You are the hero of your own life story. The kind of story you tell yourself about yourself has a lot to do with the kind of person you are and can become. You can listen to (or read in books or watch in films) stories about other people. But that is only because you know, at some basic level, that you are--or could be--the hero of those stories too. You are Ahab in _Moby Dick,_ you are Michael Corleone in _The Godfather,_ you are Rick or Ilsa in _Casablanca,_ Jim in _Lord Jim,_ or the tramp in _City Lights._ And out of these make-believe selves, all of them versions of your own self-in-the-making, you learn, if you are lucky and canny enough, to invent a better you than you could have before the story was told.
(Frank McConnel, as cited in Greely, 1987, pg. 529)
With the wonder of a child:
Family as a dominating metaphor in ST:TNG
HTML version by Luca Sambucci
All narratives, whether explicitly or implicitly, have a point of view through which the audience experiences the unfolding events. In ST:TNG, the audience is invited to witness the 24th century with the wonder of a child. While that wondering glance allows the possibility of enchantment and
the suspension of disbelief, it also colours the audience's attitude to the characters and the show itself.
Now that the series has ended its run and the first movie featuring the TNG cast has been released, the dominant rhetorical metaphor of the series can be analysed, and the shades of meaning this childlike point of view has imposed on the structure of TNG can be evaluated.
It is uncertain whether the creators of TNG meant for the characters to coalesce into a traditional patriarchal family. Nonetheless, that is the point of view in which the characters operate,and even on which the scripts were written. Picard, the captain, is the a dominant male figure, obeyed and
respected, but subject to crochets when crossed. Dr. Crusher, maternal, is the sustainer and definer of life. The senior staff is the children, and Data--Data is the viewer surrogate, the eyes through which we the audience experience the stories we tell ourselves of Star Trek. As he learns and grows, we learn and grow. As he is taken into the other characters' confidences, we are taken in, too. And as he becomes more and more a part of the TNG family, so, too, do we.
In this paper I shall analyse this Star Trek family tree, based on the evidence presented in the aired episodes, with particular emphasis on the main crew/cast of the series. Then I shall assess the themes of fan fiction found on the internet in an attempt to validate the theory of family as the dominant rhetorical metaphor in TNG.
The Trek family tree
A truism about the difference between children and grownups is the
child's more carefree and happy life. As in life, so too in Trek: as the
characters retreat into the past, they become less and less happy.
The TNG family tree extends back past the current generation. It
roots lie with Sarek, who by the 24th century is an old, weary man, out of
control and one who is, albeit unintentionally, destructive. He, like most
Star Trek characters, is ultimately unhappy; unable to express love,
unable to reconcile with those estranged, and unable to forge on without help
our heros ("Sarek," "Unification I"). Also of this generation are Picard's
grandfather ("Night Terrors") who lost his mind and gained only his
grandson's pity, and Felisa Howard ("Sub Rosa"), who fell victim, as did
every other Howard woman, to the anaphasic lifeform whom Beverly Crusher's
mother escaped in death and whom only Beverly is strong enough to uncover
The trunk of our tree is the crew of the original series--unable to
accept that their glory days are behind them, they are one and all in the
depths of midlife crises. Spock runs off, unreconciled to his father or
step-mother, to engage in "cowboy diplomacy," and nearly gets his world
invaded. McCoy tramps out to the middle of nowhere to see the new
_Enterprise_ and tour its medical facilities without the distractions of a
new CMO. Scotty is petulant and whiny about living in the new era until
one of the "kids" pulls him up by his bootstraps. Kirk wastes his time in
mindless death-defying stunts until trapped in the Nexus. There he tries
rewriting past lacks of commitment while creating that same situation
again by jumping from fantasy to fantasy until Picard arrives, returning "fun"
to the older captain's life.
Also in this generation are Picard's parents, a harsh, disapproving
father and a mother who loved her son but was ultimately powerless to
shield him. Here, too, are found Beverly Crusher's parents, a mother dying young
and a father who is never more than a name on a biographical screen, a man
who did not even pass along his family name. (The evidence of "Sub Rosa"
asserts that the Howard woman, Beverly among them, are a chain of mothers
and daughters.) The only less than gloomy member of this generation is
Guinan, the _Enterprise_ bartender. She is one of the few who can
countermand Picard ("Ensign Ro"); she is advisor to the most senior of the
staff ("The Best of Both Worlds Part 1," "Suspicions"), and she is the
only grownup aboard the ship who really understands the chronological children
("Imaginary Friend'). Of course, Guinan's world is not all sweetness and
light. She has lost her home, lost her people, though we know she has
children, she, like all the others of her generation, seems to have lost
contact with them.
