Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Trill would make great Star Trek bad guys

I always thought it was a mistake to make the Vulcans the heavies in Enterprise. The writers did it, I suspect, for the worst possible reason: rationalism is very threatening to a lot of people.

By that same token, you know one Star Trek race I suspect is either secretly evil and has potential to be a great bad guy race...or at the absolute least, is a concept with a real dark underside the series hasn't really explored yet?

The Trill.

Hear me out, here.

What was your first, visceral, initial reaction on hearing about the joined Trill race? Isn't the idea of surrendering a portion of your personality, memories and will to an immortal superintelligent parasite that lives inside of you, which needs you to get around, a little…well, creepy? We're told over and over by main characters like Dax and others about how being home to a symbiote is an honor over which there's a lot of competition, but isn't it entirely possible the initial, visceral reaction is correct?

Let me put it another way. Would you want to be a Trill host?

Trill society, as we discovered in the Deep Space Nine episode "Equilibrium," is fundamentally based on a lie, and a lie that as yet, hasn't been exposed. According to the Symbiosis Commission, only one in a thousand humanoid Trills is suitable for joining, and they're usually chosen from that race's overachievers and geniuses. Yet the truth, as discovered in "Equilibrium," is that over 50% of the humanoid Trill could work as hosts. In fact, in a pinch, when the Dax symbiote was near death, the eminently unsuitable Ezri, as the only humanoid Trill nearby, had to become joined after a 15 minute lecture by a non-Trill doctor.

What's more, Trill history suggests a furtive secretiveness that could suggest a malevolent purpose - or at the very least, they're not exactly totally honest with their allies. The Trill had contact with and knowledge of the Federation, yet the Federation had absolutely no idea the Trill were a joined race at all until Beverly Crusher had to save Odan, the first Trill we ever saw (that we know of) in "The Host."

Consider this: Dax was alive and kicking all throughout the history of the Federation, and in one funny moment  she even implied she had sex with Doctor McCoy when he was a med school student. "Well, he certainly had hands like a surgeon…" 

Curzon Dax, at one point, was even the Federation ambassador to the Klingons.

Yet, the fact the Trill had a unique symbiotic relationship was totally unknown to a genius medical researcher like Beverly Crusher, who had a history of working with aliens. Odan himself in "The Host" only revealed it in a moment of absolute desperation when he was about to die. He didn't tell the Enterprise crew about it, and kept the matter a secret even though being a Trill was the explanation for a life-threatening condition (he couldn't be transported). In short, Odan kept being a Trill a secret for some unknown reason.

All this doesn't mean the Trill are evil, it does mean though, that the Trill have not entirely been forthcoming and honest all the time.

It may be possible we have encountered the Trill before TNG's "The Host." There was one eerie episode that stood out from the entire first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where evil insectoid, superintelligent worms able to bond with humanoids tried to take over Starfleet Command in secret.

This episode was all the more shocking because its scary resolution implied a follow-up that just never happened. We never got an explanation for who the parasites were, their ultimate goals, and what happened to them.

(In real life, this is because the original concept for the Borg were as insectoid hive-minders. Because the Borg became cybernetic for budget reasons, this original intro was unfortunately orphaned and forgotten.)

One of my favorite explanations for the insectoid parasites was they were advanced scouts for the Dominion.

Is it possible the possession aliens from "Conspiracy" were actually a version of Trill symbiotes?

Granted, the Puppet Master aliens are very different from the Trill, but then again the Trill have subraces. For instance, some die when beamed up and down, whereas Jadzia never had a problem.

The similarities between the Trill and the Conspiracy-aliens are numerous enough even non-Canon novels have mentioned this.

By the way, I did my best to avoid mentioning some of the key divergences between "The Host" Trill and DS9 Trill, because it was obvious in the TNG episode they were still trying to iron out the kinks of what the Trill are, including something that might be the strongest case for my "Trill are evil" argument: in "The Host," the Odan symbiont is the only thing responsible for the personality of the final being.

(This cool/rare image, by the way, is an early makeup test of Terry Farrell in "The Host" type TNG Trill makeup.)

Bear in mind I'm not saying all Trill are evil infiltrators or that Jadzia Dax was a sleeper agent or anything like that. I am saying as a whole, there's something kind of malevolent about the concept of the Trill that would lend themselves to being natural bad guys, and there is also a feeling we've never gotten the whole story.

And look at it this way: a future project that uses the Trills in a big way as heavies would be the greatest gift ever given to convention cosplay girls, who love the heck out of the Trill spot body makeup. 


Eduardo M. said...

The concept could work. The Trill remind me somewhat of the Headmasters idea from Transformers. The big difference though is the Trill symbiote seems to replace the host rather than the two working in harmony.

Hmmmmm...... I wonder what would happen if a Trill and host and symbiote actually worked together and shared the body?

Julian Perez said...

