My schedule got pushed back a day, which seems appropriate for triviality like this. Also, I prefer posting on even days anyway.
Here in chapter five, we’ve fully moved to the alternate universe, where Christine Chapel holds the same function as in the original timeline, we have an awkward sparring scene between Chapel and the obligatory original character (OC) alien. We’ve not heard from Chapel before so it’s time for her POV and to hearken back to Thursday’s complaint about the twu-luv overcoming all other relationships, the alien S’Parva is physically sort-of canine (more on that later), but the awkwardness is that the encounter reads like fem-slash.
Poor S’Parva, by the way, whose alienness is completely random, gratuitous, token and makes no sense, who is introduced with this gem:
“A body like a goddess…and a face like an Irish setter.”
So it can be clarified that he’s not just being mean! she really is dog-like. Yeah. Uhura objects, laughingly, and says she knows the guy, Richardson, isn’t “a bigot or a xenophobiac” but doesn’t mention or object to the misogyny. She does put him down a few sentences later by calling McCoy to neuter the tomcat on the bridge. Which makes me feel a little better, however forced the banter.
The worst part of S’Parva’s ‘characterization’ is that she’s effectively human and doesn’t have any outsider perspective or observations on her situation or the rest of the crew—other than to bemoan how different she is, to let Richardson to flirt with her. Except Richardson is apparently the only guy to speak to her so she calls him her little brother or teacher or companion because this is a word that has more than one meaning and more than one interpretation! Of course. But still, one made-up word does not an alien make. A true TOS tradition regarding aliens, I suppose.
S’Parva is also described in canine terms, specifically as a quadruped. Which makes her different, you see. Except she really isn’t.
Already she had mastered walking upright—which, she realized, was actually quite convenient….She looked at her hands, at the fork she had learned to hold with some amount of practice. Three longer fingers and a thumb distinguishable from its human counterpart only by the soft fur. Yes, the rest would follow.
So I guess she’s really just a furry human with canine habits and a doglike face—so like TOS! Only she has one fewer finger…I guess that would make it harder to film.
It just really bothers me. Because apparently, with her arrive, the entire Enterprise, or at least her lab, is being retrofitted for quadrupeds. As another character says, this is a good thing and overdue if this made-up species isn’t the only four-legged intelligent creature* allowed to space travel with the Federation, but she isn’t a quadruped? And why didn’t she learn how to walk upright before if it’s so convenient, though her species has worked with Starfleet for years?
The easiest way to read this is through a laundry list of questions that as far as I can tell are never answered. Hence the need for a spork.
Oh, and because she’s OC she’s horribly self-conscious, even though she’s apparently physic enough to determine all the different species in a room just by their thoughts, but not enough to tell what they think of her—which, if she could, would naturally all be good (other than Richardson’s comments earlier)—because by golly, she was assigned a place on the Enterprise and is even the first of her species on a starship. Actually, though, I don’t think I’ll call her a Mary Sue though. This book jumps character’s heads so often we aren’t with her enough to make her that important. Now in Demons…
Further on in the AU, S’Parva and Chapel are in exactly the same positions, with the same characters they had before. Other than to acknowledge Spock as captain, the situation may as well occur before. In fact, when I was looking it up again, I thought it did.
The scene, not even seven pages long, occurs because Chapel is out of shape, and so McCoy has told her that she needs to spar with S’Parva (of a much stronger race, from a planet with higher gravity) for S’Parva’s workout. Chapel does not do her research and so doesn’t know until the alien points it out to her. (She’s a nurse, how’d she plan on getting away with it if S’Parva were injured?) However, it’s the talk after the workout that bothers me (because this isn’t too bad until the characters are ‘reflecting’ on their emotions).
S’Parva’s whiskered brow rose onto a high canine forehead. “Oh?” she wondered, absently reaching out to massage the other woman’s tense neck muscles.
Christine nodded, meeting the Katellan’s confused expression, enjoying the warmth of the hands which were experts in the art of massage.
That’s not the full passage, but I had to quote it because it reminded me of why I thought fem-slash. Then I had to stop myself quoting because we jump right into Chapel’s crush on Spock, which was transported whole-cloth from the old universe. And it’s also used so that we can confirm the One True Pairing (OTP) of Spock and Kirk in the original universe as with this one. Hence why I know it’s the same “relationship”. So I feel perfectly comfortable dragging it into my discussion of why that storyline bothered me in TOS.