Supporting the leaves are the branches, made up of the parents. Ian
Andrew Troi, Jack Crusher, Mogh and his wife, Mrs. Kyle Riker, and even
Miranda Vigo ("Bloodlines") all died, abandoning small children. Even such
minor characters as the Astors ("The Bonding") fit into the scheme in this
are. Other parents abandoned their children, though staying alive: Kyle
Riker, Dr. Soong and Julianna Soong Trainor made conscious decisions to
leave their children. The other parents are not blameless--the Rozhenkos
fault themselves for not giving their foster son all he needed, and have
apparently done less than well by their natural son; Lwaxanna Troi allowed
one child to drown and now flits about the galaxy, touching base only long
enough to wreck her daughter's self-esteem; the La Forges devoted
themselves to Starfleet while shuffling their children around like so much baggage.
Jason Vigo's father was anonymous: Robert Picard is a bully and a tyrant,
his wife a woman who longs for more, but always (on the surface)
reconciles herself to her husband's traditionalist ways while subtly encouraging her
Here, too, is where the "parents" of the _Enterprise-D_--Captain
Jean-Luc Picard and Dr. Beverely Crusher, CMO--reside. Though each has
moments of joy, neither is a particularly happy character.
Picard as father
To call Captain Jean-Luc Picard the senior parental figure aboard
the _Enterprise-D_ is to state the blindingly obvious. He is the senior
figure on the ship. He is, ultimately, in charge of discipline. He must
approve and consent to all major decisions. Anyone wanting to board
("Remember Me") or transfer away ("Lessons") must pass through the
Captain's review. Crewmembers who try to avoid this review ("Sub Rosa," DS9 pilot
"Emissary") can expect a transporter room visit before being able to
As in the traditional patriarchal family, Picard's are the
expectations crewmembers seek to live up to ("Final Mission,"
"Suspicions," "Preemptive Strike," among others). He is the one the crew seeks out for
advice, be it on career, development, or childrearing. He is the one to
run interference for them with the outside world. He stands by their side in
times of trouble ("Measure of a Man," "Sins of the Father," "Dark Page").
It is Picard who dreams the future of his brood ("All Good Things") and lays
plans to steer its course correctly.
Crusher as mother
When first conceived, Beverly Crusher had three primary roles. As
drawn in the first writer's bible (Nemeck, 1995), her first responsibility
is as mother. After that she is the ship CMO, and finally, her mission is
to be sexually attractive to the captain, in essence seducing him into
letting her child onto the bridge. By the first episode the priorities had been
slightly reordered: when she encounters Riker for the first time she is
identified as the CMO before being acknowledged as Wesley's mother.
Even so, if Crusher's primary duty aboard ship were as ship's
doctor, the character would be almost absent from most episodes; there
simply is not that much healing to do done. But Beverly is also a senior
officer, and more importantly, the maternal figure. There are several
episodes in which Crusher's participation is inexplicable until the mother
factor is added in--by all rights the First Officer should be in charge of
interns and not the CMO ("True Q"), the Science Officer should help Picard
unravel Dr. Galen's puzzle ("The Chase").
Crusher serves, aboard the _Enterprise,_ many of the roles reserved
in a traditional structure for the mother. She is seated at dinner parties
as the captain's partner ("Haven"), and is in charge of handing round the
food while the father figure carves the turkey ("Sins of the Fathers").
Even such small mundane chores as organising birthday parties and supervising
the cutting of birthday cakes ("Future Imperfect," "Parallels") fall to this
mother figure. Beverly is also in charge of stories, in her capacity as
leader of the drama group and playwright. She is perceived as the arbiter
of morals; in Troi's vision ("Eye of the Beholder") she and Worf are
interrupted in bed twice by pages from the doctor, and in "Man of the
People," when Troi's sexuality runs rampant, Dr. Crusher, with the
captain's full consent, kills her, albeit later reviving her. As, like the mother in
a straight-laced patriarchal fantasy, she is sexually repressed. Only once,
when infected by the Tsilkovsky virus ("The Naked Now") was she
aggressive; at all other times she sits back and patiently waits for the man to make
his intentions clear ("The Host," "Attached," "Sub Rosa").
