The other night I saw an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that tackled the emotional complexities of love. It was one of those shows that Trek does well: shining a light on the human condition.
The show opens with Dr. Beverly Crusher obviously head-over-heels in love with Odan, an alien ambassador. Unbeknownst to her, Odan is actually two beings that live in a symbiotic relationship. There’s the man she sees, and the entity that she’s not aware of – a Trill — that lives in the man’s abdomen. This living arrangement is mutually beneficial, but the bulk of Odan’s personality comes from the Trill. The doctor fell in love with the personality.
Later in the show, the ambassador is mortally wounded and ends up in sick bay, where he’s forced to tell Beverly of his coexistent lifestyle. She’s confused and upset that the man she thought she knew would keep such a big secret from her. On his world, this dual relationship is so common that it never occurs to them to reveal it to single entities like us. To Beverly, though, it appears dishonest and deceptive.
As a good doctor, she puts her feelings aside and removes the Trill to save it before the host body dies. The only trouble is, it needs another host to survive. First officer Will Riker volunteers to be a temporary host until a new, more-compatible host can be found. Humans don’t adapt well to this kind of coupling, so it’s not an ideal solution. It stresses Will and Ambassador Odan.
After the operation, Will becomes the Ambassador. He has all the memory and feelings of Odan, including a love for Beverly. But she doesn’t know how to feel about him, and she avoids him — in spite of persistent strong feelings.
Beverly confides in Ship’s Counselor Troi that she can’t return the affections of a man she thinks of as a brother. She says she wishes Odan never came on board, and she’d do anything not to feel the way she does.
Doctor Crusher is tortured by a love that’s out of reach. It’s an emotional ache that most of us have felt at some time in our lives, and it can come with physical manifestations such as loss of appetite and/or sleep. The constant reminder of Will Riker’s presence was an ingenious way for the writers to tantalize Beverly with the prospect of a love now seemingly unattainable.
Beverly does eventually look beyond her so-called human bias, and she goes to Will. Her need for closeness to Odan overpowers her, and they consummate their love. She looks forward to removing the Trill and placing it in the new host body, so that she can resume her affair. The next scene could be titled You should’ve seen the look on your face. The new host shows up, and it’s a woman. Beverly ends the relationship.
Given that our physical presences and personalities are inseparable, perhaps the question Trek wanted to pose is do we need to know all of someone’s secrets to bond with them? Human nature is complex; for instance, not everything can be learned in the ten days that Dr. Crusher fell for the ambassador. Whirlwind romances do happen all the time in real life, though. Does that mean we don’t need to know all about someone to love them?
In Future Perfect, main character Jamie McCord pines for a woman who has been dead for a hundred million years. He eventually meets Lilah, who reminds him of his lost love — and he falls for her. Unfortunately, Lilah turns out to be an intelligence agent named Lisa, who was manipulating him.
With Lilah/Lisa’s true nature exposed, Jamie rejects her at first; but strong feelings return, and as sometimes happens in reality, they make up and fall in love again.
Whirlwind romances can be intoxicating, but perhaps love is really a longer-term journey of discovery.
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The main character, Jamie McCord’s nephew Cord Devlin, uses his fanboy knowledge of Star Trek to help U.S. Intelligence deal with otherworldly threats.
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