My recent holiday in Spain didn’t end too well because I became ill. A cold had been developing since the middle of the week. Out of the blue though, I also developed a stomach problem and had to stop eating for a day and a half. The 36 hours also encompassed the time we were travelling back to Scotland. I wasn’t looking forward to the trip back home weakened with a lack of food, a dodgy tummy and a head cold reaching its peak. However, things went much better than I expected, and I reached home safe and sound without accidents though it was as expected rather cold. The illnesses though did mean that aside from sleeping, I had to find fairly non-demanding activities to pass the time. Usually I don’t have the brain or muscle power for a book when I am ill so my default tends to be watching TV.

My watching included the latest episode of Star Trek Discovery and a film called “The Fourth Man”. Both programmes dealt with challenges when two (or more) “cultures” collide. I put cultures in quotes because I am using it in a loose sense to define groups of people that are identified by certain characteristics. In the Star Trek Universe you find the Federation, Klingon and Vulcan cultures. The Federation is about peaceful coexistence and discovery for the good of all. The Klingons are a race that finds honour and resolution in battle. The Vulcans suppress their emotions and live by a code defined by logic. Within this broad canvas we watch the main protagonist who is a human brought up from a young age on Vulcan and who adopted the logical approach to life. However she is not allowed to join the Vulcan Expeditionary Force and instead finds a home in the Federation in Star Fleet where she is exposed to social interaction with humans.

In the “Fourth Man” film you find a close-knit group of four guys, one of whom decides to come out to the others that he is gay.

In Discovery the protagonist is marked as different because of her Vulcan (i.e. logic based) upbringing but has the added bonus of being Star Fleet’s only Mutineer (violently disobeying the order of her captain and endangering the crew of the ship). What struck me as unusual in watching these programmes back to back was that both main characters have had to come to terms with major internal conflicts. They both felt different within their lives.  They are (in the sense of the timelines of the programmes) both having to come to terms what that difference is and what it means for their lives.

In Star Trek the conflict between logic and emotion gets supplanted by challenge of conflicting emotions. In relation to the Vulcan father that adopted her she says, “I want to cry but I have to smile, I feel angry but I want to love, I hurt but there is hope”. She wants to know what these things mean. I could answer this before her listening partner did. It is being human.

In the “4th Man”, the guys’ mother confronts him. “How long have you known?”, she asks and he replies, “perhaps ten years”. Angry that she had not been told before he explains he didn’t know he was gay then, he just knew he was different.

I guess we all live with inner conflict and mine has encompassed both emotion/logic and sexuality. I have always felt different and searched to work out why that is. Being on the autistic spectrum is enough to explain that difference now but I think it is more complicated than that and certainly don’t believe in binary sexuality. In both shows, neither characters have expectation that their friends are to treat them differently or behave differently. Perhaps this is the culture of the Federation but in the “4th Man” which is set in current day America, they guy’s three friends struggle to know how to relate to their friend. They do hope that their friends will carry on supporting them though. But perhaps the latter is my interpretation of the situations. My desire. The crux of the matter is communication I guess. People have to communicate to understand each other and if anything is to be learnt by these “role” models it is that taking a risk and speaking out about your inner conflict is going to give much better relationships than staying quiet. It is after all much easier to make meaning when there is someone else to bounce ideas off.

If only I found it that simple.