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81. Super Probbo (Shipping in TNG)

Liz and Anika discuss shipping in Star Trek: The Next Generation – at least until Liz suddenly realises she’s messed up her calendar and has to flee to an appointment.

We are very good at this whole podcasting business.

  • Social media: it’s good, actually
  • “I stayed to watch, and there was something very important that she had to tell Jean-Luc, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, she loves him!’ And 30 years later, here I am.”
  • Liz’s friend Lauren shares their opinions as a first-time TNG viewer
  • Early widowhood probably wasn’t great for Beverly’s sex life
  • Is anyone out there shipping Geordi/Leah Brahms?
  • Riker/Troi, a pairing which somehow achieved perfection after the series ended
  • Why are there MULTIPLE incidents where consensual encounters between Riker and Troi are hijacked by telepathic rapists? How did that happen?
  • “Peter David is … problematic.”
  • Deanna/Worf: the very best end of series random relationship
  • How Worf is like Kylo Ren
  • Picard/Ro Laren shippers: there are dozens of us
  • Is Picard demisexual?

Content notes:

We get a little more explicit than usual in this episode, particularly when it comes to the logistics of sex with Klingons. And there is discussion of sexual assault from 24 minutes to 26:23.

Sound notes:

Despite doing every single thing normally, there are a few points where there’s a hissing noise behind Liz if Anika’s track is muted. For that reason, we have a bit more overtalk than usual.

Transcript

Liz:  Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext, and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. This week, we’re discussing shipping and relationships in The Next Generation. Welcome back, Anika, from the further adventures of tree falling on house.

Anika: The further adventures of a tree falling on the house. It was a good day today. We were approved to get repairs done, both the plumbing and potentially the electricity.

Liz: So you don’t have to pay that $10,000 bill yourself.

Anika: Right. Yes.

Liz: Thank God.

Anika: And I also do have a roof. It took months, but we’re starting to see progress.

Liz: It actually worries me how long this has taken.

Anika: By the time the summer’s over, I should have a house ready to be ravaged by winter

Liz: And the next storm!

Anika: So we can all look forward to that.

Liz: Yay. And in the meantime, let’s talk about shipping.

Anika: Yeah. Cause it’s going to cheer me up. It always cheers me up.

Liz: We’ve already had a quick discussion off-mic about our Loki/Sylvie feels. Spoilers, we have them! While you’ve been dealing with all this  terrible, real life stuff, I’ve just been sending you memes. I’m helpful that way.

Anika: Honestly, so many people have been very helpful in really concrete ways, and that includes the memes. Like, the people who are just trying to cheer me up and distract me are great. I love you all. I’m going to talk about Facebook for a second.

Liz: Yes.

Anika: Everybody’s really against Facebook, and so am I. And social media in general, and so am I. Like, I get it. But one of the things that they say is that you’re fake, you’re fake online, and you don’t talk about your problems. And then people don’t think you have problems, and they have all this anxiety about how terrible their lives are compared to everyone else’s.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: So I told everybody, in Discord, on Facebook, a little bit on Twitter, that my house is falling apart around me. And I got help. A lot of people came to support me. They were willing to write angry letters to my insurance. They were willing to lend me money. They were willing to order DoorDash so that I didn’t have to cook that day. Like, people far away were just coming to help me out. And again, even just the people who said, “I wish I could help, cause I’m nowhere near you, but I’m thinking of you,” or, “here’s a funny meme,” or, “have you seen Black Widow yet, do you want to talk about it?” All of that was super helpful, and so social media can be a force for good.

Liz: I have friends, particularly professional author friends, who have gotten off social media, because it’s a particularly toxic space for creative professionals. But I also think that if you’re careful and you curate your experience, and if you keep your account private, if you have to, social media can be really fantastic. When it’s not, you know, seeding discourse or discord or destroying democracy, or whatever.

Anika: Exactly. Just being very careful — it’s upsetting that you have to be so careful in order to talk to your friends, but if you create that space, if you do use all of the tools that exist to create a safe space, then you can have it. And it can help. You know, this past year, I think, proved that.

Liz: Absolutely.

Anika: Cause we were not interacting in person. And we needed those things. We needed as many different ways to interact as possible. And I have to say, how I got into Star Trek fandom was online, for sure, because I didn’t have a Star Trek club at school or something. And if it existed, I probably wouldn’t have gone, because I wouldn’t have felt welcome.

Liz:  Shipping was how I got into Next Generation in the first place. I was nine years old. It was summer, I came in from playing outside, halfway through The Arsenal of Freedom. And I was like, “Oh, a lady is stuck down a hole, and it’s the man in authority is looking after her, I’m into this dynamic.” So I stayed to watch and there was something very important that she had to tell Jean-Luc, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, she loves him!” And 30 years later, here I am.

Anika: Still waiting for the end of that sentence, I will point out,

Liz: I mean, I think by now we could infer it. I think I was right when I was nine. 

