Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Where No Woman Had Gone Before:

I've grown up on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Literally. I have memories of being four-five years old, sitting on the couch next to my dad as that theme song played. I remember that I loved it so.

At one point I learned to play something resembling the that theme on my trumpet. (The original series one was beyond me, I'm sorry to say) It was the proudest moment I had at age ten or so.

One thing though, I was always disappointed in the treatment of women. I mean Deanna Troi? She was there to bang male aliens like Riker did the women, but with idiotic babble about romance instead. And Beverly Crusher's main purpose was to be the will-they/won't-they love interest for Captain Picard.

The women were beautiful and talented, but they never really had any role that wasn't either emotional support for a man, romance related, or related to motherhood. I waited seven years in vain for one of these two to show depth or development.

It was frustrating. Especially in the case of Deanna Troi. She was, in a way, a very similar character to Spock of the original series. A character caught between two worlds. She clearly favored her alien heritage as her dominant culture, demonstrated through mannerisms, customs, wardrobe and abilities, however she worked in human-dominated Starfleet, like her father. There should have been interesting cultural conflicts, divided loyalties and impulses, explorations of what it really was to be half one and half the other.

But she didn't get that. *Worf* got all the culture conflict aspects, *Data* got all the exploring humanity plots. And in one sense I'm happy for that. Worf and Data were vastly more interesting characters and deserved more exposure. But another part of me wonders if Deanna had gotten more stories like this, she would have been interesting too.

Certainly Gargoyles showed that Sirtis has the acting chops to keep up with the other two. (Even more surprisingly, it showed Frakes did as well.)

Beverly Crusher didn't even have that. She had unresolved romantic tension with Picard, long-suffering mother plots with her son, and was played by an actress who, while beautiful, had an emotional range consisting of passive, wooden, bland, and lifeless.

I was frustrated. Guinan and Lwaxana were interesting, but largely one-dimensional serene bartender or comic relief with maybe *one* episode of genuine development a piece. Ro or Tasha fit the Angry Young Woman, but really never got to be anything beside that.

Now I should tell you that having been very young when the series began, so I'm not 100% sure about whether I'd actually seen many of the second season episodes before and forgotten or if I'd somehow managed to miss it entirely. Regardless, when I saw the second season in reruns as a eight or nine year old, I was shocked and aghast.

They'd replaced Beverly Crusher! Sure she was pretty useless, especially as I'd just seen that godawful episode with the candle (blechh!) but she was ours!

I hated Doctor Pulaski at first. She was cranky. She was mean. She had messy hair and was old. She didn't like Data.

But something weird happened as I watched more episodes, especially as I was watching the newer episodes with Crusher near-simultaneously. The things I initially hadn't liked about Pulaski were starting to become really interesting.

After so many episodes of Gates McFadden's sighing, soft-voiced woodenness, the crankiness and irascibility were starting to grow on me. Muldaur was the better actress. Pulaski the wittier character. She didn't take anything lying down, but pushed forward just like the male characters. When something was annoying, she made sure that was known. She was like Dr. McCoy (the one without the fur, thanks), except with Boobs. And as I was a fan of both this series and the original, I didn't see this as a bad thing.

When the script called on Crusher to be angry, she showed it with soft sighs and softly nagging petulance. When the script called on Pulaski to be angry, her voice climbed, her stance grew aggressive. You took her seriously damnit.

She was "old" (though around the same age as Picard, really, but that probably says something about the ideas I was absorbing from media about women and age) and messy haired, but that was a nice change. I'd started to be frustrated by how often Troi or Crusher would be seen in pointless little scenes, brushing their hair, putting on jewelry, doing yoga/exercises. We never saw the guys doing that (though the barber was a plot point, that was for one episode, not repeatedly through many). Pulaski though? When we saw her, it was in the Sick Bay. It was on away missions. Once or twice, socializing with the guys on the holodeck. But most often it was her doing her damn job. So what if her hair was messy? She had better things to do.

And as for age? Well, for one thing it cut back on love interest status. She was much older than any of the main male cast except for Picard and thankfully, they weren't really inclined to rehash that (besides, he had younger fare). She did have the occasional vaguely romantic subplot, but they weren't terribly big deals and didn't interfere nearly so much with the main plot. Her past relationship with Will Riker's father served to demonstrate subtly that there was another side to Kate Pulaski as well as Kyle Riker but never resulted in idiotic "girl talk" during yoga class or over ice-cream. Theirs had been a past fling remembered fondly and treated maturely. And her chemistry with the holodeck's Moriarty was more subtly done than any of the younger women's plots. The chemistry was more intellectual than physical, it was believable and intriguing. And Pulaski kept a decent handle on her perspective through the whole thing.

And well, the thing with Data turned out to actually be the biggest draw of all. I suddenly realized that I was watching an ongoing subplot in which a *woman* was overcoming her prejudices and preconceptions. The "racist learning to move past his racism and respond to the individual" plot is traditionally a plot for a male character. When women are involved in these sorts of plots, it's almost never as the agent. The woman is passive, the victim of the prejudice or a bystander futilely criticizing the racist. The agent of the story, the active character is the racist. He pushes the action forward and its his growth that's the focus. In this, though, Pulaski was the agent.

Even if the Pulaski-Data thing was subtle, a side thing rather than a main plot, it was still a sign that this was not a character to be relegated to "women's stories".

I was fascinated. And very sad, because pretty soon the season was over and we were back with Crusher and her son and her tension with Picard and that was that.

Fortunately this wasn't the end. There would be Kira Nerys. There would be Jadzia Dax. There would be Kathryn Janeway. There would be Susan Ivanova. There would be Lili Marquette. There would be Beka Valentine. There would be Sam Carter. There would be Kara Thrace.

