When Cirroc Lofton and Ryan T. Husk were nearing the end of their journey through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on their popular 7th Rule podcast and considered covering Star Trek: The Next Generation, Husk suggested asking Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) to join them for her episodes. Since the two Trek vets had spent time together on the Star Trek Cruise and felt the chemistry was right, they made it so! They’ve been watching and reviewing season 1 of TNG. As they approach the end of Tasha Yar’s run, we talked to Cirroc and Denise about the ups and downs of this odd season and their thoughts on how their characters could fit into the current Star Trek landscape.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Taking their first look at TNG season 1
I’ve been watching a lot of 7th Rule, you guys are so fun to listen to as you make your way through season 1. It’s a wacky season, that’s for sure.
Denise Crosby: What were they thinking? [laughs] We should retitle it for my season: The 7th Rule: What Were They Thinking?
Cirroc, this is your first time through The Next Generation. Had you seen any of it before?
Cirroc Lofton: I know the overall… who Patrick Stewart is and Commander Riker and all of that, I knew who the characters were. But I didn’t watch any of the shows. I didn’t know any of the storylines.
Denise hadn’t revisited since she did it 30-plus years ago, so she’s able to get the same experience that I got when I watched Deep Space Nine for the first time. Now looking at it, especially these many years removed from it, it’s a totally different thing and I’m so glad Denise is getting the opportunity to relive these moments herself.
Denise: Let’s face it, I had no intention of ever watching these again. I’m not sure that I WILL ever watch them again. I mean, who does that? That’s a whole other level of Freudian psychoanalysis. If you’re sitting there watching all the television you’ve done in a loop, you are now entering Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard. But yeah, I watched these when I when I made them and then I’ve never seen them again.
From what you’ve seen so far, what are your broad strokes impressions of season 1 of Next Generation?
Cirroc: I think it’s an amazing cast of actors. I really liked this cast. This first season is difficult for me because some of the stories are not fleshed out, some of the interpersonal working relationships seem a little bit dated to a time that was not evolved in its political correctness or an acceptance of people or its identification of rights of individuals, so those things had to get flushed out. The chauvinism, for example, some of the characteristics of Black people in some of those episodes. The sexualization of, in particular, Tasha. Those things are hard to digest. But those are the things that I think makes The Next Generation transcend even some of the bad episodes. It is bringing in a lexicon of ideas that will become instrumental in how we live our day-to-day lives.
Denise, what’s been your biggest surprise as you watch?
Denise: It’s a really interesting way to view something that is so integrated into my life but at arm’s length now, and with the perspective that I have now, almost 36 years later, of life’s experience and motherhood and many, many fundamental, foundational changes than the young woman I was then. I knew what I was going through then, but now, almost 36 years pass, and you go, ‘Well, was I right?’ or ‘Did I see that clearly?’ So I’m looking at the inconsistencies of the storylines and what I was promised, what was dangled in front of me, what I thought was going to happen.
So it is gelling, in a way. And then I’m noticing things that I didn’t really see as much, the real sexualization of Tasha Yar in the beginning. We were very reflective in some ways—other ways very futuristic—but in some ways of the late ’80s and what white men were putting up on the screen, how they wanted to see women… I sort of feel like I was thrown into this progressive role but then they didn’t do anything with it. I was the token woman in what would be a man’s position. But that’s not enough; then you have to follow through.
Are you seeing more nuance to the character than you thought?
Denise: Yeah. I can see why Tasha would hold people’s imagination and be a very positive, strong force. She brought a spontaneity, a life force to that part. That was my intention, I didn’t want her to be a militaristic hardass. I wanted her to be vulnerable and also have some doubts, and be sort of impetuous and off the cuff at times, but with strength and knowledge and rigorous training. She was there for a reason.
It’s all there. And the sexism problem got so much better by the time of Deep Space Nine. There weren’t as many female main characters, but they were light years beyond what was going on in Next Gen. And then Voyager took it further, and then it kind of reversed for Enterprise, I thought.
Denise: Yeah. Well, you’ve got to see who’s writing this stuff. Who are the showrunners, who’s creating it? There was a big shift when Michael Piller came into the [Star Trek] world. And you know, they were just trying to replicate the ’60s formula in the first year of The Next Generation.
“Code of Honor,” “Symbiosis,” and “Skin of Evil”
Let’s talk about “Code of Honor.” Denise, I totally agree with you that it shouldn’t be removed from circulation. Jonathan Frakes has suggested putting a warning or explanation on it. Cirroc, how do you feel about the episode staying in rotation?
Cirroc: I don’t have a problem with it staying in rotation. I think you learn from history and you grow from it. You can’t ignore it. If there is no progress and we can’t recognize that it’s something that we’ve evolved from as a society, if we don’t see that difference, then we haven’t moved anywhere.