I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Lauren ahead of this episode. I mentioned them back in our Encounter at Farpoint episode, they’re watching Next Gen for the first time. They’re getting close to the end, and I asked if they had any opinions about shipping in The Next Generation. Can I share them?

Anika: Absolutely.

Liz: Okay. They say, “Picard is demiromantic, demisexual and mostly in love with his job.”

Anika: Accurate.

Liz: Absolutely. “Geordi would be so much happier if he’d stop chasing women  and realize that his ideal partner is Data.”

Anika: Accurate.

Liz: So, so true. “There’s nothing wrong with Riker’s varied sex life, although I did skip the episode where there was some rape allegation, or something so if he was guilty,” I don’t think he was, “then that’s super probbo.” I  advised them to skip that episode. I’ve seen it once and don’t remember anything about it, so, yeah.

Anika: He is not guilty, so that’s good. I mean, it can be read in both ways, I would say, but I’m pretty sure that the canon take is that it wasn’t Riker.

Liz: Okay, cool. “Lwaxana’s revelry in herself as a sexual being as an older woman is wonderful. I fully believe Riker slept with as many non-women as he did women, they just weren’t allowed to show it. Riker is 200% the guy who would fuck his clone.”

Anika: Correct. All of that is correct.

Liz: Absolutely.

Anika: They have a very good handle on TNG, having only seen it once and 30 years later. Good job.

Liz: I forgot to copy this over, but they also feel that Deanna has a lot of sex toys and is as generous to herself with orgasms as she is with chocolate. And I think that is 100% true.

Anika: I absolutely believe that. And I think that Beverly does not, and Deanna really needs to hit her up. Like, she really needs to help her. Beverly needs to relax.

Liz: It’s interesting you say that because I’ve read a lot of Picard/Crusher fic, and most of them have Beverly as the more sensual and open partner. And I would definitely buy that in relation to Picard, but you’re right, compared with Deanna or Will. 

I think she is someone who is maybe interested in being more open in her sexuality, but like you’ve said before, she’s a control freak and probably probably doesn’t have many relationships that last long enough for her to feel comfortable exploring that.

Anika: Yeah. I think that her widowhood messed her up. I think that she got married really young, she had a kid really young, and then he died on her. And so that was a really rough thing to go over. And I don’t think she even let herself consider another relationship until Wesley was probably like 10 or 12, you know? And he starts the show at 14. So that’s not a lot of time for her to have post-Jack romance.

Liz: And even setting aside the fact that it’s the 1980s and they probably weren’t all that comfortable showing a single mother dating a lot, I feel like Beverly herself would be aware of how perceptive and sensitive Wesley is, and that would make her reluctant to bring people into his life who might not stick around.

Anika: Right. It’s entirely their dynamic that I’m reading . I’m not saying that single parents shouldn’t date, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But I think that what we’ve seen of Beverly, and what we’ve seen of Wesley, it just seems like she was very protective and she was very focused on both Wesley. And on also catching her career up to the point where she could be the CMO of the Enterprise.

Liz: Because she probably did lose a couple of years when Wesley was very young and Jack was off in space, not being a full-time co-parent.

Anika:  I’m just constantly sad that Beverly’s single parenthood was never really explored in the series. Because there’s so much there that we don’t get.

Liz: So many opportunities to explore the worldbuilding of the Enterprise, as a ship with families on it, and with childcare facilities and the options for Wesley that didn’t involve tagging along with the bridge crew. Yeah. But that’s not shipping. I have no particular ships for Wesley. If you wanted to tell me that Wesley was ace, I would totally buy it.

Anika: Yeah.

Liz: We have what you’ve referred to here as the tent pole relationships, Beverly and Jean-Luc, and Will and Deanna, and Data and Geordi.

Anika: I did look it up on Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction.net, and looked at the numbers of fics and stuff. And those three are by far the most–

Liz: That makes a lot of sense.

Anika: And Picard/Q is getting there. They’re, like, trying to be a tent pole relationship. Maybe Picard season two will push them over the edge. I don’t actually know why they got a late start. I guess it’s not explicit until Tapestry, and that’s like maybe six or seven, and then the final episode. I sort of get it, but it’s also like I’ve been in fandoms where plenty of people would have been shipping them off from the first episode. So it’s weird to me that it took that long.

Liz: I wonder if it’s partially that a lot of TNG predated mainstream internet fandom. And so the shippers just weren’t visible, maybe not even to each other.

This quote comes from Fanlore, where they wrote “Picard/Crusher and Riker/Troi were the popular het pairings. Data/Yar also attracted some fans, including some who usually consider themselves slashers,” which I find interesting. And then it goes on, “TNG was a less  popular slash fandom than its predecessor,” blah, blah, blah, “the relatively small amount of slash may be the result of the fact that two of the male characters, Picard and Riker had well-developed romantic interests in canon. Late in the series, a Picard/Q fandom also started to develop.”

And then, because it’s Fanlore, everything else in the page about shipping and the fandom is about slash. It’s actually quite hard to track the het fandom through Fanlore, which is–

Anika: I mean, it’s annoying. It’s just another one of those special things.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. I just sometimes wish that fandom would rise above my expectations.

