Appreciating Ishara Yar

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by BigJake, Sep 19, 2021.

  1. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, this is not a thread about how hot Beth Toussaint was (and/or is) or her resemblance to Sarah Connor. It's simply about Ishara Yar turning out to be unexpectedly interesting as a character who had her own particular sense of integrity.

    I recently rewatched "Legacy." And I realize afresh how much I like the direction it took with Tasha's sister.

    In most episodes of TNG, the superiority of Federation culture in a situation like the one Turkana IV finds itself in would be unquestioned. Who wouldn't want to escape that place and lead a fully realized life in a free, "utopian" society?

    But Ishara plays against type. She has been essentially raised in a militia in which she started out as the equivalent of a child soldier. The cadres of Turkana IV aren't quite the "rape gangs" of Tasha's recollections (perhaps just a snapshot in time), but neither are they pretty. They're the ruthless products of a collapsed society and quite convincingly sold that way, and this is one of the TNG episodes that really sells the naivete of the Enterprise crew's assumptions of the universal appeal of their own lifestyle without necessarily undercutting that appeal. It just straight-ahead plays Ishara as someone whose loyalty to the Coalition runs deeper than they can grasp.

    And yet Ishara isn't immune to that appeal. She doesn't have to plead with Data to leave at the climax of her own invasion plot. She doesn't have to reassure him -- a being who supposedly (wink-wink) has no feelings -- that her friendship with him wasn't entirely feigned. She wasn't entirely unmoved by her time on the Enterprise: she's just a person who had to weigh that against long loyalty to the organization that raised and protected her for her entire adult life. Of course she made the choice she made. Being tempted is never going to be the same thing as throwing over all the "ideals" (even corrupt ones) that gave your life meaning for fifteen years.

    I loved the honesty of that choice. For my money, it made Ishara into one of the most interesting guest stars on an episode of TNG. And Toussaint did pretty solid work in selling her multifaceted and complicated nature. I do sometimes wish we had gotten to see more of her... although given her loyalty to what essentially is a gang war on an isolated planet, I don't suppose that was ever likely.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
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  2. jackoverfull

    jackoverfull Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yes, she was a surprisingly interesting characters and one that could have been interesting seeing more of.
     
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  3. Unimatrix Q

    Unimatrix Q Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Yep, as i said before, it's a shame that there was never done anything with Ishara and the situation on Turkana IV in the novelverse.

    Hope that Ishara turns up in Picard or that we finally get at least a novel with or even about her.
     
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  4. Oddish

    Oddish Rear Admiral Commodore

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    Kudos to the OP for a well thought out essay on a surprisingly complex and ultimately tragic character. And, part of a tragic chapter in Trek lore.
     
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  5. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The Cadres were supposed to be the thing that stopped the infamous rape gangs. The gangs were a feature of the time when the place was run by the Federation, or at least had not yet cut contact with the Federation...

    We might have thought otherwise before this episode. But the timeline clicks in place here, and we are now allowed to think that the Cadres are actually quite an improvement. And that Ishara, in her quest to put an end to the system, is rather fundamentally on the side of evil after all.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  6. Oddish

    Oddish Rear Admiral Commodore

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    Unless she sought to end the conflict and establish a secure and stable government by one Cadre, where rape gangs and raids alike would be a thing of the past.
     
  7. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    "Secure and stable" sounds pretty ominous when all we see her aspiring to is the elimination of competition... If the current system of representation, checks and balances is via laser tag, I shudder to think of what they'll come up with when even that one gets forbidden.

    Ishara's immediate plans also seem rather re-apocalyptic. We learn that there used to be surface settlements, but now everybody lives in the single underground compound - and Ishara intends to bomb a "main fusion source"! Although perhaps she'll just shut it down, and the talk about explosions is as regards the phaser standoff only. But that's hardly more reassuring: what are the odds that the Coalition wouldn't just turn the system back on after gaining ultimate power?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  8. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    [​IMG]
    The Cadres talk endlessly about "security" and "peace." Somehow, given the plainly questionable credibility of their claims to those commitments, I rather doubt they were entirely innocent of the madness that went before: they've just grown and evolved a little bit beyond it. "Rape gangs" being a thing that even the most minimally talented warlord would have to disapprove of unless they were using them as a weapon (and you probably need to be starting from a caste or tribal system for the latter to be a thing).

    That said: in point of fact, if Ishara's scheme (or at least her boss' scheme) had worked, the Cadre system would be united and the civil war on Turkana IV would probably have ended, which might well have been the better outcome. So the scenario is far from being devoid of ambiguity.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2021
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  9. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Fair enough. And Ishara is young enough not to have access to an unbiased view of what the Cadres or their predecessors did or represented... Tasha, too.

    I must wonder about that civil war thing. The fighting that destroyed the surface installations was in the 30 to 15 ybp brackets; the Cadres stepped in at that point and the Federation was incommunicated. But the way the Cadres fight is governed by the proximity detectors, and it doesn't seem as if there would be a way to inflict casualties with the system in place. If the Cadres have the means to install and maintain the system, it would appear likeliest that it was installed early on, rather than late in the game. So, "civil war" under the Cadres? "Street thugs" (or perhaps "security corporations gone awry") is their gig instead, and we hear of no casualties. Except when the detectors come down, at which point Ishara kills left and right - and her cohorts are itching to have a go, across the perimeter.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  10. Unimatrix Q

    Unimatrix Q Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    What i wonder about is, how could people raised with the ethics and sensibilities of the Federation sink so deep to cause all these kinds of atrocities?