In Deep Space Nine, they had the episode “Far Beyond the Stars,” and in that episode, my character was killed by the police in an act of police violence. When we watch now, it brings up so many emotions of different cases in which we’ve seen that thing play out. And unfortunately, we haven’t moved far from there. That episode is set in the ’50s and here it is in the 2020s. And it’s still something that we’re dealing with as an issue, we haven’t resolved to move forward from it. And, to our credit, at least in this particular “Code of Honor” case, we can realize, hey, we’ve to some degree moved past that stereotype of how we’re going to depict Black men on television. We’ve seen the light, that there’s more to Black people than these stereotypes that they use, the sexualization, and all of these other kinds of really brute physical, basic concepts.
I wouldn’t be opposed to putting a disclaimer in front of it saying ‘This was filmed in 1987/88, and the views expressed in here are no longer…’ [laughs] Yeah, I wish we could.
Denise: It allows us to have these kinds of conversations. I was there in the thick of it and I was walking around going, “They’ll never get this on the air.” I believe that because we were a show made for syndication, there was no network overriding the producers. We were the bastard stepchildren, at the far end of the lot in shitty trailers and shitty craft service, and no one paid any attention. Gene Roddenberry had total control of the show. And there weren’t network execs getting the dailies like people would do in television at that point. And that’s the only reason I can wrap my head around that this was made and this was aired. Just like when I broke the fourth wall in “Symbiosis” and waved—was anyone paying attention? Did anyone watch this?
“Code of Honor”—that’s the one you can target. But then there’s all these other sexual innuendos towards me and there’s stuff that Frakes is doing, his character of Riker… there’s all kinds of stuff.
Have you gotten to “Skin of Evil” yet? Denise, did you watch it when it aired?
Denise: When it aired only. And it’s so funny, because obviously I shot it, and when I watched it, I watched it alone in my living room. Sobbing. Talk about meta, you know… I’m watching my own character and having this really touching moment, and it’s actually moving me, is that normal? Should I be having this emotional reaction to watching myself? That’s a very strange thing to happen as an actor.
We’ll talk about it next time we meet, me watching it now for the first time in five years, if it still hits me in that way or how it hits me. It’ll be interesting.
The Ferengi in TNG vs. DS9
On Deep Space Nine, we have these beautifully developed characters of Quark, Rom, and Nog… Cirroc what did you think watching the original Ferengis on Next Gen?
Cirroc: [laughs] Well, they say that we evolved or came from cavemen, so I think of this as the caveman version of Ferengi. But, yeah, that was a poor attempt of showing us an “advanced” civilization that is able to compete with the Federation, or at least be a worthy adversary. And for them to be presented in that way is actually a contradiction to what they put out there. So I think that was poorly thought out.
It was my character that essentially bridged the Human-Ferengi relationship gap. And we see how well that turned out as far as who Nog turned out to be as a person. Those low expectations of people are the things that hold people back to some degree. When you have low expectations for people, and you don’t think that they’re capable of doing things, and you express that to them and put that on them, it diminishes their ability. But when you give someone the hope and optimism that they’re capable of doing anything and overcoming anything and achieving anything, then that will become true for them as well. So I think when Jake and Nog forged this relationship and we saw Nog become such an exemplary person and such a great role model for us to watch as he went through his training and become a Starfleet officer, those are the kinds of things that we can all be inspired from.
Modern-day Star Trek
What do you think about the recent resurgence of Star Trek in the world?
Cirroc: I think there’s a lot of people out there that are thirsty for that kind of inspiration, that kind of storytelling. I’m happy with the decisions that they’ve made… people like Sonequa Martin-Green, who has been an excellent ambassador for Star Trek as well as for Black women as captains on the show. I really like the animated stuff, I love Lower Decks and what they’re doing there with Mike McMahan and Tawny Newsome, they’re doing an excellent job. Prodigy is knocking it out of the park with the Hageman brothers and Aaron Waltke. I think Strange New Worlds is going to be the flagship show going into the future, I’m looking forward to watching and going on the journey with them. So I think Star Trek’s in a really good place. And I want to commend Alex Kurtzman for being a really good ambassador for the brand and for taking the time to cater to the fans and check all the boxes off.
Denise: The way we get our content has changed. So because we have these streaming services, this allows for a different model, a different way of creating the shows. So someone like Terry Matalas, who just is a fan of Next Gen, he’s able to create a vision as a true fan, and they have the opportunities to do multiple products; it doesn’t have to be a pilot that gets x amount of ratings, so they can take something, just like Paramount’s doing with the Yellowstone franchise, spinning off prequels and sequels and all kinds of stuff. Because we’re part of a legacy that lives on.
Is there any one show in particular that each of you would love to resurrect your character on? Because it’s Star Trek, you can turn up anywhere.
Denise: I was thinking a lot about this. I had tweeted something because Tasha as a hologram came up [on Picard]. And I tweeted it’s just so lovely to be acknowledged on this show and be included. And Terry Matalas tweeted me back, and then he went, “Sela next?” And so I started going down this road thinking ‘What if Tasha was never dead?’ She escaped and went into hiding. And so Sela and Tasha get to meet. Sela would be the same age as Tasha.
— Terry Matalas (@TerryMatalas) April 7, 2023
Like for a completely new show?
Denise: A totally new show. Not MY show, but as part of a Terry Matalas show.