Disobedience is often first signalled by a crewmember's
disparagement of Crusher ("The Naked Now," "Ensign Ro," "Ethics"). The
doctor is responsible for ferrying guests onto the bridge ("Haven") and
off again ("Half a Life"). She is also at the center of an intricate net of
shared phrases: "Boys will be boys," both she ("Hollow Pursuits") and
Riker ("The Last Outpost") sigh. "I'm not talking to you," both she ("Remember
Me") and Worf ("Homesoil") bark at the computer, as if the crew had
internalised her phraseology. And her position of authority is recognized
by outsiders, as well--when Jellico takes command of the ship, only Dr.
Crusher is allowed to talk back to him without the formal shield of permission to
speak freely. When the rest of the ship is without clue about their role
in the scheme of things, ("Conundrum") she's already reclaimed her position
of authority. And though Walker Keel ("Conspiracy") is concerned to the point
of paranoia over secrecy, he wants desperately for Picard to convey a
personal greeting to the CMO.
As in the traditional family, the parental figures have clearly
defined spheres of influence. Picard commands, Crusher heals. Picard is
responsible for dealing with outside forces, and Crusher with internal
dilemmas. Once she is handed a patient, Beverly is no longer involved in
the fight with Armus, and the away teams are allowed to beam off planet ("Skin
of Evil"). While the 20th century people are frozen, Picard is in charge
of the situation; once they are awake and can be integrated into the everyday
life, he hands the situation over to Beverly. She deals with Troi while
Picard bullies the abusive ambassador ("Man of the People"), and she
handles Amanda while Picard attempts to do the same with Q ("True Q"). When Data
attacks Troi because of his nightmares ("Phantasms"), Crusher is heavily
involved; once she discovers there is a real external threat, she fades
into the background, leaving Picard to oversee the solution. When an alien
artifact ("Masks") turns the ship into an alien city, turning the internal
external, Crusher has mere seconds of screen time while Picard is heavily
involved. When given the option, as doctor, to treat an outsider or a
member of the _Enterprise_ crew, she invariably chooses to first attend the
patient from her own ship. Even in the future, Captain Beverly Picard yields
command to her ex-husband once she makes a token declaration of authority.
Crusher vs. Pulaski
In the show's second season there was a shuffling of personnel
assignments, including the reassignment of Dr. Crusher to Earth, and her
replacement by Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Though the point is made several
times that Dr. Pulaski is one of the finest physicians in the Fleet, and there
are references which imply that she is a better and more respected
practitioner than her predecessor, Pulaski never gelled as Crusher's replacement, and
by the start of the third season, the original doctor gad returned.
Had Crusher's only role aboard ship been to heal the ill, Pulaski
would have made a more than acceptable substitute, but as ship's mother
and consort to the captain, she fails dismally. Pulaski was dedicated more to
medicine than to her _Enterprise_ family, even willing to risk the crew's
health to save outsiders, such as the plague-carrying children of Darwin
Station ("Unnatural Selection"). She hides things from her fellow
officers; whereas Crusher told Riker at the first possible opportunity of her prior
relationship with Picard, Pulaski and Riker discuss Kyle Riker over a meal
("Time Squared") and later ("The Icarus Factor") claims her lack of
candour over loving Riker senior was because the topic had never arisen.
Pulaski pales as a Starfleet officer compared to the previous CMO.
She is not a bridge officer, and needs Picard's explicit permission to
give Data an order. She cannot pilot a shuttle. Her fear of the transporter may
not get in the way of her duties, but Pulaski joined only two away teams
during her tenure.
Her relationship with Picard never approaches the past captain/CMO
level of familiarity. The two do not relax together on the holodeck, touch
each other except as patient and doctor, or call each other by first
names. Picard deals with her so little that he does not know if she has ever used
the _Enterprise_ transporters and cannot recall the ship on which Pulaski
Ultimately, Pulaski's greatest failing is that she tries too hard to
be one of the family. She spends her leisure time with the junior members
of the senior staff. She actively pursues Worf, begging him to read her love
poetry and calling him "Handsome," in front of others. She requested
transfer to the _Enterprise_ after making it quite clear to outsiders that
she was a long standing Jean-Luc Picard admirer. Faced with filling
Crusher's shoes, Pulaski's efforts fail, and after she is reassigned, her
name is rarely mentioned.