Anika: Data/Geordi was huge in my memory and they are huge now in terms of fic numbers, they really are third. So I guess it’s possible that they weren’t loud enough, or, I don’t know, but I remember it being a huge ship. Picard/Riker never made a splash. Like no one really shipped that, that I noticed. I’m sure there are some people out there somewhere. And the Data/Yar thing is interesting. I think that’s true. I think that people did ship Data and Yar because the show shipped them

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: So it makes sense. But she also dies, like, three episodes later. So it’s sort of like, no. Data moved on.

Liz: He did, he has other relationships. And I also feel like Data/Geordi is very popular because — like, I mostly see it in the form of fan art that’s mainly how I interact with Next Gen fandom, but there’s a lot of crossover with dynamics from other shows, like Troy and Abed from Community and the sort of gregarious, nerdy, friendly black man and robot [vibe].

Anika: It’s in the second season. They play Holmes and Watson, like it’s right there. 

Liz: [Geordi] doesn’t really have strong relationships with other characters, and he definitely doesn’t have strong relationships with women. He is basically a misogynist in his relationships with women. Which I think is terrible, I think it’s really unfair to LeVar Burton, but it sort of means that if you like Geordi, who is otherwise a very likable character, who else is there to ship him with? Is anyone shipping Geordi and Leah Brahms?

Anika: I hope not. It upsets me that they get any–

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: I have strong feelings.

Liz: If you haven’t watched those two episodes of Next Generation, Leah Brahms was an engineer who worked on the Enterprise’s engines and Geordi calls her up on the holodeck to help him work through a problem. And then he falls in love with her holographic self. And then the real Leah comes on board, and he’s totally ready to put the moves on her, but (a) she’s married, and (b) she comes across as a total bitch because well, this weird guy is putting the moves on her.

Anika: With no context! She doesn’t know that he had this, like, pseudo parasocial relationship with her. And when she finds out she’s angry, like reasonably angry, and yet–

Liz: She apologizes for getting angry!

Anika: Yeah, she apologizes and then they suggest in All Good Things that they’re married.

Liz: I like to think that Geordi is actually married to a sentient hologram based on Leah. And the real Leah just has so many restraining orders.

Anika: I’m into it. Make that happen. I read an article today about a man whose fiance died, I think from COVID, but I’m not sure. And he purchased a AI version of her–

Liz: Uh huh.

Anika: —because he was so upset. Like, instead of Siri, he has his dead girlfriend talking to him.

Liz: Okay, look, that is a great premise for a short story, or even a movie. I just feel like in real life, it’s really sad and he should have therapy.

Anika: Right. I’m concerned about him. But based on that, Geordi would–

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: —marry a sentient fake Leah Brahms.

Liz: At this point, a sentient fake Leah Brahms would be a step up.

Anika:  I’m laughing so much that I’m going to spit water out!. But anyway, I shipped Crusher and Picard most. Of all TNGs, that’s my number one ship.

Liz: Agreed.

Anika: And I was definitely a part of BonC. It was a mailing list and archive. So BonC. B O N C stands for Beverly on Picard.

Liz: I’m sorry. I thought that JetC, as in, Janeway and Chakotay, but in French, was cheesy, but BonC is actually worse. Congratulations.

Anika: It was ridiculous, but it was great. And I met so many people, like my friend Sue, who’s one of the hosts of Women at Warp, and one of my friends that I was literally a roommate with in college, and I introduced her to Star Trek The Next Generation. And she became a prolific Picard/Crusher writer. And they knew each other through BonC.

Liz: That’s amazing.

Anika: We were all there together. It’s so good. And we also once — because I went to school in a suburb of Boston, so we took the T all the way to, I think it was Jamaica Plain, it was like the last stop on one of the lines, to meet a woman, who, again, was one of the BonC people. And she worked for a television studio, a basic cable television studio. And so she had VHS versions of the episodes before they were available to purchase.

Liz: Oh!

Anika: We each got — I forget what episode it was. It might’ve even been Arsenal of Freedom. We each got like these VHS episodes. And then where I also got The Little Mermaid from her before it was available.

Liz: This is great. 

Anika: Which is hilarious. Okay. So those are my stories about my times as a 15 year old camper with my friends.

Liz: No, it’s it’s great. And I just … Picard/Crusher. They love each other, but they don’t need each other. And I realized that that’s actually really formative, and I don’t like relationships where they have no choice but to be together, and damn the rest of the universe and setting aside their glorious purpose, just because they’ve met the right person. That’s not what I want. I want, like–

Anika: Adults.

Liz: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Anika: People who understand that there’s more. Like, okay. So everyone makes fun of how we learn Romeo and Juliet in ninth grade. You know, when we’re all 13 or 14 years old, right. And, because of that, it’s become this, like, oh, amazing love story, Romeo and Juliet. When the reality is that Romeo and Juliet is about two very young people who die.

