I’m late but I wanted to review the latest episode of Star Trek Continues: Embracing the Winds. It’s basically about equal rights for women, a big subject in the ’60s and ’70s. Those “Winds” in the title must be the winds of progress.
(If you’re new to Star Trek Continues, you can read my first post on the topic, which has links to the episodes. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out.)
Let me say right off that I generally detest TV’s “very special episodes.” Their morality lessons always come off as patronizing, pandering and smarmy. That’s because they are. Always. Few people believe they write these things for our enjoyment. Ten percent of the time, it’s to teach viewers whatever they think we need to learn. The other ninety percent: they want to win awards from their colleagues. And all this time, those colleagues are trying to out-patronize, out-pander and out-smarm each other with their own very special episodes.
Star Trek Continues (STC) gets away with it a little bit because they’re doing it for a different purpose. They’re not really trying to teach us this lesson. (And if I’m wrong, somebody needs to drag Vic Mignogna — best Kirk since Shatner — to the asylum on Elba II.) They’re trying to do 1960s TV, while at the same time trying to explain away Starfleet’s rule (from the episode “Turnabout Intruder“) that women cannot be starship captains.
By the way, don’t blame naval tradition for this. Commanding a warship required experience on those ships, and that’s where the barrier was. This shouldn’t be a problem on Starfleet’s Enterprise, which has plenty of women.
STC blames the rule on diplomatic problems with some member planets opposing women’s rights. Although it’s a clever bit of retcon, I don’t think this works. Other species had their own ships on this show. And besides that, in real life, captains of capital ships aren’t selected by field tribunals.
The problem here is that this show is supposed to be as from the ’60s. That’s just the way they were back then. Things weren’t changing that fast.
The first Star Wars was almost ten years later: Smuggling and blockade running was still a man’s game. Remember that hangar at the rebel base, and all those ground personnel preflighting the fighters? Men. The pilots? Men. Yes, the princess did some intelligence and courier work, but she stayed at the base when the climactic battle began. Men did the fighting. I don’t even need to mention the Empire.
Same story with the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica. Its versions of Starbuck and Boomer were guys.
That Galactica did have women pilots — in one episode. They needed to learn to fly when the men were sick. I don’t remember the details, but it was probably like when Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife got sick, and Thelma Lou and Aunt Bea had to defend Mayberry from mobsters.
On the other hand, Buck Rogers did have a woman pilot around that same time as Galactica. But Wilma Deering was in the original 1928 book as well, although as a soldier, not a pilot.
Anyway, Star Trek didn’t have a problem only with women captains. I don’t remember any women in security either. That’s just the way things were.
I often think Star Trek’s status on the vanguard of civil rights is overblown, but I’ll give Roddenberry some credit here. As seen in the pilot (“The Cage”), the first officer was originally going to be a woman. As the story goes, he had to back down when the studios balked. That would have changed everything. Since executive officers are generally in line to become ship captains, it would have followed that the rule wouldn’t have existed anymore. The writers would have had to come up with another motive for the crazy lady in “Turnabout Intruder.”
As for the episode itself, it was fun after the very special groaning. Not their best, but always better than the latest movie. Look for Erin Gray as Commodore Gray. She played Wilma Deering in the ’70s version of Buck Rogers. This was her second appearance on STC.
The rest of the performances are also top notch. In particular, watching Chris Doohan as Mr. Scott is a treat for any real fan of the original series. This is an “amateur” production in the same sense as the Japanese government calling its military the “Japan Self-Defense Forces.” The label understates their true power. In other words, they’re professionals, and it shows.
This episode is also available on YouTube:
(Okay, I made up the Andy Griffith episode.)