In celebration of Women’s History Month and for my entry in this year’s Fiction’s Fearless Females series, I am choosing Star Trek’s original fearless female – the one and only Lieutenant Nyota Uhura! This is the third year that Kathleen and I have participated in this series and joining us is Michael of My Comic Relief, Jesse of the newly revived Green Onion, Kalie of Just Dread-full, and Jeff of The Imperial Talker. Please give them a follow to catch their posts (all have great content outside of #FFF), or look out for them here, throughout the month.
My first entry in this series was the brilliant Captain Janeway of the Star Trek Voyager series and my second was the ever-vigilant Sarah Connor of the Terminator movies. For my third entry, I circled back to Star Trek and choose Uhura, for all strong female Star Trek characters owe a debt of gratitude to her. Beautiful, smart, ambitious, and an equal to the men – she is the original Star Trek role model. Even Uhura’s name has important meaning – Nyota means star in Lingala, a language from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while Uhura is the Swahili word for freedom.
Star Trek is my favorite fandom, as many of the posts on this blog revolve around the movies, television and web series that have been inspired by the original classic. The series was conceived by Gene Roddenberry to present an optimistic view of life in the future and show a diverse crew, thus actress Nichelle Nichols was cast as a 23rd-century Starfleet officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise and she served as a communications officer. The crew’s mission was “to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Fluent in a myriad of languages, human and alien, not only was she head of the communications department but she was an excellent bridge officer, as she could additionally work the helm, navigation, and science stations as needed.
The show debuted in 1966 and was groundbreaking because of its disparate cast, and Uhura’s role as a professional Black woman was a rarity on television, as they were usually relegated to portraying characters with menial jobs. Now I am going to take a brief detour here and mention that IRL Nichelle Nichols was not only an actress, she was a singer and was hoping for some Broadway success, so she briefly considered leaving Star Trek to pursue other creative opportunities. She told creator and producer Roddenberry that she wanted to leave, but before she made her final decision she attended a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) luncheon and was introduced to Martin Luther King Jr. He wanted to meet her and express his admiration for her, as Star Trek was one the only shows he let his children watch, as Uhura was an example he held up to them, as what could be achieved in the future. Shocked and thrilled by his words, she stayed with the show, and the rest is history. For an exaggerated but hysterical reenactment of this incident, watch the Drunk History video – Nichelle Nichols Lives Boldly – at the end of this post!
Another pioneering moment in the Star Trek franchise was the first interracial kiss shown on US television between a Black woman and a white man that involved Uhura and Captain Kirk. Lore has it that producers were worried that the kiss would run up against Southern censors so they were supposed to film two versions – one with a kiss and one without. But Nichols and co-star William Shatner deliberately messed up the without-a-kiss scene, so that the kiss scene would have to be used. That indeed was a fearless move, for everyone involved knew that interracial relationships were taboo and in some places against the law at that time.
The Enterprise’s five-year mission proved to be only three, but Uhura’s story did not end there. A few years later in 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series gave the crew another year on the ship (and this animated series gave her some surprisingly good plotlines), and in 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in the theatres. Uhura would play an integral part in the six theatre movies that spanned twelve years. While Kirk, Spock and Bones always got the lion’s share of character development; Uhura, Sulu, Scotty and Chekov were shown as moving up in rank and with key moments hinging on their assistance. In fact, Uhura continued to be an influential character, as she was shown as a mature woman who was lovely, capable, professional and didn’t need a man to fulfill her life. She put her career first, and the universe was better for it, as she is now ranked as a Commander (and Admiral in some non-canon books and movies) in Starfleet.
Star Trek presents an idealistic and Utopian future, with the Earth moving past its racial and cultural differences, and ready to explore space. Its opening line, “Space, the final frontier…” proved prophetic, as I must once again mention Uhura’s real-life counterpart Nichols, as she became a space ambassador for NASA from 1977-2015 and helped recruit diverse astronauts, including women and minorities such as Mae Jemison. Uhura and Nichols have merged into one incredible icon – who is fine, fierce, and fearless!