But before them, there was Kate Pulaski. And she was great.

43 Comments:

  • At June 27, 2006 9:11 AM, Blogger Doc Hall said…

    I never really got into TNG, BBC 2 had a tendancy to put it on when I was doing my homework. What really bugged me at the time was that people kept insiting that Picard was French, while Stewart's performance couldn't have made him less French if he tried.

    TV writing has definitely come a long way in the past 10 or 20 years, and that's no bad thing.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 10:21 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    Okay, I'm with you until you reach the list, and you've even made me consider stuff about Dr. Pulaski that I'd never closely examined before, but I always found Kira annoyingly two dimensional, Janeway to be a hypocrite with a voice like industrial strength sandpaper, and Dax doesn't count because officially she's really a guy inside.

    But Susan Ivanova...

    "Ivanova is always right. I will listen to Ivanova. I will not ignore Ivanova's recomendations. Ivanova is God. And, if this ever happens again, Ivanova will personally rip your lungs out!"

    "No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There's always a boom tomorrow."

    "Who am I? I'm Susan Ivanova. Commander. Daughter of Andre and Sophie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart. I am death incarnate, and the last living thing that you're ever going to see. God sent me."

    "Boom shakalaka boom shakalaka"

    Okay, now I have to go watch Babylon 5 all over again.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 10:59 AM, Blogger CalvinPitt said…

    I have now seen everything - a person who actually likes Dr. Pulaski.

    I couldn't stand her, probably because Data was my favorite character, and she was such a jerk when it came to him.

    Pulaski: "Oh you can't be like Holmes, Data. You don't have human intuition."

    Me, watching this: Sod off, you cranky old hag!

    I suppose she WAS interesting though, but I still liked Crusher better. It was probably pity points for having to deal with Wesley.

    Oh, and what's the ETA for hundreds of crazed Star Trek fans stumbling across this on a Google search, and destroying us all?

     
  • At June 27, 2006 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I liked Dr. Pulaski alright. She was a better character than most. I dunno if Worf and Data were the most interesting - I always preferred the episodes where Picard was the focus.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 11:38 AM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    I never thought of Pulaski that way before. Not that I ever liked or disliked her- the characters were not the reason I watched TNG. The writers were kinda lax on developing them IMO, leaving it to the actors to fill in the blanks. But yes, Muldaur added spunk where McFadden just lent a sympathetic ear.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 12:39 PM, Blogger The Fortress Keeper said…

    I liked Doctor Pulaski because she was just about the only person on that ship who wasn't a sterile, fully actualized perfect being.

    As the series went on, many characters displayed other sides of their personalities. But for awhile, were they ever boring!

    Oh, and have you checked out the new Battlestar Galactica? Starbuck, Boomer (in all her incarnations) and the president are all fairly complex characters...

     
  • At June 27, 2006 1:58 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    One sad thing about Trek is that the worst damage to female characters on TNG and especially Voyager was actually perpetrated by female writers who came to the task with some weird anti-feminist perspective that what was needed for the gals was more relationship wish-fulfillment fantasies, rampant Mary Sue-ism, and tropes borrowed from Harlequin romances.

    Pulaski was a great character...but there have been a lot of oblique references over the years to Diana Muldaur being unpopular with the production team and them being "glad to see her go" and I don't think she was ever willing to discuss it in public, so who knows what was really going on there? It could be that she (the actress, not the character) was considered "pushy" and "opinionated" and all those other things they call women who act like they have the same rights as men...

     
  • At June 27, 2006 2:18 PM, Blogger Evan Waters said…

    Dax isn't really a guy inside- she USED to be a guy, and Sisko calls her "old man" sometimes because he has fond memories of the guy she used to be. So she's a transsexual, sort of.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 2:52 PM, Blogger Tom Bondurant said…

    Wasn't it right after her TNG stint that Diana Muldaur joined "L.A. Law" and became one of the more hated female characters on television? Not that that has anything to do with her Pulaski.

    I remember Dr. Pulaski as being an olive branch to the Original Series fans who were still trying to get used to TNG. She was previewed in a two-hour Original/TNG retrospective which came out before TNG's second season, and it basically said "Look! Remember her from 'Return to Tomorrow' and 'Is There In Truth No Beauty?'" When Pulaski's transporter avoidance came out, it was like a neon "THIS IS YOUR NEW McCOY."

    I liked her fine. I was a little shocked to see Bev come back.

    Speaking of Bev and Troi, they both passed the "command test" late in the series, right? Beverly got to be Captain of the Pasteur in "All Good Things," but Troi got to crash the Enterprise-D into a planet -- and then slam the Ent-E into Shinzon's ship, or am I misremembering that...?

     
  • At June 27, 2006 3:13 PM, Blogger Marionette said…

    Dax isn't really a guy inside- she USED to be a guy, and Sisko calls her "old man" sometimes because he has fond memories of the guy she used to be. So she's a transsexual, sort of.

    It's all in the perception. And I think a lot of the reason she allowed to be such a strong character was because she was seen as some kind of honorary man.

    Even if they did have her wearing falsies the entire time.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 3:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Falsies? Dax?

     
  • At June 27, 2006 4:24 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    doc: Heh, Picard as French was always a bit silly. :-) Especially when they went to the vineyard of his brother. I liked the episode fine, but he's not French.

    Marionette: Well, I'm not trying to say I like all of those characters (Starbuck in particular has all those traits I hate in guys, so I still don't like her), but they all tended to be written with more complex storylines than Troi or Crusher.

    Janeway was a tragedy because in really really early Voyager, she was good.

    calvin: That's the point. :-) She got to grow and learn that she's wrong about Data. That's what made her cool. And honestly growing up in a tech society, I'd have assumptions about computers too.

    anon: Picard really was the key, but those two did get more story than most.

    dan: worse, with Troi around, the sympathetic ear was redundant.

    keeper: Yeah, worse even their dark sides were boring.

