Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before
October 27, 2016 9:49 AM   Subscribe

In theory, any of the major characters could have been the star of this episode. But it is not at all a coincidence that it is Beverly — a woman, a healer, a mother, and Picard’s occasional love interest — who lives out this story. Star Trek’s Feminist Statement: Believe Women
posted by redsparkler (51 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know, there's very few Beverly episodes that aren't awesome.

Sub Rosa is the only one that comes to mind that I didn't like primarily because I just couldn't believe she'd abandon her role as ship's chef medical officer for love.
posted by INFJ at 9:58 AM on October 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, that's a wonderful essay. Thank you for posting. Writing like this helps me better understand why some folks are disappointed by the latest whiz-bang-action movie Star Trek reboots (which, candidly, I quite enjoy, despite their lack of depth or real thoughtfulness.)
posted by ZakDaddy at 9:59 AM on October 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Star Trek: TNG is still one of the very few American TV shows to depict a functional and respectful workplace.
posted by selfnoise at 10:01 AM on October 27, 2016 [56 favorites]


Sub Rosa is the only one that comes to mind that I didn't like primarily because I just couldn't believe she'd abandon her role as ship's chef medical officer for love.

I'm sure I've mentioned this on Metafilter before, but I was too smitten with the idea that she might leave her post to be in love with me to realize how terrible that episode was.

Similarly, I hadn't thought about this episode in decades, but this was a really interesting take, thanks for posting it redsparkler. (Oh and this might be a more dramatic case than usual of not reading the comments, the author seems to be dealing with a particularly noxious troll)
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:06 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Easily one of the best TNG episodes, I love this one to death. Good read!
posted by comealongpole at 10:18 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


um ... that was a terrible episode!
my so and I quote that line to each other all the time - but it's in pure irony.

sure, it turned out to be true (that there was something wrong with the universe - which is also a stupid plot), but she jumped to that conclusion on very flimsy evidence. And it's such a self-centred, self-blinded way of looking at things. When I find myself in situations like that, there usually is something wrong with me: I am ignorant of something, have been blind to something (eg racism in my own city), etc. I try to undermine my own cognitive dissonance, not reinforce it.

But then again, I've have a mental illness. I have been forced to accept that at many times there has absolutely been something wrong with me, not (as I always feel) something wrong with the universe.
posted by jb at 10:23 AM on October 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


I've been finally watching TNG for the first time over the past couple of months, I'm in S6 now, and one of the most notable things about it is how consistent this sort of thing is: If you're on the Enterprise, you are afforded the respect that entails, regardless of rank, sex, race, etc. Hell, when friggin' Barclay lies to O'Brien, gets called out on it, and experiments on himself to get to the bottom of his weird Transporter experience, when everybody knows he's massively phobic of the Transporter, then calls a senior staff meeting, all of the senior staff from Captain Picard on down trusts him without reservation, and are right to do so.

I kind of like this show, it turns out.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:26 AM on October 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


Star Trek: TNG is still one of the very few American TV shows to depict a functional and respectful workplace.

One thing that always stuck with me about "Remember Me" is one of the final scenes when just Picard and Dr. Crusher remain. Crusher says something like "this doesn't make sense, this ship is huge, there are supposed to be a thousand people on this ship" and Picard just kind of shrugs and says "well, we've never needed them before."

Which is probably true. Given the Computer's abilities, you probably could successfully operate the Enterprise for years by yourself. Which means that the value that Starfleet places on its personnel is something other than their raw human labor or technical knowledge. And they all fundamentally want to be there with each other for some reason that's beyond professional dependence. Even though this episode came after Roddenberry had ceased to have any direct input into the show, it's one of the episodes that I think most positively demonstrates the "Roddenberry vision" that even the TNG cast members still seem very fond of.
posted by AndrewInDC at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2016 [33 favorites]


But it is not at all a coincidence that it is Beverly — a woman, a healer, a mother, and Picard’s occasional love interest — who gets dickmatized by a ghost. (ok, I know we've already gone Sub Rosa, but it's all I could think of).

This was obviously a much better Bev episode, but now that I've read the wikipedia synopsis, I am reminded that Beverly's stubborn insistence that she is right and the universe is wrong nearly gets her killed, which isn't exactly a great Feminist message. She was a damsel who was in so much distress that her son couldn't even save her alone and needed to bring in an Actual Space Dude* to save the day.

