So, since I can’t argue with the author of this piece directly, I came here to argue. Feel free to ignore me if you’d rather just dismiss crappy review articles. Glad to see that others here liked the episode (as I did!). Spoilers below, if you haven’t watched it yet (hopefully mild ones).
I think this is the main point I want to argue about, actually. The author seems to completely miss how this episode tackles the issue.
It’s entirely clear that the conversation is about fundamental natures vs. a societal oppression of those natures. The author gets really hung up on the idea that a sex change operation is involved (and then snarkily points out that “sex change” is not on the Approved Terms list, despite the fact that it’s the more accurate term for an operation performed without knowledge or reference to the identity of the person undergoing the operation - this isn’t surgery to correct a gender mismatch, it’s pure and simple changing of all females to males). The point, though, isn’t about whether people should be allowed (or tolerated, or supported) to transition, or whether gender confirmation surgery is ok / good / immoral / whatever. The point is a much more subtle take, approaching the question the other way around. Basically, what he’s saying is, “Do you agree that it would be wrong to force people to live as different sex and pretend to be a gender they aren’t?” The setup at least, assuming he follows through, allows for some robust storylines about the way in which this enforced sex change impacts the child, and how those are reflected in Klyden.
There’s also a completely unrelated concept woven in, that is equally important: how much leeway should a culture have to be afforded it’s own views on basic rights? Is it ok to enforce this surgery because that’s the culture’s beliefs / tradition? Everyone would likely agree that a human culture aborting all female fetuses would be wrong to an unacceptable degree. But what about if females were incredibly rare? What if males could reproduce with other males, and females could be changed into males that can also reproduce? Are those important hypotheticals to discuss? Maybe not, but a little bit of trolleyology is what we want out of Start Trek, right?
The show is providing an opportunity to explore ethics without politics, with an upbeat cast and some whiz-bang technology and action. The plotline about the alien zoo, and especially the punchline, were well-done, I thought. It’s an old idea (the Martian Chronicles had almost exactly the same concept), but it’s not like everyone agrees with the premise that capturing and imprisoning creatures for your own amusement is ethically shady, no matter how well you treat them. I’d much rather have an SNG-style show that brings up these issues, bats them around from multiple angles, and leaves the viewer to continue to think about it, rather than trying to push an answer on you. For what it’s worth, my initial reaction to this episode was to want to support Bortus’s right to make decisions that align with his culture, but I eventually came around to viewing it and the society as wrong (a position the crew held immediately).
It was the third episode, and a good one. Most new series show their first three episodes to critics. The network didn’t grab some random episode it was proud of to show here, and there’s no need to assume that anyone saw this one as particularly more daring than the alien zoo one. Anyway, the article annoyed me, the episode was fun. I’m not convinced this show is great, and I certainly don’t think it’s SNG reborn (yet), but it’s got a lot more potential than I initially thought.