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Old November 14 2012, 11:45 AM   #5
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Re: Aliens of Trek Lit, Chapter Five - Efrosians!

There is also the idea that the Efrosians were originally supposed to be all blind - thus providing the first example of the "blind guy driving the ship" gag (that later crystallized with Geordi LaForge) in the person of the Saratoga helmsman. That character was given all-white contact lenses (Saratoga helmsman) in an attempt to suggest this.

When the make-up was re-used for Ra'ghoratreii, the white lenses were dropped (as can be seen in the image above). But the glasses he wears at the Khitomer conference, and the way Kirk gently leads him around, might be seen to suggest that he is still blind anyway, even without the lenses.

If the Efrosians were all blind, that would fit in very well with the idea that their history and culture is based on music and spoken word - if they can't see, they wouldn't have much of a written language, would they? Of course information would be conveyed verbally and musically.

I don't believe any Lit has ever made reference to this, though. Ra-Havreii, Altoss and Fellen Ni-Yaleii have never been described as being blind. I don't quite remember the novelizations of TVH and TUC, so I can't say if the idea is included there or not.

Which leaves us with the conclusion that, if Efrosians are not intended to be all blind, then the all-white contact lenses on the Saratoga helmsman must simply be a natural occurence in a certain percentage of Efrosians which does not signify anything in particular. Or that that guy was blind, but most of them aren't.

I did really enjoy that scene in Sword of Damocles where Ra-Havreii locked himself away in his quarters and diagnosed what was wrong with the Titan's engines simply by listening to them. I thought that was a fascinating insight into the species, and made me like him for the first time. Up to then I'd found him worrisome, a man whose personal issues and demons could be very dangerous for a man in such a position of power. Not the promiscuous thing (I'll discuss that later) but the Luna thing - how he seemed to obsess over it and be almost fixated on it. I didn't trust him in the role of Chief Engineer - not because I didn't think he could do the job, but because he was doing the job for all the wrong reasons. After Sword of Damocles I softened towards him.

Another point that Over a Torrent Sea brings up about Ra-Havreii is that he is agoraphobic - he's extremely uncomfortable in the open-air locales of the Droplet planet. But I don't see this as being a general trait of all Efrosians. I'm sure I remember something about Efrosian civilization being largely outdoors and built in the trees (almost like the Nasat), and so agoraphobia would be quite unlikely in such a culture. Therefore I think this is just a trait of Ra-Havreii individually. It might even have contributed to his decision to become an engineer - to quote Sheldon Cooper, "a career I chose in no small part because it takes place largely indoors."

As to the promiscuity issue, I’m thrilled that the Lit continues to explore sexuality in different ways, not just with the LGBT issues but by exploring the truth that some people are simply not designed to be monogamous, and some people are, and there is no value judgement in that, by extrapolating it out to an entire culture. I like that Ra-Havreii is not looked down upon for liking the ladies, and that most people simply accept it as who he is and who the Efrosians are (or if they don’t immediately accept, they recognise that they’re the one with the problem, not him). It’s another way in which Titan the series has really got its teeth into the concept of diversity and different types of people living together and getting along. I loved the little titbit that was dropped in Orion’s Hounds that explains that, to Efrosians, it would be considered rude not to flirt with a person of one’s preferred sex, that it would be tantamount to calling them ugly. I think that’s delightful.

But then that leads me to be mildly disappointed that, over the course of the novels, Xin seems to have “settled down” into a monogamous relationship with Melora. I’m blocking a lot of Fallen Gods out so maybe I’m forgetting, but I don’t think there’s been any mention of Xin still being free to have sex with other people while he’s in a relationship with Melora. I can see the appeal of the relationship to the writers – the woman who won’t let anyone in with the man who lets everyone in but none of them mean anything – but while it may not have been the intention, I can’t help being left with the message that promiscuity is just a thing a man does until he finds “the one” and that monogamy is inevitable and superior to non-monogamy, which is precisely the opposite message the same character gave at the start. It feels like Ra-Havreii being forced to change what is completely natural to him, ordinary and standard and culturally expected, to fit in with what the majority of other cultures might expect. And that’s disappointing.

Finally, Altoss and Fellen are both female Efrosians, which have never been seen on screen. One assumes that the females don’t also have the long white moustaches, but I actually picture them with traditionally much shorter hair than the males as well, comparatively close-cropped or perhaps in a ponytail.

There’s also the fact that Fellen was a non-Starfleet Efrosian, and part of a criminal gang. It’s not unusual for individuals of nations that are members of the Federation to have gone rogue and follow their own rules – we’ve seen that in plenty of Federation races, not least humans – but it’s nice to see that Efrosians, as individuals, are not immune from disenchantment with the Federation way. It stops them from appearing monolithic as a culture.

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