Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 31
02-22-2010, 09:47 AM
TOS by today's standards was low quality and cheesy.

But, when it aired on September 8th, 1966, it was innovative, original and quite frankly edgy.

Back when women were at best seen as secretaries (even more so of minorities), Uhura was a bridge officer. She even assumed command of the Enterprise in an animated series episode. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself asked Nichele Nichols to remain on the cast after she planned to quit because of her character not being utilized enough. Whoopi Goldberg saw this as a child and she has said in interviews it was one of the reasons she went into show business. When TNG had aired its first season, she went to Gene Roddenberry to ask for a reoccurring role on the series, and Guinan, in all her awesomeness was born.

Back when different was seen as evil and wrong, the crew met, came to understandings with, and became friends with alien species very unlike ours.

Back when no one wanted to talk about the strife occurring in the world, Gene Roddenberry pushed the envelope and hid stories about peace, understanding and cultural exchange behind the veil of sci-fi.

Back when Russia (USSR) was seen as the most evil menace in the entire world, Pavel Chekhov served with Americans, Scotsmen, and a Vulcan. Not as the serving boy, but right up front with the rest of the crew.

Sure it had its flaws, sure it was menaced by the network, but partly in thanks to it, we take the stories and lessons it portrayed for granted. Thats why TOS was so important to die-hard fans. Its also why we tend to look at some of the later series and be disappointed. Enterprise and Voyager (Although to a lesser extent) seemed to lack those lessons. They lacked the push that the other series had.

Before everyone cripes about TNG and DS9 lacking those, I give you the following:

TNG:
Episode debating the rights of an Android as a sentient person, as well as touching on slavery. (The Measure of a Man)
Episodes portraying cultural exchange and understanding. (Too numerous to list)
They touched on torture as well as its effects. (Chain of Command I & II, Family)

DS9:
The sheer terror and psychological effects of war. (The Siege of AR-558)
They had a middle eastern Doctor despite the flair up of terrorism and strife in the middle east during the early 90's.
Despite it being very thinly veiled and turned down hardcore by the network, they got an episode through touching (or at least trying to) on homosexuality during the strongest period of gay rights activism. (Rejoined)

TL;DR Version: Star Trek did things no one else was willing to do. Enterprise and Voyager not doing so made them weak.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 32
02-22-2010, 09:47 AM
Quote:
The premise of Voyager was great, but
1) A new alien every week? Really? Why not "shake it up a bit" and have the same alien for a month? Why does each alien species have to have a singlular problem that defines them as a species?
Because Voyager was an analogy for the United States' changing role international politics.

Quote:
Why "voyager"? If you noticed, as long as they were in that ship, they were always safe, right?
No.

Quote:
The biggest reason ENT is looked down upon is...the quality of writing in the first 2 seasons. Season 3 and 4 could have saved the show, but with UPN being broke....It just wasn't meant to be.
I don't think its as rational as that. DS9 and TNG started out very weak too, but they aren't as despised as ENT. Each series has glaring flaws and yet fans look past these flaws and find enjoyment in their strengths. This was never the case with ENT. I do believe it was a fan issue. ENT had its problems, the writers clearly tried to work on it, but the fan base was simply not forgiving.

Quote:
It was cheap.
No it wasn't. In fact if you look at the matter objectively, you'd realize that it takes far more creativity and energy to introduce unique alien species on a regular basis than it does to resort to the same two or three enemies.

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1) Why "enterprise"? WHY ANOTHER SHIP CALLED ENTERPRISE??
Because television fans tend to like the same thing regurgiatated over and over again.

Quote:
2) A new alien every week that we have never seen before?
The United Federation of Planets is suppose to contain hundreds of different races. What is so improable about the Enterprise encountering more than the 10 or species we are constantly seeing?

Quote:
3) The "technological problems" they promised lasted a few episode
Would you have prefered to spend 30 minutes watching Trip repair the food synthesizers?

Quote:
One episode dealt with the romulans even if a war was fortold durign that time period? That could have been half the show!
So after disparaging the writing quality and lamenting its tendency to break canon, you're now complaining that it didn't tackle one of the most mysterious and important events in Star Trek history?

Quote:
But in terms of actual scripting and casting, this is where TOS is strong when compared to other incarnations of ST.
I found TOS to be simplistic and shallow- far weaker in content than moral ambiguities offered by DS9 or the intellectually stimulating qualities of TNG.