Liz: It’s a tragedy.

Anika: And other people die, because it is not super romantic. A relationship like Picard/Crusher, especially if it ever finally got consummated on screen, is so much better, because it’s about people who have their own life and then fall in love. And it doesn’t change who they are.

Liz: Right. And it’s weird, because I’m not really one who’s like, “Oh, I only ship the really healthy relationship dynamics.” I don’t actually know that Picard/Crusher is that healthy?

Anika: It’s not. Because of the whole Jack Crusher thing.

Liz: Yeah. The fact that it takes them seven years to have a conversation — totally not healthy. But I think I go more for unhealthy in the repressed way than the selfish way.

Anika: There’s a difference between sort of unhealthy relationships that screw up the people involved, and unhealthy relationships that literally alter the fate of the universe. I’ll be honest. I love them all.

Liz: Right, right. You’re much more catholic in your taste than me.

Anika: But Deanna and Riker also — like, their relationship sort of starts out as this, you know, preteen — they’re not actually pre-teen, but they’re close to teen. They’re very young. Their first love. I feel like she was even, like, 18? Let’s call her 18, I don’t know. But the adolescent brain is actually through [to age] 27.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. They were young and they were in love, and there kind of was no either/or for them, they were either together forever, or they were completely separate. And Riker chose for them to be completely separate. And then, you know, 15 years later, here they are.

Anika: I’m not super into the relationship in The Next Generation. There are parts of it that really work for me, and as a whole, now that I have their whole life, it makes it better. But post the series, their relationship in the films and the relationship in Picard are — it’s amazing, the growth. 

And it really comes across to me as, Deanna knew what she wanted all along. Like, I think that when she was a kid on Betazed, she met Riker and was just like, “Yeah, that’s who I want to spend the rest of my life with.” Riker wasn’t there yet, but through the course of, whatever, 20 years, he came to the same conclusion and realized that — it wasn’t like she was waiting around, like, she had other relationships. So it wasn’t like this, “I’m putting off my life because I believe in this relationship.” But I think that she knew all along and was rewarded. 

And Riker caught up to her, like, Riker made himself a better person so that he would be worthy of Deanna. That’s a gross way of putting it. He really came to understand what a relationship even is, what he wanted out of life. He realized that he wasn’t settling by being with her. 

Like, I wasn’t super into them, but I am now. They’ve convinced me. I put this like 80% on the actors, 10% on the writers. I don’t think that they meant to do this. I don’t think that they knew what they were writing when they were writing it, that they accidentally wrote a really amazing long-term, eventually healthy relationship.

Liz: Yeah, I agree. And I think part of why they work so well in the movies is on the whole, those movies are pretty dry, but Deanna and Will are always having fun together. And the scene that made me start shipping them was when Deanna is drunk in First Contact, and Will is there for her, and he’s supporting her, but he is also having a hell of a lot of fun at her expense. And she knows it.

Anika: But the thing is that, he’s laughing at her but she doesn’t take it personally. And also I never get the impression that he’s going to take advantage of her. And he’s going to make sure that no one else does either,

And then in the next movie, Insurrection, which I don’t even like — I hate that movie. It’s my least favorite Star Trek movie of all time. Yes, Into Darkness is better. And yet they have that adorable scene where she’s shaving him. And like, that is the best part of that movie. Like, it’s just so cute.

Liz: And I’m like, why is this so good? This should be terrible and embarrassing. And yet it’s, it’s very, very sweet. 

This is an embarrassing confession, but I did not really start shipping Riker/Troi until I started shipping Lorca/Cornwell, and decided that Lorca was just a broken Riker, but that’s the vibe that I decided I wanted them to have. And therefore I got really into Riker/Troi by transference. 

Anika: I like that. I like that a lot. Yeah. And people can come to these relationships in any way. Like I honestly, I was sort of almost an anti Riker/Troi. I really liked Troi/Worf.

Liz: I love Troi/Worf.

Anika:  I wasn’t the kind of anti that would like attack people, but I was sort of like –and also your friend brought up and you brought up the, the rape episode, it’s called Violations, I think

Liz: There are actually two episodes where Riker’s–

Anika: A Matter of Perspective that is the one where — it’s sort of like the Tom Paris episode where he’s accused of rape. Can I just say, can we stop doing these episodes? We don’t need any more of those.

Liz: I agree. Cause we also have that time Scotty was Jack the Ripper.

Anika: Yeah, exactly. It’s sort of upsetting that Star Trek has more than one episode where a being takes over  someone we like, someone important, someone in the main cast’s body, and rapes a woman.

Liz: What happens in Violations is the telepathic predator takes Deanna’s memory of a consensual encounter with Will and turns it into an assault. And it’s really, really ugly. And it’s not — it’s a good episode. But you think about how often this happens to Deanna, and it happens — like, literally the same thing happens to her in Nemesis.

Anika: Nemesis, literally the same thing.  They take Riker and use Riker — on their wedding night.

Liz: Yeah. It’s–

Anika: So maybe this is worse than Insurrection.