    Yep, it's gotten a bit weird this past season though.

    rab: Hmm, well, honestly, I'd be a little surprised if the opinionated/pushy thing is the crux of it. These are folks who worked with the divine Majel Barrett-Roddenberry after all.

    evan: Actually, as I see it you're both off. DAX is the androgynous symbiote who remembers most strongly its most recent male host. JADZIA has always been female. Basically you have two entities there. And as Ezri shows, the host does change a lot of the character.

    Though the perspective of the Dax/Worf relationship being slash is funny.

    Tom: Heh, I'd heard of that. The elevator thing was one heck of a "refrigerator".

    I'd been so sick of Crusher that I was very happy for a new McCoy. :-)

    And yeah, insert women driver jokes here.

    marionette: I disagree actually. I think initially that may have been a part of it, but Jadzia Dax (specifically this host) has always been characterized as female. When we see all the past hosts interact, we do get to see the very obvious difference between them.

    anon: Got me. :-)

     
  • At June 27, 2006 7:06 PM, Anonymous Ununnilium said…

    Dax was always one of my favorite Trek characters, and DS9 my favorite series.

    As for Pulaski, it's been quite a while since I've seen the ones with her in, so I can't really judge.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 7:14 PM, Blogger Marionette said…

    It's true, I promise you. I saw her being interviewed on some Trek related documentary a year or so ago and she explained how they made her wear a fake chest. There was a funny story about the Raisa episode where she has to wear a bikini but I can't remember it now. Sorry.

    I don't know why they felt the need, either.

    And I don't mean to decry the actress or the strength of the character, it was just a feeling I had when I watched the show. Maybe it was all those early episodes that involved unfinished business from the previous host.

    But then Seven of Nine was my favourite character in Voyager, after Seska. Not that the alternatives were much competition. I just wish they'd put her in a regular uniform.

    Either that or just stuck her in a bikini and stopped pretending she was anything other than eye candy.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 7:20 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    ununnilium: :-)

    marionette: Hmm, I see what you mean, particularly in the beginning. Still it did at least mean a woman actor wasn't relegated to a woman's role constantly.

    Seven-of-Nine was a really good character I thought, but the outfit was so very off-putting. If the Maquis can turn their aversion aside and wear Starfleet uniforms, so can the Borg, damnit. Besides, the uniform's hotter.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 9:17 PM, Anonymous nomii said…

    I really rather liked Crusher. That may have been due to my tendency to read more into her relationship with Picard than anything else though.

    She never seemed as cowed by him like everyone else was. (Though that may be due to the actress's limited range as you said). And he in turn seemed a little more respectful of her, and this was before they really started in on the "Will they, or won't they?" soap opera.

    The yoga moments were annoying, but every once in a while a good Crusher story would come out where I thought she was pretty strong as a character. One involving commanding the Enterprise during a Borg episode and having her hide it in a star if I recall correctly is an example.

    Sorry for rambling. I've been lurking on your site for a while and I have to say I enjoy it immensely.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 9:22 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    To be fair, the stuff with Picard were the saving graces of the character I think. I found their chemistry appealing. But I found it a shame that aside from the admittedly cool moments you mention, the character never really got to do anything.

    Those aren't a lot of cool moments for seven years of show. :-(

    And thanks! I'm glad you like it!

     
  • At June 27, 2006 9:50 PM, Blogger Neil said…

    Evan Waters said…

    Dax isn't really a guy inside- she USED to be a guy, and Sisko calls her "old man" sometimes because he has fond memories of the guy she used to be. So she's a transsexual, sort of.


    Dax's first host was a female and counting Jadzia, the split was equal between male hosts and female hosts.

    Curzon, being the recent host, and a friend of Ben Sisko's did seem to push things in a more "male" direction...but the same thing happens when Ezri takes over and Jadzia suddenly became the previous host.

    Even the Klingon episodes (which with Jadzia were the "that's Curzon shining through") turned into "Oh, Jadzia was big into the Klingon thing...).

    I loved TNG the most, until I started reading the post-"Far Beyond the Stars" DS9 books and rewatching the series on DVD.

    I didn't find Kira one-note, I think, Odo aside, she may have had the most growth throughout the series. She started out hating the Federation (and, upon reflection, rightly so, for all she knew they really were there to take over Bajor) and not only came to accept their presence, but to appreciate it when they were gone and even to take up the uniform in the series' final arc.

    At the time, I found Dax to be the more interesting character, but as I've grown, I've been finding Dax in the episodes I've rewatched on DVD to be slightly annoying, while I remain fixated on Kira, who, in my mind, got the better stories, and better conflicts.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 9:57 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Kira was iffy for me. Often she got the most interesting conflicts other times she seemed very one note. Depended on who wrote the episodes I think.

    Dax's hosts were split, but I do think the symbiote was portrayed with a very "male" quality. The hosts that got the most attention were the males: Curzon, the criminal, and there was the revisiting of the romance with the male Dax Host's wife. The female hosts never seemed to have much of an impact. (Jadzia didn't seem to influence Ezri nearly as much as Curzon had her, except for what comes of working with the same people).

    Jadzia was clearly female, but even her interests tended to be more traditionally male. She was Sisko's mentor, a scientist, a gambler, into Klingon culture... So I can see the Dax as a male character thing. Oddly it made me like her more. :-P

     
  • At June 27, 2006 11:45 PM, Blogger James Meeley said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

     
  • At June 27, 2006 11:57 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly, James, I find those to be the exceptions that prove the rule. In the seven years of TNG, both women got basically two or three stories a-piece that really took them out of their traditional roles. Compared to the male characters where even Riker and Wesley had more opportunities to step outside and try something new. The two characters were stepping stones certainly, but they were in and of themselves quite unsatisfying.

