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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S5E17 "The Outcast"

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"What? What do you mean I'm on a brave quest for cock in the face of lesbian tyranny?"

Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous race known as the J'naii, who dares to be female.

Tropes found in "The Outcast":

  • Bizarre Alien Biology/Bizarre Alien Reproduction: The J'naii are supposed to be genderless (although they all look similar to female humans). However, nothing about J'naii reproduction makes any sense, as the script muddles together three totally different kinds of genderlessness. The asexual cast to their society would make sense if they reproduced by cloning, but they do reproduce sexually, in which case being a One-Gender Race should make their interactions more sexual, not less. The persecution of those who prefer a gender would make sense for a race of hermaphrodites (where everyone is both sexes simultaneously) but Soren describes their sex act as a precisely symmetrical affair (i.e. the J'naii are all one single sex—they're isogametes.) An isogamete preferring one sex over another makes about as much sense as a Cyclops preferring one eye over another.
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  • Boldly Coming: Riker is not one to let something as shallow as ambiguous gender and an unflattering hairstyle stand between him and falling madly in love with an alien he just met.
  • Broken Aesop/Clueless Aesop:
    • This episode was intended as an allegory about LGBT discrimination, but as Cracked put it, "The episode's message ends up completely garbled. Intended as a condemnation of homophobia, the episode instead comes off as the story of one woman's brave quest for cock in the face of lesbian tyranny." That was kind of the point—switch places and have the 'straight person' metaphor be the minority and the 'LGBT person' metaphor rule society, but it didn't come across very well. Jonathan Frakes has gone on record about being disappointed that Soren hadn't been played by a male actor. Indeed, all of the J'naii were played by female actresses in Hollywood Homely costumes and makeup, which broke the verisimilitude of them being "genderless".
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    • In an episode meant to (covertly) address LGBT issues, Riker's discussions with Soren about gender and relationships never even mention any kind of relationship other than heterosexual ones. Since her race is physically genderless, there is no particular reason that a relationship with a female might not be equally possible. But this possibility is not even hinted at, and the episode strongly emphasizes that Soren very specifically self-identifies as a heterosexual female.
    • The "psychotectic therapy" employed by the J'naii to adjust the sexual identity of individuals like Soren has a disturbing overtone of Cure Your Gays. This is made worse by Riker's assertion that Dr. Crusher can reverse it, implying that sexuality is something that can be medically modified on demand.
  • Compressed Vice: Worf is bizarrely prejudiced against non-gendered beings. Note that there isn't a hint of this during his romance with Jadzia Dax on Deep Space 9.
    • Note however that Worf's prejudice apparently doesn't run so deep that it prevents him from offering to help Riker to save Soren from the psychotectic therapy.
    • Jadzia is a bad example given how she only has the memories of being a male; she herself is 100% female. And when you factor in Worf's comments regarding beards being a symbol of courage in "The Quality of Life" (and Crusher's astute observation that women cannot grow them, which has obvious implications) as well as the fact that women are barred from the High Council, we have on our hands a species with very rigid beliefs on gender. Worf is feeling uncomfortable not just because of prejudice, but because he has no idea how to act around them within the confines of Klingon culture.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The stigma of Soren's people against those who identify as a gender, and the "psychotectic therapy" they are forced to undergo to reintegrate into society, are the episode's awkward attempt at mirroring the stigma faced by people who identify as LGBTQ+ and criticisms of "conversion therapy" many of these people are forced to undergo.
  • Honor Before Reason: Worf knows that Riker will attempt to rescue Soren. He immediately offers to go with him.
    Worf: A warrior does not let a friend face danger alone.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Riker rejects the pronoun "it" for referring to a member of the (genderless) J'naii species for this very reason.
  • One-Gender Race: The J'naii who used to have separate genders, but evolved into a society with only one gender.
  • Out-of-Character Moment:
    • Worf breaks character for a scene in order to dismiss a certain method of playing poker as "a woman's game" (i.e. a weak one) in order to enforce the Aesop that the Federation isn't as advanced in its gender politics as any other, "less evolved" spacefaring culture. It's jarring hearing it from a Starfleet character since we rarely, if ever, see sexism in the fleet, but it's especially jarring coming from a Klingon character like Worf, as he comes from a culture with a completely different history than Earth's where sexism never really caught on in the first place.
    • Worf also states he's disturbed by the concept of a hermaphroditic species that didn't have a male/female differentiation. Worf had never previously given, nor ever gave again, any such opinion or demonstrate a similar prejudice.
  • Persecution Flip: Heterosexual people with binary gender are persecuted for their sexual orientation.
  • Trans Equals Gay: A major part of the reason the episode's Aesop is garbled. Soren's problem is that she is a member of a species that has developed to only have one androgynous gender, yet she self-identifies as a female and is attracted to the male Riker. She exhibits no interest in the female members of the crew. So her issue is one of gender identity, rather than sexual orientation. The writers do not appear to have understood the difference.
  • Very Special Episode: Or a very lame attempt at one to say the least. Various commentators have observed that it stands out in attempting to convey An Aesop about a topic that the producers were so uncomfortable with that they would not even allow for said topic (persecution against LGBT people) to be mentioned in any way, instead burying it in subtext and relying on audiences to get the context themselves. Not to mention that the episode's Downer Ending takes away from the intended message, not least because the "cure" is implied to work.


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