    Even if the conditions on the planet may have been bad for all kinds of possible reasons, i'd think most of them wouldn't be able to cause so much violence and suffering.
     
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  11. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Add to that the fact that Ishara returns to Turkana IV with at least the theoretical knowledge of a way to neutralize the implants by extracting them in the presence of a noble gas, and somehow I think the balance of power might not have long outlasted her time on the Enterprise, come to think of it. Even granted that the specific technique they used on the Enterprise might be outside the Cadre's technical capabilities, they might well be able to come up with a cruder version of it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2021
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  12. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    In this respect, I feel like the Turkana IV story anticipates the present world in uncomfortable ways. People who have been sufficiently inculcated with the belief that any kind of extremism they engage in is just a game that can't fundamentally affect the realities of daily life are perfectly capable, it turns out, of engaging in exactly the kind of extremism that fundamentally affects the realities of daily life. And that could definitely have disproportionate consequences on an isolated interstellar colony. I feel like Turkana IV could ultimately represent the combined consequences of complacency and unseriousness, though I have no idea how much this was thought through in creating it.
     
  13. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    That Turkana IV would have been a Federation settlement to begin with is far from said. All we know about is "communication" with the Federation until 15 ybp.

    Whether the colony was based on some extremist philosophy, like so many Trek ones are, we can't really tell. It's pretty remarkable it featured this vast underground city even when surface dwelling was apparently perfectly possible, too - perhaps this was a mining community, sitting on untold riches, and those riches then ran out, leading to the dominoes falling?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  14. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Commodore Commodore

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    Is it possible they moved underground to protect themselves from shelling and/or aerial bombing from their respective rival factions?
     
  15. Oddish

    Oddish Rear Admiral Commodore

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    Since the Prome Directive doesn't apply to a human world, couldn't the Federation just move in and declare peace? And given that they had years of violent chaos followed by years of rule by street thugs, couldn't the people who didn't like the cadre system request Federation assistance?
     
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  16. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Commodore Commodore

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    The Federation sometimes does seem weirdly off-hands towards human colonies that aren't part of the Federation, or leave it (or get stranded outside their borders either by ridiculous negligence or plot contrivance, like the Maquis wolrds) , and I'm afraid that's the best answer canon has to offer.

    The best guess I personally have is that at the time they developed Yar's backstory, they had some idea that there's a wild frontier at the edge of Federation space, where Starfleet has little presence or influence, kinda like all those far-flung colonies in TOS.

    But yeah, I think, logically there is no excuse for what the Federation allowed to happen on Turkana IV. Though maybe there was some sort of, Federation assisted, exodus of refugees until the breakdown of communication, and the Yar sisters just had the bad luck of being born to parents who chose to stay. And even after that, Tahsa, somehow, made it off-world.
    Though even then... who in their right mind chooses Planet Madmax over the utopian abundance in the Federation?
     
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  17. Kor

    Kor Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    So Starfleet and other Federation representatives are supposed to abide by the principle/directive/whatever of non-interference in the internal affairs and development of other societies. That includes pre-warp cultures that don't know about extraterrestrials, but also advanced polities such as the Klingon Empire and the Cardassian Order/Empire (or whatever they were calling it from one week to the next).

    Does the Prime Directive apply when it comes to human colony worlds? It depends. There was a bit of discussion of that matter at the end of "The Masterpiece Society." Riker thought the PD didn't apply to Moab IV, an isolationist human colony that was previously unknown to the Federation. But Picard thought the PD did apply: "Whether or not we agree with that way of life or whether they're human or not is irrelevant, Number One."

    In "Legacy," Picard in his captain's log says that Turkana IV "severed relations with the Federation nearly fifteen years ago." It wasn't just communications; they cut off any diplomatic, political, economic, etc. ties they may have previously had with the Federation. So the Turkana IV colony considers itself to be an independent sovereign political entity; not a member of the Federation and not in the Federation's jurisdiction. And apparently the Federation has respected that. There were overtures to reestablish contact in the intervening years, such as by the USS Potemkin, but clearly no attempts to establish Federation control over the planet. The fact that this independent colony is inhabited by members of a species from a Federation planet doesn't automatically give the Federation authority there. When the Enterprise comes along to retrieve the stranded Federation crewmen but won't play by the Coalition's rules, the Coalition demands that Picard "make reparations for Federation intrusion into this colony."

    Kor
     
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  18. Laughing Dragon

    Laughing Dragon Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Data appreciated Ishara Yar. They struck up a friendship. Then she betrayed him though. so... Can I still like them together? :shrug:
     
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  19. Oddish

    Oddish Rear Admiral Commodore

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    Yes. Maybe in an alternate timeline somewhere, she chose differently.
     
  20. trekshark

    trekshark Commander Red Shirt

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    Even if you didn't think you'd fit in with the federation there are places rougher than ufo but nicer than that colony