Liz: Nemesis has great costumes and some great Romulans, it’s just a terrible movie.

Anika: It’s a terrible movie.  First Contact is easily the best Next Generation movie. And it’s not a great movie. Just my opinion.

Liz: Yeah, I love it. But maybe it’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen.

Anika: But with Violations, like, I found that really uncomfortable because the way that the alien portrays that memory, it’s not actually clear that–

Liz: That it was consensual.

Anika: Yeah. That he’s changing it. It’s really hard to understand if Deanna wants that to happen or not. And obviously she doesn’t want it to happen with the alien, but did she want it to happen with Will? So that’s hard. That’s rough.

But I’ve always firmly believed that when they’re not in another relationship, that they absolutely are like friends with benefits. Because why wouldn’t they be?

Liz: Right. They trust each other and they like each other and they’re pretty open about sex.

Anika: So I headcanon that it was totally consensual. That was a thing that happens more than that time, over the course of the seven years. 

But then, when they are in a serious relationship — and this is what is good about their relationship, is they more than once actually come to the other and say, “Look, I’m entering this relationship that I think is serious. And I want you to know, I wanted to give you a heads up that this is how I’m feeling.” That happens multiple times with both of them. 

Again, that feels like a really adult thing to do where, you know, say you’re married and then you get divorced. And before you start a new relationship with someone, you know, you bring it up so that they’re not blindsided.

Liz: Exactly. It shows respect. And it also shows that even when they’re not together-together, they still really value each other’s friendship and their opinion. I’m sure that if  one of them was dating someone the other thought was the wrong person, they would not be unsupportive, but they’d be like, “Hmm, I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s the person for you.” And then they would set out why, and the other would listen and either accept or reject that input. And then their friendship would just go on.

Anika: Right.

Liz:  It would be fascinating, actually, to — if we ever got flashbacks or anything to the more fraught relationship that they had when they were young. I know there’s Imzadi by Peter David, which I read when I–

Anika: Peter David is problematic. Let me just–

Liz: My parents confiscated my copy of Imzadi because I was 11 and they felt that it was inappropriate and they were right. But not for the reasons that they thought.

Anika: Yeah. It’s not the sex, that’s not the problem.

Liz: No.

Anika: So there’s this book that I love, but I also hate, and it’s called A Rock and a Hard Place. And it’s by Peter David.

Liz: Oh, I read that when I was like 12. It was terrible. I loved it.

Anika: Exactly. I read it when I was12 to 14, and I loved it and it was amazing and it was so wonderful, but there is a character in it who is Riker’s best friend’s daughter. She’s 15, she’s 15 years old. And she, like, makes a pass at Riker. And he doesn’t do it, but it’s still like, this whole plot is bad. This whole plot makes this cool book less cool. Because it’s from his perspective, we never get to be in her mind, we just get men telling her how she’s feeling. And it’s, that’s, that’s a big, no, from me.

Liz: It’s not that a teenage girl would not be totally into Riker, and it’s not even that a teenage girl might not make a pass at him, which he would reject in an appropriate and affirming way. It’s just that she is never a person in this story.

Anika: Exactly. It’s just that we don’t get her. We don’t get her voice. We don’t get that scene from her perspective. And it’s all about Riker, and it becomes really gross because it’s basically using a 15 year old girl to make a point about Riker

Liz: And the point is not, Riker is a good dude. It’s that Riker is so sexy and irresistible and yeah. Whereas in Next Generation itself, in True Q, when Amanda uses her Q powers to pursue Riker–

Anika: She has a crush on Riker, right?

Liz: Yeah. But there she is the lead character.

Anika: It’s her story. It’s literally about her, that whole episode. They’re almost asking her — like, they keep saying, “What do you want to do?  How do you want this to play out?” It’s like she’s creating the action.

Liz: Yes, yes. But you said you were saying something before I interrupted–

Anika: No. I was just saying that also in that novel, the friend and the friend’s wife, Stephanie’s mother, they have like this inside joke where Riker’s nickname is–

Liz: Thunderball.

Anika: Yeah. So that’s a reference to James Bond, but it’s like a reference to James Bond that I did not get when I was 12. And I do get, get now when I am 40, like, I still do not know what that means. So I guarantee that no one in the 24th century knows what that means.

Liz: It’s definitely not what you would call one of the major Bonds. And to be honest, every time I hear a reference to that particular Bond movie, which is not often, I think of that book, and I think of Will Riker.

Anika: So anyway, to conclude Peter David is problematic for many reasons more than that.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: So we don’t need to list that out right now.

Liz: I mean, I could probably do a list. We could do a whole episode on Peter David.

Anika: [something about Wanda Maximoff]

Liz: Oh, I know. He’s hated by comics fans. I was thinking of that time in the novels where he kills off Janeway to give Picard manpain about the Borg.

Anika: It’s so upsetting because he’s written a lot of Star Trek tie-in novels.

Liz: Some of them are outstanding! Like Q-Squared, Q-in-Law. Amazing.

