The Outcast (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
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|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Robert Scheerer|
|Written by||Jeri Taylor|
|Featured music||Jay Chattaway|
|Original air date||March 16, 1992|
In this episode, Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous race which finds gender specificity unacceptable.
The Enterprise is contacted by a humanoid race called the J'naii. They are a race who have no gender. They ask the crew for help in finding a shuttle which has gone missing. It is theorized that the shuttle disappeared into a pocket of null space. This is a pocket of space which drains energy rapidly. In short order, a rescue mission is planned, for which Riker volunteers to pilot a shuttle to retrieve the shuttle crew. A member of the J'naii named Soren insists on accompanying Riker, acting as a co-pilot. Soren proves to be a good pilot. Riker and Soren share a meal and become more comfortable with each other. They are interrupted by another J'naii, and Soren leaves quickly.
While the pair is charting the null space, the shuttle is damaged, and Soren is injured. While being treated by Dr. Crusher, Soren asks her several questions about female gender identification. While Soren and Riker work on the shuttle, Soren confesses that she is attracted to Riker and states that she has a female gender identity. Soren explains that the J'naii are an androgynous species that view the expression of any sort of male or female gender, and especially sexual liaisons, as a sexual perversion. According to their official doctrine, the J'naii had evolved beyond gender and thus view the idea of male/female sexuality as primitive. Those among the J'naii who view themselves as possessing gender are ridiculed, outcast, and forced to undergo "psychotectic therapy" - a form of conversion therapy meant to remediate gender-specificity and allow acceptance back into J'naii society.
The affair between Riker and Soren grows and eventually is discovered. Soren is essentially put on trial where she passionately defends herself and expresses her outrage at what their society does to those who are different, before which Riker barges in and tries to take the blame for the situation without success. J'naii diplomats force Soren to undergo this therapy, citing reformed citizens' newfound happiness and desire to be normal. Riker's emotions and love for Soren grow and he decides that he cannot leave Soren to this fate. He tries to explain the situation to Picard, who is sympathetic to Riker but says that he cannot sanction a rescue mission as it violates the Prime Directive, not to mention Riker throwing away his career. Worf visits Riker in his quarters and offers to go with him on an "unannounced visit" to rescue Soren, since he is unwilling to let Riker face the task alone. When Riker and Worf beam down to the planet to rescue Soren, he realizes that the therapy has already been performed. Soren refuses to go with him, claiming that she is now happy and was sick during her affair with Riker. Soren apologizes to Riker, who returns dejectedly to the Enterprise with Worf.
This episode was intended to address the contemporary issue of LGBT rights. Before he died, franchise creator Gene Roddenberry had expressed support for having LGBT characters being written onto the series. While no such characters were officially included, this episode was designed to comment on sexual identity-based prejudice.
The episode was met with both praise and criticism from the LGBT community. In the case of the latter, criticism came from people who felt that it sanctioned the brainwashing therapy to which Soren was subjected, and others who felt that the creative staff abdicated their responsibility to explore the issue. Actor Jonathan Frakes, who played Riker, also commented that the episode was not daring enough, in that Soren, who was played by Melinda Culea, should have been more evidently male.
- Kay, Jonathan (June 30, 2001). "Gay 'Trek'". Salon. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.
- Nemecek, Larry. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion. Second Edition. 1992 Pocket Books. p. 194
- "Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25 must-watch episodes". Den of Geek. Retrieved 2019-07-08.
- Star Trek The Next Generation DVD set, volume 5, disc 5, selection 1.
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