As I wrap up this post, I now pass the baton to Kalie who is planning to write about Norma Bates from the Bates Hotel (of Psycho fame). Bringing us home will be Jeff with a post about Nomi Sunrider of Star Wars Legends. Please check in weekly as this series unfolds.
Live Long and Prosper, my friends.
To catch the other amazing women in this series, check out:
Could I truly call myself a Star Trek fan without watching this series from the 70s? I felt I was missing out on some classic Trek, so what better time than quarantine to watch all 22 episodes!
There are a few changes in this series vs TOS, although chronologically it would only be a year later. Due to cost-cutting, Walter Koening was not invited back, with Nichelle Nichols and George Takei barely making the cut due to Leonard Nimoy advocating for them. Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett- Gene Roddenberry’s IRL wife, who would later play Troi’s mother in TNG) gets a larger role, and two unlikely crewmembers are added- a feline woman and a strange three armed long-necked alien.
At first not considered canon, the series is now considered the fourth season that TOS never got, and information found in it is considered part of the Star Trek chronology, with references to characters and situations in future Trek series. Warning- some spoilers! But really, are you reading this post truly worried about learning plot points? 😉
Beyond the Farthest Star
As the first episode of the series, thus establishing the caliber of this series, it wasn’t good. The Enterprise is being pulled into the orbit of a dead star. An evil non-corporeal alien entity tries to trap the ship there, but the crew is able to engage a slingshot maneuver and escape. The animation took some getting used to, as the characters are simply, if not crudely, drawn caricatures of the crew from the 60s show. The space shots were fun, with some psychedelic coloring.
Spock enters the Guardian of Forever to correct a time discrepancy in his childhood. He masquerades as a distant cousin and helps his young self correct the problem that will right the timeline. This was a surprisingly poignant episode that showed young Spock’s homelife and the bullying he endured by his peers for being half-human. This storyline was replicated in the 2009 Kelvin Star Trek movie that had a scene of Spock’s childhood that obviously was inspired by this episode. This proved to be one of the better stories.
One of Our Planets Is Missing
A massive space cloud is destroying planets and is on course to destroy a planet that has a Federation colony on it. Aiming the ship into the cloud, they discover that this cloud is actually a living entity so Spock mind-melds with it to show this creature that it is destroying life. The creature then decides to find lunch in another part of the uninhabited galaxy and the Enterprise has saved the planet from destruction.
The Lorelei Signal
Uhura and Chapel kick some ass! The ship is nearing a Burmuda Triangle of space where several ships have disappeared in a 27-year cycle. On a planet nearby they discover a race of beautiful women aliens who lure men to their planet to suck their life force from them. As the males are immobilized Uhura and Chapel are able to save the day, plus find a hospitable planet for the women to move to where they can lead regular lives and meet men without having to kill them. I was glad that the women crew members were able to get a significant storyline and didn’t have to depend on the men to save the day.
More Tribbles, More Troubles
Klingons HATE tribbles so when they are at risk of being overrun with them. Kirk reluctantly works with Cyrano Jones, an intergalactic trader. Jones knows how to neuter them, yet the Tribbles still grow to ungainly sizes and are still a threat. When the Klingons (who still don’t look anything like Worf from TNG and what we have come to expect them to look like) threaten the Enterprise with a weapon, Kirk is able to negotiate a treaty by giving the Klingons a Glommer, a creature that feeds on Tribbles. Here the Tribbles are pink, which is yet another animation mistake.
When the Enterprise finds a small private ship they think they have found Winston, a human philanthropist missing for five years, and reunites him with his fiance who happens to work on the ship. But he is actually a Vendorian, an alien species that can shapeshift, and the real Winston is dead. But because he absorbed the feelings of Winston, he begins to fall in love with Winston’s former fiance and he rebels against his Romulan captors. This was actually a touching episode and made you think about loving someone for who they are not what they look like.