Anika: Even Rock And A Hard Place. The actual writing is good, it’s stupid and it’s flowery at times. But again, as a 15 year old, I loved it. I thought Stephanie was great. I was super into it. And there are passages that are beautiful.

Liz: Q-Squared is just the most amazing and complex piece of AU fiction. It’s just that when he’s bad, he’s so bad.

Anika: When he’s bad, he’s so bad. And like anti-Semitic and–

Liz: Really?

Anika: Yeah. It’s–

Liz: So we should do a whole episode on Peter David’s tie-in novels is what you’re saying.

Anika: So let’s talk about more relationships. Do you want to talk about Deanna and Worf and why they’re great.

Liz: They shouldn’t be great. Like it’s the end-of-series random just-throw-it-in pairing. And yet they work so well, and it feels so organic in terms of their existing friendship and their relationships with Alexander, and Alexander’s relationship with Deanna’s mother. And Worf comes to genuinely respect Deanna’s skills as a psychologist, and she respects him as a person. In another universe, they could have made it work.

Anika: Well, any in another universe they did!

Liz: Oh yeah.

Anika: They have that amazing episode, Parallels, which is a standout of a pretty lackluster season seven.

Liz: Yes. It’s actually one of my favorite episodes of TNG. Full-stop.

Anika: I love Parallels. It’s so good. It, because it just plays on the idea of, you make one different decision and your entire life changes.

Liz: And we are on the record as loving a multi-verse and wanting the multi-verse to be more of a thing in Star Trek. And Parallels is right there. You know, I would absolutely read a whole series of one shot comics about the different universes we see in Parallels and the different timelines.

Anika: So what’s great about Parallels is that Worf goes into these alternate universes, and he’s married to Troi in one, and they have kids. They have a very stable, very good, comfortable relationship based on trust. Like, the thing is that he tells her what’s happening. She believes him, she tries to help him. She’s like, okay, we’re going to figure this out, and we’re going to get you back where you need to be. And hopefully my Worf will come back to me. 

It’s so amazing. The relationship that they have, both the relationship that we can infer about Deanna and that Worf and the relationship that this alternate Deanna and our Worf have.

And then Worf comes back to our universe and he decides that he’s gonna, you know, see if he could have a relationship with Deanna. He doesn’t force it on her. He doesn’t tell her, Hey, we were married, so we should totally be together. No, he just takes little tiny baby steps, like, I’m going to see if this friendship that we have could be something more. It’s beautiful.

Liz: One of the things that struck me watching TNG most recently is how young Worf is. He is only a few years out of the academy in season one, K’ehleyr was his first relationship and I’m pretty sure he loses his virginity to her in season two.

Anika: The way he acts–

Liz: Yeah. He’s like, oh shit, we’ve had sex. Now we have to get married right away. He doesn’t strike me as a man with a lot of experience. And we also know, because he said to Guinan that he thinks that human women, that he would hurt them, which means he has never pursued a relationship with one. So yeah, he’s like a 25, 26 year old virgin in season two. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But contrasting that young man with Deanna who was a few years older and much more experienced and much more in tune with her sexuality, they’re weirdly a good match, because he trusts — I don’t know if they ever got to the stage of becoming intimate in their relationship in this universe. But I feel like that would actually be really hard for Worf to trust himself enough, to make that step. You know, we know that he has accidentally hurt humans and killed a human boy when he was a kid. And so the level of control — like, no wonder he’s repressed.

Anika: Right.

Liz: Whereas Deanna is not wholly human and is not as fragile as people assume. And she can probably think of lots of ways to explore their sexuality together without necessarily going straight to penetrative sex, or whatever it is that Worf is uncomfortable with.

Anika:  Because she has the ability to read what he’s feeling in the moment, if he starts to feel anxious or concerned about her, then she would know that. And she could sort of slow down and back, off and show him, this is how it’s going. This is how I feel. You’re not hurting me. And let’s do it this way is to like, see what happens, you know, let’s, let’s take it really slow. Let’s figure it out together. 

I headcanon Worf as very collaborative. Like he, he wants to be the person who makes one decision and is in charge and does the things like he really wants to be rigid and he tries to be rigid. He reminds me of Kylo Ren in this — don’t get mad at me, people who are listening!  In this idea that, like, I have to be a certain way. And if I’m not a certain way, then I have failed at being this thing that I have decided I have to be, which for Worf is a Klingon warrior. 

And so he has this idea of what a Klingon warrior is, and he can’t fail ever. And yet he isn’t that way. Like he’s actually kind of soft. He actually doesn’t want all of  these Klingon things. He just thinks he has to.

Liz: In fact, he is very introverted, and even very shy.

Anika: Right. And Deanna would understand that and be able to support that, like, be able to say, you know what, that’s okay. You don’t have to be someone else for me. You can just be who you are right now. And I think that’s hard for — like, I think that K’ehleyr could say that too, but he wouldn’t believe her.

