Friday, December 31, 2021

Star Trek: The Outcast

Episode: "The Outcast"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5, Episode 17
Original Air Date: March 16, 1992

Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous race called the J'naii.  Actually, Soren makes the first move, sharing with Wil that not only is she (pronoun deliberately chosen) attracted to him, too, but she identifies as female.  This admission comes at great personal risk.  Both the gender identification and the attraction to a gendered being are strict taboos in her world.  Any J'naii found to identify as either gender is subjected to intense psychological therapy to "cure" them of the condition.

LGBTQIA+ activists (as they are known nearly 30 years later) coordinated letter writing campaigns to the creators of Star Trek - and every other TV show and movie studio of the era - encouraging them to include gay and lesbian relationships in their stories.  "The Outcast" was produced in an effort to be more inclusive.  Fortunately now, the conversation has become more sophisticated and we all know that sexuality and gender are two separate, if related, matters.  Right?  Okay, good.

But in 1992, acknowledging differences along either spectrum was a big deal.  Philadelphia, a landmark film in the visibility of homosexuality on screen, wouldn't be released until December of the following year.  Much of the episode's rhetoric, particularly Soren's impassioned speech at her trial, matches that of the real-world political movement in the early '90s.  The pressure was strong to "get it right" and many believed Trek didn't go far enough.  Indeed, Jonathan Frakes himself felt that the better and more daring choice would have been to make Soren male.

Personally, I think once you control for the era, they did okay.

On a completely separate point... our daughter made an interesting comment while watching: "I think the Klingons are really Hufflepuffs."  Naturally, I argued that individual Klingons would likely be sorted into different houses.  But the obvious broader question couldn't be ignored: how would each of the TNG characters be sorted into Hogwarts houses?  Wouldn't you know, the Internet is already on the case.  From Sara Sanderson at Screen Rant:

Picard - Ravenclaw
Troi - Hufflepuff
Riker - Slytherin
LaForge - Ravenclaw
Dr. Crusher - Hufflepuff
Wesley - Ravenclaw
Data - Hufflepuff
Worf - Gryffindor
Guinan - Hufflepuff
Yar - Gryffindor

Thoughts?  For those with limited Potterverse experience, I offer the following oversimplification of the defining personal characteristic for the members of each house: Ravenclaw = smart, Hufflepuff = loyal, Slytherin = ambitious and Gryffindor = brave.  I'm okay with most of Sanderson's choices.  However, I would switch Riker and Worf.  Over the long run, I think Riker is better defined by his lack of personal ambition.  Furthermore, while Worf is certainly brave, his obsession with honor is the least altruistic of TNG's principal motivations.  So in as much as someone must be in Slytherin, I think Worf is the best choice.

Acting Notes

Melinda Culea (Soren) was born May 5, 1955 in Western Springs, Illinois.  The modeling work came before acting.  She is best known for her 24-episode run on The A-Team as Amy Amanda Allen.  Other television gigs included Glitter, Knots Landing and Brotherly Love.  Films include Wagons East! and Dying on the Edge.  She is married to director Peter Markle.

Culea is a published author.  Her book Wondago is an illustrated mystery novel.


  1. Of course, here (at the end of) 2021, has completed that journey quite ably.

    I always get hung up on the name of Hufflepuff (I know, I know), but my sister picked it as her house, and looking into it she probably chose the right one.

    1. Discovery. I don’t know if I coded it wrong, but it got dropped from the original comment.

    2. Yes, it's a silly name. But Hufflepuff is my house, too.

  2. I like the who would be in what house. !
    Happy New Year !

    I would be a Hufflepuff.

  3. I just don't think any belong in Slytherin to be honest. Dr. Crusher I see in Ravenclaw. I took a quiz I found online and it put me in Gryffindor.

    1. Crusher as Ravenclaw works, though I can see the Hufflepuff argument. Within the TNG framework, her loyalty to Picard, especially, is central to her character.