Of course, when Crusher does return, the relationships she has
abandoned do not return to their old states. Some intensify; in private,
her consortship of the captain becomes a stronger and more meaningful bond.
Some weaken; Troi has taken over much of the public role as captain's
sidekick, accompanying him to meetings Crusher attended in the first
season. It takes several years for Beverly to regain the status she lost when she
abandoned the family and ship.
Will Riker, the First Officer, is quite obviously the eldest son.
He is responsible for the actions of his younger siblings, and he is his
father's inheritor, taking command when Picard is for some reason
unavailable. He begins his tenure aboard ship with a rite-of-passage, the
manual docking of the saucer section. Faking memory loss in "Shades of
Grey," Riker claims to be Picard. The other crew members try to imitate
him--Wesley learns about life and women from Riker, and Data's first
attempt at changing his appearance is to copy Will's beard.
For many seasons the character of Worf tottered between membership
in the _Enterprise_ family and an outsider role. His assignment, Security
Chief, is reserved for the outsider (first Yar and then Worf), for the
"natural children" are all peaceful explorers, diplomats and scientists
like the parents. Only one from outside the circle of the Starfleet family
could think primarily in terms of battle and killing.
Worf is often forced to confront his yearnings to be part of the
family and his status outside it. In "The Drumhead" he is played of
against the rest of the crew to satisfy Admiral Satie's lust for conspiracy. As
late as "Redemption Part 1," Worf still, when asked to choose between his
Klingon nature and his duty as a Starfleet officer, chose to act as a
Klingon. It isn't until the events of the last season, until Picard orders
him to spy on his foster brother and he does so ("Homeward") does he fully
become a member of the family, with all attendant privileges--Picard will
divert the entire ship so Worf may take Alexander to celebrate a Klingon
festival ("Firstborn") and he can have one of the family females for a
mate ("Eye of the Beholder," "Genesis," "All Good Things").
Troi is the family tattletale. Both by profession and by nature, she informs on the other crew members whenever possible. In "Code of Honor," Yar quite literally accuses Troi of this, and of course she is right. There are only two episodes in which Troi was forced to find alternate coping strategies, and they are the strongest Troi episodes--"The Loss" and "Face of the Enemy." But in those episodes, as in "The Child," when Deanna swerves from her assigned role, when she no longer is the bearer of gossip or when she transforms into a parent, the entire ship is threatened. When Riker-turned-Q speaks to the bridge officers in "Hide and Q," Troi is conspicuous by her absence, though one might imagine Riker would wish most of all to give his Imzadi a parting gift. Perhaps, having begun the
transition from the "childlike" human race to being a Q, he longer has need for the services of a tattletale. She also helps her crewmates with the more serious aspects of sexuality (while Riker handles the more mechanical aspects); she serves as advisor to Worf in "The Emmissary" and helps Lal choose her gender, which will directly affect her sexuality, in "The Offspring."
Geordi, Data, and Wesley all could serve as viewer surrogates, but
in the final analysis, Data is the one who fills that function. For all his
expertise with mechanics, Geordi is largely clueless with humanoids. He
deludes himself ("Bobby Trap") and is used by others, his shortcomings
exploited to hurt his ship and crew ("The Mind's Eye," "ST:Generations").
And yet he is the crewmember the ship's females are most protective of;
both Deanna ("The Price") and Beverly ("Sub Rosa") renounce a lover when that
man's actions threaten Geordi. Wesley was the original bow to perceived
demographics, but the deck was stack too much in his favour; he is a know
it all while the audience must discover it all. Wesley also receives the boost
of nepotism which would be unavailable to the audience--instead of being
recognized as our other self, Wesley Crusher quickly turned into the
nightmare baby brother from hell, plodding, unimaginative, unappreciated
There is one character who embodies the sense of wonder meant to
characterise the Star Trek universe: Data. He learns about humanity in the
24th century while we do; he often serves the other characters as
confidant, being made privy to their thoughts, fears, and the deep dark secrets in
their service records, exposing them to us. When the crew grow senile, ill
or incapable ("Angel One,""Night Terrors"), he alone remains to save the
day. The original innocent, he can get away with saying what other dare
not, even cruelly criticising Picard's artistic endeavours.