*The Traveller is such a, um, singular character that I think that it is not at all a coincidence that an author that wants to use this episode as a shakey pillar of feminism wouldn't even mention him.

For those of you wondering, it doesn't look like Fashion it So has done an article on this one. Here's the relevant Trekabout.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:36 AM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


I did not expect to find myself teary-eyed over a Picard gif. Thanks for sharing this.
posted by chatongriffes at 10:43 AM on October 27, 2016


Star Trek: TNG is still one of the very few American TV shows to depict a functional and respectful workplace.

Another recent example would be The Martian. Something about the competence porn genre.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:44 AM on October 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


Honestly, I don't remember seeing this episode, but this interpretation of it was strong enough to move me unexpectedly to tears. Probably going to watch it tonight, and I'm guessing it'll be interesting to see this narrative juxtaposed with the TNG-era trappings not mentioned in the article.
posted by redsparkler at 10:47 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another great example of this kind of trust that the TNG crew have in each other is the episode Cause and Effect, where the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop that always ends with them fatally crashing into another, much older, ship. The only evidence anyone has that something is wrong is purely subjective feelings of deja vu and voices in their heads, but the crew trust each other enough to report their experiences, discuss them, and act on them. If it weren't for that trust, there's no telling how long they could have been stuck in that time loop, to say nothing of all the other weird space-time anomalies they could have succumbed to over the years.

competence porn genre
tell me this is a thing
are there more examples?
posted by J.K. Seazer at 10:53 AM on October 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


This episode freaked me out as a kid. It seemed so daring and weird and I loved it.
posted by Jpfed at 10:54 AM on October 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


The author definitely has a point about Roddenberryesque unconditional mutual respect. Other Crusher-heavy episodes (I choose to ignore Sub Rosa, now as in all things) likewise seemed to assume that the audience assumed that she's super-competent. It's actually a bit of a contrast to McCoy, who I'm noticing (in the rewatch of TOS that I'm about two-thirds done with) is portrayed as rather less…I dunno, imaginative? broadly-skilled? than Crusher. I suppose the Enterprise being the flagship is a bigger deal in the 24th century than in the 23rd, which results in a higher expertise level among its crew. Like, I'm trying to think of Recurring TNG Fuckups and I'm only getting Barclay and Sonia Gomez, neither of whom were in many episodes at all.

In retrospect, it's kind of remarkable that, through the whole run of TNG, I don't think Dr. Crusher was given the male gaze camera treatment more than once.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:54 AM on October 27, 2016


Sub Rosa is the only one that comes to mind that I didn't like primarily because I just couldn't believe she'd abandon her role as ship's chef medical officer for love.

Oh, I don't think it was love. I think it was mind-blowing orgasms. As a young man I remember extremely clearly that they made this....uh, explicit.
posted by mobunited at 10:55 AM on October 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


I really liked how in Descent they called back to Crusher's role in discovering sun-proof metaphasic shields and implemented it, while she supported a novice bridge officer in the face of a snippy lieutenant.
posted by mobunited at 10:58 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's actually a bit of a contrast to McCoy, who I'm noticing (in the rewatch of TOS that I'm about two-thirds done with) is portrayed as rather less…I dunno, imaginative? broadly-skilled? than Crusher.

McCoy is more small town doctor as mechanic for the body to Crusher's scientist. He feels like the character who changed least with the setting in the Wagon Train to the Stars concept.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:11 AM on October 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


redsparkler: Beverly — a woman, a healer, a mother, and Picard’s occasional love interest 

And a woman who does the violin (like a cello) (non-canonical story of the Star Trek Family practicing their music for their concert) [via MeTa].
posted by filthy light thief at 11:12 AM on October 27, 2016


McCoy seems rather less…I dunno, imaginative? broadly-skilled? than Crusher.

Crusher's skill set includes being a senior military officer in the starship chain of command. I don't recall McCoy ever taking command of the ship the way Crusher did in Descent. It was pretty great to see her sit in the big chair, giving orders and taking risks like she was born to do it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:23 AM on October 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


The Greatest Gen podcast reviewed this ep just this week. Coincidence? Episode Link
posted by blakewest at 11:37 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Crusher's skill set includes being a senior military officer in the starship chain of command.

And she is in fact a captain, in all good things.