The Infinite Vulcan
Written by Walter Koening (Chekov) who unjustly was not in this series due to budget constraints, this was a rather convoluted episode. While on an away mission, Sulu is poisoned by a plant, but the plant-like creatures residing there save him. The crew discovers the planet was damaged by a plague brought in by a human scientist escaping the Eugenics War (which was a war led by Khan in Earth’s past). A clone of this scientist kidnaps Spock and makes a giant clone of him, but the crew convinces him that the war he escaped is no longer a threat. The two clones remain on the planet to restore the plant civilization, leaving the regular crew to head back to the Enterprise. So, a giant Spock is left behind???
The Magicks of Megas-tu
The Enterprise encounters an alien species that for a time lived on Earth, and set off the Salem Witch Trials when their alien skills were perceived as dark magic. The alien Lucian puts them through a trial similar to what happened in Salem, but their evolved humanity shows him that he needs to forgive them. His form is revealed to look like a cloven devil, so the connection is made that our mythology is based on prior alien contact. This episode had a noble idea but the follow-through was messy and is an example as to why this series is often laughed at.
Once Upon a Planet
Crew members are looking forward to some shore leave at a planet known for being similar to an amusement park. But the caretaker has died, leaving things to go awry for the crew who beam down. For a time Uhura is kidnapped, as the sentient computer resents its duty and rebels. But Kirk teaches it to be a good boy and to enjoy obeying. This episode rubbed me the wrong way- as this computer and the robots are tricked into being subservient again.
Harry Mudd is back with a new con- a love potion! Mudd is an iconic character that only appeared twice in TOS, and once in this animated series. Here he preys on Nurse Chapel who has a crush on Spock and soon he falls in love with her once the portion actually works. But the potion has a kickback turning love to hate, and once again Mudd is sent to the brig. I enjoyed that Discovery had him in two episodes plus a Short Trek, and I am hoping the Pike series will use this character who is now portrayed by Rainn Wilson.
The Terratin Incident
This was an amusing episode where a mishap causes the crew to start shrinking. They desperately try to fix the situation before they become too small to use the controls. This is an example in which the animation was an effective way to have this type of story that would have been impossible to film in live-action at the time.
The Time Trap
The narrative of entering yet another space Burmuda Triangle was utilized again, with the Enterprise and a Klingon ship both being drawn into a pocket of the universe in which other ships have become trapped in over the eons. Descendents of these crews have formed an alliance and have formed the Elysian Council. Although these aliens say there is no escape, we all know Kirk will figure a way out!
The Ambergris Element
While on a water planet, Kirk and Spock are in an accident that makes them become water breathers and they discover a lost city under the sea, very similar to our fabled Atlantis. There is an amusing scene where Kirk and Spock are in a water tank on board the Enterprise where Kirk expresses he can’t captain while in a fish tank. The duo work with this planet’s swimming aliens and are able to fix themselves and save the civilization from ruin. Barrett voiced all the extra females in the episode and it was distracting to have them all sound so similar.
The Slaver Weapon
This episode concentrated completely on an away mission with Spock, Uhura and Sulu- so it became my favorite, as those three happen to be my favorites from the TOS crew. While transporting a relic from an ancient alien race, they encounter the war-like Kzinti, who look like felines wearing some groovy pink uniforms. These aliens became canon in the new Picard series when Riker mentioned that the Federation is “having some trouble with the Kzinti.” When I watched Picard the quote meant nothing to me, so I find it amusing that a few short weeks later I discovered the meaning of this Easter egg comment.
The Eye of the Beholder
Telepathic aliens put Kirk, Spock and Bones in a zoo when they go to a new planet to rescue crew members from another Federation ship. But the crew members work together to send messages to the aliens and convince them to release them. Scotty plays an important role when a baby alien is beamed onto the Enterprise and he communicated with it before reuniting the baby with the parents.
