Star Trek the first generation
Now that i’ve come back to U.S., i’m allowed to access Hulu and am doing so with great enthusiasm. I have discovered that the whole of the Star Trek family of series is available for free and have elected to watch them in succession over the next undefined period of time, however long that sort of thing takes, given life’s many other commitments.
I have just finished watching the first ever episode, titled “The Man Trap”, and it does not disappoint. In the sense, that is, that it fulfills all of the expectations and nostalgic hopes that a person too young to have watched the show before it was outdated might have of the most iconic space show ever.
This was, of course, before William Shatner was a legend, when he took himself and Captain James T. Kirk pretty durned seriously. I had long assumed that the popularity of the show in its day and its acceptance in the decades until, say the 1990s-before it had acquired the general air of immutable glory that now surrounds it-rested on its being one of the first of its kind and on people not knowing any better, being used to overacting and, more importantly, practiced in the suspension of disbelief and the use of imagination to fill in the spaces CGI sees to now.
Consequently, knowing that my own capacity to suspend disbelief, well-developed though it is, would probably not be up to the task in this case, i was fully prepared to rely on my commitment to nostalgic sentiment to fuel my enjoyment of this classic. But, at least this first episode has surpassed my admittedly prejudiced expectations. Overacted it is, and woefully misogynistic, but also far more engaging and complex than its reputation would suggest.
The show looks at pretty big questions-the survival of a species, what makes a person who he (always in this case, i fear it is going to be he) is, where human behavior comes from-albeit with a bit of a heavy hand. As i type, Captain Kirk is explaining to a confused youth (who will no doubt turn out not to be just a youth) that “There’s no right way to hit a woman.” Of course, this is a widely held belief now, but at the time one could have easily posed a counter-argument and still been well-regarded by his (or her) peers. And I see all over these episodes this philosophical questioning of assumptions that have since become obvious flaws in our societal make-up.
I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the era, and that people have spent entire careers studying the philosophy of Star Trek, but i had been prepared for quaint laser fights, improbably sexy alien ladies and comically serious dialogue about absurd nonsense. Instead i find charmingly serious dialogue about relevant questions that remind me of all the answers we have yet to really integrate into our reality. ”When you care for someone what do you do?” the youth asks. ”You go slow,” Captain Kirk advises, “You be gentle. It’s not a one way street, you know, how you feel and that’s all.” I mean, that’s damned good advice we would all be wise to follow, but mostly forget.
Today’s viewer seems to feel far too wise and savvy to appreciate such plainly stated observations about life unless they are packaged in satirical, ironic meta-language that doesn’t threaten to suggest there might be something he or she hasn’t already thought of. I find i feel much more comfortable here with Spock and Kirk and their now-obvious questions and earnest answers than with our present-day mess of relativistic know-it-alls. Here, i can keep thinking about these questions and i can see how it might be a wise move to return to the obvious questions for awhile and to consider again the obvious answers.
As i settle in to watch one more episode of Season 1, i look forward to discovering for myself the timeless draw of Star Trek and its offspring. No doubt, this will, for the most part, be generally more light-hearted and frivolous than this first revelation has been. I hope at some point to discover whether Star Trek chess has a complete set of rules that could be learned by an actual person. Ideally, this will eventually lead to my acquiring a three-tiered board and chess set which i will display with great pride in some well-trafficked area of my home. Other likely topics of discussion include costume changes from episode to episode, the evolution of Star Trek weaponry, and the fiction-fact behind Star Trek lore (is there always a nameless third man doomed to die?). In the spirit of this last i leave you with this: For those who took issue with the Uhura/ Spock love connection in the most recent movie, so far, we are two for two with some pretty serious flirtation between these two characters in the original series.
Next episode – why is Sci Fi so interested in ESP?