Which is probably true. Given the Computer's abilities, you probably could successfully operate the Enterprise for years by yourself. Which means that the value that Starfleet places on its personnel is something other than their raw human labor or technical knowledge.

Yup. That episode really made me think when i was a kid. Why would you even need much of any training? The computer could probably either instruct you on any needed task in the holodeck, or even give you medical treatment therein. Whats to say many systems couldn't entirely service/repair themselves barring outside damage or extreme use?

"The huge crew isn't to run the ship" is something i've had a hard time explaining to friends in the past.
posted by emptythought at 12:09 PM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's actually a bit of a contrast to McCoy, who I'm noticing (in the rewatch of TOS that I'm about two-thirds done with) is portrayed as rather less…I dunno, imaginative? broadly-skilled? than Crusher.

Bedside manner. He's definitely more of a gruff, by-the-book roll-up-the-sleeves practitioner with a great, big giant book he continually rewrites and stuffs extra pages into as he goes along. He patched up a grievously wounded Horta, the first silcon-based lifeform ever encountered, and made it seem like another day in the office...
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:17 PM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another great example of this kind of trust that the TNG crew have in each other is the episode Cause and Effect ...

As it turns out, "Remember Me" and "Cause and Effect" are among the very most rewatchable episodes for me.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 12:26 PM on October 27, 2016


Yup. That episode really made me think when i was a kid. Why would you even need much of any training? The computer could probably either instruct you on any needed task in the holodeck, or even give you medical treatment therein. Whats to say many systems couldn't entirely service/repair themselves barring outside damage or extreme use?

"The huge crew isn't to run the ship" is something i've had a hard time explaining to friends in the past.


Imagine that you're in a largely unexplored universe where you don't have any active wars, but you know that the Klingons and Romulans and even worse things that you haven't discovered yet are out there. So you make a quasi-military "exploration" organization and overstaff it, and when the Klingons jump the Neutral Zone, you've already got experienced quasi-military people in ships that can hold them off for a little while. And while all the ships that happen to be near the Neutral Zone are doing that, you break up and promote the rest of that cadre of trained ship crews to run their own ships and fleets with smaller crews of newly holodeck-trained personnel.

headcanon only
posted by Etrigan at 12:53 PM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why would you even need much of any training?..."The huge crew isn't to run the ship".

The autosurgeon wouldn't think to graft Centaurian pseudo-microbes directly into a patient's brain.

The engineering maintainance computer would give up and eject the warp core when a quick pulse of betaron particles from the ergon matrix would save the ship.

The tactical computer doesn't have guile.

The Enterprise can function on a crew of one, but being the best ship in the quadrant requires having the best crew.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:56 PM on October 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think it's interesting to tease out this Crusher/McCoy difference as a TNG/TOS fundamental difference. The original was very much borrowing from naval yarns like Horatio Hornblower (not to mention the serial story-a-week format of Wagon Train). It was very hierarchical, except of course with the Captain at the apex even when Admirals came into the picture. Kirk never wants promotion and often is skeptical or unwilling to take orders, which is classic TV conflict (but very unrealistic). In the real world Shatner is the star , Nimoy the secondary star, and one of the only generous things Shatner did on the show was do his best to promote Kelley as a third lead, which was reflected in the S2 credits. But he was in show terms playing a secondary character who nearly exclusively existed as a sounding board for Kirk and a foil for Spock.

The TNG conception was quite different and in part relied on the enormous fandom for TOS demonstrating to Roddenberry and Paramount that even minor characters could develop a following. TV had also changed, as had society to an extent, so it made sense to create an ensemble show. Despite the necessity of the paramilitary hierarchy in the show, one of the interesting things they did was create the Number One character as an action analogue to Picard's cerebral strategist/philosopher. This allowed for a lot of meaty back-and-forth between the characters, but also acted as a levelling device. The show carried forward the briefing room device and expanded it to a regular part of nearly every episode.

But I think there's a fascinating exception to this levelling -- the character of the Enterprise herself (and to a lesser extent, the character of the ship's computer, which is in fact played by Majel Barrett). I think it would be interesting to tot up how many times the Enterprise is treated secondarily or unreliably. I think it's more than you'd expect. And I'm not the one to argue that that's anti-feminist, but it's something to look into.
posted by dhartung at 1:16 PM on October 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


competence porn genre
tell me this is a thing
are there more examples?


