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Riker falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous race known as the J'naii, who dares to be female.



"Captain's log, stardate 45614.6. We have been contacted by an androgynous race called the J'naii to investigate the mysterious disappearance of one of their shuttlecraft."

When the J'naii mysteriously lose track of one of their shuttlecraft within their own star system, they request the USS Enterprise-D crew to assist in the investigation to help them locate it. Three of them are on the bridge observing the effort. Data detects neutrino emissions, but can detect no source. They launch a probe, but after a few seconds it vanishes and stops transmitting for no reason.

Act One[]

"Captain's log, supplemental. The sudden disappearance of our probe suggests that we may have found the first instance of what is called null space, an anomaly which until now had been only theoretical. Commander Riker has been working around the clock with a team of J'naii specialists to formalize this hypothesis."

A pocket of null space is discovered in the system, which until now had been considered theoretical. Believing the missing shuttle to be trapped inside the pocket, Commander Riker and Soren of the J'naii devise a rescue plan. Soren insists on being involved in the rescue mission, as Soren is a good pilot. Riker replies that he is a proficient pilot as well and suggests they team up and they go to the shuttlebay aboard the Enterprise-D to review the shuttle Magellan's systems.

Working closely with the Enterprise crew, and Commander Riker in particular, Soren reveals themself to be curious about the differences between males and females. In Ten Forward, they have a long conversation about it, with Riker explaining the many differences between the sexes, both physically and emotionally. At the end, Krite arrives and Soren decides to leave, suddenly more formal as they bid Riker goodnight.

Act Two[]

"Captain's log, supplemental. Commander Riker and the J'naii pilot have set out to chart the null space pocket. If they are successful, we can then proceed with a rescue attempt."

Riker and Soren begin the charting mission of the null pocket. During this, Soren bluntly asks about Human sexual organs and acts. Riker, somewhat uncomfortable, explains the process and Soren describes the process for the J'naii, describing it as less risky while Riker comments that it seems to be "less enjoyable." Soren disagrees, as the mating process is a long process, replete with variety and invention, she assures Riker. Soren then recounts the J'naii history of evolving from the male/female divide. Suddenly, the shuttle's engine is damaged and they retreat to the Enterprise.

Soren is taken to sickbay to recover. Soren strikes up a conversation with Beverly Crusher about the sexes. She tells Soren that men and women are considered equal. Riker arrives and asks if Soren can continue, and Crusher agrees, but tells her to return to sickbay if she starts to exhibit symptoms. Meanwhile, during a poker game, Worf reveals he is bothered by the genderless J'naii, because he still has stereotypical views on men and women and does not know how to relate to the J'naii.

On the shuttle, Soren reveals to Riker that the J'naii consider it a criminal perversion for a J'naii to identify as either male or female, but Soren admits to having secretly identified as a female since childhood and having had relationships in secret with those who identify as males. Soren finds Riker attractive and is interested in starting a relationship with him.

Act Three[]

Geordi La Forge approves the shuttle's launch and they head out, noting they have a short timeframe before the shuttle is completely drained of energy by the null pocket. Fortunately, they find the Taris Murn and life signs aboard it, but the two crew members are unconscious. After a brief fight with power drains, they successfully beam the two to the shuttle, then to sickbay. Crusher says they should be all right and orders dexalin. Krite immediately thanks Riker and invites them all to the planet that evening to celebrate.

Riker and Soren kiss

"I've always been interested in exobotany."

At the celebration, Riker takes a moment to sit at a bench outside to breathe, and Soren meets him. Under some slight observation, Soren asks Riker if he would like to see the plant life. Riker smiles at her and says he would, as he has always been interested in exobotany. While strolling through the forest, Soren notes some of the plants to Riker, but the romantic mood strikes him. Riker gently pulls Soren close to himself and begins to passionately kiss her.

Act Four[]

Riker goes to discuss the forming relationship with Deanna Troi in her quarters and how it would affect their relationship if he pursues it with Soren. Troi puts aside Riker's fears of losing their friendship, telling him that that will never change. He's pleased and leaves to see her. Instead, he finds Krite in Soren's quarters, who informs him she's been arrested, and Riker immediately goes to the planet.

Riker intrudes on the proceedings, already in progress, and pleads to Noor for Soren's release, saying he forced himself on Soren and acted inappropriately. Soren, however, is tired of living a lie and owns up to the act. She makes a plea for acceptance of all those with gender identities, saying no one has been hurt or affected, that they are all like everyone else and just want to be accepted for who they are. Noor allows her to speak, but with a blank expression, not giving away an opinion.

Act Five[]

The tribunal, incapable of open-mindedness, sentences Soren to receive treatment on the following day. Riker asks the tribunal for permission to give Soren asylum aboard the Enterprise in lieu of the treatment, but the request is denied, as the J'naii see Soren's condition as a simple sickness they have an obligation to cure.