Spock and Kirk are called upon to join a motley group of other aliens to retrieve a stolen religious artifact. Oh man- this series creates the most ridiculous aliens! They obviously felt they could design animated aliens that could not be shown on a live-action series due to the cost of special effects. Even nowadays with better special effects, these aliens have not been replicated into series, because they were so damn absurd. Plus there was an additional laugh of an alien woman who blatantly puts the moves on Kirk.
The Pirates of Orion
Spock contracts a deadly disease and the Enterprise arranges to rendezvous with another ship to get him a cure. Some space pirates intercept the ship and Kirk has to negotiate with the deceptive Orians to get the medicine that Spock needs. Guess what- he wins.
This was a surprisingly streamlined episode, that despite its laughable colony-creature (its body parts can separate and move on their own) actually had a good message. Always a Uhura fan, I liked how she had a moment taking the helm of the ship and demanding crew members follow her orders as procedure dictated they do.
This episode also included Kirk saying “There are times, Mr. Spock when I think I should have been a librarian.” Spock observes “The job of librarian would be no less challenging, captain, but it would undoubtedly be a lot less dangerous.” As a librarian myself, I enjoyed the idea that my job is as challenging as a spaceship’s Captain!
The Practical Joker
The computer gets a virus and becomes a practical joker. Not a fan of slapstick humor- this episode was really lackluster for me. That Barrett voiced the computer is a precursor that she would voice most onboard computer interfaces throughout several of the future Star Trek shows. The highlight of the episode was seeing Kirk wear a shirt that says Kirk is a Jerk that I have seen on memes but not understood the context until now. And yes, sometimes he is.
Dr. McCoy is accused of causing a plague on an alien planet 19 years ago and is put in jail. Determined to prove his innocence, Kirk finds an alien whom he helped during that era, but then the entire ship falls ill. When I think the aliens on this series can’t get any stranger, TAS proves me wrong!
How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth
This episode was problematic and included the trope of gods-were-really-aliens again. Within the first minute, I clued in that a crew member at the helm that we never met before, Ensign Walking Bear, was going to be important, yet a one and done character. He recognizes an attacking ship as looking like Kukulkan, a Mayan deity since he is Comanche and studied other Native American cultures. This alien beams Kirk, Walking Bear and others to his ship where it is revealed that this alien visited Earth in the past and influenced the Mayan and Egyptian civilizations, but feels rejected as they did not meet his expectations of gratitude. Kirk convinces this alien that humans have grown since he last visited and to let them go and continue evolving. I think this line of thinking reinforces some misguided people who believe that some non-white civilizations couldn’t have developed as advanced as cultures as they had at one time and thus must have had outside influence. The title of this episode refers to Shakespeare’s quote from King Lear “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child” which is a good quote but quite derogatory here.
The Counter-Clock Incident
This last episode was also cringe-worthy and reinforced that the show needed to end. Traveling on the Enterprise is Commodore Robert April who was the first Enterprise captain and his wife Dr. April as they prepare for mandatory retirement at age 75. They encounter a supernova that pulls them into an opposite universe and they began to de-age. Spock and the April’s maintain the ship since they are older and aren’t turned into babies like the rest of the crew, although they too grow younger. The problems I had with this episode were the ageism and sexism- Dr. April is referred to as Mrs. April repeatedly and they are not utilized to help until the end when the need for their assistance was quite obvious from the beginning.
My youngest son asked what was worse- this series or the Star War’s Holiday Special. I had to pause and think because they are both unique and horrible in their own ways. But these last two episodes pushed me to pick this series. I must keep in mind that this series was a product of its time- the early 70s was still mired in old-fashioned stereotypes. But the crude animation torpedoed this series, as their numerous continuity mistakes were obvious, and their stock footage (there should be a drinking game for how many times the same footage was used of Spock looking into a viewfinder on the bridge) was distracting. Some of the storylines were more nuanced than others but that begs the question- was this series geared for children or adults? But overall, I am so glad I watched The Animated Series. It was an interesting look into Star Trek’s uneven history and there were nuggets of good storytelling found in it. I now await Discovery’s third season and was thrilled with the recent announcement that Captain Pike, Number One and a young Spock would be getting their own series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. In the meantime- Live Long and Prosper!