Star Trek is definitely one; my wife and I have been dipping into TOS and TNG (she's not seen most episodes & I'm trying to show her the best), but I've been repeatedly struck by the high level of mutual trust, respect, and ability the crews have. Someone says they can do something? They get to do it. Someone says something is wrong? They are listened to, taken seriously, and the possibility of what they are saying is investigated. I think part of it is just the weird shit they've all been through: experience enough spatial anomalies, time travel, and aliens who alter minds, memories/perceptions and you'll take anyone's statement seriously because you know it can happen. But yeah, Trek is generally about people who are good at things doing those things.

Other examples would include: The Martian. Apollo 13. (these are the best, IMO, likely because they are of a scientific bent). Jack Reacher. The Bourne Identity. Sherlock. Characters like Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Don Draper (Mad Men) can also be used to display competence porn, even if the overall thrust of the narrative involves how poorly they deal with other areas of their lives.
posted by nubs at 1:29 PM on October 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


On the topic of Star Trek, today is the 50th anniversary of the original broadcast of "Miri." Go out and find a grup to bonk.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:47 PM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Given the Computer's abilities, you probably could successfully operate the Enterprise for years by yourself.

"There's a minimum crew requirement."
"What's the minimum crew?"
"Oh, one, I suppose."

posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:04 PM on October 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


The tactical computer doesn't have guile.

See Also: Poker in Star Trek
posted by mikelieman at 2:11 PM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


Only a slight derail. Everyone, please take two minutes and watch the video that AlonzoMosleyFBI linked to. I had never seen it before, and it made me laugh.
posted by bluejayway at 2:37 PM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen this in twenty years but I knew which episode this was right away from the description in the post. This was good, thanks for posting.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:05 PM on October 27, 2016


Watching the episode now. Great Scott -- the letters on the webpage are true-shaped!

How could I have forgotten this one?

Shut up, Wesley!
posted by Construction Concern at 3:25 PM on October 27, 2016


There is one male gaze moment for Crusher and it's a doozy. Crusher and Troi do some yoga stretching with a mirror behind them while talking about Troi's new relationship. Fails on the Bechdel Test, fails spectacularly on the male gaze. And as a middle-aged CIS male, I cannot turn away. I'm ashamed.
posted by Ber at 4:22 PM on October 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I love, love this episode. "The universe is a spheroid region, 705 meters in diameter" is a classic line. Bev is my fave (my rap name is MC Beverly Crusher, The Bae From Sickbay) and she never quite got enough to do, but everything she did was great, except Sub Rosa (I agree with the message of this essay and I love TNG but the fact that Gates McFadden basically got fired for a season for drawing attention to its lack of focus on women gives it a slight ironic tinge).

There is one male gaze moment for Crusher and it's a doozy. Crusher and Troi do some yoga stretching with a mirror behind them while talking about Troi's new relationship. Fashion It So indelibly called one of their moves in that scene "Slammin' Baskets," and now whenever I'm stretching at the gym with my friend she asks if I want to slam baskets and I'm honestly not sure what the other gymgoers think of that.

(Leonard McCoy is my other favourite and I think his perceived bedside manner gets in the way of the fact that he's not only the first to treat a whole bunch of alien lifeforms, but that he creates all sorts of new procedures like neural tissue grafting, and is a specialist in surgery, psychology and exobiology, among other things. Also, he can cure a goddamn rainy day.)
posted by ilana at 5:11 PM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


Re: competence porn -- check out Leverage. The term was coined by the show's staff to describe scenes of the in-show crew working.
posted by rewil at 6:02 PM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think the line about "something wrong with the universe" is necessarily blind or narcissistic. It's more pragmatic. Dr. Crusher is alone and experiencing an increasingly bizarre situation. If the problem is in herself and her perceptions, she has no recourse; she cannot perceive any assistance, if it's there, and will have to hope that whoever is in charge of her care is addressing it appropriately. It's out of her hands, in other words. Therefore, "assume that something is wrong with the universe" is the only useful premise to take if she wants to attempt to resolve it herself.

The message isn't, "Trust your perceptions no matter what," but rather, "In the absence of other information, assume the premise that lets you act pragmatically."
posted by Scattercat at 6:25 PM on October 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


This episode freaked me out as a kid. It seemed so daring and weird and I loved it.

Yes, you could totally make that premise into a full length horror movie and it would be great.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:04 PM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Assuming epistemic reliability within the context of a trusting relationship is its own special type of knowledge claim.