Picard offers to negotiate with Noor, the leader of the J'naii, for Soren's release. He urges Riker not to take matters into his own hands as he would be violating the Prime Directive if he does, thus putting himself at risk of losing his career in Starfleet. Riker, however, is convinced the J'naii's minds are set and any negotiations would be futile. Worf overcomes his prejudices after hearing of the events that had transpired on the planet. The same evening, Riker and Worf lead a rescue mission together to save Soren. They are able to get Soren away from the security guards, however, they are too late. Soren has already undergone the psychotectic treatment and has no more interest in Riker and apologizes for reaching out to him, explaining that the urges she had were terrible. Soren starts to go back, but Riker makes one last attempt and tries to tell her that he loves her. Soren apologizes to Riker and leaves him.

After warning buoys have been deployed around the null space pocket, the Enterprise is prepared to leave the system. Picard asks Riker if all their business with the J'naii is finished, and he answers without emotion, "finished, sir". Picard orders Ensign Gates to take the Enterprise to warp six, while Riker stares ahead, distraught.

Log entries[]

Memorable quotes[]

"We prefer to stay warm by sleeping with a friend."
"… I see."
"Not to mate."

- Soren and Riker

"It's hard to grasp the idea of no gender."

- Riker, on the androgynous J'naii

"Tell me… about males. What is it that makes you different from females?"
"Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails…"
"You have a dog's tail?"

- Soren and Riker, discussing the sexes

"Commander, tell me about your sexual organs."

- Soren and Riker, while in the shuttle

"For Humans, the sexual act brings a closeness and intimacy. It can be a very pleasurable experience."

- Riker discusses sex between a man and a woman to Soren

"The J'naii… they bother me."
"Why, Worf?"
"They just do!"

- Worf and Deanna Troi

"On my planet, we have been taught that gender is primitive."
"Less evolved."
"Maybe so, but sometimes, there is a lot to be said for an experience that's… primitive."

- Soren and Riker

"Then it is up to women to attract the men?"
"Oh no, men want to be attractive, too. Believe me. They just go about it differently. They like to pretend they're not doing anything to attract a woman, even when it's the most important thing on their minds."

- Soren and Dr. Crusher

"That is a woman's game… a man's game has no wild cards."

- Worf, on Troi's use of wildcards in poker

"I am female. I was born that way. I have had those feelings, those longings, all of my life. It is not unnatural. I am not sick because I feel this way. I do not need to be helped. I do not need to be cured. What I need, and what all of those who are like me need, is your understanding. And your compassion. We have not injured you in any way. And yet we are scorned and attacked. And all because we are different. What we do is no different from what you do. We talk and laugh. We complain about work. And we wonder about growing old. We talk about our families and we worry about the future. And we cry with each other when things seem hopeless. All of the loving things that you do with each other – that is what we do. And for that we are called misfits, and deviants and criminals. What right do you have to punish us? What right do you have to change us? What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?"

- Soren, to Noor

"You see commander, on this world, everyone wants to be normal."
"She is!"

- Noor and Riker

Background information[]

Production history[]

Story and script[]

  • While both Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation frequently dealt with issues such as sexism, racism, and treatment of minority ethnic groups, neither show had to date addressed homosexuality. By the fifth season of The Next Generation, this omission was increasingly controversial. The show became the subject of a number of letter-writing campaigns demanding that non-heterosexual relationships were shown on screen. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 194) See also: Non-heterosexual characters in Star Trek
  • Michael Piller remembered, "Roddenberry had been barraged by letters and had discussed with us before his death the possibility of having two men hold hands in some scene." However, neither Piller nor Rick Berman felt that this was an appropriate way to handle the matter. Berman commented, "We'd been spending a lot of time wrestling with all the elements of the requests of the gay community for us to involve a gay character on the show. It got a lot of publicity both good and bad. We wrestled with a lot of different stories, and came up with a very obvious metaphor to the gay community and the intolerance they receive on this planet." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 240-241)
  • Jeri Taylor enthusiastically volunteered to write the teleplay. She recalled, "I really wanted to do it, because, partly, it would be controversial and I welcome that. The idea of any drama is to touch people's feelings and engage them, whether you make them laugh, cry, angry. As long as you stir something in them, then you've been successful and I knew this would touch a lot of buttons in a lot of people." She added, "I am not a gay person, but as a woman I do consider myself in a particular minority; I know what it feels like to be disenfranchised – not in that precise way – and I felt like I had a touchstone to some of the feelings that must be involved." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 240)
  • In another interview, Taylor noted, "I identify with the disenfranchised and the powerless of our world. So I really wanted to make a statement for tolerance, broad-mindedness, and acceptance of those who are disenfranchised." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 246)
  • Piller noted that, unlike "The Masterpiece Society" and "Ethics" earlier in the fifth season, the writers were not overly concerned about portraying alternative viewpoints. He commented, "I don't think there is another side that's easily supportable. I think that bigotry is bigotry, prejudice is prejudice, and it can be said with all the fervor and belief, but it still comes out as prejudice. I don't know how to make an intolerant person attractive." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 239)
  • Two lines of dialogue were cut from the final episode: Noor explaining to Riker that the J'naii are by all measurements an enlightened race and Riker asking, "Then how is it that Soren has no choice about her sexual orientation?" [2]


Cast and characters[]

