Talking TOS Season 3 with FirstTimeTrek

Last year, before she and I were co-hosts of Women at Warp, Andi (a.k.a. @FirstTimeTrek on Twitter) and I got together to chat about women in TOS. We hit on episodes like “Mudd’s Women” and “The Enemy Within,” which Andi was seeing for the very first time. We left off near the end of S2 and promised to come back to conclude our discussion. Now Andi is finished TOS. Read on to find out what she thought of Season 3!

Jarrah: So when we left off you had just finished “A Piece of the Action” (2X20). At that point, late in Season 2, there were major changes happening behind the scenes at Star Trek. Going through Season 3 there were staffing changes and more budget cuts. Did you notice a shift watching the show?

Andi: Absolutely. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that Season 3 of Star Trek is the worst of the series. You can definitely sense a tonal shift. Also, it really felt like they were scrambling for ideas.

Jarrah: WHAT? You mean you didn’t appreciate the nuance and fine craftsmanship of episodes like “Spock’s Brain”?

Andi: Oh absolutely! Spock’s Brain is obviously the epitome of early Star Trek and what all science fiction should aspire to be!

Jarrah: I think the planet full of idiotic women was also a step forward for feminism.

Andi: Every time Kirk kept shouting, “Where’s the leader!?” I kept thinking, “Um, duh, she’s right in front of you!” It was painful to watch. PAINFUL. But Season 3 does have my favorite episode title ever, which is “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” They don’t make episode titles like that anymore.

Jarrah: Oh – episode title. I thought you said favourite episode. It is a good title.

Andi: No, no. The episode is fine and definitely one of the better ones of season three, but no. Pretty mediocre.

Jarrah: I’m actually a fan of “The Cloud Minders.”

Andi: Yeah that one wasn’t bad. It at least had a message I could get behind, which was basically that people should be treated as equal. And that society always finds a justification for oppression.

Jarrah: It also suffers from some of the Season 3 issues with obvious characters and writing but I like Vanna as the miner rebellion leader

Andi: My jaw dropped at the costumes. I actually love that dress that the Cloud Princess wore.

Jarrah: It’s pretty amazing.

Andi: It was obviously very, very revealing but the train! Wow! And the color? It is the perfect dress for a Cloud Princess. This episode also cemented what I’d suspected for awhile, which is that Spock has a thing for blondes. Specifically ethereal blondes.

Jarrah: Weren’t all the blondes on Trek ethereal blondes? I’m pretty sure it was the lighting. 

As for Spock romantic interests, we can’t forget the Romulan Commander! And I totally want to get to “The Enterprise Incident” but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about some real stinkers first. Like…”The Paradise Syndrome.”

Andi: Aughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I don’t know what’s worse in that episode, the sexism or the horrifying racism. A tie, maybe?

Jarrah: Well they’re definitely linked! In Hollywood at that time First Nations women had to be either alluring, exotic “Indian Princesses” or old, crone-y “squaws.”

Andi: Yeah, I mean the Noble Savage tropes really center on Miramanee as this pure Indian princess stereotype. I mean this is like John Smith vs. Kokomo all over again.

Jarrah: Totally! So they are all shown as savages but Miramanee is allowed to be alluring to Kirk.

Andi: Exactly! Ugh. Also, when Kirk dresses up in buckskin…I literally shuddered. I think the worst part, though, is that Miramanee becomes pregnant. And the second she becomes pregnant, it’s obvious that she’s going to die.

They can’t have Kirk stay on the planet with a wife and child, they can’t have him bring her with him, they can’t have him leave her… ergo: death.

It’s classic fridging.

Jarrah: Yeah. And they have her tribesmen stone them! Basically turning the Native Americans into the violent ones, as Daniel Leonard Bernardi says [in Star Trek and History: Race-ing Towards a White Future] “so that Kirk, the white male hero, isn’t shown unheroically and immorally leaving her and their unborn baby behind.”

Andi: All so they could play sappy music and have Kirk weep over her as she dies. Ewwww.