“Your word has always been good enough for me.”

It was justified for Picard to believe Beverly because they have a relationship of trust established between them. That is a variable that doesn't automatically transfer into every sort of other truth claim that we run into. Pointing this out certainly does not suggest that we shouldn't believe victims, but it does suggest that it's not the best parable for extracting universal sorts of principles about truth claims.

It might seem that this is being cranky, but I spend a lot of my academic time thinking about what the J in JTB (Justifed True Beliefs), and face value acceptance of inter-dimensional hijinx in this case makes little sense outside of the context of a trusting relationship.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:40 PM on October 27, 2016


competence porn genre
tell me this is a thing
are there more examples?


Come, my friend! Let me tell you of the television show Leverage!
posted by stet at 10:06 PM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]


competence porn genre
tell me this is a thing
are there more examples?


Amazon's current reboot Thunderbirds Are Go.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 10:58 PM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


competence porn genre

Interesting thought. Would Person of Interest count? I would put it there. Also, Batman.
posted by mikelieman at 11:39 PM on October 27, 2016


I was a preteen when I saw Descent, and Thine Own Self (the B-plot of which has Troi taking the Bridge Officer's test, partly inspired by Crusher's role during Descent). Burned into my brain.
posted by brainwane at 5:57 AM on October 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most forensic procedurals would fit, I think. Criminal Minds in particular showcases a variety of different kinds of healthy workplace relationships, with very little contrived drama between the team members.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:58 AM on October 28, 2016


re: only needing one crewperson to fly the ship:

They approach this in Voyager when a huge nebula that would take far too long to go around, causes debilitating pain and skin lesions to the crew when they enter it. Only Seven of Nine (and the Doctor) are immune to the effects. They stick the whole crew in stasis chambers and leave Seven to run the ship.

Seven is seen managing the numbers in engineering and making course corrections in astrometrics. Eventually bits and pieces of the system's ship and computer wear out (possibly due to effects from the nebula) and things start failing.

The focus is primarily on humans are not solitary creatures and how Seven is decidedly not even remotely capable of being a solitary creature. Voyager (the ship) is decidedly smaller than the Enterprise, so I imagine that the Enterprise needs more tweaks in engineering. It's also, effectively, a moving city.. someone has to maintain all the systems.
posted by INFJ at 7:49 AM on October 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I see I'm not the only one who got teary reading this.
posted by latkes at 10:01 AM on October 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Assuming epistemic reliability within the context of a trusting relationship is its own special type of knowledge claim.

“Your word has always been good enough for me.”

It was justified for Picard to believe Beverly because they have a relationship of trust established between them. That is a variable that doesn't automatically transfer into every sort of other truth claim that we run into. Pointing this out certainly does not suggest that we shouldn't believe victims, but it does suggest that it's not the best parable for extracting universal sorts of principles about truth claims.

It might seem that this is being cranky, but I spend a lot of my academic time thinking about what the J in JTB (Justifed True Beliefs), and face value acceptance of inter-dimensional hijinx in this case makes little sense outside of the context of a trusting relationship.


That's a very good point, but I think it's worth noting that it wasn't only Picard who took Dr. Crusher's testimony seriously. If the rest of the crew had been all, “Seriously, we can't take the time to investigate this nonsense on nothing more substantial than this chick's say-so,” but JLP was all, “No, I’ve got four pips says we listen to her because I personally trust her due to our long friendship,” it might have been a different story.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:12 PM on October 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Did the Picard and crew who took Crusher seriously even exist or were they created by Crushier in her mind at the moment the warp bubble formed? the real Picard and crew were outside the warp bubble, right?

I know that doesn't really change the point that this seems like generally good practice for having functional work relationships with people. And I think if they had existed they would have believed her, as indicated by all the other examples people have pointed to above, but it seems like maybe these particular people believing her, just means she had the expectation that she would be believed (which was obviously created by a work culture in which this was a reasonable expectation).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:55 PM on October 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Criminal Minds in particular showcases a variety of different kinds of healthy workplace relationships, with very little contrived drama between the team members.

Really? Because I don't think calling a woman in IT "babygirl" in your workplace every. single. episode. is any kind of definition of healthy.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:43 PM on October 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


competence porn genre
tell me this is a thing
are there more examples?


From Archive of Our Own.
posted by MsMolly at 9:41 PM on October 29, 2016


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