He grows and changes, dreams and achieves, becoming more human than
the humans around him, as we are more human than the characters on the
screen. And through it all he, like we, stands apart, dispassionately
observing, involved with the action but not touched by it. And in the end,
in "Generations," he gets everything he has longed for, and must deal with
a world which has changed because of his changed perceptions, as the fans have had to deal with the change of their show from a weekly to a biannual event.
Tasha Yar is the wild card of the _Enterprise_ family. Of all the
children, she is the only one who was not raised with a connection to the
protective Starfleet family. The colony where she grew up is noted as
often for its sexual violence as for its anarchy ("The Naked Now," "Where No One
Has Gone Before," "Legacy"). And it is through her sexuality that Tasha
wrecks her havoc on our Trek family. The innocent Data is corrupted by
Yar's sexuality in "The Naked Now." The first time the crew has to deceive an
alien race is in "Code of Honor," all because Yar and the planetary ruler
have become enamoured of each other. In "Hide & Q," after Q sends Yar to
the penalty box, the Security Chief makes wistful comments about her commanding
officer, forcing him to retreat to his ready room. And one of the crew's most persistent enemies, Sela, is a direct result of Natasha Yar's sexual appeal. Had the alternate Tasha not been interested in Richard Castillo, she would not have returned to the past with the _Enterprise C_. Had she been
less attractive, she would not have been taken as consort, Sela would never
have been born, and the course of Romulan, Federation, and Klingon history
would have run in ways other than they did.
Ensign Ro Laren, who was to have been Wesley Crusher's replacement,
never gelled as a member of the family. She came to the ship with one set
of outside alliances and left it with another. When the ship reclaimed
Wesley in the seventh season, Picard notes in his log that they were
picking up "a member of the family," but later that same season, in speaking of Ro's
return, notes only that "We are celebrating the return of an old friend." And in the bed swapping characteristic of the family females, Ro also loses out. Though Troi has no compunction about sharing Riker's body with Dr. Crusher, and in fact encourages the act, she teases the first officer
about his amnesiac encounter with the Bajoran Conn officer. Her final betrayal of the family begins when she plays the whore ("Preemptive Strike") to gain time to talk with Picard, and lies to him throughout.
Sexuality within the Trek family
Within the structure as laid out above, there is a great deal of
explicit and implied sexual ties. Riker and Deanna have had a previous
relationship, which for several seasons stood on the verge of blooming
again. By the end of the series, Troi and Worf were almost involved. For
the whole of the series there was an unfulfilled attraction between Crusher
and Picard. When hosting the Trill ambassador Odan, Riker's body served as
Beverly's lover. Using the paradigm set forth in this paper, this network of interconnecting sexual relationships can be understood.
As good a place as any to start is Data's nightmare. Picard has
already informed us that Data sees things not as they seem, but as they
truly are ("Justice"), and what is it that Data sees? Worf is eating Troi,
and offers a piece to Data; Data later offers Picard a slice. Crusher is
sucking out Riker's brains, and later she, too, offers some to the
captain: "It's delicious!"
There is a current of incestuous feelings running in this family
relationship. First and foremost is the actual sexual tie between William
Riker and Beverly Crusher, "The Host." These are also the only two
characters to publicly espouse a familiar relationship--on two separate
occasions one spoke of the other as a sibling ("The Host," "Gambit Part
1"). In Riker's imagined future ("Future Imperfect") Deanna has left ship
with Picard, leaving Beverly for him. Later, in "Parallels," Worf asks
Deanna to become Alexander's surrogate mother, Worf's stepsister of sorts;
in the same episode he begins to ask Riker's blessing on the emerging
relationship, and Will comments that Worf sounds like he's asking for
permission to date his [Riker's] sister. Of course, in several of the
alternate realities of this episode, Worf and Deanna end up in bed.
No matter how much sexual tension is created between the characters,
Picard can never, in this model, actually become Beverly Crusher's lover.
A child has a difficult time accepting his parents' sexuality, he believes,
"My parents don't do *that*." Indeed, when there is a hint of a sexual
relationship between the two senior characters, it is a clue for all to
perceive that something is seriously wrong; when Beverly reported that the
false Picard wooed her, Riker instantly realized that there must be some
sort of alien influence at work.
