Capt. Jonathan: Stardate: [This Stardate No Longer Serves This Blog. It Now Reports to i09.] After our brief hiatus, we’re back! I’d like to blame our break on Cool Star Stuff like the play I’ve been working on and Capt. Tracy’s book project, but I’d really only be doing that to make vague references to our other projects that we like totally want to be asked about but only so we can say that, ugh, we so can’t talk about it, when, in truth, we *can* talk about it but we think that if we say we can’t it’ll sound less like braggery and more like some Section 31 shit we’ve got cooking.
Sorry! So, to celebrate our complete neglect of this blog for, let’s face it, what was probably just an especially shiny piece of tinfoil, we decided to watch an episode matched to our moral composition: “The Defector.”
Capt. Tracy: Stratford-upon-Enterprise! This character study opens with a Holodeck performance of Henry V, and follows a tight five-act structure that doesn’t retell, but riffs on, the play’s questions of leadership, loyalty, and trust.
JLP has to decide whether to trust a guy who I apparently remember from Who’s The Boss, Jarok, when he tells him the Romulans are planning a secret base and treachery and release the hounds of war, etc. Jarok tells a bunch of lies, but it’s when he mentions the responsibility he feels towards the next generation (see what I did there?), particularly his daughter, that JLP takes him at his word . . . sort of.
Capt. Jonathan: I think the episode kind of slacks off on using Troi, though. Yeah, she’s thrown into the interrogation of Jarok, but we never actually see her *do* anything. Riker and Jarok go back-and-forth faster than a Mamet play, but the empath who could probably settle everything in like two seconds?
With TNG’s early seasons tragically Troi-deficient, there was plenty of real estate in “The Defector” that just wasn’t used. Of course, the mystery of Jarok’s allegiance isn’t something one wants to unravel too soon. The ambiguity of both sides – Federation and Romulan – make this episode tick in a way only Ronald D. Moore can pull off.
Capt. Tracy: This episode revisits “The Battle” by demonstrating the way history is rewritten by different parties. Do you call it a massacre? Do you call it a campaign? Depends what side you’re on.
But what this dispute does highlight is that neither side, Romulan or Federation, can claim to be wholly “men of peace.” The high ground is hard to find when power is up for grabs.
Capt. Jonathan: But the real lesson of this episode is: when you’re going out, always bring Klingons. It might just come in handy.
Yeah. Jean-Luc used his Massive Space Brain to pretty much own any move Kirk ever came up with.
Capt. Tracy: I love JLP’s gambit in this episode, and it (re)establishes him as a steely-eyed missile man. But I was more deeply touched by Jarok’s suicide, and despair over the belief that he had betrayed his people “for nothing.” Because of course it wasn’t for nothing. The sacrifice Jarok made was remarkably forward thinking. He lost his connection to his family and planet, but did so in the hope of a better future–one where JLP can deliver his suicide note to his daughter because communication and travel is no longer constrained by violence. It’s another lesson for Data–who initially doesn’t understand why Jarok wrote a letter no one will be able to read–in what it means to be not human, but humanist. The capacity to envision a better world in the midst of hopeless and senseless violence landed with me deeply in this particular disheartening and dismaying cultural moment.
Capt. Jonathan: Seriously. With what’s happening in Ferguson as I write this, with the murder of Michael Brown, it’s hard not to remember the social importance of TREK. The show, through its various incarnations, has always held dear the idea that no matter how cracked the foundation of society seems to be, there is always cause for optimism, even when that optimism comes through the dying breath of those who try to do better. Behind all the awkward Klingon boob jokes we make on this blog, there lies this, which is the real reason we have devoted essentially our lives to TREK fandom.
Capt. Tracy: Q: What’s the one similarity between Jarok’s role on this episode and his work on “Who’s The Boss”?
A: Judith Light-style mega-shoulder pads.
Capt. Jonathan: Q: Say your partner wants to try something new in bed, and you’re not so sure. What do you do?
A: Bring in the Klingons and ask her if we should all die together?