Back in conversation, Chapel says that if McCoy had being trying to “get” her, he would have made her spar with Spock, who would have gone along for the benefit of a random nurse, why? But “Chris” says McCoy wouldn’t have done so anyway (maybe because Captain Spock wouldn’t have?). And the doctor wouldn’t have done so because…shocker…Chapel admits she had a crush on the Captain!
The only difference in this universe is that Spock is Captain, and Chapel’s shown to get over it. I would say good for her, but…
At least it didn’t hurt anymore. If she’d once felt something for the Vulcan which she’d labeled as love, that misplaced emotion had been replaced with respect—and the knowledge that whatever fantasies she hand once entertained were not only illogical, but also impossible.
The last whole post was about how much I hate this much emphasis on this trope, and I think some of this will be too, because the entire point of the conversation is to make clear no one will be sad when Kirk and Spock are finally united into their OTP. But I really want to quote the whole thing, because it is soooo stilted, and so entirely geared towards that point.
So yes, the entire point of the conversation is to show how Christine Chapel can acknowledge that she had ‘feelings’ for Spock that weren’t returned. She naturally sensed the “loneliness” in him, but all along knew in her heart that he was looking for that Special Someone and she sincerely hopes he will be happy.
- I never liked the ‘Chapel crushes on Spock’ storylines in TOS in the first place because she came across like a stalker—why is it supposed to be funny and why didn’t anyone do anything? The situation makes them both uncomfortable and she’s pathetic.** I hate saying it, because as a nurse on the flagship of Starfleet she ought to be a strong, competent character. But instead, as a recurring female character she is forced into a ‘comedic’ role of the lovesick girl. I know I’m supposed to wholeheartedly support and justify my gender no matter what they do, but why couldn’t Uhura pull her aside and tell her to get some self respect!?
- Isn’t there such a thing as friendship anymore?
No, no there isn’t. This seems to be a fanon idea—or ideal?—
“I thought I sensed a loneliness in Spock.” She laughed wistfully. “And maybe I was naïve enough to believe I was the cure.” She shrugged, not looking at the other woman. “But when I finally understood what it means to be a Vulcan…that’s when I understood that Spock can’t allow himself to become too close to anyone.”
But she wondered if that was really the answer. There had been moments when the Vulcan had been tender, even warm with her. But she consigned those times back into the past as the barely readable smile returned.
So even though she recognizes Spock’s affection for her, he still can’t be too close to anyone. Ever. Even though he’s been wandering across the galaxy hoping to find his One True Love and his father’s disowned him, and she doesn’t have feel ‘that way’ for him anymore she sure isn’t going to lend him a shoulder to cry on. If it isn’t romantic than you don’t have a true relationship, so there’s just no point.
Somewhat justified as in this universe he’s captain, and there’s lots of theories that the captain can’t socialize with the crew, but Jim still had Bones (as well as Spock) in TOS, so why, in this AU, can’t Spock talk to anyone? Because for an example of a captain who doesn’t seem to have had any true confidants? Like Pike, who had a Vulcan to drag him off to a forbidden planet to act out pure fantasies never contacting reality again—because once the Enterprise left, he’s still effectively broken and alone. Wait! There’s a pretty lady there too, even though he doesn’t actually know her. I’m sorry, romantic love does not heal all wounds, it really doesn’t. It reduces the complexity that original works (and sometimes great fanfic) allow.
Effectively the entire seven pages is devoted to nothing more than Chapel blessing this union.
Also? She’s entirely selfish. Dragging the scene back into the plot, Chapel swoons to an echo of the original universe. Which most of the characters have. And S’Parva recognizes it as such. She reminds Chapel that this could be a bad thing. It’s happening to others in the crew, maybe we can figure it out!
And despite the fact that S’Parva was right, the though of four medical department heads—and the captain—psychoanalyzing her subconscious images caused her skin to crawl. Nothing incriminating, she thought. Just damned embarrassing! Images, yes. But…of what? First Officer Spock? She shivered. Easily enough explained—at least in her own case. Straight out of the textbooks. Knock him down in rank a few points. Make him easier to attain. The red heat crawled higher into her cheeks. No point dredging up restless—and unreachable—spirits. And the dizziness came again, refusing to leave her alone. She smiled to herself. It would be her secret…no matter what.
But instead: We could save the ship! but I’ve had embarrassing thoughts that are already totally obvious to the rest of the ship! No—let the ship burn!
*Should this be creäture? ‘Cause this is English, I’m pretty sure, and English has used creature for a good long time.
**I have this problem with most of the canon characters fan fiction writers use as pairings for Spock, and for that matter, canon parings. During the original series almost all of his “love interests” occurred when he was somehow impaired. Spores=date rape drugs? This is disturbing subtext.