as a Seven of Nine episode, given that she is the breakout character of the fourth season. However, episodes like The Gift and The Raven have made a conscious effort to portray Seven of Nine as an abuse surviving living with genuine trauma. To put her at the centre of an episode about false allegations of abuse feels ill-judged.

Similarly, the emphasis on the subject of these accusations and his ruined life feels more than a little tone-deaf, even in the context the nineties satanic panic. Retrospect is not an episode about Seven of Nine processing abuse or even coping with distorted memories. It is ultimately the story about how the falsified accusations of abuse (from a character who is a verified abuse victim) can serve to destroy the lives of innocent men. Indeed, the emphasis on the EMH as a proxy for Seven of Nine downplays her own agency in this plot.

Memory Beta.

These aspects are troubling even in the context of an episode about the dangers of using hypnotherapy as the basis of these charges. However, the scandal has slipped from public consciousness in the years since Retrospect was initially broadcast. When the audience hears about women false accusations against men, it evokes the long-standing myth that men are frequent victims of falsified reports about sexual assault that ruin lives. This was creepy and uncomfortable subtext was obvious at time of broadcast, but has only become more pronounced in the years since.

Retrospect would have been a very clumsy and ill-judged allegory in the context of the mid-to-late-nineties. Decades removed from that original context, it seems almost reprehensible.

Blinding flash of the obvious.

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Doctor Who: The Dæmons (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Dæmons originally aired in 1971.

I’ve bought you a nice cuppa, Sergeant. I hope you like china.

For goodness sake, Miss Hawthorne.

What’s the matter? Don’t you like tea?

Something’s gone badly wrong. We’ve no idea what’s happening to Miss Grant and the Captain, the Doctor should be back here by now, I can’t get through to the Brigadier and you’re nattering on about tea.

You must learn the art of waiting, Sergeant. The Doctor will come, or else he won’t, and that’s all that can be said. Now, milk or lemon?

– Miss Hawthorne helps Sergent Benton get his priorities straight

Barry Letts was a very talented man. I feel like I don’t stress that often often. I’ll freely concede that the UNIT era isn’t my favourite part of Doctor Who history, but there are times when you really have to admire the skill and competence of Letts as the show’s producer. In fact, he served as both a director and a writer on the series. He had a very clear vision for the show, and he implemented it remarkably well, to the point where his work on the show still stands out as something quite distinguished from the work of other producers.

The Dæmons is a very clear illustration of just how carefully and how thoughtfully Letts had overhauled the show for the seventies. While it’s not the most Letts-ian episode ever produced (he would produce, write and direct Pertwee’s final episode, Planet of the Spiders), but it is a great illustration of Letts’ approach to the programme and perhaps a testament to his lasting legacy.

Rock on, you crazy Master...

Rock on, you crazy Master…

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