    And if one looks at Tasha in the first season and Pulaski in the second, it became even more clear that Troi and Crusher were actually a step *backward*. Which is sad, because the actresses deserved better.

     
  • At June 28, 2006 1:42 AM, Blogger notintheface said…

    McFadden's acting ability aside, Crusher was interesting in that, as the ship's doctor, she could override Picard on occasion, and did (a lot more frequently than Bones did). Her best episode was "Remember Me?", where it looks like everybody on the Enterprise is vanishing (even from memory)except her, when in reality (spoiler!!!) she got sucked into some warp field Wesley was experimenting with (end spoiler!!!).

    Still, I see your point on Kate Pulaski.

    Also, did you see Sirtis in "Crash"?

     
  • At June 28, 2006 4:10 AM, Anonymous carla said…

    On the playground, I was Yar. I got to finally run around with the other boys and shoot phasers as opposed to sit on the swing set and wait for people to come back to the bridge like Troi did. When the Sin of Evil aired, I marked my cheek with a black magic marker to show my solidarity.

    I am a huge nerd.

    And I'm surprised that no one has mentioned yet that Diana Muldaur was the voice of Dr. Leslie Thompkins on the Batman animated series.

    Star Trek hasn't always had the strongest of female characters on a regular basis, but I consider that a product of the whole franchise going south since Paramount really took over.

    but this is a topic for a much longer rant. =D

     
  • At June 28, 2006 5:51 AM, Blogger Rich said…

    Interesting thoughts, and you're right about Pulaski - I always thought she was bought onboard to be the Bones in the old Kirk-Spock Bones triangle in the form of Picard-Data-Pulaski.

    Having said that, the first two seasons of ST:TNG suffered from recycled plots, an overtendency to use loud incidental music in inappropriate places and really, really crap uniforms.

    As for DS9, the best Trek by far, Kira's initial take-no-crap stance (which softened a lot in later years) was because her character was originally Ro Laren - but Nana Visitor was picked over Michelle Forbes in the end. However, she's probably the most overtly strong female character in ST history.

    Dax (either Jadzia or Ezri) was always conflicted by older memories, and both actresses portrayed very different characters, but Dax was steely because she had a guy inside.

    Janeway was grating, Kes ineffectual (but cute) and Seven was just one-note eye-candy with an annoying voice.

    B'Elanna Torres though...attractive (even with a bumpy head), strong, confident...and then they hook her up with Paris. Sigh.

    Then there's Enterprise; best not to mention them....

     
  • At June 28, 2006 7:06 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    carla: Hmph, Yar got killed in such a dumb way too. I really did like her.

    Hee, she was Leslie? That's great!

    rich: Yeah, early TNG was pretty sad. But Pulaski was good. :-)

    DS9 does have the best women within the Trek franchise, I think. Oddly, the best though I can think of for female characters is probably Earth Final Conflict. (Even though the fifth season was terrible). You had Lili Marquette, Siobhan Beckett, Drs Bellman, Park and Curzon, Renee Palmer and J. Street. Pilots, Companion Protectors, Doctors, Tycoons, Hackers...with a lot of depth and only sporadic resorting to dumb romance plots.

    It probably helped that the lead character was an infant alien hybrid in an adult's body. Heh.

    I do think various posthumous Roddenberry vehicles really do show very heavy influences of one creative team. The Treks (barring DS9 I think) had Berman. Andromeda had Wolfe, then Sorbo. E:FC though, I always thought seemed to have the strongest influence from Majel Barrett-Roddenberry herself. Particularly in the depth and strength of the female characters.

    Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica are close behind for me.

     
  • At June 28, 2006 10:01 AM, Blogger Marionette said…

    B'Elanna Torres: sorry, but for someone who was supposed to be in charge of one of the most important departments of the ship she came across as irresponsible, and her "angry klingon" was just petulant.

    I think one of the things that annoyed me about Kira was that episode where she and Odo went back in time to the space station before the Feds took over, and Odo found out that Kira had murdered someone or other and deceived him. It ends with them agreeing that their relationship will never be the same, and then next week, surprise, surprise, it is.

    Such a waste of good character development.

     
  • At June 28, 2006 4:33 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    B'Elanna was another one I thought had a lot of potential when Voyager started that fell through.

    I'll admit one of the things I liked better about Babylon 5, Galactica and even E:FC was that character dynamics really did change over time and didn't always return to status quo.

     
  • At June 28, 2006 7:49 PM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    E:FC may not have been the best of shows but things did happen, and reset buttons weren't pushed. Half of this seemingly had to do with the producers' indecision, I guess, but I liked how at the end it was just Palmer and Street.

     
  • At June 28, 2006 8:07 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I wasn't too fond of the last season myself. No fault of Renee or Street, but losing the Taelons was a mistake I thought. The Atavii(?) lacked the depth and gray areas of their predecessors. And it annoyed me that after three years of teasing, Sandoval never found out that his main adversary was his son.

    The actors tended to be good though and the characters fun. :-) And there was some lovely imagery.

     
  • At July 04, 2006 1:44 AM, Blogger Breena Ronan said…

    I never really considered Dr. Pulaski before, I guess I'll have to go back and watch some of those episodes again. Crusher, well I could never get beyond the wooden acting. The comments on the gender identity of Dax are very interesting. I never thought of her as acting more masculine because of having a previous male host. I just thought she was a stronger, wiser person because she had the experiences of so many lifetimes. She could relate with Sisko because she knew how a guy would feel. Does that make her transsexual?