I think the implication behind Jadzia and others is, the final personality is a combination of the humanoid Jadzia and the Dax alien. Obviously Jadzia, who is wise and feels surprisingly older than her physical years, has very little in common with the wild and crazy, impulsive, awesome old man Curzon Dax was.

When talking about having been Curzon, Jadzia always acted like a band groupie looking back on her roadie days: "it was fun and a great time...but I wouldn't do that these days."

This was the big idea behind DS9 Trill, as opposed to "The Host" Trill, where it was the symbiote that was important and when it bonded with Riker, the symbiote was in the driver's seat.

Unless Riker actually WOULD sleep with that ginger filly, Doctor Crusher...

David said...

I could never warm to the idea of the Trill, and the reason you cite: it just feels wrong. But then, I will forever be a TOS man, and there is no way the "symbiotic" Trill relationship could be anything but evil and wrong, wrong, wrong to James T. Kirk, that champion of free will and individualism who would have seen being "taken over" by another mind the worst fate imaginable, and made it his mission to remove every last parasite from its human host for the latter's "own good."

But then a lot of TNG seemed aimed at pooh-poohing, tut-tutting or "making up for" TOS, so maybe they purposely came up with the ickiest concept they could imagine just to say, "Now aren't you ashamed for being grossed out?"

In that vein, they would probably explain the secrecy of "The Host" as a case of "better to keep it quiet than deal with human bigotry."

Julian Perez said...

There was one really weak episode of TOS where Kirk wanted to save a race of spray-tan people from a computer.

I remember the following things about this episode:

1) The episode, laughably, expected us to accept that the villain was a papier-mâché set with lightbulbs and a smoke machine inside of it;

2) The aforementioned carrot-colored spray tans. Tragically, as any trip down South Beach can tell you, the technology hasn't improved at all since the 1960s;

3) Captain Kirk told Scotty to prepare for EMERGENCY SAUCER SEPARATION. This line hit me like a punch to the face. I thought I hallucinated it, and I wondered for a minute if I was sober. Saucer separation is so associated with TNG the idea the TOS Enterprise could do it blew my mind.

4) Most importantly...Captain Kirk was trying to save people that didn't want to really be saved. Of all the evil computer stories, this one was the weakest for that reason. It wasn't that the spray tan people were mind controlled. This wasn't an enslaved people asking to be liberated. They honestly, sincerely preferred their existence in servitude, including the human sacrifice.

If there's any episode with a parallel to the Trill, it would be this. There are lines and lines around the block among humanoid Trill to receive a symbiote. I agree that's how Captain Kirk would probably have reacted to the Trill, although that's not a positive reaction on him.

Part of being a grownup is watching other people make mistakes. Women return to men that abuse them. Couples all wrong for each other get back together. Similarly, unasked for intervention in other countries is something that always, always, always, always backfires. It's always smarter to not get involved, because when messing with a democracy we make enemies with long memories, and when messing with dictatorships we play to their strengths and our weaknesses.

Lots of people chafe at the Prime Directive, and it doesn't help there are terminally stupid places where the PD's been applied in anti-humanitarian ways, like that one episode where Data had problems saving a little girl's life.

But the evil computer the people just happen to like – and the humanoid Trill who like being hobby horses for gross worms – are one place where it actually makes sense. That's not any of Kirk's business.

There were some changes made in TNG that questioned the logic of things in the original series, like the captain on away teams.

(Not enough, as far as I'm concerned. For instance, did you ever see a military vehicle where a captain kept his back to a door? I can't believe they missed the opportunity in TNG to change that. That design is especially inexcusable on a purely military vehicle like the Defiant from DS9.)

Still, part of the reason for TNG's disdain for the original series is that...yeah, the original series was great at times, but pretty cheesy almost all the time, like that embarrassing episode with Abe Lincoln. And terms of writing, direction and acting TNG was a better, more serious show.

David said...

"The Apple" has tons of problems, but the biggest one is probably that it's afraid to be what it set out to be, which is a rejection of even a benevolent God if the tribute he demands is mindless servitude. In making the "god" a robot, they cut the episode off at the knees. By now, we already knew the show's position on humans in servitude to computers. The aim of "The Apple," ostensibly, was to show that even our world of human failings and frequent cruelty is still preferable, in the end, to an "Eden" defined by countless generations of happy ignorance, never achieving, never progressing, merely existing.

As you say, the correctness of that position is up for debate, but at least it's a position. Making "Vaal" a computer turns it into something else; another exercise in anti-computerism. Naturally we have to assume that these backward people didn't themselves build a device of such sophistication (even if it does look like a Godzilla pinata), so that means it must have been left by another race, either alien to this world or predating the current population, or perhaps worse, it was built by these people's ancestors, and over time all their knowledge has been lost in a pointless existence as loving slaves of their own creation.

Whatever the case, now it's just another anti-machine show, and not even one of the better ones. So bleh.

