It's because I feel seriously betrayed by that episode, is why. Because I want to love it. Because it's actually so darn good but there's this thing, here, where I'm a female fan of a sci-fi show and *inhales loudly and hissingly through her teeth* yeah, I know.
Partner and I are doing this thing where we're watching All of Star Trek in chronological order together, and when I say "chronological order" I mean that we watch S1 of TNG, DS9, and VOY and then when we have watched all of those we move onto S2s. We've watched large numbers of these already, often together, but here we're making a concerted effort to just see everything. And yeah, we have watched a lot of TOS together already, and he has less interest in rewatching all of it, so it's not a part of the thing. (We are denying the existence of ENT, though we did watch the one with John Vickery. JOHN VICKERY, I HOPE YOU APPRECIATE WHAT WE WENT THROUGH TO HAVE YOU ON OUR SCREENS, OK.) And I feel lucky a hundred times over for having found Partner, ok, because he gets it. He does. And he never makes me feel, ever, like I shouldn't feel slighted or skeeved out or whatever when Star Trek does shitty sexist things. He listens, he is supportive, and he understands and damn I am grateful for my Partner.
But Eru, I hate The Drumhead. I hate it. Because it's so good, and yet. And I know it was written by a woman. I don't care, I hate it.
I love the character of Admiral Satie. I do. She's complex, she's well-intentioned, she's intelligent, she was a highly respected Starfleet Admiral, she's coded as strong and driven and powerful in ways that aren't marked as feminine, but neither are they immediately pulled back from to be like BUT IT'S OK SHE'S STILL A WOMAN SHE DOESN'T HAVE TO LOSE HER FEMININITY DON'T WORRY, even though she clearly doesn't have to lose her femininity, she wears beautiful clothing and striking jewelry without being remotely male-gazey, she's allowed to be confident without it being marked as arrogant, she's a much older woman and she's on my screen anyway wooo, she and Picard get along well and respect each other until their different viewpoints drive them apart. She's written as human, with a backstory, with a family and a history (though fucking goddamn, I hate that she's another tick for the list on Never a Self-Made Woman, I hate that we're told how her father loved it when she could out-logic her brothers with the implication that this was unexpected because she was only a girl), with her own thoughts and feelings and beliefs and I love her.
But that's the thing. The moral of the episode is that she's ~dangerous~ precisely because of how insidious she is. Of how likeable she is, of how easily she commands respect, of how intelligently she reasons. Of how much trust everyone is willing to afford her.
And she's brought down by the fact that no one will trust her after she has an emotional outburst in the middle of the hearing. Which, yes, good, no one should! She's committing acts of evil, no matter her intentions. But she loses her temper hearing Picard quote her father to serve his own (she thinks, evil) ends, in rather direct juxtaposition to the way Worf who is male has been holding his own temper behind visibly-clenched teeth when Sabin who is male makes insinuations about Mogh. Because women can't control their emotions, amirite?
And then everyone sees how women are just emotional and not actually reasonable no matter how logical they're capable of sounding, no matter how much we want to think we can trust them to be reasonable adults, and the male Admiral walks out of the room in disgust and that's it, Picard who is male has triumphed over her by quoting her father who is male, who says "The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged," emphasis mine.
"Am I bothering you, Captain?"
"No, please come in, Mr. Worf."
"It is over. Admiral Henry has called an end to any more hearings on this matter."
"Admiral Satie has left the Enterprise."
"We think we've come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it's all ancient history. And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again."
"I believed her. I-I HELPED her! I did not see what she was."
"Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well camouflaged."
"I think, after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her."
"Maybe. But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish— spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay."
I love this message. I love this message! I adore this message! I adore this episode! If Admiral Satie were male, this would have been one of my favorite episodes of all of TNG, because if that were the case the fact that the only lines spoken by women would be a few incidental ones from Troi (that a Klingon spy seems "closed") and from Crusher (that her assistants are the ones who administer routine injections, that a Klingon spy wasn't chatty, and that people regularly socialise in Ten-Forward) wouldn't even ping my radar, because I am entirely entirely used to that. The Drumhead doesn't do that! The Drumhead has a badass older lady front and center! Too bad the moral is about the dangers of trusting her and letting her have any power and it's all very why, this it is, when men are ruled by women and I hate this episode so much that I've stalled us in S4 for months because I didn't want to watch it again and be betrayed all over again because it's such a good episode, seriously, it really, really is. It just. Also kind of makes me want to go curl up and hide and never watch anything again.