Quote:
At that time, American audiences were very tired of their country's involvement in Vietnam, thus many viewers were more than ready to identify with the way TOS often questioned expansionist foreign policy in its narrative, of which the Prime Directive is one very obvious analogy to how America handled dealing with South East Asia.
I think thats a tired interpretation that is rooted more in nostalgia than the actual show. The Prime Directive is only passingly mentioned, broken significantly, and overall the show was very jingoistic. When the show wasn't crafting alien worlds to reflect Americana, it was portraying foreign races as two-dimensional, barbaric, or in need of our moral guidance. Even when humanity is put on trial from yet another superior energy being, TOS never went beyond being blatant in its depictions of "human weakness" and narcissitic in its depictions of "human strength". Never are we shown a situation where there is a genuine possibility where humanity's moral and intellectual capabillities may not be enough.

This is to say nothing of the connotations of the Enterprise crew. Handsome, daring, all American Kirk versus scrawny, awkward, silly Russian Chekov. Black female Uhura carries out menial tasks, is easily frightened and depends upon the big burly men to protect her - unless of course you get her half naked give her some fans. In fact the only character to not have some evident stigma attached to him is Sulu, but I think the following Futurama quote explains his situation well enough:

SHATNER
Oh, that's good, good, good, good. And
then, George, you give them a karate
chop!

TAKEI
I find that offensive. Just because
I'm of Japanese ancestry you assume
I know karate. Have I ever led you to
believe I've studied karate?

SHATNER
Well, no, but you never talk about yourself.

TAKEI
(sadly) Maybe if you showed a little
interest.

Obviously they tried to promote tolerance and open-mindedness, but the ways in which they crafted so many aspects of TOS seems to suggest that this effort was half-hearted and that the writers were also bound by the prejudice, nationalist fears, and exceptionalism of the era.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 33
02-22-2010, 11:39 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrian-Thorn View Post
I think thats a tired interpretation that is rooted more in nostalgia than the actual show. The Prime Directive is only passingly mentioned, broken significantly, and overall the show was very jingoistic. When the show wasn't crafting alien worlds to reflect Americana, it was portraying foreign races as two-dimensional, barbaric, or in need of our moral guidance. Even when humanity is put on trial from yet another superior energy being, TOS never went beyond being blatant in its depictions of "human weakness" and narcissitic in its depictions of "human strength". Never are we shown a situation where there is a genuine possibility where humanity's moral and intellectual capabillities may not be enough.

This is to say nothing of the connotations of the Enterprise crew. Handsome, daring, all American Kirk versus scrawny, awkward, silly Russian Chekov. Black female Uhura carries out menial tasks, is easily frightened and depends upon the big burly men to protect her - unless of course you get her half naked give her some fans. In fact the only character to not have some evident stigma attached to him is Sulu, but I think the following Futurama quote explains his situation well enough:

SHATNER
Oh, that's good, good, good, good. And
then, George, you give them a karate
chop!

TAKEI
I find that offensive. Just because
I'm of Japanese ancestry you assume
I know karate. Have I ever led you to
believe I've studied karate?

SHATNER
Well, no, but you never talk about yourself.

TAKEI
(sadly) Maybe if you showed a little
interest.

Obviously they tried to promote tolerance and open-mindedness, but the ways in which they crafted so many aspects of TOS seems to suggest that this effort was half-hearted and that the writers were also bound by the prejudice, nationalist fears, and exceptionalism of the era.
Not really, Gene Roddenberry frequently acknowledged that this was the case and even went so far as to admit that the tradition continued in TNG, with characters such as Worf being a representation of the warming relations toward the Soviet Union following perestroika and glasnost, in having the 'Soviet' Klingons at peace with the federation, which is indicative of his desire for TNG to remain relevant in its sub-text. DC Fontana, script editor for TOS and The Animated Adventures, as well as author of the screenplay for the 'Yesteryear' episode, not to mention being a writing consultant for Bridge Commander's story amongst other things, has this to say on the matter:

'Gene Roddenberry and the writers were more interested in stories that reflected the problems and issues of our times. We were the only show on air that managed not just one, but several episodes that examined the Vietnam War during a time when the networks had decreed the subject absolutely taboo for anyone else. Against a backdrop of science fiction, we talked about racial discrimination, determining one's own future, defending personal and national freedoms, compassion, love, and friendship that held against all odds. Star Trek told stories of how man could be far better than he was, how there could be a better future if only we could reach for it and build it. One network executive, frustrated by our insistence on honesty and truth in the stories we were telling , finally blurted out: 'You people think that ship is really up there!' '

It's true that Kirk found plenty of reasons to break the Prime Directive, but they were always in the context of a balance to the actions and responses of others, to illustrate a point, and one does not have to play out the 'good guy' story to make a point. To suggest that creating characters such as Uhura, Chekov and Sulu was not brave, is to miss the context of the time; in 1965 when TOS began filming, there was still racial segregation in the US, Martin Luther King had yet to be assassinated, the Cold War was at its zenith, being fought by proxy in Vietnam, and the notion of putting a Russian guy on the weapons and navigation console of what most people saw as an 'American' starship, when most Americans were convinced that the Russians were winning the space race, was brave beyond belief.