Of course, this does not mean that the parents are free to mate with
anyone else. No relationship either of the two officers indulges in goes
well. Even holodeck women who dare kiss or flirt with Picard disappear
("The Big Goodbye," "10011001"), and every man who gives Beverly Crusher so much
as a casual glance is doomed ("The High Ground," "A Matter of Time,"
"Starship Mine"). Even a man who sets her up with someone other than
Picard gets killed, eventually ("Conspiracy"). Vash is an amusing diversion while
on Risa ("Captain's Holiday"), but when she invades the family's turf
("Qpid"), she is quickly put in her place--note how flustered the captain
gets trying to introduce the two women, and how Beverly casually sits in
Picard's seat and drinks from his cup, quickly establishing her rights of
possession. Later, Crusher takes the intruder to Ten-Forward, and hands
her off to Riker, along with a discarded drinking glass, leaving the First
Officer to dispose of both as he will.
Neela Darren ("Lessons") is a much more likely threat to the status
quo--she shared many of the positive traits embodied by Dr. Crusher, to the
extent that when asked if they had met, Beverly volunteers that she likes
the stellar cartographer. But, of course, the outsider does break up the
cozy twosome who started the episode around Picard's dinner table, and so
she must be disposed of. Not only does Darren leave the ship, as did Vash,
but for the impertinence of challenging the family matriarch, Nella must
first literally endure a trial by fire.
Beverly's men fare even worse--although the father figure may stray
a bit, such behaviour on the maternal side is inexcusable. Jack Crusher
died under unexplained circumstances. Odan died, was unsexed, and rejected. And
Ronin, who offers everything Picard never can, is killed by Crusher
And so, with but one exception, Crusher remains inviolate, leaving
Troi and Yar to fulfill their desires. Geordi is interested in Tasha, and
Data sleeps with her; Troi has been intimate with Riker, slept in
fantasies with Worf, when possessed by Ambassador Alkar ("Man of the People") she
sleeps with the first man she sees, and it was in her guise that Ardra
("Devil's Due") tries to seduce Picard. Barclay sees her as a fantasy
lover while imagining Crusher as the comforting mother.
What is a real family?
Of course, each character has some biological family ties, parents, grandparents, or siblings. In this context biological children shall not be discussed, since they all are interlinked with the _Enterprise_ family.
Which family is the more potent force for our characters? From the evidence of the episodes, it is the family aboard the ship which has more power, which creates a home. True families are places of danger for our heroes, people who portend disaster.
Picard's family tries to lure him down to Earth. Crusher's grandmother leaves a legacy which nearly kills three members of the crew. Lwaxanna Troi is a nuisance to be avoided, and the image of Ian Andrew Troi ("Dark Page") is meant to separate mother and daughter. Kyle Riker is a cheat, bent on ruining his son's self esteem. Worf's brother sets a process in motion which nearly kills both Worf and Picard, and Worf's step-brother forces the entire crew to knowing violate the Prime Directive. Data's brother is the
definition of evil, his father is a selfish old man who's
desire to see his son nearly costs a young boy his life, and who is
ultimately killed by his own creation. Data's mother is a self-deluded
machine who had no qualms about leaving Data to die on a far off colony
world. Ishara Yar uses her sexuality to lure Data into trusting her and
allowing her plan to use the _Enterprise_ crew for her own ends to succeed,
Tasha's time travelling produces a daughter bent on destroying the crew,
especially Picard. The image of Geordi's mother ("Interface") nearly kills
him, and does force the abandonment of the probe's mission.
The mere mention of a family relationship should be enough to induce
trepidation. Lore introduces Data to the nomenclature of a family, just
before he offers him the champagne laced with knockout drugs, and Lore's
last words before Data "kills" him are, "I love you, brother." Koros ("Heart
of Glory" calls Worf "brother" while trying to get him to betray the
_Enterprise_, and Worf reciprocate the title just before killing the
Klingon. The alien-infested admirals call Riker "brother" when they think he
will help them assimilate the _Enterprise_. Cmdr. Leitjen ("Identity
Crisis") calls Geordi her "little brother," and it was duty on her away team
which nearly robs him of humanity. The only way Beverly can shake off the
advances of Prof. Rasmussen ("A Matter of Time") is to remind them both that
she might be his many-times great grandmother. The "sons of Soong" are, in
their own way, as destructive a force as "the Duras sisters."
