04. The Outrageous Okona

Moriarty

isn’t in this episode, but I wanted to add something to the discussion about him and his relationship to the the ship’s computer.

In the last episode of Mission Log, John and Ken talked about how Moriarty was the computer becoming sentient. I didn’t get that. I saw the computer as the environment out of which Moriarty the program sprung.

To say he was the computer, would be like saying humans are basically the Earth becoming sentient.

On the other hand, it was funny though that in the very next episode when Data was told to ask a smarter computer, he went to the holodeck to talk to the ship’s computers through its characters.

Now moving on to the Outrageous Okona.

How about…

…Worf’s finally catching on. He recommends giving Okona limited access to the ship. I guess they learned from Lore and the Klingons in Heart of Glory.

…Riker’s comment, the unexpected is our normal routine.

…the new transporter chief. She’s got star potential, doesn’t she?

…Picard’s straight face. I can never tell if he’s joking, and sometimes I really, really need to know.

…Picard refusing to shake Okona’s hand. I never would’ve expected that from him.

…Wesley giving Data an order on the bridge at the end of the episode. Everything can be thrown out the window when the storytellers want to give a joke precedence.

Top Five Okona Quotes

5) Life is like loading twice your cargo weight onto your spacecraft. If it’s canaries and you can keep half of them flying all of the time, you’re all right.

4) Blame the pattern of my life, Lieutenant La Forge. Because it relegates me to cargo carrying rather than the grand exploration you enjoy, I am forced to add a measure of flamboyancy and zest to the doldrum of my existence.

3) See how a man gets a reputation?

2) Oh that’s a shame. I can remember when I was at least considered a risk.

1) But it’s how I say it that’s really important.

Okona is the Anti-Picard

Picard Okona
bald ponytail
serious mischievous
committed unable to commit
disciplined seeking self gratification
follows orders resists orders
depends on crew self-reliant

The Outsider as Guide

is one interesting theme that emerged from this episode. We have three outsiders:

(1) Okona who is outside the Coalition of Madena,

(2) Guinan who is an outsider as a civilian aboard the Enterprise, and

(3) Wesley who is an outsider to Okona and the way he leads his life.

Okona

helps Yanar and Benzan, two star-crossed lovers. When they don’t have the courage to have the tough convos necessary to uncross those stars, Okona forces them on the right path much the way Lwaxana did Deanna in Haven.

Guinan

advises Data on humor, telling him to consult a smarter computer to figure it all out. When still he seems to be struggling, she tells him humor is not all there is to being human. He can find what he’s looking for elsewhere.

Wes

tells Okona how much he wouldn’t like to have his life, which is how Okona comes to realize he needs to prompt Yanar and Benzan to make the right decisions.

The outsider can look past the structures we think important and see the correct, if difficult, decisions. So be nice to people not in your group. Listen to what they have to say.

Judgmental Wes

returns, and the talk between him and Okona made me uncomfortable. It reminded me of the anti-drug conversation with Yar because Wes used that same tone of voice, and was absolute in his statement. “I couldn’t be like that.” So judgemental!

Was Picard Joking

when he said he’d ordered the shields lowered in case they surrender? I ask because Riker laughed as though it was a joke, but Picard was absolutely straight-faced. Worf on the other hand was glowering at the dishonorable idea.

Yet here they are up against a foe whose weapons technology is so inferior to the Enterprise that there is no threat, and Picard seems to want to act as though might doesn’t make right. But he says nothing as Riker arrogantly compares them to the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels. Nor does he speak up when Worf compares them to gob flies.

Picard says they have no rights in this star system and says they have no authority, but when a ship that does have authority tells him to heave to and prepare to be boarded, he outright ignores the order.

Instead he just keeps them talking.

Whether or not there is a message that might doesn’t make right depends on whether or not he would ever truly consider surrendering. But I can’t tell if Picard is joking when he says they might (And if he isn’t that would make him as arrogant as Riker) or if he ever seriously considered it.