Like the Legacy show people are hoping for?
Denise: Maybe. Yeah. that’s what he was inferring. And I just thought, we never really knew if Tasha died and she’s such a survivor, it makes sense that she would have escaped Romulus when she was taken hostage. That’s what happens. You start going down that path.
So Cirroc, where would you see Jake?
Cirroc: When I was watching the first season of Picard and Picard was being interviewed by a reporter. I was thinking ‘Hey, that would have been great for me.’ I could have easily been the one grilling him about what happened. That would have made sense. I told Tawny Newsome on the cruise that I’d probably be dating Mariner if I was animated. There’s all kinds of ways to incorporate me. I’m just happy that the new people in the Star Trek family are so wonderful and such great ambassadors for the for the franchise. All of the new people that I’ve met are just lovely. Doug Jones, and Todd Stashwick, these are amazing people.
The expansion of the fans has also been a wonderful thing. To meet all these new people that are getting brought back into the fold, to meet fans of my show that weren’t even born when the show went off the air… doing this podcast has been also an exceptional gift that keeps on giving. Thanks to the late great Aron Eisenberg, thanks to my partner Ryan T. Husk. This has been the thing that has kept me attached to Star Trek and helped me nurture and grow relationships that I’ve already had. Those are the wonderful things, the opportunity that this podcast has been for me.
The kids of Star Trek
Denise, are you staying on 7th Rule for all seven seasons of TNG?
Denise: No, I’ll pop back in when I come back in. That’s probably how that’s gonna go.
I do hope you get to watch some of the later ones because it is an extraordinary show. So much of it still holds up so well.
Denise: Yeah, there have been some great surprises in this first season in terms of themes which have been really impressive, things way ahead of the game, whether it’s AI stuff and arms proliferation and climate change and nonbinary characters, all kinds of stuff that you go ‘Wow, they’re talking about some stuff way before.’
Also in terms of leadership. I think Picard shifted how we saw leaders in a very unique way. And Sisko did too, and then Janeway, each time they evolve. We’re seeing a different type of leadership and what it means to be a leader. And especially with the Siskos’ relationship, having a parent who’s in a leadership position was groundbreaking and illuminating for all of us.
Denise: Especially coming off Picard of Next Gen, when his whole setup in the first season is how uncomfortable he is with children, and there are kids on his ship for the first time, and he has no idea, he’s asking for Riker’s help to deal with children!
Cirroc: That was a surprise to me, how they wrote it like that. He was so fussy around kids. I thought that was kind of unusual. You know, he was really irritated… “What’s the boy doing?”
Denise: His tone was so mad all the time, whenever Wil [Wheaton] came around… and of course, Wil solved every single problem, every episode. Why wouldn’t you just love this guy?
Cirroc: Only 10 out of 12 episodes, okay? [laughs]
Denise: “Arsenal of Freedom,” he was not there. He was doing homework. But otherwise he’d have known how to fix that whatever-that-thing-was, that gun toy.
Cirroc, when you started doing Deep Space Nine, Next Gen was still running. Did you and Wil Wheaton ever get together and have any conversations as the kids of Star Trek?
Cirroc: No. That was a crazy thing… I actually never had a chance to meet him until not too long ago when we officially met. We’re at events sometimes together, you’re at the 50th anniversary or whatever anniversary and there’s a thousand people there, so it’s hard to kind of mingle and get to know each other. But we actually officially introduced ourselves and exchanged phone numbers at the Picard premiere for the final season.
Have you guys compared notes?
Cirroc: We did a little bit of comparing on the day we took that picture. But we still have a follow-up to do and I didn’t want to follow up and meet with him until I had seen a little bit of Next Generation because it doesn’t feel fair. When I met him, he was like, ‘Yeah, I Just watched Deep Space Nine during Covid. I was binge watching.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I kind of haven’t seen your show, you’re before me.’ So I felt bad. So now Denise and I are watching this show that gives us an understanding of what his character was doing, and how many times he was saving the day. And how many cool sweaters he had. And we can exchange notes on how bad we were dressed.
— Cirroc Lofton (@CirrocL) February 10, 2023
The Sisko Day is coming!
Do you and Ryan have a plan for 7th Rule after Denise’s episodes are done?
Cirroc: We haven’t fully worked that out yet. What’s next on the menu for us is we’ve announced that we’re going to honor Captain Sisko with The Sisko Day, which will be coming up on May 22. And we’ve set up a website (thesiskoday.com) where people who love Captain Sisko can write on a digital wall and give homage to him and say whatever they feel. May 22 is the day that he was basically announced as the Emissary, that’s why we made it that day. And we’re going to pay homage to Captain Sisko by giving people the opportunity to tell the world how much they love him and what he means to them.
Sisko is such a great character. “Explorers” is one of my very favorite Deep Space Nine episodes, even more so when I became a parent.
Cirroc: One of my great favorite moments was working with him on that one, it was a very intimate episode. I still have a souvenir from that episode, which is the Bajoran space map. One of the few things I took with me. Oh, I was “gifted” that—let’s go with that.
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