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July 16 2024


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Angel One

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at June 1, 2007 - 9:05 PM GMT

See Also: 'Angel One' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise is on its way to a crucial mission in the Neutral Zone, where Romulans are threatening an outpost and the lone starship defending it, when it diverts to Angel One to look for possible survivors from a Federation freighter destroyed years earlier in a collision with an asteroid. The planet is run by women who indeed found the survivors but quickly labeled them fugitives for objecting to the all-female government. However, some of the women of Angel One are no happier with the matriarchy than these men, and they have married and had children with the survivors. When first Yar and Troi, then Riker, try to persuade the men to return to the Federation, the men refuse, even though they face a death sentence if they remain. Riker is ready to beam them up despite their objections but a virus has left the ship incapacitated, and Crusher refuses to allow them aboard. While she rushes to find an antidote before hostilities erupt with the Romulans, Riker manages to persuade planetary leader Beata to spare the lives of the fugitives and their wives, exiling them from what passes for civilized society on Angel One.

Analysis: So there's this planet populated by butch womyn and girly men - not, you know, that we approve of stereotypes or anything, just that we should call it like it is. The womyn are in charge, and it's been that way for generations, and everyone is happy...except the men, who have no rights, and the womyn, who are secretly frustrated by having to make tough decisions like whether to execute criminals. Even the chief womyn secretly long for some manly men to come sweep them off their feet. Luckily for Mistress Ariel - the apparent vice president of the entire planet - a Federation ship named after a hunky warrior god encounters trouble nearby, and even though the manly men soon tire of the womyn and set about trying to change the status quo, Ariel is only too happy to pretend to be an upstanding womyn while at night she sneaks off to help her offworld lover. Planetary leader Beata has her own problems: not only does she have to figure out what to do about the rebellious men, but a sexy manly man from a starship turns up to plead their case, and though she has work to do, she just can't resist his furry chest and waggling eyebrows.

Do I really have to review this episode?

Oh, fine. Let's start with the aforementioned stereotypes, since, apparently, a society of women cannot thrive unless they have emasculated, seduced or executed all hairy-chested men on the planet. Calling this a matriarchy is a joke; it's a patriarchy with women in charge instead of men, a superficial reversal of human gender roles from a Western technological era far before that of Angel One. It's a bit like the society from "Justice," without the religious element or the rampant public sex, but with the same death penalty without trial for infractions that never quite make sense. Okay, these Federation he-men landed on a planet where men apparently don't have the right to vote...think Switzerland in 1970, only where it's men instead of women in this unfortunate position. The men in the one region of the city we see have demeaning jobs like interrupting the planetary leaders to warn them of escaped prisoners just when the leaders are in the midst of seducing Federation emissaries. The Odin survivors find this so intolerable that they...what, exactly? Try to recruit the pretty men of Angel One to rebel? Refuse to wear flimsy robes? Hide out in the woods and have drumming circles? We're never told just what they did that counted as treason.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, Wesley sneezes on Picard, who catches his cold, except it's not a cold, and then Picard sneezes on Worf, who sneezes REALLY LOUDLY, and soon Data is the only crewmember capable of sitting upright. (Well, and Dr. Crusher, who fortunately isn't felled by the virus even though she's in contact with pretty much every other crewmember, all of whom wind up on their backs.) Are they at risk of dying, or just of missing a Romulan incursion at which Starfleet will be vastly outgunned and letting the USS Berlin get all the glory? That's never clear either. And even if everyone might die of this virus, the fugitives have been sentenced to die already on Angel One, so how is leaving them there better for anyone than beaming them up into an isolated cell or onto a shuttle? This subplot, which seems to have been designed primarily to eat up screen time, annoys me just as much as the Planet of the Frustrated Womyn, and that's saying something!

Look, I like Riker an lot, and if I were a planetary leader in a position to seduce him, I'd probably put it on my to-do list even if I was supposed to prefer girly men. He's very Kirk-esque here, giving the grand speech about how Beata's only going to make martyrs of the offworlders and there's no standing in the way of the social evolution that is allowing men and women to become equals. If only Kirk had made that speech in "Spock's Brain," the whole...right, never mind, pretend I didn't say that. As an original series episode, this one might have seemed entertaining, even enlightened; Kirk wasn't particularly a feminist, but he had no issue with tossing the Prime Directive in the dirt to save Eleen when patriarchal planetary law decreed that she must die, nor with admiring Klingon and Romulan women who could kick human male butt.

I don't have any big issues with Riker putting his chest on display for Beata to gain influence, nor with her enjoying what he willingly offers. But then he gets her wrapped around his finger, and although she claims it's because his speech is so clever, but if she buys that sanctimonious tripe, it makes her look like a pretty foolish leader. Because the dialogue is so bad, it seems more likely that she was swayed emotionally, by Ariel's pleas and Riker's charm...and isn't that every cliché about women, that they can't be put in charge because their emotions run away with their logic? Isn't that why Kate Mulgrew insisted that Captain Janeway had to remain celibate, because otherwise her crew would see her as feminine and weak? Beata caves over a few pretty words and a pretty smile, which is almost as infuriating as if she'd executed the men out of spite, thus fulfilling the other popular cliché about women in power - that they want to bump off all the real men so they can take their rightful places.

The kicker is that this is an obvious moment for Troi or Yar to have made the big speech...on this planet led by women, they are the logical choices to impress their peers, and Troi even says that superficially Angel One sounds like Betazed. But Troi seems intimidated by the fugitives' vehemence and ultimately the strongest Starfleet crewmember in the episode is Crusher, staying on her feet and nurturing the crew. Picard's crew doesn't come off particularly more enlightened than the reverse-patriarchs of Angel One. And to top it all's boring.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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