Jarrah: It’s awful how they, I think, thought they were showing respect for First Nations people, by having Kirk be so happy and free with them. But they just portrayed them as savages who were so dumb they couldn’t figure out how to preserve food without the white man’s help. Totally ignoring the advancements First Nations people in real life did make pre-colonization, and treating them as a homogeneous group that could live for hundreds of years in total historical and cultural stasis

Blerg. Anywho…

Andi: I feel icky now. THANKS JARRAH.

Jarrah: Sorry! Let’s move on to “The Enterprise Incident.”

Andi: Yay! This is one of my favorite episodes ever! It’s amazing how quickly my mood shifts based on what episode we’re talking about.

Jarrah: It is so great. (And if people want to hear us really geek out about this they should check back at Women at Warp next Sunday (April 26) for our Badass Romulan Women episode.)

Andi: “The Enterprise Incident” is basically why we decided to do that episode so early!

Jarrah: Yes! So what made The Enterprise Incident so great, do you think?

Andi: First off, it’s basically Ocean’s Eleven in space. Like this super fun spy mystery where you spend the episode uncovering Kirk’s awesome plan

And then they have the Romulan Commander be this amazing, in charge, sexy woman who owns every room she’s in.

Jarrah: Yes!

Andi: Now, as much as I hate the fact that they had Spock seduce her as part of the plan (and she falls for it!), the chemistry between Spock and her was amazing. You definitely got a sense that they were truly, deeply, attracted to each other.

Jarrah: Agreed. Super hot.

Andi: Spock’s seduction techniques: 100% effective on both the Romulan Commander and me!

Jarrah: Ha! Yes. I’m interested what things would’ve been like if D.C. Fontana had got her way and the seduction hadn’t happened. Because it felt too easy to me for an ending for a complicated spy show.

Andi: See, I would have been fine if they left the seduction in and just had her not be tricked by it. Make her more competent. If she was even more competent, Spock and Kirk would be even more impressive for pulling off this heist.

But yeah, I don’t think I’d want to give up this amazing chemistry and attraction.

Jarrah: Fair enough

Andi: This is the closest I got to sailing a ship on the TOS Enterprise.

Jarrah: Hehe. So were there other episodes in Season 3 or the end of Season 2 that we didn’t already talk about that you thought were particularly good or bad?

Andi: “And the Children Shall Lead” was horrible. I don’t think there’s much to say about it, though. Just…0/10 stars and everyone involved should forget it happened.

Jarrah: Ha. Yes. I don’t have much of a feminist critique of it, though.

Andi: Yeah it’s not bad from a feminism perspective. It’s just bad.

Jarrah: My main disappointment was the part when Spock warns Kirk the kids are dangerous and forces Kirk to confront the reality of what they need to do if the situation gets worse. So Kirk says “We’ll have to kill them.” And I’m so annoyed by this point I’m like “YES! FINALLY!”

But then they just make them realize they drove their parents to suicide

Andi: Yeah they kept letting these creepy kids run amok (amok, amok, amok) on the Enterprise. And the conclusion is they all start crying and McCoy is like, “YAY! PROBLEM SOLVED!”

Jarrah: Seriously. They should’ve beamed them into space.

Marta in "Whom Gods Destroy"

Andi: I dug ‘Whom Gods Destroy’, except I was super angry when they killed Marta. SUPER angry.

#martalives

Jarrah: Yeah. Do you think that was another example of killing a woman because of her uncontrollable sexuality/running amok of traditional morals?

Andi: Yeah, I mean, they could’ve put anyone else in the death fog. But they introduced this amazing, smart, absolutely destructive force of nature, and then toss her in the fog to die just to upset Kirk.

Jarrah: More fridging. Gaaaa.

Andi: The worst part is that Garth gets “cured” of his mental illness in the end and she never gets any justice at all. Because how can they prosecute him of murders he commits while criminally insane? So, she just dies. Anger.

