In the final episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the show goes out with a bang, and that bang is MISOGYNY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For misogyny, cissexism, ableism, homophobia.
I TRIED, Y’ALL. I TRIED.
While I’ve never thought that Star Trek had a perfect run in seasons one and two – there were definitely many uncomfortable moments or missteps or bad storylines – I’ve felt that season three was largely a wash. Most of the episodes have been so much worse than I expected and so much worse than practically anything else I’ve seen for Mark Watches. I do appreciate that, however, because y’all tend to recommend things I fall deeply in love with. That’s not to say I hate Star Trek, of course. It’s just that I haven’t been able to flex the critical part of my brain this consistently until I got to this season, and there’s a part of me that loves getting to pick apart stories, to find out why they work for me or why they don’t. I like getting the chance to use this blog to educate others. I enjoy walking people through a complex and uncomfortable environment like this because I hope it can provide them with the tools to look at the media they consume critically.
So it’s fitting that my journey through The Original Series ends like this, because WHAT A FUCKING DISASTER. I’d say the worst part about this is the lost potential (IT’S THERE, AND IT TEASED US THE ENTIRE TIME), but let’s be honest with ourselves. This show finally took on the issue of the Federation not allowing women to be captains, and instead of showing us how the world has moved on from bigotry, they told us all that women are jealous, impetuous harpies who cannot handle the pressure of command. GOOD JOB, STAR TREK.
But as I said, the potential is there. Where was the exploration of gender fluidity or gender identity? Instead, William Shatner turns up the camp to play Dr. Lester as… christ. A flamboyant gay man? A parody of a trans woman? Who knows? The humor is there, and it’s directed solely at people who have no representation within the show itself. Where is the exploration of the difficulties of command? I think the idea of someone body-swapping with Kirk out of jealousy and then realizing they couldn’t control the Enterprise is something that I’d like to see. It could have been brilliantly funny! Where’s the episode about the entire crew organizing a mutiny against Kirk because of an impostor? There’s elements of it here, and what we see of Spock, Bones, Chekov, and Sulu is thrilling, but it’s buried within a bunch of garbage. This could have been so good!
But this? The problem is that right off the bat, this show invokes gender politics and then refuses to let go. I’m not imagining the social commentary here; the references to the radical feminism of the 60s are deliberate. The show tells us that Dr. Lester was furious for not being allowed to become a captain (or be in a relationship with a captain??? I DON’T KNOW), and that she ruined her friendship with Kirk because of it. And what does she do when she’s finally able to enact revenge?
She loses her sanity.
Just… the conflation between mental illness and oppression is so ridiculous and harmful that I’m struggling how else I can define this. Dr. Lester is not mentally ill because she wants to be seen as an equal to other men in the Federation, but this episode would like you to think that she’d gone “mad” with power. Again, the problem here is that the script repeatedly grounds the story in Dr. Lester’s gender. We are told that women don’t want equality; they want to steal jobs through deceit and trickery. (Which is a familiar argument to me because I live in the United States, and I’ve grown up hearing how I came here to steal jobs. OKAY, YOU BIGOT, WHATEVER YOU SAY.) That’s damaging as it is. But nope, let’s make it worse! Those jobs women are trying to steal? THEY CAN’T EVEN FUCKING DO THEM BECAUSE WOMEN ARE SO EMOTIONALLY FRAGILE.
My god, why?
I’d rather not talk more about this episode, because the show as a whole was a wonderful thing to watch. It really has been like stepping into this massive museum for me, and my recent stint at Arisia in Boston made me realize how many jokes or references I’d been missing out on. I felt like I had a context that helped me understand the science fiction community, both in the positive and the negative. I was able to experience the joy of these characters and many of their stories. I was able to see how science fiction historically failed a lot of marginalized people, but also how Star Trek itself still set the bar so much higher than most shows in the genre. (I’m still sticking to the assertion that this show is more racially diverse than practically all of modern television. WE HAVE NOT GOTTEN MUCH BETTER.) There are a lot of ways to look at this show critically, and it’s been eye-opening and thrilling to do it all with you. I have been reading the comments so I can understand the environment that it was created in. (That’s definitely the case for this third season, too. It helps to know that the network interfered frequently and absurdly for most of this show’s run.) But I’ve also been doing so because goddamn it, y’all offer up such wonderful critiques and points for this show, and I can tell that it means a lot to y’all.
I don’t know, it’s very weird to get to the end of this. Yes, I’ve got a billion more episodes and movies to do (EXCITE), but I feel like this is a very definitive end for me. I’m glad I watched this, and I’m glad you followed along.
So! Please check the Master Schedule, since every film/episode of the remainder of the series that follow is in place. Yes, there will be videos for all the films, and I believe there are some Next Generation films that are still open for a commission. Otherwise, I am now even closer to Patrick Stewart being on my television every week, and few things matter more than that.
The video for “Turnabout Intruder” can be downloaded here for $0.99, along with the remainder of season 3 all at once!
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– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features will be The Legend of Korra, seasons 2 – 4, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings.
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