Trek RomancesBy Karen Comer
Posted at August 30, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
Fools Give You Reasons, Wise Men Never Try:
Trek Romances and why they don't work
It all started with Gene Roddenberry's puerile attitudes towards, women and sex. To him women were to be cute and kinda dumb, cute and available, cute and subordinate. You get the picture. After this unfortunate legacy Trek romances have never gotten off the ground. When was the last time a Trek couple was famous for their on-screen chemistry? I don't mean do their respective fanclubs like them, but do they "light up the screen?" The answer is NO!
The trouble is that the show's creators usually don't plan the romance from the start but let the plot lead into romance. That`s why there are so many chemistry-less couples, most notably Kira/Odo, Worf/Dax, Rom/Leeta Kira and any of her boyfriends, Troi/Riker were a bore, Paris/Torres have fizzled, Picard and Vash were ridiculous. Kirk bedded the alien of the week if you can call that romance. The key to an audience's heart is always the chemistry between the actors because it helps the audience suspend their disbelief. Smart producers check the chemistry between the actors first and make casting decisions from there. But they must know from the beginning what they want from a potential couple and where they want to take them. The biggest mistake is to pair two people only because one of the actors, for whatever reason, plays his or her character as if in love with another character. The fans then begin a write in campaign to make their poor love-sick hero/heroine a winner. This *Poor XY, she's so unhappy lets pair him with YX to make her happy* is an amateur's strategy. It's romance by mathematical equation. A+B = romance because we write it that way.
Another thing that Trek has done to death is best friends-turned-lovers where there's always one who loves more and other who loves less til *the moment of clarity* brings them together. Examples, B`Elanna had a thing for her friend Tom but denied it because he was such lady's man til her moment of clarity on Blood Fever. Kira never showed any sign she was sexually attracted to Odo til her moment of clarity in His Way. Worf had no thing for Jadzia til his moment of clarity in Looking for Par Mach...Thanks to Breen torture Ezri had a moment of clarity that told her she loves Julian. There's always that juvenile *moment* that suddenly resolves things which should be handled maturely. All the couples are then reduced to spouting dialog typical for old melodramas from the 30s,40s, and 50s and behave like blushing schoolkids - always shy, always insecure, always goofy. Geordi Laforge was the Chief Engineer on the flagship of the Federation and he couldn't get a date! This is ridiculous for people supposedly in their 30s,40s and 50s.
Sex: You knew I would get to this eventually didn't you? To make sex unappealing TPTB use the following strategy:
a) Imply sexual intercourse only between characters played by the oldest actors on the show ( Odo's lost virginity, Winn & Dukat's bed games, Picard and youthful Vash; characters played by 2 men in their late 50s and a woman in mid 60s)
b.) Weird or cartoonish sex and sexual situations; The Ferrengi and Lwaxana, Odo and Lwaxana, The Intendant and Zek (Yeck!), Dukat and Kira's mom, Q and Janeway, Quark and Grilka.
c) Torrid sex between characters played by good-looking actors must be shown as a comedy ( Worf and Dax's mating on Looking for ParMach..., Tom and B`Elanna's attempted mating in Blood fever). Also, since we're talking about aggressive sex here the *Aggressor* is always a female character otherwise, God forbid, someone could think ST glorifies rape!
In other cases lovers wake up usually dressed in pajamas and nighties although we all know there was supposedly a night of passion (exceptions are Ezri and Bashir in WYLB probably because it was the last episode so no one had to answer for it).
d) Orgasm, when implied, is always caused by a nonhuman source of pleasure. For example, Arissa goes Ah, Oh when Odo linked with her, Kira goes Ah, Oh when Odo linked with her. In both cases a nonhuman touch - Holding hands, which is deliberately chosen for its' innocence, gives more physical and spiritual pleasure than normal sexual intercourse. We are supposed to believe from the events of Amok Time that touching two fingers with her husband is quite enough for Amanda.
e.) Lust is always caused by possession - the DS9 crew goes gaga in Fascination only because a telepath infected them with some virus. Nurse Chapel can only tell Spock she loves him when under "The Naked Time" virus. Tom and B'Elanna lose control only because invisible aliens played with their hormones. Picard and Crusher only show their attraction to each other openly two times, and both under alien influence. Vulcans only want to do it when in heat. Trek should really stop explaining normal and natural things like sexual desire, with fairy-tale imitations if they want to be taken seriously.
f.) Homosexuality - is either used for the sake of ratings or only evil characters have bisexual tendencies, which says a lot about the attitudes of the creators. Example; Nana Visitor plays Kira, possessed by an evil alien on Dramatis Personae, like a bisexual temptress with a thing for Jadzia. Later, when the Intendant was created, she also chose to play her as an even more openly bisexual woman. In both cases we have evil persons and in both cases TPTB gave their blessing. OTOH, when gay fans asked for the issue to be dealt with seriously, Garak (who was suspected to be gay) had his scenes with Bashir cut to the point that Bashir and O`Brien constantly spending time together became even more suspicious. Then in the last season TPTB tried to please the fans with slash references between them. This is as immature and offensive a way to deal with the topic as to say *It`s trendy to be lesbian*
We have an opportunity here with a new series which, I believe, is an almost certainty. Can't we get it right this time? We want to see a mature, real, sparkling romance on Trek. Perhaps G Boujold was right when she accused the producers of creating a cartoon character for Janeway. It seems they cannot handle the science fiction format. I truly believe that on some level they think that the show is beneath them and subconsciously wish to laugh at the characters. Sam and Diane, who were created to be laughed at, did better than this! The producers could never figure out why their square jawed, starfleet heroes (Kirk, Riker, Bashir, Paris) were rejected by women in favor of mysterious, Spock, aloof Picard, sexy Dukat, and outrageous Q.
The problem is they have a child's view of sex appeal. They think that for women, handsome equals sexy. This has been proven untrue on four different series. Women are attracted to men who engage their minds and hearts not their eyes. Paris was interesting when he was a smart ass, but soon morphed into Tom Paris Boy Scout. Tuvok had possibilities until the male staff became obsessed with Seven's curves and forgot the rest of the cast. Dukat stole the show from everyone with his lithe grace and throaty purr, until the creators realised that women were attracted to him and decided to turn him into Damien III.
They just can't handle the real facts of life. Sex appeal is not logical and it does not reside in the width of the eyes, or measurements, or physical beauty, or even moral virtue. A person either has it or they don't. Mark Leonard had it, Marc Alaimo has it, Patrick Stewart has it. Get a casting director who understands these things.
Karen Comer is a new contributor to the Trek Nation