At that time WW2 was a vivid living memory for many people, including Roddenberry, who let's not forget flew his bomber against the Japanese, so doing the same thing with a Japanese character was equally brave for similar reasons, and nothing if not extending an olive branch to help heal deep-seated wounds. Furthermore, just the idea of Uhura holding a position of rank that made a female African American on par with other senior crew members was what to us might seem a small step, but at the time, it was a giant leap, especially when we consider that over forty years later, the fact that the US has a black president was seen as a radical step toward the future.

It is easy to say these things were not brave when viewed in the context of today, but if you could go back to 1966 try them yourself, you'd be feeling very brave indeed. It would be the equivalent of placing a Muslim fundamentalist at the helm of JJ Abrams' Enterprise.

Al
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 34
02-22-2010, 11:46 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chock
just the idea of Uhura holding a position of rank that made a female African American on par with other senior crew members was what to us might seem a small step, but at the time, it was a giant leap, especially when we consider that over forty years later, the fact that the US has a black president was seen as a radical step toward the future.
There's also the fact that Nichelle Nichols was listed as a main character....
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 35
02-22-2010, 12:27 PM
Talk about hijacking a thread.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 36
02-22-2010, 12:46 PM
Quote:
Not really, Gene Roddenberry frequently acknowledged that this was the case and even went so far as to admit that the tradition continued in TNG, with characters such as Worf being a representation of the warming relations toward the Soviet Union following perestroika and glasnost, in having the 'Soviet' Klingons at peace with the federation, which is indicative of his desire for TNG to remain relevant in its sub-text.
That is not what I am addressing - in fact I find it to be one of the few redeeming aspects of the TOS series. Particularly in the Undiscovered Country, we see a complex and mixed response from both sides. This is far deeper and more realistic than what occurred earlier in the series, which was nothing more that Cold War chest pumping. You seem to have disregarded the content of my post to instead reassert that which was never questioned. I never said TOS didn't try to remain relevant and progressive, I said it did a poor job.

Quote:
To suggest that creating characters such as Uhura, Chekov and Sulu was not brave, is to miss the context of the time
On the contrary, my point is contingent upon the time TOS was created. Your analysis of the 1960's simply takes the major issues of the era at face value. Chekov's character seems innocent today, but when placed in the backdrop of the 1960's he takes on a radically different tone. You're right - television viewers see the Enterprise as an American ship. An American ship where an American captain commands a subordiante Russian around. To suggest that Americans, having fought a war along side Soviet forces not a few decades ago, would be shaken by the notion of serving military with Russians is silly. The world of TOS is a world where American ideals reign supreme - there is nothing intrinsically threatening about that. In fact, I can imagine plenty Cold War enthustiasts smugly grinning at Chekov's bumblings.

As for racial segregation, the lack of African American characters on television no doubt made Uhura and impressive character for the time - again not in question. The issue is not the fact that she was there, but rather WHAT she was doing and how she was depicted. There is nothing particularly progressive about having a black woman sitting in the back doing tedious tasks while others are doctors, scientists, engineers, or military geniuses. The heads of your average Americans weren't going to explode with sights of African-Americans - at this point and time African-American culture had already begun to make huge impacts on mainstream culture - particularly teen culture. The Nate King Cole show primered a decade before Star Trek and introduced Americans across the nation to Harry Belafonte, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eartha Kitt. Segregation made television sparce for African-Americans, not absent. The fear of having her onboard had more to do with "are we going to upset the South" moreso than "do we want Black people on TV".

And as for Sulu, both Roddenbery and Takei specifically sought him to NOT represent Japan but rather Asia as whole; hence the surname Sulu. His Japanese first name along with all the Japanese components of his character were either developed after TOS or by secondary sources that have no claim to canon.

And no, if I had lived during the 1960's - a period where housewives were marching on the streets, where teenagers stood in the face of armed soliders and said "no", where counter-culturalists were stoned for growing their hair and speaking their mind, I would not feel brave for taking part in Star Trek. Star Trek pales in comparision to the men and women who lived during those eras and the dreams they held. There was plenty more Roddenbery could have done if he was like them - but he played it safe.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 37
02-22-2010, 02:40 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adrian-Thorn View Post
TOS never went beyond being blatant in its depictions of "human weakness" and narcissitic in its depictions of "human strength". Never are we shown a situation where there is a genuine possibility where humanity's moral and intellectual capabillities may not be enough..
That is not always the case in Star Trek TOS, there are plenty of examples where it really does push the notion that the Federation, being often a parable for interventionist policies not just by the US, but also by China and the Soviet Union, is not always the smart way to go. To give you a couple of specific examples, of that, and there are many in TOS...