     
  • At July 04, 2006 2:02 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Dax is weird. Certainly a lot of the wisdom seems to be more Jadzia (the host) than Dax (the symbiote), at least if Curzon and Ezri are any indication. It does make for an interesting perspective though. :-)

     
  • At August 18, 2006 11:42 AM, Anonymous Cheryl said…

    I really liked Pulaski. She was the coolest character in TNG. She had a lovely combination of quirkiness, sarcasm and warmth. Unlike Troi or Crusher, Pulaski was given a personality instead of being written as a heap of stereotypes.
    In terms of personality, Pulaski was actually very much like a history teacher I've had.

    Kira never seemed believable to me. She was supposedly a freedom fighter who had fought against the Cardassians yet nothing in her behavior seemed to reflect that. She would have been more believable if she had been more like Aeryn Sun, Lili Marquette or even a bit like Kara Thrace (whose past seems to - in one way or another - permeate every aspect of the character).
    Aeryn and Lili were both great characters ... that is, until they were all the sudden reduced to love interests for some of the male leads (In Farscape's last season Aeryn stopped questioning Crighton alltogether and just went along with all his crazy ideas. And in Earth: Final Conflict's second season Lili started to drift into the shadows and suddenly her primary role was to be someone for Augur to flirt with). Isn't that strange?

     
  • At August 05, 2008 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I happen to disagree that Beverly Crusher and Gates McFadden were "wooden" or "passive" unless you are confusing it with being quiet and reserved.

    I, for one LOVE Beverly Crusher. Sure, she was quiet and even-tempered and a shy mouse, but she was a mover and shaker and had power in a unique dignified way.

    In addition, she was a fresh change as a widowed, single mom portrayed in a positive light. Too many other shows have widowed dads, but seldom single moms. Bev turns the tide there.

    I am one who did NOT like Kate Pulaski; she was too nasty and abrasive. Sure, she stood up for herself, but in an unlikeable way, which makes her the stereotype of the successful, strong woman being unlikeable.

    I was so glad when Beverly came back in season 3. She is strong, but in a likeable way.

    She has a rare, quiet, classy dignity about her that is admirable and in her quiet, earnest way stands up for others and for the underdog esp. and for what's right. She's living proof that one does not have to be loud, aggressive, or nasty to stand up for one's beliefs.

    Deanna, I do agree was a tad weak and stereotypical at the beginning and her wearing skimpy suits and miniskirts did not help her image much, but her character improved as the show went on. Her uniforms toned down and became more dignified and she herself matured and evolved, esp. as they honed in more on her Betazoid family, her professional psychology background, and her strengths as person.

    True that at the beginning, the women were too scarce, but as the show went on, I was pleased to see more strong women added...Guinan, Kieko, Ro, and Alyssa. True, Alyssa and Keiko are mostly assistants, but they are developed more richly than many other female assistant characters in other shows and Alyssa is Beverly's assistant and those two form a strong female bond...something not too many sci-fi shows depicted then.

    It's a shame that Deep Space Nine backslid into the male-dominated crew and the widowed dad cliche again.

     
  • At August 05, 2008 8:45 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Deep Space Nine? With the sublimely incredible Kira Nerys?

    Sorry, we're so going to have to disagree there. Kira Nerys is possibly the single most badassly awesome character in Trek History.

    I like TNG a lot, but not a single woman on there could remotely equal Kira, Dax, Winn, hell even freaking LEETA THE DABO GIRL got to feature heavily in plots that didn't have to do with mind rape or orgasmic candles.

    Not to mention the most interesting male crew member was debatably genderless. Which is interesting in and of itself. :-)

     
  • At August 13, 2008 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good, my comment got a response. I'll have to watch more of DS9 to get more of what the female characters are like, but the few I did see I was not impressed with. And Sisko was another tired hackeneyed widowed dad storyline.

    I'll have to find out more about Kira, esp. since she seems to be your fave.

    The reason I love Beverly so much is that she was very quiet and reserved, yet was a mover and shaker. She demonstrated that you do not need to be loud, aggressive or the B-word to get ahead; she was powerful in a quiet, dignified, kind way. Despite her shyness and husky, quiet voice, she stood her ground and was strong-willed, interesting, and a tad quirky in a unique way.

    She was NOT at all "passive" "wooden" or "lifeless" and she did have several good plots outside of her interesting relationship with Jean Luc or her son; if you recall, she was active in theater acting and was a very talented dancer, not to mention her intriquing ethnic family history (I am one who loved Sub Rosa) that comes out later that reveals that she did not have some bland, ordinary upbringing on earth in some unremarkable traditional mom/dad/kid family.

    I actually also LIKED that Deanna and Beverly shared "women talk" over various activities like yoga and over dinner or snacks sometimes with Guinan occasionally joining them; to me that wasn't "silly" at all. It showed that they had a strong female bond, something not too many sci-fi shows did until then. I LIKED that neither Bev, Guinan, or Deanna or Ro for that matter never tried to become "one of the boys" the way Katherine Pulaski did; each of the women were successful without becoming "imitation" or "honorary" men and without turning her back on other females. That's a large part of a good female character.

    Despite the weak beginning of TNG, as the show went on, in later seasons, the female presence did become stronger and more female characters were added, which made the show better than most sci-fi shows in my eyes.

     
  • At August 13, 2008 7:37 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'm not going to argue the appeal of the TNG female characters as obviously they do mean something to you and different strokes for different folks. :-)

    But I fail to see how Pulaski ever tried to be "one of the boys". She liked holodecks and some sporting events. She did her job. She was cranky. If I were in TNG, I would likely be similar and I'm very female.

    I can see why that personality wouldn't appeal to everyone, but there's nothing necessarily masculine about it. Katherine Pulaski was Katherine Pulaski.