Liz: I think he’s a lot younger when he’s with K’ehleyr, and I don’t think that they ever could have had a successful long-term relationship. Because she has really seen him at his most sexist and unmovable, and losing her was part of the process that taught him to change. Like, maybe they could’ve made it work, but I feel like Worf is the man who could love Deanna because he went through the pain of losing K’ehleyr

Anika: Right. Yes.

Liz: Which is not to say that it wasn’t a terrible fridging and all, that just–

Anika: And I’m not saying that Worf and Dax isn’t cute and isn’t good. And shouldn’t have happened.

Liz: Oh, no, no! I don’t like the Worf/Dax relationship as much as I like Worf and Deanna, but I also feel like Worf and Dax wouldn’t have worked if he hadn’t been with Deanna, because basically, I think Deanna taught him that he could be with women who aren’t Klingon

Anika: Yeah.

Liz: That he could trust himself, and he could trust them and that he could be open and sexual and fun. And remember, we know from Discovery that Worf has two penises. Like there are definitely logistics to be worked out in any relationship he has. I don’t want to be crude. I’m just saying it’s something to factor in.

Anika: I understand. I understand. Obviously a Klingon and a human have had a relationship because B’Elanna exists. K’ehleyr exists, therefore… And honestly I think that alien physiology should be different.

Liz: And setting aside procreation, if an alien and a human can’t have sex that conceives a child, they can still find ways to exchange pleasure and–

Anika: Right, but it would still be different. It’s still not going to be the same–

Liz: It’s not necessarily going to be genitals inside other genitals.

Anika: Like what did they say in Star Trek Five, that your genitals are in a different place? Yeah.

Liz: Yeah. This is a bit more bits than I planned.

Anika: Should we get to our other relationships?

Liz: Yeah. Let’s talk about Ro Laren and Riker and Ro Laren and Picard.

Anika: Okay. So I have a one that I prefer, and then there’s the one that’s actually in the show.

Liz: We the proud, the few, the Ro Laren and Picard shippers.

Anika: I know I’m a shipping of group of two, but I am extremely into Ro Laren/Picard. A hardcore Ro Laren/Picard shipper. Whenever I watch her last episode, Preemptive Strike, that is a breakup episode. Like, I am sorry. There is no universe where he is not sleeping with her when that happened. It’s just how I see it.

Liz: It’s literally an episode where she poses as a sex worker and he as a client, which I think might be  the most overt acknowledgement that sex work exists in the Federation or in the Star Trek universe. You know, it’s, it’s very matter of fact, which I find really interesting and reassuring.

Anika: They are completely comfortable with that scene. Both sides are like, yeah. Okay. We’ll, we’ll play that. Sure.

Liz: It’s a transaction and there’s no coyness about it. There’s no, oh, you know, I feel a bit uncomfortable doing this.

Anika: And he is so disappointed in the end. When I was doing a Pixie ships, when someone asked me what my thoughts are on this relationship and why shipped them, I put up a screen cap of Picard talking to Wesley in The First Duty and how disappointed he was, and then Picard talking to Ro Laren in Preemptive Strike and how disappointed he was. And it was like, I’m sorry, but there is a difference between disappointed dad Picard and disappointed–

Liz: Whatever.

Anika: –like, romantic jilted lover. I’m sorry. It is different. He is so intense when she disappoints him at the end of the episode, when Riker comes and says, you know, she betrayed us. He is personally upset in a very specific way. And like, I get that it could be a mentor, but it’s not.

Liz: No, because we’ve also seen him being disappointed in the people that he’s mentoring — another Bajoran in Sito Jaxa, early in the season. And he is really hard on her, and he is really angry with her, but it’s still different from how he is with Ro. And I don’t think they actually slept together or even acknowledged that they were attracted to each other. But I feel like, despite the gap in age and rank and experience, there was a potential relationship there, in another world.

Anika: He was the first person that she trusted, like, ever in Starfleet. And he saw potential in her, and he saw her as, you know, someone that — you know, let’s talk about Ro and Riker, but someone who could be a Riker if given the right opportunities.

Liz: Right. And I think he admired her, and he really did think that he had a lot to learn from her and vice versa. And yeah, I think there was also a bit of that sort of chemical spark of ah, oh, okay. Well, that’s interesting. And Picard is much too — I agree with Lauren, I was going to say demisexual and demiromantic to actually act on it. But–

Anika: Yes.

Liz: –there’s an AU where things went differently.

Anika: When the episodes where Picard tries to be romantic, it’s very specific. He is playing the part of a romantic lead. It is not Picard being romantic. It is Picard taking on romance as his role.

Liz: Hmm.

Anika: Like he does not know how to just be himself and also be romantic. He has an idea of what romantic is. He doesn’t think he’s it. And so he pretends.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s really interesting. And I guess a demi identity is only one of the possible explanations for that. Maybe he’s just shy. But it makes sense. It is a perfectly good headcanon and I like it.

