Saturday, 16th October 2010
When my friends were swooning over the likes of David Cassidy, Donny Osmond and even Marc Bolan, I had quite the thing for Mr Spock… I didn’t even stop to consider he was really called Leonard Nimoy.
I envied him because he could keep his face perfectly straight after his typical one-liners. Of course, to Spock they were not gags at all. Being half-Vulcan, he would have thought they were the perfectly logical things to say at any given moment.
To the Vulcan authorities, Vulcan was somewhat “defective” because his human side – pun intended – made him emotional. But to people who never fitted in, and to geeks, he was the ideal role model. This, indeed, was later expounded in J.J. Abrams’ prequel film, which shows a young Spock not quite as imperturbable as he became when we first met him as an adult. Back then, it would have been unthinkable for him to have a relationship with Uhura.
In a later series, Science Officer T’Pol became for Vulcans what a paper bag is to someone who is hyperventilating; Trekkies had long wanted ‘proof’ that Vulcans were not merely rational beings who could only show emotion when they had a human parent, or when something went awry with the circuitry of the brain.
T’Pol’s storyline had her give birth to a baby girl, Elizabeth – the father was Charles Tucker III (‘Trip’). Inexplicably (for intermarriage between species had happened in the past since Spock’s time) their baby did not live, despite all that Phlox is a Denobulan (who happened to be the doctor serving on the Enterprise as part of the Interspecies Medical Exchange at the time) could do.
Thinking back, however, I realised that the sex-appeal image was not only applicable to T’Pol, but to most of the women on any Enterprise spacecraft, even when (especially when!) they were dressed to the gills, usually in spandex or chiffon.
Before anyone thought of the back-story to the Star Trek franchise, there was Uhura. Like the rest of the crew, she had a uniform where the skirt came down to just below the waterline. In this future’s past, the idea was to feature James Tiberius Kirk as a playboy, with a ready procession of women at his disposal. Sometimes, just for the sake of change, he was the one being seduced; but the premise that women had to be eye-candy remained throughout the series. Even the female villains’ bodies were attractive, because they were usually vehicles for ugly entities who knew that they would never have scored with him in their real carapaces.
Uhura got to activate the whistles and bells on the computer bank, and cover her ears whenever the starship was attacked. Later women were “allowed” to be more important, even if they were not “really” human.
Seven-of-Nine was a cyborg who appeared in Voyager (1995). Incidentally, this was the first, and only, series with a female captain, Captain Janeway. Seven had been an ordinary human before, aged six, she was assimilated by the Borg Collective. This is why she did not want to revert to her human name, Annika Hansen when she was liberated – life as a drone was all she remembered. She did, however, except the short form ‘Seven’ – much less of a mouthful than Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01.
Not many people know that Commander Deanna Troi was originally supposed to have four breasts. But this would have done nothing for the character – or the show. So this half-human, half-Betazoid with the empathic ability to sense emotions was the starship’s counsellor-psychologist. She could not read the minds of aliens with brain structures that were not like those of humans and other Betazoids, however. Nonetheless, her empathic skills, and the fact that she could tell when others were lying, made her an important asset to the Enterprise and often came in handy when dealing with hostile races
She spent the first six years of her role wearing cleavage-showing and form-fitting clothes, and in many episodes, was targeted by alien forms of life that could take control of her mind in order to speak through her…
Then there was Natasha Yar. Tasha’s beauty was what got her kidnapped by the Ligonian leader Lutan. Yet the fact that she was not comfortable with her femininity made for very interesting sub-plots, all intended to show off her physical appeal. Of special interest is the time when she became intoxicated by polywater. Later, in fact, Data’s interaction with Tasha, preserved holographically for all time, stood him well when his rights as a sentient being were called into question.
Many female celebrities had walk-on, cameo, or walk-on parts in the Star Trek series, films, and cartoon versions. As time went on, they were “allowed to climb higher in the starship fleet hierarchy, acquire ever more “spatial” skills besides the emotional and technical ones, and generally become more important in the scripts.
This was, perhaps, of little importance to those who had already made a killing out of selling costumes for conventions, carnivals, fancy-dress parties, and Halloween.
What matters in this case, really, is the amount of flesh that is shown, and how that which is not, is emphasised.