    One thing I CAN say is that, barring Picard of course, Kate Pulaski had infinitely better taste in men than Beverly Crusher. I'd take Moriarty any day over that fucking candle...

    pun unintended. :-P

     
  • At August 14, 2008 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    kalinara said...

    I'm not going to argue the appeal of the TNG female characters as obviously they do mean something to you and different strokes for different folks. :-)


    This debate’s fun. Most ppl. I know like Beverly better, but I’ve met a couple of Pulaski fans who actually like that abrasive, cold character. So true, it is different strokes for different folks.



    kalinara said...

    But I fail to see how Pulaski ever tried to be "one of the boys". She liked holodecks and some sporting events. She did her job. She was cranky. If I were in TNG, I would likely be similar and I'm very female.


    That explains why you like Pulaski so much. I guess I’m more like Beverly and also I am a single mom also, so maybe that’s why Beverly appeals to me so much. Millions of single moms across the country and even the world can identify with Beverly’s struggles and triumphs as a single mom in addition to being a doctor and also having other talents in her life. And her widowed mom character was a breakthrough after we’ve seen the excessive overglut of widowed dads on TV and esp. in sci-fi.

    And Beverly, like Pulaski, also did her job…or I should say her basically two jobs very well…being a great doctor and also being a swell mom to her darling son, Wesley. Never did she let her personal problems interfere with either job.

    It’s a shame they didn’t have Pulaski be a single mom also and add more depth and dimension to her; to me, she seemed one-dimensional. All’s you saw of her was as the ship’s doctor, and occasionally playing poker with the guys and at the occasional sporting events and holodeck adventures. We never heard anything about her family background, about any past traumas and triumphs of her life the way we did Beverly, Deanna, and even Tasha’s lives.

    Even with Tasha (I loved her also), she was a tough little thing, a tad louder than Bev, but not rude and abrasive like Pulaski. Although Tasha only was there for barely one season, they managed to build a multi-layer story on Tasha. She was tough, yet like Beverly and Deanna, had her vulnerabilities, was warm, and was not afraid to cry openly.



    kalinara said...

    I can see why that personality wouldn't appeal to everyone, but there's nothing necessarily masculine about it. Katherine Pulaski was Katherine Pulaski.


    True, there isn’t, but to me it seemed as if Katherine didn’t have to same bond with other females as Bev, Guinan, and Deanna did; I too often saw Pulaski just hanging around the guys; never did I really see her interact much with Deanna or Guinan the way Beverly interacted and bonded with them.

    I’ve never cared for cold, snotty characters whether they were male or female. But I guess I can see why characters like Pulaski appeal to some ppl., but she sure didn’t win many points with me and I was not sorry to see less of her later on and to see her go after season 2.



    kalinara said...

    One thing I CAN say is that, barring Picard of course, Kate Pulaski had infinitely better taste in men than Beverly Crusher. I'd take Moriarty any day over that fucking candle.
    ...

    True there…which makes Bev all the more interesting. Beverly had self-esteem problems stemming from her painful childhood and to see her struggle with and eventually triumph over those problems makes her appealing and more heroic than a character who chooses the “perfect” romance every time.

    To me, it was actually Pulaski who was rather bland and lifeless. Sure, she had her angry fits and raised her voice and took those little aggressive stances, but Beverly, although very mild-mannered and much quieter than Pulaski, was actually more colorful and more expressive in her quiet way.

    When Beverly expressed anger, which true, was not often, since she was normally even-tempered, it was for an excellent reason like someone being taken advantage of or exploited (think Symbiosis for one example with the Onarans and Breakians) and she did not need to raise her voice or use aggressive gestures to express that anger; she chose to express her anger in a quieter, more constructive way.

    For me, Beverly was what is called a highly sensitive person or HSP for short. Author Elaine Aron wrote a wonderful book and created a swell website here at http://www.hsperson.com/ about HSP’s and Beverly fits about fifteen of the twenty-seven characteristics of an HSP. That definitely makes Beverly a colorful, interesting character to me, much more so than Pulaski.

    And Beverly had an endearing humility that Pulaski lacked also, which enabled her to relate better to her patients.

    The whole irony of Beverly’s character was that she was the quietest, most sensitive, most reserved crew member with that husky quiet “sighing” voice, yet she was the most profound and often came up with the main solution of a puzzle or problem, often in an unexpected, creative way.

    Funny pun on the fucking candle; made me laugh.

     
  • At August 14, 2008 1:10 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Honestly, I was very happy that Pulaski WASN'T a mother. This is nothing against women who are mothers, but the idea of a female character who has no real interest in getting married and having children is still pretty rare in media.

    I particularly found the whole Kyle Riker/Kate Pulaski thing incredibly interesting because it demonstrated dimensions outside of what we saw normally, but still highlighted her as a marked contrast to Deanna and Beverly's unspoken long bonded love for both Riker and Picard. Pulaski had a good time with Riker Sr, but it's over, done with, and remembered fondly.

    I don't think it's fair to compare the female relationships though, since if I'm remembering correctly, during Pulaski's run, there weren't a lot of other major female characters at all besides Deanna. A pragmatic career woman in her fifties might not be likely to have much common ground with a romantic minded sensitive thirty-something young woman like Troi. (Beverly would, naturally, have more in common.)

    Of the other female characters: Tasha was dead by this point, (Skin of Evil was in Season 1), Ro would not be introduced for a few seasons yet. And Guinan wasn't utilized very much until later in the series.

    Beverly had a lot more time to form female relationships and a lot more varieties of women with whom TO form female relationships. (And sometimes, some women just prefer the company of men anyway. :-P)

    I don't doubt your opinion of Beverly Crusher was what the writers were going for, but she never struck me as particularly profound. I do attribute some of that to the weak plots and Gates McFadden's acting though.

