First of all, I’d like to thank fellow contributor Kerry Purvis, author of the original two entries in the T’Pol’s Book Club series, who gave me permission to use her formatting. Since Star Trek and literature are both examinations of what it means to be human, why not study them together?
Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, is a story I believe T’Pol would enjoy. Jane Austen is one of few authors I know who can write a romance that is both logically and emotionally satisfying (and I say this as someone who used to borrow her mom’s romance novels on a regular basis as a teenager). Austen is as sharp an observer of humanity as any alien could be, but not without empathy, as she understands the point of view of even the most ridiculous characters. The story of young couples learning to see past social restrictions and their own biases to understand each other is one to which everyone can relate, as we can see in the following Star Trek episodes:
Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice is obsessed with getting her daughters married. What might sound silly to a modern reader is actually serious business; for women of their time and social class, marriage was one of the few ways to secure a livelihood. Deanna Troi, ship’s counselor on the U.S.S. Enterprise, has more options than the Bennet girls do, but her mother, Lwaxana Troi, is still convinced that arranging a marriage is for Deanna’s own good. Both mothers want the best for their daughters, embarrassing and misguided as their efforts can be. It’s a fine line for the younger women to walk between respecting tradition and determining their own future.
DS9 “His Way”
Mr. Darcy, like Odo, loves deeply and is terrible at showing it. Odo rewrites history and turns against his own species to save Kira Nerys; Mr. Darcy reconnects with his worst enemy to save Elizabeth Bennet’s family reputation. When Mr. Darcy and Odo confess their feelings, their blunt delivery fails them. What Vic Fontaine teaches Odo, and what Mr. Darcy learns from his first rejection, is to be open to stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things, like dancing, or socializing outside your class. Like Kira, Elizabeth is slow to trust after past betrayals, and she doesn’t need a hero. She needs someone who will be vulnerable with her, and let her be the same.
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Wickham tried to convince 15-year-old Georgiana Darcy to run away with him. In Star Trek: Enterprise, Tolaris mind-melded with T’Pol without her consent and infected her with Pa’nar Syndrome. Both instances of abuse are kept secret to protect the victims’ reputations, but that does not prevent the consequences from spreading. Wickham preys on another teenage girl, Lydia Bennet. T’Pol nearly loses her commission when she meets someone with the same disease, which would be treatable if not for the stigma against mind-melding. In both cases, there is the question of what will do more harm: speaking out or keeping silent.
- How much input should a parent have on their child’s romantic life? Where should one draw the line between guidance and interference?
- Would you give an admirer a second chance after turning them down the first time? What would it take for them to win you over?
- Is it ever right to let an abuser go without holding them accountable? On the other hand, is it worth calling them out if the result brings more harm to those who have been abused?
- What do Regency England, our own time and the Star Trek future universe have in common? How are they different? What can we learn from comparing and contrasting them?
A few more Trek episodes with similar themes include TOS “Amok Time,” TNG “The Perfect Mate,” DS9 “You Are Cordially Invited,” VOY “Blood Fever,” ENT “Fusion,” ENT “Home,” LDS “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie,” and SNW “Spock Amok.”