Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Deaf Actors on Star Trek

Have many deaf actors been on Star Trek, not just as a brief walkon, but as part of the storyline interacting with the crew? So far, we've had Howie Seago in Next Generation's Loud as a Whisper episode.

We've seen LeVar Burton's blind character Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge. LaForge used a vision enhancement device that went across his eyes to allow him to see. In reality, that device was a hair barrette. In the Star Trek: First Contact movie, he had an implant that allowed him to see better including some extra vision enhancements. You may remember seeing it in the scene where Zephram Cochrane is trying to avoid the Enterprise group by running from them and LaForge uses his vision ability and the camera zooms in on his eyes.


If a deaf person was part of the main crew and was on the show regularly, how would they restore this person's hearing? Would they use a hearing aid of sorts, maybe Borg-ish in a way?

Next post - Deaf Actors on Star Trek (Part 2)


Anonymous said...

Doubt it, they would have solved the genetic issue by then, and grew him new ears and neural pathways lol.... one actually doubts, if they would have left Geordie blind at day one.... it's a bit PC is star trek ! They are assuming total acceptances of any disability, and no-one will take up 'cures', unrealistic ! still, star trek is FANTASY, not reality.


Oscar the Observer said...

I am a Trekkie myself :). Well, IMO, it is likely that Geordi had that VISOR because the writers and Gene R. did not realize how FAST technology would pace from late 1980's to present. I concur with MM that IF Star Trek is predictive, it would had all not "normal" stuff "cured" out of human race. That deaf guy was just a humanoid alien who happened to be deaf and know sign language. However, I still love Star Trek and TNG for fantasy aspect anyway.

Anonymous said...

For older trekkie fans there was also an issue where Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy met a beautiful empathic mute woman. She had incredible healing powers. I'm not sure if she was also Deaf, but it was clear in the story that she did not understand their language.

Symbolt said...

I myself believe that the issue here is not replacement but more like allowing a person to mature fully (in their psychology) in an environment regardless of what they are. So, at least on the show (i.e. TNG), the way I always looked at it, Geordi's vision was such that he could have this visor of his which was in many ways superior to the way other people (humans) saw, but his physiology somehow made it impossible to give him normal human vision. So the idea here is "different, but not less". And this is, I think, the only way the gimmick (idea) can work on the show, i.e. with all the medical technology they have, they would sure be able to replace your eyes, for example (the eye is not actually the sole element responsible for your seeing, right?). Since there are many other things at work during the visual perception process (registering the physical stimuli, transferring the signal, interpreting the signal, interpreting the interpreted signal unconsiously to "know" we are seeing something, many many other factors), it is at least conceiveable that Geordi's parents chose not to work on his brain physiology in the extent that it would have been necessary to in order to give him human-like vision, and opted for the less-invasive treatment that included the visor. So all in all, in a very large and important sense, Geordi does not "see" if you want to go along with the general population's hegemonic perception of seeing being what they think they all share, but in a way, the way he CAN see, although not considered good enough to be normal seeing, is actually superior in so many ways. So that can be seen as a portrayal of the possible good sides of "disability" - in the sense that you shouldn't take a physiological (or otherwise) distinctiveness at face value. Well anyway, I think in "Loud as a Whisper" we are shown a similar inclusion of a physiological distinctiveness (the main character is not high functioning despite his disability, he is just considered normal and using his strengths). I guess you're right that possibly, with their level of technology, there should be at least a similar level of aid in providing perception of aural stimuli as they had with Geordi, and the same reasoning would apply. BTW, here you can find a discussion of Deafness in science fiction (up till the early nineties) - just click on View/Open to get the .pdf file https://ritdml.rit.edu/dspace/handle/1850/1335