The following is a sample article I was asked to write for an entertainment site. Wanted to share her for my many (zero) readers!
Things you didn’t know about Star Trek
In just a few weeks CBS will be debuting a new Star Trek television series, fifty-one years after the original Enterprise crew set out to discover new worlds and civilizations. Having it’s debut on a subscription-only service to a large and loyal fan base seems exploitive, but who knows? The TV landscape is changing so rapidly, maybe it’s a good business bet for CBS. Only till tell. What time HAS already told us, is that Star Trek is awesome. Yeah, it’s got space travel, adventure, babes and aliens but here a few things you may not have noticed about Star Trek that make is one of best and most important shows in TV history.
Kirk is a feminist.
Even in the 24th century patriarchal behaviors and ideas still permeate throughout the universe. Clearly the struggle ahead of us is a long one, but at least we’ve got a powerful alley with the Captain of the USS Enterprise. In just it’s second episode aired, Charlie X, Kirk fights toxic masculinity and the patriarchal conventions that plague a seventeen year-old boy, named Charlie. Rescued from a barren planet he’s inhabited alone since he was three, Charlie has a culture shock when he encounters fellow humans again.
Charlie meets the beautiful yeoman Janice and, having never seen a girl before, immediately becomes infatuated. He follows her, makes inappropriate advances, says gross things like, "When I see you, I feel like I'm hungry all over. Hungry. Do you know how that feels?" and he even tries to force himself on her. Not cool.
Kirk can’t let this aggression stand. He explains to Charlie how his treatment of women is so wrong. You can’t just go around chasing women you like and then force yourself on them if they don’t like you. Kirk tells Charlie, “It’s not a one way street ya know, how you feel and that’s all. Think of how the girls feels. Don’t press.” In just a few sentences, Kirk sums up the main problem some young boys and men face, the inability to empathize and see from the perspective of the female of the species. And, if any one knows how to treat women, it’s intergalactic charmer James T. Kirk.
Charlie obviously doesn’t listen and acts again on his lustful base impulses. Well, Kirk is forced to destroy the threat to protect the women and men of his crew. Proving that he’s an anti-patriarchy ally and puts his money where his mouth is.
It made movie stars.
I’m not just talking about Shatner and Nimoy going on to be famous, but the guest stars that would eventually be big screen actors.
In the first broadcast episode “Where No Man has Gone Before” crewman Gary Mitchel is taken over by an alien entity, giving him superpowers that he uses to try and destroy the Enterprise. Gary Lockwood would lend his talents as the possessed crewman, two years before the world would see him in space again as Dr. Frank Poole in Stanley Kubrick opus, 2001: A Space Odyssey
I’ll just skip over Ricardo Montalban as Kahn, because we all know that story. But did you know Hollywood dynasty and English Dame, Joan Collins was Kirk’s love interest in one of the most acclaimed episode, City on the Edge of Forever? Well, that’s why I’m here, to inform you of these things you didn’t know you needed to know. She plays Edith Keeler who runs a soup kitchen in depression-era America. The tragic twist is she must die for history to stay on its destined course. Kirk wished he could save her, but doing so would cause everything and everyone he knows to never exist at all. Quite the heart-breaking predicament.
My favorite of all the Star Trek guest stars is Clint Howard as an alien captain making first-contact with the Enterprise. Who’s Clint Howard you ask? You’ve seen him before, I know it. He’s Director Ron Howard’s brother, and has been in almost all of his films, including the Oscar-winning Apollo 13. So many space movies! The seven year-old Howard played an alien who’s voice was dubbed over with an adult male’s, giving a creepy affect to the already kinda-creepy Howard.
It basically invented the iPad.
Whenever Capt. Kirk and subsequently Picard, Janeway, etc. receive reports and information from a subordinate officer, most of them come on a tablet.
The portable tablet with its ‘stylist’ is integral to the running of the ship’s engine and transference of information and reports. Just like today! How could they have known? It begs the question, were those writing and creating the show able to see into the future or were they themselves, aliens?
Or maybe just Steve Jobs was a Trekkie.
Kirk punches Nazis!
I hate to get political again, but it’s nearly impossible within our current world.
In the episode Patterns of Force, Kirk and Spock discover a planet that has misinterpreted Earth history and formed their society in the model of the third reich. The planet’s ruling party has subjugated a subset of its population and is systematically destroying them. Yikes! Obviously, Kirk can’t let this continue.
Spock, Bones and Kirk beam down, beat up some fascist, Nazi pigs and liberate the planet from the autocratic dictatorship. The good fight always needs to be fought and again, Kirk is a hero for personal liberty throughout the galaxy.
It was pretty avant-garde with its filming techniques.
If you watch as much Star Trek as I do, which would be too much, you’ll begin to notice a few things; Women are always in soft focus, Spock has a strange smoldering, sexy-scientist vibe, and if there is a fight, Kirk’s shirt is most likely coming off.
But if you look closer than what’s on the surface of Trek and dive into the deeper aspects a TV show over fifty years old, you’ll see that they were ahead of their time, not just thematically, but technically as well.
Whether it’s utilizing French New Waves kinetic camera moves, Hitchcockian dutch angles or long tracking shots, Trek brought cinema quality lighting and film-making to the small screen.
In the episode Shore Leave, the Enterprise crew takes some much needed R&R on a remote pleasure planet. While exploring Kirk hears the death cry of an injured crew-mate. Kirk runs to the rescue, initiating a long tracking shot that pre-dates the steadicam by over a decade! It’s a little shaky but when you think about it, the only camera movements before this time were smooth dolly shots in a controlled studio. Trek again, boldly going where no TV show has gone before.
Oh! And did I mention Star Trek had the first inter-racial kiss ever broadcast on a TV show. Yeah… think about that. Will the new show push boundaries? One can only hope.