Anika: Especially now that we’ve seen Picard and we’ve seen that he basically chose to be alone. It was sort of like, Starfleet broke up with him and he decided to give up on romance. You know what I mean? He was sort of like, okay, I’ll go be a hermit by myself because my one true love, Starfleet, broke up with me.

Liz: Yeah. Yeah. And as much as I like to joke about him being the third spouse in Laris and Zhaban’s relationship,  I think he sees himself as Laris’s dad.

Anika: He sees himself as everybody’s dad.

Liz: Yeah.

Anika: In this sort of really sad way where he knows that he’s not their actual dad and that he couldn’t be. Like, it’s this weird — Picard chose not to have children. It was like he was allowing his brother to have that part of the legacy, the Picard legacy stuff.

And then his nephew dies, and he’s sort of like, what am I supposed to do now? And he collects people, but he knows that they’re not really Picards and that he’s not really their dad. And it’s really weird, like, yeah, he sees Laris and Zhaban as his legacy. I can imagine that if he dies, he would leave them the esstate because who else does he have to leave it?

Liz: Right, right.

Anika: And he also knows that they’re not his legacy, that they’re not his children.

Liz: No.

Anika: I don’t know. Picard is very complicated.

Liz: He is. I liked that about him. He’d be a much less interesting character if he didn’t have so many contradictions. And I think what’s interesting is that the writers, even in this 21st century iteration, don’t seem to realize how many contradictions he has.

How do you feel about Ro and Riker?

Anika: Okay. So Ro and Riker, I really love the way they get together in that one episode. It is super, super great.  Everybody on the Enterprise has forgotten who they are. Like, no one knows who they are. They’ve all lost their memory. So they sort of like, remember how to do things, and they remember that they’re on a ship, but they don’t know who they are. They don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. 

Wherever they happen to be when this happened is like where they think they’re supposed to be. So it gets very confusing. Like Data, Data’s the bartender, because he’s like, well, I’m behind the bar, so I must be the bartender. 

And what happens is that, not knowing who they are, Ro Laren decides, I am attracted to Will Riker, so we must be in a relationship. She approaches him, she goes into his quarters. She’s like, Hey, this is how I feel. I think we’re good in a relationship. I think we should act on it. Let’s go. 

And that is beautiful. It’s great to see Ro being so unrepressed. Every other episode we see her, she is the opposite. She is very taciturn. She’s very shielded. She doesn’t want to have relationships with pretty much anyone. And so the fact that she is so into it, and so open, and so like, yes, I’m going to go for this, is beautiful to see. 

It gives her new dimensions, where, without knowing that she is who she is, without knowing that she is sort of like a Starfleet failure, and having all this baggage of being Bajoran, and having been through this war, and being sort of a terrorist, but sort of an approved terrorist —  without all of that weighing on her, she is able to decide what she wants and who to be. 

And that’s kind of what she does in Preemptive Strike, too. Like, she kind of decides like, oh, I don’t have to be ashamed of my past. I can actually embrace my past and decide to be more like that. 

Ro Laren is my favorite character in The Next Generation. Of all — of every character that ever existed in Next Generation, Ro Laren is my favorite. She was the first Star Trek character who I looked at the screen and said, oh, she’s me. That’s who I am. This is how I would exist in the Star Trek universe. And it is so incredibly telling that she leaves Starfleet. It’s like, oh, okay. I would leave. Starfleet, that’s true. I completely agree that I do not actually exist in Starfleet. If I exist in Star Trek, I am one of the misfits who is on the outskirts.

Liz:  I just looked at the time and I actually have to go soon.

Anika: Oh no! Well, we didn’t get to my, my amazing — I have a file folder of old Star Trek fan fiction that I wrote when I was–

Liz: Oh my God! Can you scan it? And we’ll put it on that tumblr!

Anika: Yes, I will scan it and put it on Tumblr. I just want to mention this one thing. So there’s this amazing — it’s a musical. Get ready. It’s a musical. It has, let’s see, 31 notes about what happens in the musical and it ends with, all problems are solved, everyone’s happy and the Enterprise warps away. And then the company sings “Let The River Run” from Working Girl.

Liz: That is amazing. How old were you when you came up with this?

Anika: I have a lot of notes. The only one that has a date on it is 1992, so I was 15.

Liz: Okay. You were–

Anika: 14 to 16 is the age range of this incredible file folder of information.

Liz: I love it. You are such a nerd.

Anika: I was such a nerd.

Liz: Yeah. Uh, I guess we can come back and do maybe another half of this episode. Cause I’ve–

Anika: We did one on Voyager, and I feel like we didn’t finish that one either. It’s like, we can always talk about more shipping,

Liz: We absolutely can.

Anika: Thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.tumblr.com, including links to our social media and credits for our theme music. We should discuss leaving Tumblr.

Liz: We absolutely should. 

Anika: You can also follow us on Twitter at @antimatterpod, and on Facebook — search for Antimatter Pod. If you like us, leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your podcasts. The more reviews, especially five-star reviews, the easier it is for new listeners to find us. And join us in two weeks, when we will be discussing the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode Yesteryear.

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