trek original series

My favourite fact about Star Trek TOS is that, because automatic doors weren’t invented yet, the ‘automatic doors’ in TOS were really just some guy yanking a rope and pulley system to make them slide open. Problem was the person was far enough away that they couldn’t see when exactly the doors needed to be open, and relied on a signal from somebody just off set. The actors, however, had to act as if they were 100% confident the doors were going to open at the exact time and moment despite the fact that they occasionally did not which lead to multiple occasions in which the actors walked directly into the doors while they were opening. 

“The way they defeated the aliens in Star Trek Beyond is unrealistic!”

For your convenience, here is a list of some other ways Star Trek villains have been defeated:

  • By Kirk reciting the Declaration of Independence really passionately
  • Kirk literally fighting himself
  • Kirk fighting himself again (this time while Spock watched)
  • Fat tribbles eating the problem away
  • Dr. McCoy applying mortar to an acidic rock creature
  • Spock mind-melding with a probe
  • Literal whales
  • The power of love defeating V’ger
  • Spock killing Kirk instead of having sex (Kirk got better)
  • An omnipotent being got his ass grounded by his parents
  • By doing literally nothing and history happened the way it would have anyway (plus there was a cat who turned into a hot lady)
  • The crew dressed up in suits and threatened to shoot gangsters
  • Kirk explaining birth control to an overpopulated planet
  • By making children cry

So you see, Beyond is actually well within the Star Trek tradition of ridiculousness. 

I love the Star Trek trend of characters who present themselves as loyal, exemplary members of their cultures but end up inadvertently or begrudgingly subverting tradition and becoming vanguards of major sociopolitical change.

Like we have Worf, originally introduced as this archetype of Klingon values; the guy who applies his strict honor-and-tradition moral compass to every situation, who has to be talked into bending the rules by both of his captains, whose interior design aesthetic is just knives. And yet everything he does has ripple effects throughout Klingon society. He’s the first Klingon in Starfleet, the traitorous son of Mogh, the reason Gowron has any significance at all, hell, he even becomes the deciding vote on whether to allow a clone of Kahless to become a religious figure on Qo'noS. And yet throughout all that we see him defending tradition to Alexander and butting heads with Odo on the concept of what law enforcement should mean. But when it comes to his actual effect on Klingon society, on the very definition of Klingon-ness, Worf is a revolutionary (as much as that would pain him to admit).

And then there’s Quark. He adheres so strongly to Ferengi customs, and yet he works to change them, sometimes accidentally through association and sometimes actively, through his own doing. He attributes his slip-ups in following the Rules of Acquisition to living on a station full of Federation and Bajoran ideals. But look at his family: he has a liberated feminist mother, his brother is an engineering genius and one-time union man, and his nephew is in (unprofitable) Starfleet. He claims not to respect “females,” but has relationships with Pel, Grilka, and Natima Lang (aka basically the three strongest-minded women he could possibly find) and a long-standing friendship with Dax. He defies the dogma of profit to prevent a genocide and nearly dies on a damn mountain to save a cop. And that’s not even mentioning the tangible impact he has on Ferengi politics and society through Brunt and the Grand Nagus. But every Quark episode basically ends with him shrugging and saying “I did it for the latinum”. Like NO you didn’t, bud, you’re a damn liar and also a revolutionary.

Honestly this trend applies to so many Star Trek characters. Spock (Extremely Vulcan Man feels everything deeply all the time and loves Kirk so much that he becomes a literal ambassador for Kirk’s values) Garak and Damar (spend a ton of time defending the State, then become actual resistance fighters who destroy the State to save Cardassia, as it were), even Seven of Nine could fit in this category (as someone who strives for Borg perfection but consistently undermines that goal by fighting for the individuality of herself and other drones).

This is one of my favorite things about Star Trek, because it’s an inherently complex concept but also one that rings true to anyone who both loves and critiques their home culture. Because you can do both. You can cherish some traditions and break others, because doing the real hard work of changing your society for the better doesn’t defy love for your culture, it requires it. It’s the necessary counterbalance to blind nationalism, the unstoppable force that keeps us moving forward. It’s an immensely positive, rewarding view of culture and I’m so glad that Star Trek has always promoted it.