Happy September, everyone! It’s the final month of summer for those living in the northern hemisphere, which means it’s the final month of the #BoldlyRead2018 Summer Reading Challenge. This month’s topics are Mixed-Background Characters and Incarceration & Criminal Justice.
The Star Trek universe has introduced us to many mixed-background characters who are a hybrid of two different species. Some of these characters include Spock, Deanna Troi, K’Ehleyr, Commander Sela, Tora Ziyal and B’Elanna Torres. While their stories are unique, the one thing most of them have in common is that they struggle due to their mixed-backgrounds.
Spock struggles to get along with his father and to fit in with other Vulcans due to being half-human, which can be seen in the TOS episode “Journey to Babel” and in the Kelvin timeline film Star Trek. In the TNG episode “Haven” Deanna Troi, who is half-human/half-Betazoid, chooses to honor the Betazoid custom of arranged marriage, which would have meant giving up the Starfleet career that she loved. K’Ehleyr and B’Elanna Torres both feel shame over their mixed-ground, which can be seen in TNG’s “The Emissary” and Voyager’s “Faces.”
Commander Sela feels outright disgust, which can be seen in TNG’s “Redemption II” when she tells Picard “Everything in me that was human died that day with my mother. All that’s left now is Romulan. Never doubt that.” DS9’s Tora Ziyal, my favorite of all these characters (they never should have killed her!!!) is a social outcast, which can be seen in the episode “For The Cause” when she says to Garek “I’m half-Bajoran, which means I’m an outcast back home. I can’t go back and neither can you.”
I want to encourage everyone to read another post from the Women at Warp blog that’s titled “Star Trek’s Tragic Hybrids.” It’s a great read that talks about the literary archetype of the tragic Mulatto. After reading it I have chosen book recommendations that rethink this archetype. They are The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow, Caucasia by Danzy Senna, and The Face: A Time Code by Ruth Ozeki. In addition to these books I also recommend the article “Mr. Spock Was A Biracial Role Model of the Notable Cool” by Arun Rath.
Incarceration & Criminal Justice
“Prime minister, even the most comfortable prison is still a prison.” – Captain Picard in the episode “The Hunted”
Earlier this year I read an amazing book called Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson and it has made me think about Star Trek episodes that touch on issues of incarceration and criminal justice. There are many episodes that include stories of characters who are put on trial and/or face punishment for laws they have inadvertently broken or crimes they did not commit, such as TNG’s “Justice” and “A Matter of Perspective” and “Encounter at Farpoint” (in this case it was all of humanity that was put on trial), DS9’s “Tribunal” and the film Star Trek VI. Other episodes tell stories of prisons, penal colonies, and prisoners of war, such as Enterprise’s “Canamar”, TNG’s “Chain of Command II” and “The Hunted,” DS9’s “Tribunal,” Voyager’s “The Chute” and “Repentance,” and the film Star Trek VI.
This important topic is covered in many books. Two recommendations I have, including Just Mercy, are The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander and Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate by Sister Helen Prejean.
I hope that you have all enjoyed this summer reading challenge and boldly reading what you haven’t read before. Please let us know what you have read by commenting below or tweeting using the hashtag #BoldlyRead2018. Read long and prosper!