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Peter T Chattaway

Star Trek: The Original Series

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In the spirit of Philip Sandifer's Tardis Eruditorium, Josh Marsfelder is 'blogging Star Trek episode by episode at Vaka Rangi. I've only just started reading through the posts, and I certainly don't agree with much of it (he seems, so far, very dismissive of the first season--which I think of as among the best first seasons of any television show ever) but it looks like an interesting project (which is to say--if you like the Eruditorium, you'll probably like this).

A sample from the post on "The Cage":

It doesn't take a Talosian to put the pieces together here. The Enterprise isn't going out to make friendly contact with undiscovered cultures or mapping uncharted star clusters, it's running errands back and forth between Earth colonies and occasionally sparring with enemy hostiles in disputed territories. It's a glorified patrol boat. Now I also hasten to add I don't think Roddenberry meant this as a bit of neo-imperial US chest thumping: There's nothing in anything he said or that was written about him to lend any sort of credence to that accusation. It is true Star Trek, especially in its 60s incarnations, does develop a very problematic and tangled connection to imperialism, but that develops generatively as the show morphs and evolves over its first three years. Equally though Star Trek wasn't meant as some kind of idealized, post-scarcity fairy tale either. Those connotations are indeed all part of the series and do come later, but they don't spring from Roddenberry, at least not at first.

EDIT: One more quote, this time from the post on Lost in Space, which gets at what I'm coming to think of as a very important point about Star Trek--particularly with the advent of the JJVerse:

Star Trek as we know it really isn't one cohesive thing, despite what the most outspoken Star Trek fans would have you believe, it's actually a diffuse group of loosely connected concepts and ideas that people have tried to nail down into a single constructed fantasy world with varying degrees of success. But Star Trek gets a second pilot, a TV series, an animated series, a film series and a subsequent reimagining on TV. Something about that idea stuck with people enough to keep digging it up decade after decade, year after year. But why does Star Trek get so lucky? Lost in Space only got three seasons too and Jonathan Harris loved to camp it up, and all that show got for its troubles was an embarrassingly abortive 90s action sci-fi film reboot starring Matt LeBlanc and Gary Oldman.

I think the answer lies once again in the fact Lost in Space was simply too much of the mid-1960s, and the hegemonic mid-1960s to boot. Despite the problematic connotations I've observed already, and some more that will crop up as the series proper begins, Star Trek is simply nowhere near as blatantly colonialist and neo-imperialist as Lost in Space is, or, if I'm honest, the majority of science fiction from this period. Somehow, some way, Star Trek was able to transcend this and survive its troubled birth with approximate success. Lost in Space couldn't do that, and it was never going to be able to: It can never be Vaka Rangi because firstly true navigators were never imperialists and secondly the Ancient Polynesians were not homesteaders of the sea motivated purely by population statistics, either. They were sailors, poets, philosophers, astronomers, musicians and spiritualists. This is the soul of a traveller. Lost in Space doesn't understand this. Star Trek does. Granted, Star Trek doesn't get it either, but the series is on its way towards figuring that out and it eventually will.

--again, with the caveat that the author doesn't actually like TOS all that much.

Edited by NBooth

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