Obligation

As is likely to happen when you go places and meet people, the Enterprise becomes in embroiled in a local brouhaha. They may not have rights in the star system, but they do have an obligation to Mr. Okona.

The extent of that obligation is unclear. Picard says Starfleet regulations requires they fix the ship and let it leave. But he seems to believe he has to do more.

He explains to the Altecs they are required to help someone in need. Once he is in Picard’s custody, he seems obliged to protect him. Picard uses this obligation to justify his demanding an explanation of Okona’s crimes. Debin accepts this and proceeds to explain.

In fact, Picard only feels involved in the dispute as long as Okona is in danger, and once he’s not, Picard says the Enterprise is no longer involved.

So he does have some rights, but would the Altecs have listened to him if the Enterprise was a weaker ship? Would Picard have put his crew at risk to protect Okona if the other ships were much more powerful?

Obligation lends legitimacy, but without weapon supremacy, that legitimacy would’ve been ignored just as Picard ignored the order to allow a boarding party.

What’s Funny?

I tried hard to figure out what this episode was saying about humor, and boy did I think more about what makes something funny than I ever thought I would. This is what I’ve come up with. Basically the episode presents two types of funny:

    1. individual funny – This is what characters are referring to when they tell Data that funny is “a matter of opinion” and “whatever makes you laugh.” In this case it doesn’t matter if the experience is shared. It’s funny because an individual believes it to be.
      1. unintentionally funny -For example, when Data says his timing is digital. Guinan laughs at this but Data doesn’t. So, to her it is individual funny, but it wasn’t intentional.
      2. failed jokes – It’s only funny to one person, so it fails as a joke. I’d put Guinan’s stupid noid joke, and Okona’s cute canary joke here.
      3. not jokes – Let’s imagine Picard wasn’t joking when he said he was lowering shields in case they decide to surrender. Riker laughed like he thought it was a joke.
    2. group funny – This is what Data is seeking. It’s a matter of shared opinion, and Data wishes to involve himself in the laughter of others. It’s important to being human because it shows membership in the group.
      1. inclusive –  the funny is shared, and people laugh together.
        1. jokes – are intended to cause amusement in others. Surprise and timing are elements that add to the enjoyment felt by the other person or people.
      2. exclusive – the funny is shared by some, but not everyone, and in some cases the group may be laughing at the person excluded.
        1. jokes – When someone tells a joke that is funny to one but not another. An example is when Okona asks Data if he’s seen any good looking computers. That’s group funny because Wesley laughs right along with Okona.
        2. unintentional – Unfortunately, the unintentionally funny can also be group funny because the group can find something an individual said funny even when the individual does not. For example, when Data says, “Goodbye Data.” The bridge crew laughs.
          1. laughing at – I say this is unfortunate because they’re laughing at Data. This makes his position outside the group clearer.

Every uncomfortable feeling I have about this episode comes from the fact that I wish most of the jokes were inclusive group funny, but they were actually exclusive group funny and exclusive unintentional group funny.

Morals, messages, and meanings

  1. Might doesn’t make right, but it sure helps one get one’s way.
  2. The more you try to be something you’re not the more you will fail.
  3. Listen to advice from others.

Does it hold up?

I guess.

The discussion of might as right seems directionless, and the discussion of comedy is ultimately unsatisfying.

Data trying to be human when he can’t and trying to learn how to laugh with humans so he can find belonging is just sad. I wish he could find his own self-worth. Be happy with himself for who he is.

At the same time, Brent Spiner’s performance is awesome. His comedic timing is fantastic. He makes the discussion of comedy enjoyable.

The sadness in the end when Data dismisses the audience and Comic is poignant.

Okona is OK. He got all the great lines, but they were believable only half the time.

Riker and Worf weren’t very likable. Deanna was poorly used. Most of the jokes weren’t funny.

But still I could easily watch this episode again. I’ll chalk it up to Brent Spiner.

 

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05. Loud as a Whisper>>