Thursday, April 25, 2013

TNG: The Outcast



It's commonly held that one of the reasons for the popularity of science fiction/fantasy is its ability to provide us with allegory. It's like a mirror that throws back our own reality--only better (or worse) with aliens or wizards or spaceships or magic. It's a reality enough distorted by the exotic to help us reconsider, or at least question, our deeply rooted beliefs.

I don't need allegory to enjoy SciFi and fantasy. When badly done, I find it preachy and predictable. I don't need lofty metaphors to enjoy a story--I just need a good story. But sometimes, if an allegory is rendered just right, with thoughtful presentation and a steady hand, then the allegory is well-earned. It weaves between your heartstrings and you don't realize how meaningful it is until they've all snapped.

Much has already been written and said about TNG: "The Outcast" but I figure one more voice can't hurt. If you're unfamiliar with this episode, Riker makes a connection with Soren, a member of a culture which "evolved" beyond the concept of gender. Occasionally though, some members of the society identify as male or female and they are shunned or brainwashed until they revert to what their culture considers a "natural" state. Riker and Soren, who identifies as female, fall in love but she is found out by her government. At the climax of the story, Soren delivers an impassioned speech about personal freedom and you should watch every word of it: 



Soren is an alien in a culture within a universe that does not exist. But her story is striking and heartbreaking because of its familiarity. The inability to be oneself, to love who one loves, to live and die freely without persecution is the desire and right of every human being. This episode of Next Generation is a clear allegory and one that doesn't just make me sad. It makes me angry--it makes me want to fight dragons and it makes me hope that they can be beaten. 

2 comments:

  1. I remember being so touched by this episode the first time I saw it. I think it was the way they flipped the concept that really make its impact.

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  2. After I watched this episode I looked up the actress who played Soren on Google. According to her mini-bio on IMDB she was also on the A-team (she was a MEMBER of the A-team) for a season but was written off the show - probably because she asked for a larger, more active, more A-team-y, role. From here (http://www.ateamresource.com/article-64.html) I get this ridiculously sexist quote, "Benedict seems more willing than T to admit a woman to the club. 'Because we are four guys, we want a girl around,' he says. 'It's a dream job for an actress--God! All you have to do is show up, smile and look good.'"

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