Monday, May 27, 2013

"To Boldly Go..."

The Starship Enterprise, arguably the most famous vessel in the history of fiction, has seen some amazing sights. Its crew has gone back in time, averted intergalactic war and defeated monsters that eat whole planets. In the two newest movies, J.J. Abrams has given Star Trek a reboot with an exciting new take on the 47 year old franchise.  I'm a big Star Trek fan, and as such, I went to see the newest movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, last weekend.  I loved it.  When I saw the first Star Trek by J.J. Abrams, some people in the theater were not thrilled with the reboot.  Into Darkness, however, bring back some of the story-lines Star Trek Fans are familiar with.  This was a movie for new Trek fans and old.  The movie is filled with references to the original Star Trek, and at the same time, allows new fans to experience Star Trek in whole new light. 

Star Trek took on many issues of its day.  Most Star Trek stories depict the adventures of humans and aliens who serve in Starfleet, the space-borne humanitarian and peacekeeping armada of the United Federation of Planets. The protagonists have altruistic values, and must apply these ideals to difficult dilemmas. Many of the conflicts and political dimensions of Star Trek represent allegories of contemporary cultural realities. Star Trek: The Original Series addressed issues of the 1960s, just as later spin-offs have reflected issues of their respective decades. Issues depicted in the various series include war and peace, the value of personal loyalty, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism, feminism, and the role of technology. Roddenberry stated: "[By creating] a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network."

Yet there's one frontier that has consistently eluded producers: Through three seasons on television and six movies, the decks of the original Enterprise have never witnessed a single word or gesture of gay affection. The same goes for the Enterprise D from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and the eponymous craft from "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager." No same-sex kisses. No hand-holding. Not even a casual reference to the existence of homosexuality.

It is an odd distinction for the franchise that, 45 years ago, gave America its first televised interracial kiss.  In the 1968 episode "Plato's Stepchildren", Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Captain Kirk (William Shatner) kiss. The episode is popularly cited as the first example of a scripted inter-racial kiss on United States television. Originally, the scene was meant to be filmed with and without the kiss, so that the network could later decide whether to air the kiss. However, Shatner and Nichols deliberately flubbed every take of the shot without the kiss so that they could not be used.  With many groundbreaking topics and depictions "You would think that occasionally a gay or lesbian character would [appear] somewhere in the 24th century," wrote a contributor to the Lavender Dragon fan newsletter a few years back. "Has the Federation [of Planets] found a 'cure' for homosexuality?"

Star Trek's creators have beaten around the bush on the issue, but never fully embraced a homosexual character in the Star Trek franchise.  This is what I want to look at this week in my posts, so,stay tuned for more.

P.S. There will not be a poem for this Tuesday, but I will be back to my regularly scheduled program next week.

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