Star Trek 224: The Outcast

224. The Outcast

FORMULA: The Host + The Tholian Web + Angel One

WHY WE LIKE IT: "Commander, tell me about your sexual organs."

WHY WE DON'T: The heavy-handed message.

REVIEW: Where TOS was really rather good at the moral fable genre, TNG is PC-ing me off with its attempts. The Outcast wants to be about homosexuality (the outcast J'naii are born that way, they don't want to be told who to love, etc.), but really comes off as being about transsexuality, which isn't the same thing (gender identity rather than sexual orientation). And besides, the whole premise is ridiculous since the J'naii have no gender. How any of them can "feel female" or "feel male" is hard to grasp, especially given Soren's questions to the crew. And why it would matter (since love between non-gendered J'naii and gendered J'naii is physically the same, doesn't impact reproduction, isn't even "unsightly") is a question without an answer. It's taking the issue and science-fictionalizing it so much it doesn't make sense anymore. That it turns out to be "curable" sends an odd mixed message.

Throwing Riker into the mix is the huge mistake here, however. First of all, having him make exposés about astrophysics instead of Data highlights the very contrivance of his use in this story. Having him fall in love with Soren, and even be willing to risk his career for "hir", is totally out of character. Soren is more than a little dull, and a far cry from the saucy sexy women he usually goes for. From the description of their mating practices (both partners are "inseminators"), the J'naii serve a "male" function in procreation (a "husk" acts as the female). Are humans even sexually compatible with J'naii? Riker seems like the kind of man for whom sex is an important element, so what the hell? He can certainly feel empathy for a repressed social class, but get involved romantically with Soren? As ridiculous as his freaking out at the end or his asking Troi for "permission".

With the "message", muddled as it is, being the crux of the episode, there's a lot of talking. You have Riker avoiding frank questions like he's really uncomfortable discussing sex (reminded me of "The Apple"). You have Worf's overt sexism. You have bad writing like the use of the phrase "more superior". So we're left with the first appearance of the new shuttle (very nice), and of Geordi's beard (oh God no, you don't have enough stuff on your face Geordi?). The latter will be gone by the next episode.

LESSON: Boys have cooties. Girls are icky.

REWATCHABILITY - Low: A bad dream. Just say it never happened. The characters are unrecognizable and the message is at once heavy and muddy.


LiamKav said...

I remember watching this when I was young and realising that it was a fairly ham fisted and slightly cowardly way of addressing homosexuality. Now, though, perhaps it does address transgender issues better, even if my accident. I can't quite make up my mind. Regarding the argument that turning out to be curable is a mixed message, I don't look at it that way. There are lots of people who claim to have been cured of body dimophism, homosexuality etc. It doesn't mean that they are, or that such a thing exists. I don't think Soren was "cured" of it, so much as psychologically conditioned to bury those feelings. I would guess that there are lots of suicides amoungst J'naii that have that therapy. (Which makes Riker running away at the end even odder).

And, a nerdy point... The new shuttle first appeared in Darmok right back at the start of the season. It's a modification of the one from STV, so I don't know why it look them so long to use it (Darmok is also the point where we first see that the ship models have gone from the observation lounge.)


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