     
  • At August 15, 2008 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Honestly, I was very happy that Pulaski WASN'T a mother.

    Me too in this case. I don’t think she would have made a very good mom the way Beverly did.


    …but the idea of a female character who has no real interest in getting married and having children is still pretty rare in media.

    Not really, but it is true that if a female character was not interested in marriage and children, she was usually portrayed as unlikable…which was the issue I had with Pulaski. If Pulaski had been warmer and more likable perhaps, I would have not been so glad to see her leave.

    And actually, neither Deanna, Tasha, or Ro had any interest in having children or getting married; even when Deanna is dating Will and Worf, she doesn’t seem to be in too much of any hurry to get married. And Deanna, Tasha, and Ro were all likable, much more so than Pulaski.

    And Beverly, although she misses Jack dearly, has no desire to remarry again; she wisely understands that one does not need to be married to have a complete family.


    I particularly found the whole Kyle Riker/Kate Pulaski thing incredibly interesting…

    Me too; I was kind of amused. I wonder what would have happened if Pulaski and Kyle Riker had developed a real bond and married and Will Riker was stuck with Kate as a stepmom? As it was, Riker wasn’t too nuts about his dad to being with.



    …but still highlighted her as a marked contrast to Deanna and Beverly's unspoken long bonded love for both Riker and Picard.

    True there…it also spoke that neither Deanna or Beverly were in any rush to get married either; they were able to enjoy their unspoken bonds without feeling any undue pressure to rush some commitment.


    Pulaski had a good time with Riker Sr, but it's over, done with, and remembered fondly.

    Ditto Deanna and Worf. Those two enjoyed their fling, and now that’s over and done with and remembered fondly also.

    The same thing could even be said about Beverly and Jack, although those two had a much deeper bond and were married…Beverly still misses Jack often, but she understands that that marriage is over, she’s widowed, and she remembers their marriage and Jack very fondly as she goes on with her life and raised her son as a single mom. That was something that was not often seen in fictional media either, esp. widowed moms.



    I don't think it's fair to compare the female relationships though, since if I'm remembering correctly, during Pulaski's run, there weren't a lot of other major female characters at all besides Deanna.

    Perhaps not because you’re right about the second season’s scarcity of females. Second season was the absolute weakest of the whole series and I think that will be the one season I probably will not buy on DVD as a result. And even then, late in the second season, Pulaski’s appearances became less frequent and more sporadic and even Deanna’s character seemed a tad shallow in that season. In many second season episodes, Deanna seemed to be the only female on there, which was absolutely ludicrous for a show being set in the 24th century.

    I was so glad to see this trend reversed by season 3 starting with bringing back Beverly Crusher. I cheered when I saw her again in season 3. I was also happy when they began showing more of Guinan. It was wonderful to see in the very first eppie of season 3, Beverly and Guinan bonding over careers and motherhood in the Ten-Forward lounge.


    A pragmatic career woman in her fifties might not be likely to have much common ground with a romantic minded sensitive thirty-something young woman like Troi.

    I don’t think Pulaski was THAT old; I always thought she looked about Beverly’s age (mid-forties or so) or even a little younger. Maybe the ACTRESS Diana Muldar may have been older, but for some reason in the second season there, Kate looked slightly younger than Beverly.

    Maybe they used makeup on Diana or she had cosmetic surgery. And maybe also because Beverly was pleasantly plumper than thin Kate Pulaski.

    I actually also didn’t see Kate Pulaski as being “messy” either; I always saw her blond curls being usually perfectly coiffed and in place. BEVERLY, although usually neat also, sometimes had her hair pleasantly stringy or a tad messy off-duty at times.

    And Deanna was not THAT “romantic-minded” and actually Deanna wasn’t THAT young either; she was around her mid to late thirties during the show’s run.

    And Deanna was as career-minded as Pulaski.

    But true, Kate didn’t seem to have much in common with either Deanna or Guinan and it seemed as if the only thing she had in common with Beverly, who of course never met, was that they were middle-aged doctors.


    Of the other female characters: Tasha was dead by this point, (Skin of Evil was in Season 1)…

    Yeah, that was too bad. I really missed Tasha after she died. Her character had so much rich potential and I loved her streetwise no-nonsense approach to life. I could see both Beverly and Deanna missed her. I’ll never forget how they both wept at her funeral.



    …Ro would not be introduced for a few seasons yet. And Guinan wasn't utilized very much until later in the series.

    True there…but I was glad that they were finally utilized and that Keiko and Alyssa also joined in and although they remained minor characters, they were valuable additions to the female characters. Esp. I liked the friendship Alyssa and Beverly formed later in the show’s run.


    Beverly had a lot more time to form female relationships and a lot more varieties of women with whom TO form female relationships.

    True there…which really pleased me and made me very glad they brought her back and also glad they added more female characters as the show went on.


    And sometimes, some women just prefer the company of men anyway. :-P

    True there for some women…which is a shame. Women with that attitude miss out on so much. I’m very glad neither Beverly, Deanna, Guinan, Ro, Tasha, Alyssa, or Keiko were ever depicted that way.

    Hey, swell that now I can list a GROUP of women instead of just one or two. Too many other shows, esp. sci-fi and fantasy, still have the tired formula of one or two females among a horde of males. I am glad TNG came out of that old trap after season 3 or so.


    I don't doubt your opinion of Beverly Crusher was what the writers were going for, but she never struck me as particularly profound.

    To me, she was. Hey, did you ever visit Elaine Aron’s website that I listed in my above comment? I recommend that you check it out; you’ll see a lot of Beverly in there. Beverly is definitely an HSP.



    I do attribute some of that to the weak plots and Gates McFadden's acting though.

    The plot parts, I do agree with; some of the plots were weak, but got better in later seasons. But I disagree about Gates’ acting; I think Gates McFadden was a fine actress.

