‘THE OUTCAST’ (TNG)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
‘The Outcast’…oh dear…‘The Outcast‘ is one of those very peculiar, experimental episodes of the ‘Star Trek: TNG’ series that doesn’t work very well. It has this intriguing concept but seems executed poorly.
The episode features an alien race that seems to have only one gender – presumably female. In terms of background, the episode was meant to address the contemporary issues of LGBT rights during that time.
It was something that ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry had expressed support for before he died since he wanted LGBT characters to be featured in the series. This is no doubt a very intriguing notion.
The episode itself is meant to tackle and comment on real life transphobia and gender identity issues. However I did get this panging feeling of being uncomfortable about this episode tackling those issues.
I’m not alone on this one mind. Apparently the episode was met with praise and criticism by the LGBT community. Even Jonathan Frakes who plays Riker in the series said the episode wasn’t daring enough.
To understand these criticisms, we’ll have to look into the episode itself. The episode has the Enterprise helping this humanoid race known as the J’naii. It gets established the J’naii have no gender.
Okay, problem no. 1 here. When you’re introducing a new alien race into ‘Star Trek’, you want to establish the Enterprise making first contact with them for the first time. That is not what occurs here.
The first shot of the Enterprise bridge has the Starfleet crews and the J’naii already interacting with each other. We have no idea who these J’naii are since we aren’t given a proper introduction to them.
Wouldn’t it be proper to have the Enterprise come across the J’naii on their planet and gradually discover who they are instead of quickly establishing they have no gender. ‘The Original Series’ would do it.
Anyway, the J’naii ask the Enterprise for help in finding a shuttle that has gone missing. It’s assumed that the J’naii shuttle disappeared in a pocket of null space. The Enterprise ship soon finds the pocket.
Very soon, a rescue mission is prepared as Commander Riker volunteers to pilot an Enterprise shuttle to retrieve the J’naii shuttle from null space. One of the J’naii called Soren insists on accompanying Riker.
Melinda Culea guest stars as Soren. Now I have an issue with her character. During the episode, she gradually becomes curious about Riker. Soren wonders why there are two genders in the human race.
Now curiosity is okay especially when one alien race is getting to know another one. But it’s another thing when Soren starts getting attracted to Riker and starts to fall in love with him. I’m serious here!
Most of the time, Soren is obsessed with the differences between her race and humanity as well as being attracted to Riker. It’s especially when she has to focus on her job at hand to save the J’naii shuttle.
Riker also doesn’t help matters since when after their mission is completed, he starts kissing her. The J’naii are forbidden to intermix with other species. So how come Riker completely ignores his duties?!
The argument Jonathan Frakes makes is that Soren should have been more evidently male in the episode as opposed to being seemingly female. It would be unusual to see but interesting nonetheless.
I don’t think the episode should’ve gone with the approach of Riker and Soren falling in love with each other. It makes it less an episode about supporting LGBT rights as it was initially intended to be here.
It gets annoying when Soren is found out falling in love with Riker and is subjected to having brainwashing therapy by her people. This was something the LGBT community criticised the story for.
Riker even puts his career in jeopardy when he tries to rescue Soren from her own people. He even has Worf accompanying him to help her out. But as Riker tries to rescue Soren, she changes her mind.
Soren seems resigned to believing she was sick in the time she spent with Riker, though she outwardly spoke against her people on her rights earlier. Riker says he loves her. Soren doesn’t acknowledge it.
‘The Outcast’ has been an uncomfortable and unsatisfying ‘TNG’ episode to sit through on re-watch. I appreciate the messages it was initially trying to convey, but the execution came across poorly for me.
‘The Outcast’ (TNG) rating – 2/10
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