Within the crew, the pseudo-family is rarely graced with the
terminology of a biological family, but when it is, trouble is afoot. Yar
speaks of herself and Worf as "orphans who found [themselves] this family,"
and to Picard she says "I wish I could say you'd been like a father to me,"
but these are the speeches her friends hear after she has been killed ("Skin
of Evil"). When Remick reports to Admiral Quinn ("Coming of Age") after his
investigation into the crew and ship, all he can cite is "a casual
familiarity among the bridge crew, but mostly that comes from a sense of
teamwork...and a feeling of family." Remmick then asks if he might at some
point be considered for a posting on the ship, but instead, by the end of
the season, helps mastermind the plan to tear apart the Federation
("Conspiracy") which brought him aboard ship in the first place. And, as
specified above, when one member of the crew claims a family relationship
to another, sex is inevitably involved within the context of that
Replication: testing the theory
It is easy enough to watch a body of work and back-engineer a theory
to fit the evidence. A short analysis of fan fiction may prove to support
the theory advanced in this paper. The stories to be discussed came from a
variety of internet web and ftp sites.
Whether serious fiction or parody, action/adventure or romance, for
general audiences or works "for adults only," several themes run common to
the stories. Picard is the overwhelming authority figure, Crusher must
choose between a personal relationship with a single character (be it a
maternal relationship to Wesley or an intimate relationship with
Picard) and her duty to the crew as a whole, a choice the male characters
are almost never asked to make; Wesley Crusher is the bone thrown to
perceived demographics, and a dismal failure at capturing the audience's
loyalty. Troi is a "mind reading gossip monger." Yar is a crybaby who
continually causes more trouble than she is worth. Worf is more concerned
with the Klingon side of his nature than his duties as a Starfleet officer,
until Troi civilises him. Riker is interested in two things only--women and
inheriting Picard's job. Geordi is type of guy who hangs around in crowds
because he doesn't know how to stand out alone, but the rest of the crew
allows him this base of safety. Data is too curious for his own good, often
getting his nose caught off for his daring to stick it where it did not
belong, but he always learns something new from the experience.
"We're his family," La Forge says of Worf in "The Icarus Factor,"
and later that episode Data concurs: "We are his family." For better or for
worse, with all the accompanying wrinkles and warts, the main crew is a
family. They fight and make up, for, as Crusher often reminds Data
("Datalore," "Brothers"), "Brothers forgive." And just as in families
certain cultural and interpersonal themes play themselves out beyond the
conscious decisions of the members, so too in TNG, where the best laid plans
of the Powers That Be sometimes took left turns to conform to the family
structure built into the characters.
And so Picard, the strong solitary leader, developed crochets when
crossed. And so, a romance leading to an alternate timeline marriage was
created for Beverly and Jean-Luc when for seven years the creators said they
were "just friends." And so Worf, who claimed human women were too fragile
for him, takes up with Deanna. And so Data, the man with no feelings, is
able to install his chip, inherit a well of emotions, and move onto a new
level of understanding just as we for whom he substitutes moved from a
weekly exploration of the TNG series universe to the less frequent but
broader exploration of the TNG movie universe.
And as we wait eagerly for news of the next Star Trek movie, we can
use the theory of a traditional, patriarchal family structure to sort
through the mass of rumours in our search for the truth which we only be
fully unfolded across the movie screens.
Thanks are due my husband and children, for watching four
hours of TNG a day, six days a week over the course of several months, and
for putting up with a woman who would blurt out amazing Star Trek insights
at the most unlikely moments. A very early version of this theory was first
proposed in the fanzine _New Voyages_, June 1994, and was developed in
letters and email posts to various fellow Trekkers,especially the members of
"The Adventure Continues" and the BONC:TNG group. Meg (the oMEGa female)
Stein was of great help in uncovering Worf's place in the universe. Thanks
to everyone who, over the course of the past year, put up with my ravings.
Greeley, Andrew M., _Confessions of a Parish Priest_, 1987, Pocket Books,
Nemeck, Larry., _The Star Trek:The Next Generation Companion_, 1995, Pocket
Books, NY, NY.
ALTHEA KATZ holds a Master's Degree in Rhetorical Criticism from Queens
College/CUNY. She works as a licensed firearms instructor and translator.
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