    If you re-watch esp. whenever Bev is upset, Gates’ vivid face captures her expressions very well. We see REAL facial movement, esp. in her eyebrows and her eyes. When Beverly cries, Gates cries also…for real; there’s none of those crocodile tears with a little gasp and sniff; Gates’ brows slant upward at the bridge of her long nose; she sobs deep chest sobs, and her whole mouth just droops as REAL genuine tears fill those dark blue eyes and run down her face. I first saw this in Justice and was really impressed; Gates really captured Beverly’s maternal tears well there.

    The script called for the character of Beverly Crusher to have a quiet and reserved manner, even when she was angry. So Gates, who I’ve read is louder and more outgoing than Beverly, did a very fine job depicting Beverly being quietly angry in the angry scenes.

    So, I do disagree that Gates was ever “wooden” or was any bad actress; she’s very good actress.

    Diana also did the best she could with the character of Kate, but what Diana had with her character was very limited and I really never saw any depth of emotion with Kate Pulaski, nowhere near what I saw with Beverly and these are each just from one season for each character, so Diana never got the chance to demonstrate any true deep emotion there except anger and amusement.

    Gates did a very beautiful job capturing the essence of Beverly Crusher…the highly sensitive, very intelligent, middle-aged widowed doctor who’d been thru so much in her life, but had a deep, quiet strength and courage and who was a swell doctor in addition to being a very good mother to a teenage-to-young adult son and a loyal friend to several other women on the ship.

    In addition, she was a real, genuine woman, one millions of women, esp. today’s moms (most of whom have careers also) can relate to.

     
  • At August 15, 2008 9:02 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I object to your use of the words "real bond" w/r/t Kyle Riker and Kate Pulaski.

    A friendship with sexual attraction that lasts for decades, since before Will was born is very much a "real bond".

    Personally I liked her because she DIDN'T marry him and had no reason/need to.

    (And I'm sorry, but while Muldaur was still a stunning woman, she was also very clearly in her fifties at least and quite looked it. A devastatingly beautiful woman in her fifties, certainly, but still in her fifties.)

     
  • At August 16, 2008 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I object to your use of the words "real bond" w/r/t Kyle Riker and Kate Pulaski.

    A friendship with sexual attraction that lasts for decades, since before Will was born is very much a "real bond".


    All right, that was a bad word choice; the bond was no less real than the one with Will and Deanna later on, but some bonds last longer than others. It is kind of interesting and amusing to think of Kate Pulaski and Kyle Riker having a fling and doing it up and all. I laugh thinking about it.




    Personally I liked her because she DIDN'T marry him and had no reason/need to.

    Yeah, it was a good thing they never married. The same could be said about Beverly and Jean Luc…those two never married, were in no rush to and had no reason or need to marry; they enjoyed their relationship as was. It was so touching in Attached when Beverly kisses Jean Luc at the end of their dinner and as they part, sensitive Beverly blushes and whispers, Maybe…we should be when Jean Luc hints that they shouldn’t be afraid to explore their feelings toward one another. Touching, sweet, and realistic there.




    And I'm sorry, but while Muldaur was still a stunning woman, she was also very clearly in her fifties at least and quite looked it. A devastatingly beautiful woman in her fifties, certainly, but still in her fifties.

    True, both Diana and Kate were beautiful women. Still could have been fooled that Kate Pulaski, at least looked that old. Maybe because she was beautiful physically in a way that Beverly was not; Beverly, while not “ugly” or anything, had a pleasant homeliness about her (which was another reason I loved Beverly all the more; she was homely in a touching, interesting way). But you could be right; maybe Kate was meant to be in her fifties after all. I just thought she looked a bit younger than Beverly.

    I can see you’re a great Kate Pulaski and Diana Muldaur fan. I do give credit to Diana for trying her best with such a limited character; Diana must have been bored stiff with Pulaski, but she did well with what she had. So that I do credit Diana Muldaur for.

    Perhaps she would have been in a better role as a parent of one of the characters like Majel Barrett did as Lwaxana Troi (Majel was great there); I think Diana would have shone then, maybe as Will or Miles O’ Brian’s mum.

    You're interesting to chat with.

     
  • At August 16, 2008 9:31 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    You're interesting to chat with.

    Thank you. :-)

     
  • At November 16, 2008 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    But Susan Ivanova...

    Okay, now I have to go watch Babylon 5 all over again.


    Not just Ivanova either. Delenn does more to change the shape of the galaxy than anyone. Na'Toth is fantasic. Lyta Alexander and does and goes through a lot of interesting stuff (admittedly, until she gets nerfed in season 5). Catherine Sakai, despite only being prominent in two episode, and being the male commander's ex whom he gets back with, still has a good half of her storyline devoted to her business, which she runs completely independently of him. Londo's three wives, despite the remarkable stereotype the start off looking like, all turn out to be interesting people in their own right, in ways he doesn't have a clue about. Talia Winters gets a long and detailed story with Ivanova where she learns to question her blind faith in Psi Corps (and Ivanova learns not to extend her issues with Psi Corps into a prejudice against all telepaths).

    And then there's the number of no-names - aliens, pilots, soldiers, maintenance crew, med-staff, lurkers, vendors in the Zoccalo, bridge crew - who happen to be female. And the couple of species that seem to be matriarchal (I say seem because it's not discussed why all the important figures we see are female; it's discussed what role they're playing in the story at hand).

    Ahem. And now in a token nod to topic.

    And as for [Pulaski's] age? Well, for one thing it cut back on love interest status.

    It was also suitable for what was after all a fairly senior position in the medical branch.

    I haven't seen many episodes with Pulaski, but I remember finding her a refreshing change from Beverly Crusher.

    SunlessNick

     

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