Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I am loath to admit it, but my initiation as a Trekkie began with Voyager, arguably the most insipid and crappiest of the Trek series.

(Pausing to note the irony of feeling shame over the specifics of Trekkism rather than the Trekkism itself. Pause complete.)

SF Debris, a really rather good video review series the boyfriend turned me onto, did a perceptive review of "Body and Soul," in which the holographic Doctor, for reasons of life and death, is transferred into the cybernetic implants of Seven of Nine, and as a side effect, ends up controlling her body. The Doctor has always been an excellent foil for Seven; he, as a holographic projection, has always yearned for physical experiences, while she has no interest in the same. The episode ends up being a trite lesson in humanity for Seven -- life is pleasure, blah, blah, blah.

The reviewer astutely points out that while this circumstance is uniformly played for broad comedy, it is, at its core, a disturbing idea, primarily because Seven's traumatic past, as a bionic drone in a collective, involved complete loss of both bodily and mental autonomy. That there's absolutely no hint at Seven's mental state -- that she might plausibly be at risk of some kind of emotional relapse or PTSD -- is amazing.

The term "mental rape" was bandied about in our discussion, recalling instances where the Doctor violated Seven's express wishes about her body and social interactions. While I could see where two very close friends might, at first, see the humour in such a situation, I couldn't see where the one being controlled wouldn't eventually start feeling unsettled, or even terrified by her circumstances once it was clear her protests weren't being heard.

On a broader note, half the episode's comedy is drawn from Seven's aforementioned stoicism. A model of efficiency, by nature she has no interests in sensual experiences like food, drink, or human intimacy. So her protests start with light-hearted indulgences -- cheesecake -- and continue with pleasures whose darker undertones at the hands of an external force are completely ignored, like drunkenness and sexual arousal. Throughout the episode, the Doctor lectures Seven on learning to enjoy little things, and comes off completely paternalistic and patronizing.

While I love the Doctor, he's a hologram. That's not to say he isn't sentient, because he clearly is, and his capacities for empathy and learning are nothing short of astounding. But his knowledge and expertise, while vast, are programmed. As much experience as he can siphon from the computer's databases, he works and exists in a relatively stable, comfortable environment. 

Seven, meanwhile, has seen trauma from a very young age, and has lived much of her adult life seeing much of the universe, engaged in constant growth and destruction, absorbing and erasing races and civilizations in a blink.

To be fair, that isn't anywhere near normal or healthy as we consider human life. Seven has lived her existence on a vaster, more epic scale than anyone she will ever know; she is more than human, and of course, at the same time, much less. But to constantly act as though her former existence was a mere blip, that she hasn't lived the life and nightmare of gods, that it was something she can get over with a little cheesecake, is gross and unseemly.

On top of all this is the creepy undercurrent of characterizing Seven's issues as a simple matter of humourlessness, as though the Doctor's transgressions and condescension would be much more acceptable if she only had a more developed sense of humour. The episode plays this as a symptom of her former life, which is fair, but it also smacks of the "uptight bitch" stereotype that slanders so many women. If only she could take a joke better!  

posted at 3:04:57 pm

December 5, 2010   10:35 AM PST
Hey, at least you're not an Enterprise fan.
I like your points on Seven, The scale o her experiences, good or bad is so vast, it's silly to say she hasn't lived. It's interesting sfdebris didn't really explore that angle.

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Glo'ri'a'na, noun:
1. An alternative form of "Gloria."
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.


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