Over the weekend many people and corporations were doing their part to celebrate the mothers of the world. Star Trek’s official website seemed to be no different.
They shared an article titled, “Star Trek’s Depictions of Motherhood Are Changing For the Better.” Accompanying the article was a photo of L’Rell, Georgiou, and Raffi.
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) May 7, 2020
Fans initially reacted to the headline and the accompanying photo.
One was a rapist, one a murderer who probably had inappropriate relations with her adopted daughter based on the way she looked at her and the last was a deadbeat druggie who had her baby taken from her. You’re just trolling the “drekkies” at this point, right? pic.twitter.com/Sojys5uS7k
— MechaRandom42, Queen Mecha of the FandomMenace (@RandomMnky) May 8, 2020
I’m stunned at the choice here. These images don’t come to mind when I think of mothers in #StarTrek
— SciFiTV (@SciFiTV50) May 8, 2020
L’rell faked her child’s death and sent him to live in exile on a distant planet. Raffi was so traumatised and drug addicted she became estranged from her son. Compared to the supportive, happy Crushers and O’Briens how is this “changing for the better”?
— Cacovidemon (@UncleCrepitus) May 7, 2020
And while those reactions might seem knee-jerk at first, upon deeper inspection of the article it makes sense why some fans of Star Trek found author Shelby Gull Laird’s choices for a better motherhood questionable, to say the least.
Laird focuses her praise on Michael Burnham’s numerous mother figures. They include Amanda Grayson, the Mirror Universe version of Philippa Georgiou, and Gabrielle Burnham.
Laird writes about Grayson, “Amanda is the much more traditional mother, a comforting and loving presence with both of her children.” This of course is a natural choice. She is Spock’s mother. In Discovery, she essentially steps into the role that was vacated by the absence of Gabrielle Burnham, Michael’s biological mother.
Next is Georgiou. Of her, she explains, “Mirror Georgiou attempts, in her own somewhat evil way, to guide Michael, in acts that only seem like attempts at kindness.”
This is an unusual choice to say the least. The reality is that mirror Georgiou spent the majority of her life as a mass-murdering dictator of the Terran Empire; who enjoyed dining on aliens, but I guess everyone has their quirks?
They have tried to rehabilitate the character turning her more into an anti-hero, but having her be an example as a better mother doesn’t make sense. It’s not someone I would recommend praise for.
On the subject of Gabrielle Burnham she writes, “Dr. Gabrielle Burnham is working hard while also being a mom. She has a career as a research scientist while also raising a daughter with her husband. The family seems to be doing quite well at achieving that work-life balance when the Klingons arrive to mess it all up.”
Gabrielle Burnham of course is also a natural choice. Her struggles have been primarily to protect her child, a basic motherly drive.
The next few choices are downright just wrong. See, Laird goes on to praise some other questionable mothers in Discovery and Picard. She does this while ignoring established women who have really done more as mothers.
Laird points to Raffi, Picard’s Seven of Nine (in my humble opinion, not the same character as seen on Voyager), and L’Rell.
First, Raffiaela Musiker or Raffi for short is a drug addict who abandoned her own son and husband during the mission to evacuate Romulus. Don’t the writers of Picard know at least one military spouse?
What makes this character an even worse choice is that she spends most of the Picard show blaming others for her own misfortunes instead of just reflecting and solving her own issues.
The addition of Seven of Nine as a motherly figure is a strange choice to say the least. That’s because her relationship with Captain Janeway would have made more sense instead of Picard’s soft retcon of the character.
Janeway and Seven of Nine’shad a number of elements from a mother and daughter relationship during the later seasons of Star Trek: Voyager. Janeway even guides her on her path to reclaim her humanity.
Instead Laird chooses Seven of Nine from Picard where she doesn’t convey any real motherly notions aside from one scene after Icheb was brutalized. A strange choice to say the least.
One character that should have been the standard-bearer for the subject of mothers in Star Trek is Dr. Crusher. Laird does mention, but downplays her role, claiming only boys can really relate to her.
Laird writes, ” Though Doctor Crusher was always a loving mother and became a more complex character as The Next Generation progressed, her competence and responsibility as a doting mother of a smart and stubborn teen was nothing if not predictable.”
She added, “And, though I imagine teenage boys might be able to relate to this mothering experience, navigating the teen years for a mother and a daughter can look very different.”
Dr. Beverly Crusher, a single widowed mother, had to not only juggle her Starfleet medical career and raise a son as he was entering adulthood without her husband.
This would later be mirrored by the relationship between Captain Benjamin Sisko and Jake Sisko on Deep Space Nine. Any parent can tell you the teen years are by far the easiest. (This is a massive dose of sarcasm if you cannot tell).
Laird’s argument that these new Star Trek mothers are better than previous mothers is outright ridiculous especially when you are raising up a drug addict and a megalomaniac dictator.
There are plenty of great mothers in Star Trek much more fit than them.
For example, you have Keiko O’Brien. As viewers know, Keiko wasn’t only a mother, but a working professional. Like Dr. Crusher she juggled her profession as a grade-school teacher with being the spouse of an enlisted Starfleet engineer. Not only did she serve as a good mother, but she also had to deal the fall out of her husband’s career choice. Most notably his PTSD due to his experiences in combat and a prisoner in the Deep Space Nine episode “Hard Time”.
Then you have everyone’ s favorite potential mother in law, Lwazana Troi. Though at times very overbearing for Deanna, she really showed her colors in multiple episodes when it came to the well being of her adult daughter. When she wasn’t creeping out Jean Luc Picard, she was busy harassing her daughter as only a worried mother could, no matter the species.
There is also Quark’s mother, who appears in a number of episodes on DS9. For example, she was a women’s rights revolutionary on a planet that held females to a level of servitude similar to the modern Middle East. She championed women’s rights within the Ferengi civilization so that female Ferengi could own property and object to being paraded around naked in public.
One would think that someone as courageous as she might have made the list.
Laird’s article appears more like a puff piece to promote Discovery and Picard and Kurtzman’s new timeline that he is building that attempts to discredit the shows and characters in Star Trek’s past.
I’ll even argue this is just another step in a larger campaign to willfully throw away Gene Rodenberry’s humanist intent because it’s just easier to reference everything after 2016.
For fans like myself, this disappointing, but not surprising at all. Star Trek seems to be in a metamorphosis of sorts that seeks to forget the past and embrace modern Hollywood values instead of looking forward.
What do you think of the author’s choices for mothers of Star Trek?