  • The actresses cast in the episode had their voices electronically lowered and they were outfitted in masculine clothes for their role. According to Michael Piller, "We wanted to go midway between males and females, and we tried it with both actors and actresses and found that it worked best with actresses." While the producers tried not to let public perceptions of what was acceptable "influence us too much...", Rick Berman conceded, "but having Riker engaged in passionate kisses with a male actor might have been a little unpalatable to viewers." ("Space Odyssey", Marilyn Beck, Tribune Media Services (found in various newspapers), Week of 12 March 1992)
  • Jonathan Frakes criticized the decision to cast women in the roles of the J'naii. "I didn't think they were gutsy enough to take it where they should have. Soren should have been more obviously male. We've gotten a lot of mail on this episode, but I'm not sure it was as good as it could have been – if they were trying to do what they call a gay episode." When advised of Frakes' comments, Brannon Braga mused, "If it would have been a man playing the role, would he have kissed him? I think Jonathan would have because he's a gutsy guy." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 240)
  • Megan Cole later played Senator Kimara Cretak in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "Image in the Sand" and "Shadows and Symbols".



  • Director Robert Scheerer approved of this episode. He commented, "[It] was very good […] It's a unique show in that it's almost two-person; everybody's in it in small pieces, but basically, it's scene after scene of just two actors, and it's really quite touching." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 20, p. 35)
  • Jeri Taylor was also pleased with the end result. "It's the episode of the whole two years I'm the most proud of and the most glad I could be associated with." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 240)
  • Michael Piller also approved. He noted, "I thought Jeri did a marvelous job on the script and to me this was the turning point of the season and this was where I thought we started doing excellent television again." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 240)
  • After the episode aired, the producers received many letters critical of the installment. Some of these were from social conservatives. However, more objections came from the gay community, who believed that the episode was too oblique and didn't go far enough. In particular, they noted that homosexuality was not even mentioned. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 246)
  • Rick Berman recalled, "We thought we had made a very positive statement about sexual prejudice in a distinctively Star Trek way, but we still got letters from those who thought it was just our way of 'washing our hands' of the homosexual situation." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 194)
  • After Trek host Matt Mira stated about this installment, "It's a great episode," and encouraged the After Trek audience to "check that out." (AT: "Vaulting Ambition")
  • A mission report for this episode, by John Sayers, was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 20, pp. 54-56.

Video and DVD releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]

Guest stars[]

Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt double[]

Stand-ins and photo double[]


2161; 24-hour clock; ace; Alaska; androgyny; annular confinement beam; anomaly; anti-inflammatory; argument; armament; attitude; baby; backup system; battle of the sexes; body; buffer field generator; career; casual conversation; cheek; civic chamber; cloak; cochrane (millicochrane); color; concussion; coordinates; co-pilot; criminal; dance; day; debris; delta four grid map; delta five grid map; deviant; dexalin; dizziness; dog; doll; Earth; electromagnetic energy; emotional attitude; engine nacelle; energy absorption; era; evidence; evolution; exobotany; experience; eyelids; falla bush; Federation; Federation Day; feeling; fetus; fingernails; firing sequence; flight protocols; flight school; flight simulation; friend; gas; gender; genitals (sexual organ); gravitational field; graviton polarity source generator; guest of honor; hair; head of government; headache; high resolution sweep; Human; husk; hypothesis; idea; inertial damper; inflammation; injury; insemination; instructor; intelligence; interstellar dust; intimacy; J'naii; J'naii (planet); J'naii system; joke; kilometer; kiss; laughter; life support; long range scan; lunch; Magellan; magnetic field; make-up; maneuvering thruster; manifold thrust; mating; megajoule; menellen tree; microfusion thruster; microjoule; Midsummer Night's Dream, A; mind; mission; mouth; navigational deflector; neutrino emission; night; null space (null pocket; null space pocket); nursery rhyme; Onizuka; opinion; oxygen; phaser array; Phelan system; phenomenon; photon pulse; physical attractiveness; pilot; plestorene; poker; political asylum; port; portable transporter array; power reserve; Prime Directive; probe; pronoun (personal pronoun); propulsion system; psychotectic therapy; question; radius; rate; recipe; replicator; Riker, Kyle; schematic reactor assembly; sanction; sentence; sexes (aka gender); sexism; sexual act; sexual reproduction; sexuality; sexually compatible; shuttle flight operations; size; sleeping; snail; snips; social function; Soren's parents; space; specialist; species (race); spice; split pea soup; star system; starboard; student; sugar; symptom; systems review; tail; Taris Murn; thing; thinking; topic; throwback; tractor beam; transfer conduit; translation; Troi, Ian Andrew; Troi, Lwaxana; Troi ancestors; type 4 phaser emitter; Type 6 shuttlecraft; Type 15 shuttlepod; warning buoy; warp engine; "What Are Little Boys Made Of?"; wild card

Unreferenced material[]

estrogen; testosterone

Other references[]

Shuttle Systems 40275: atmospheric ramscoop; flight avionics unit; forward emitter array; forward navigational sensor array; forward sensor array; forward viewport; fusion reactor core; graviton polarity source; power supply; primary emitter; reaction control thruster quad; warp coil assembly; warp nacelle

External links[]

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