The "saucer separation" does go way back. It was in the show bible and may have been mentioned in Whitfield's "Making of Star Trek" book (released between the 2nd and 3rd seasons) and it certainly figured in fan fiction in the 70s. Ultimately it was just too expensive to film in the 60s.

I don't think TNG's "disdain" for TOS (if that's the right word) has to do with its cheesiness so much as discomfort with attitudes deemed -- in retrospect -- as sexist, xenophobic and, on occasion, luddite (one example being Kirk's "prejudice" against artificial life-forms; Data makes them cute and cuddly and, in terms of charm, preferable to 9/10ths of the Enterprise-D crew). Sometimes it seems the entire aim of TNG is to prove "Trek isn't geeky anymore," which is a message that went over big with modern genre fans, who are ever desperate to be taken seriously.

The "anti-TOS" bent to TNG only grates on me because TNG spent so much time rehashing old TOS plots for the first two years -- and doing a piss-poor job of it -- while simultaneously dumping on it. Some of the changes/fixes where logical and welcome, like the "away team" concept. You can see the fingerprints of David Gerrold there; he spent some time in his "World of Trek" book blasting the foolishness of Kirk beaming into harm's way every week and proposed the "away team" notion in that book. But a lot of TNG betrayed that self-satisfied smugness characteristic of any "next generation" standing on the shoulders of the previous; the attitude of "Boy, aren't we more enlightened than our ignorant parents were? Good thing we're open-minded and progressive enough to have solved all the problems they created." Ultimately, that attitude is just as grating as Kirk's own insufferable "I know best" routine. And guess what, guys? Pat yourself on the back all you want, but at the end of the day, you're still running around in your underwear spouting nonsense dialog. La plus ca change.

And for the record, outside of the incomparable Patrick Stewart and, on his best days, Brent Spiner, I didn't think the acting was any great shakes on TNG. So I still give TOS the edge, with three strong leads.

TheTrillMustBeEradicated said...

Hear me out, here.

I don't need to hear you out. I hate the trill, and consider them shiny-happy-evil in a way the Stepford wives could never be.

The worms are parasites. They move from host to host, using them up and discarding them when they outlive their usefulness. Conveniently for these parasites, removing them kills the humanoid host, while the worms are free to slither off to a new victim. Also conveniently, each new victim-parasite "joining" "becomes a whole other person," thus absolving both host and parasite of responsibility or guilt for its past crimes and misdeeds.

And the Trill are so creepy, they actually jocky for position and trample one another in their desire to be "chosen" for the "honor" of hosting one of these parasites.

But even creepier than the "joined" (enslaved-victimized) Trill are the guardians - Trill so enslaved to these parasites that they "dedicate their lives" to caring for these worms without even the dubious "honor" of being victimized.

Yuck! What a disgusting species! I just started watching Facets again and was struck anew by the creepiness of these parasites; it isn't enough for Dax to offend normal people with her creepiness - now she wants seven other humanoids to give up their bodies to indulge her in further creepiness. She wants to infest them with her "personalities" too! Y-u-u-c-k. I would've told that bitch straight up, "you're creepy, your parasite worm is creepy, the two of you are creepy. I've always had a problem with the total lack of ethics and morals that are part and parcel of this whole "joined Trill" thing, and no way in hell am I going to give you my body as a medium for you to spread your creepiness further."

I think what I find creepiest of all is the unselfconscious Stepford-wife-ism of the whole thing; they're a pretty race, with nice YUPpie aesthetics, and the whole thing is presented as benign, so we're supposed to forget the inherent creepiness and amorality? Uhm, no.

A creepy, parasitic immortal worm that goes from one body to the next, using each up and then jumping to the next fresh-faced genius candidate looking to get a lifelong endorphin ("confidence") fix? No thanks.

Yet the truth, as discovered in "Equilibrium," is that over 50% of the humanoid Trill could work as hosts.

WOW, excellent point. I knew there was a new, added level of creepiness exposed in Equilibrium, that I hadn't processed yet, and was just reacting to on a visceral level. But you've put your finger on it - it makes them even creepier, because they don't have to consume the best and brightest of Trill society; that's just what these parasites tell the Trill so they get the cream of the crop to inhabit.

Sorry for the rant, but I started watching that episode and just had to vent. No, you creepy Stepford-wife zombie bitch, you can't have MY body too!

I could never warm to the idea of the Trill, and the reason you cite: it just feels wrong. But then, I will forever be a TOS man, and there is no way the "symbiotic" Trill relationship could be anything but evil and wrong, wrong, wrong to James T. Kirk, that champion of free will and individualism who would have seen being "taken over" by another mind the worst fate imaginable, and made it his mission to remove every last parasite from its human host for the latter's "own good."

Then I guess I'm a "Kirk man" too. I'd be sitting around in briefings with the officers on DS9, secretly planning how to eradicate the disgusting parasitic worm species from the universe.

Amber Dawn said...

Of COURSE Riker would sleep wiht Dr. Crusher. What woman wouldn't Riker sleep with?