Re: intervention and influence not always being for the best:
In the episode 'The Apple', McCoy and Kirk represent the traditional belief of Americans as far as politics and ideas of society go and the desire to impose those views on a planet in contradiction to the Prime Directive. The inhabitants of the planet concerned - Gamma Trianguli VI - worship a creature 'Vaal' which is obviously a fairly thinly disguised version of the pre-biblical Baal, with all the connotations that implies in relation to Christian (ie Western) values, and even if that is missed, the episode title makes it fairly evident in its religious nod.

But when as a result of discussion on the matter, McCoy voices his disapproval of the alien's culture with the comment 'There are certain absolutes Mr Spock, and one of them is the right to a free and unchained environment.' Spock replies: 'Another is the right to choose a system that seems to work for them.'

This is quite clearly an analogy for the United States choosing to impose a system on SE Asia, and the Chinese another, and you'd have to be deaf and blind to miss it, as it is by no means subtle. But even if you do, the episode concludes with the aliens witnessing Chekov kissing one of the Ensigns of the Enterprise crew, then emulating such 'forbidden fruit' themselves, which angers Vaal, who the aliens then kill, in what is a non-too-subtle retelling of the fall from Eden. But the devil in this instance is the Enterprise and its crew, with its intervention in a society which was working in a different, yet peaceful fashion, as pointed out by Spock. Spock, in his closing comment for the episode,says: 'In a manner of speaking, we have given the people of Vaal the apple - the knowledge of good and evil, if you will - as a result of which, they too have been driven out of paradise.'

This is rounded off by the joke that Spock, with his pointed Vulcan ears does look like the devil, but humour aside, it does try to shift the psychological blame a little, yet even with this attempt at the defusing of guilt, there is little doubt what the episode is driving at in its demonstration of the Enterprise interfering and messing things up.

Re: attempting to impose your will in a proxy war being a bad thing: In the episode 'A private little war', which is one that nobody could be in any danger of missing the point of, Kirk initially refuses to arm one side of a civil war faction by stating that the federation knows the implications of doing so. Later he relents and arms them when he learns the Klingons are arming the other side. As if the inference isn't obvious enough, Kirk actually references the Vietnam War in this episode directly, by saying to Bones 'Do you remember the Twentieth Century Brush Wars on the Asian Ccontinent?'

Whilst Kirks actions would seem to represent a tacit approval for the US policy in Vietnam, since Kirk emulates it in arming the aliens to fight the Klingons (i.e the communists), it also points out the futility of doing so, where it is frequently acknowledged in the dialogue that such a strategy can only escalate and there is no means of exit or victory beyond what will end in bloody slaughter. This is a point which was tragically reinforced by the coincidence of 'a private little war' airing on February 2 1968 - slap bang in the middle of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam - where casualties among the US soldiers, and the Vietnamese on both sides were massive. And it points up that the US, in spite of what are on the face of it admirable ideals, was instrumental in fueling conflict just as the Russians and Chinese were, in an attempt to impose their will on another culture.

So, there you go, two examples, and I could have certainly quoted many more of them, but not to labour the point and instead address another: The appraisal of what went on in the 1960s in contention of my previous comments regarding how go ahead Star Trek was in terms of attitude, erroneously compresses the time frame a little too conveniently.

Star Trek was first written in 1964, which is just a year after Kennedy was assassinated, and long before the Vietnam War had escalated to the proportions it eventually reached (over ten years in fact). This was certainly long before popular support for it back home had wained. The mood was much more in-keeping with the portrayal of Vietnam which we see in 'Go Tell the Spartans' than what we see in 'Platoon'. The birth of Star Trek in terms of scripting stance was only four years before the riots of 1968 (granted, some protests did happen in 1965, but these were not widespread), but there is a huge contrast in how things were to change in those years.

If that's not apparent enough in the aformentioned war movies and how attitudes had changed, look at the Beatles stepping off that plane at JFK in 1964 for their visit, with their lovable mop top 'long hair'. Then compare that with what was long hair in 1968 for a measure of how much opinions changed in a short space of time. The hippies of the 1967 summer of love and the later Kent State protests about incursions into Cambodia, where National Guard troops opened fire on students is often attributed to the 1960s, but it actually took place in May 1970, with the US remaining involved in Vietnam to some extent for another five years. Such things were absolutely not on the radar in 1964. and the difference in attitudes and how innovative writing was is very much dependent on what year in the 1960s we are talking about, rather than simply lumping 'the sixties' as an all-encompassing decade where attitudes did not change over those ten years.

Al
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