There’s this amazing scene where Marta dances and quotes Shakespeare, but she’s like “Nah, I wrote it yesterday.”

So I loved that episode right up until she dies horribly in poisonous fog for no reason.

Jarrah: Yeah. Fair enough! And I apologize, but I have to ask about “Turnabout Intruder.” What did it feel like to end of TOS with that? Had people tried to prepare you at all?

Andi: Oh yes. There was actually a #countdowntoturnabout hashtag.

People just waiting for me to see this horrible episode. I think people were hoping for an epic rant.

But that episode just made me sad. So it ended and I was like, “Yep. That was bad.”

Jarrah: I thought you deserved some kind of trophy but couldn’t figure out what to put on it.

Andi: Ha! Like you made it! You made it through “Turnabout Intruder” without having your brain explode.

Jarrah: Kind of makes you wish for an encounter with Nomad. Because you wouldn’t remember you saw it and then Nurse Chapel could teach you how to read again in a week and it would be all good

Andi: LOL. Where’s mind wiping technology when we truly need it?

Jarrah: So what bothered you the most? Was it the overall message or something more specific?

Andi: I mean, the message of that episode is that women should be happy with what society gives them, otherwise they’ll go insane and ruin everything.

And Janice Lester might’ve gotten away with it too, but she made the mistake of being too emotional. Scotty even calls her “red-faced with hysteria” and that’s when the tide turns.

Jarrah: I love/hate how Kirk acts as a woman in his body. Like the first thing we see her do is filing her nails. The actress who plays Lester I think does a pretty good job of playing Shatner in her body – as terrible as the overall episode premise is.

Andi: Yeah, every time Shatner tried to portray feminine it was very uncomfortable and camp. It’s just an episode out of character with Star Trek. I mean we’ve talked a lot about when The Original Series was bad for women, but this is like ten steps back.

Jarrah: Oh god and then that last line that Kirk has about how tragic it is that she wasn’t just satisfied with her lot. Uggghhh.

Andi: If only…Jarrah. If only they hadn’t made this episode. If only, if only…

Jarrah: If only you could’e been satisfied with TNG and not expected so much from TOS…It’s like the problem is not sexism, but women’s expectations for things to be better.

Andi: Yep. Bad episode is bad.

Jarrah: So on TOS, overall impressions now it’s done?

Andi: Well, I started These Are the Voyages by Marc Cushman, and it did remind me that it was a big deal to have the diversity they did. And they did push the boundaries immensely.

Do I wish it had been more progressive? Of course. But I still love The Original Series, and I love what they were trying to say and I love that crew.

Jarrah: Yeah. Agreed.

City on the Edge of Forever still

Andi: Now I just know which episodes to skip on rewatches and it’ll be alllll good. I can just watch “Arena” and “Trouble with Tribbles” and “City on the Edge of Forever” and bask in what went really, really, right.

Jarrah: Ha! Yes. So what’s next for you? You’re into the movies now, right?

Andi: Yes, I just finished The Motion Picture, which I liked. My Twitter mentions were a mess for a while. People either love or hate that movie. And there was some pretty intense debate going on while I was watching it. I think it’s undoubtedly slow, but I still think the concept is good and it’s gorgeous.

Just wish I didn’t have to look at Stephen Collins’ stupid face.

Jarrah: Yeah. I did not know about his past sexual abuse of underage girls until you tweeted that. Awful and does make it hard to watch the same way. Although the Decker/Ilia thing was weird even before that.

Andi: Yeah, in that case ignorance is definitely bliss. And it made it impossible to critique that relationship in an objective way. We always have too much to talk about, Jarrah.

Jarrah: Yeah. Let’s leave the movies for another time! Anything you’re particularly looking forward to in the rest of the movies? That you’ve been told to look out for?

Andi: From what I can tell, Wrath of Khan is by far the fan-favorite and the rest are considered fairly bad. Then I get to do DS9! Which I am very excited to start!

Jarrah: I am so excited about that. Can’t wait to reconnect to hear what you think!

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