While I had been fond of Star Trek (TOS) from watching re-runs, it was Star Trek: The Next Generation that cemented my love for the franchise. I have watched every episode of the seven-season series (some multiple times) and the four movies afterward. I was also a big fan of Voyager, DS9 and the Kelvin timeline movies but didn’t care for Enterprise and have found the recent Discovery uneven; so when I heard that there would be a new series about TNG’s iconic Captain Picard, I was in! Plus, I was thrilled that my husband would watch the series with me, for while he was a fan of TNG and DS9, he hasn’t watched any newer series with me, until now.
Set in 2399, twenty years after the last movie (Star Trek Nemesis), Admiral Picard is retired from Star Fleet and has been living on his family’s ancestral vineyard in France. We find out he left Star Fleet under less than ideal circumstances, as he was an advocate for helping the Romulan population escape a planet-destroying catastrophe. When some synthetics destroyed the Mars ship-building colony, Starfleet reneged on their offer to help the Romulans due to their fleet being depleted. Picard resigned in disgust, and the public has taken a dim view of his perspective on what happened.
A young woman, Dahj, is introduced when Romulan assassins try to murder her, and she inexplicably manifests super strength during the fight. She has a mysterious vision of Picard and finds him, only for the mystery to deepen when signs point to her being an android and somehow connected to Data, another android who served with Picard and gave up his life to save others in Nemesis. As synthetic life was banned after the Mars disaster, Picard is trying to piece together what happened when he is then led to a former Borg cube, where former assimilated Borg are being released from the collective and rehabilitated.
We meet a lot of new characters, as Picard commissions a ship with a motley crew, and frankly, the storyline is rather wonky and confusing here to summarize. We have an uptight scientist who gets away with murder, a young Romulan swordsman (who looks like an elf), a rascal of a captain who is Han Solo-ish, another Romulan who is a slimy Lothario, a troubled drug-addicted former Starfleet officer with a heart of gold, Dahj’s twin Soji, and Seven of Nine from the Voyager series. Seven was a former Borg who wore skin-tight clothes and was the hottie who got Kes kicked off the Voyager series (aside-I was in the minority in not liking her, as I had preferred Kes). At least in the new series, her character was more developed and I actually liked her (yet another aside-as a bonus that frees up Chakotay to be with Captain Janeway, as I always shipped them, and I was so flippin’ mad that Seven had been paired with Chakotay). At least Picard meets up with Will Riker and Deanna Troi, former crew members of his who are now married, and they assist him at a critical juncture.
The last episode of the series was somewhat controversial for me for several reasons- there are huge leaps of logic, a confusing fantasy/mystical element is introduced and a poignant moment concerning Picard is erased which eliminates the emotions associated with what happened. There are a few romances between characters, but they are so quick and unexpected that you don’t build up investment in their relationships. Perhaps that will develop in the future.
I just have to say that I missed not seeing more of the Enterprise-D crew. I know it’s not TNG-Part 2 and wasn’t supposed to be a nostalgic stroll through the past, but still. As I had guessed would happen, the series diverted from The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard (2017) as in his supposed memoir Picard had married Dr. Beverly Crusher, and she is nowhere to be found in this series. This was wrong! So wrong! I also want to see Worf (who should have a series based off him IMO) and Geordi LaForge (LeVar!).
Picard’s first season was stronger than Discovery’s first and second seasons, and I’m not really anticipating that series’ season three. Picard’s second season is already greenlit, and I look forward to seeing what further adventures await our intrepid captain. And of course, I hope the remaining original crew members get a small cameo, as when you have been as invested in a series and characters for years, you want to know what has happened to your tv family. In the meantime, live long and prosper!
Star Trek Discovery tried an innovative approach in keeping it’s audience’s attention and building interest- it put out four shorts (each approximately 10-15 minutes long), between Discovery’s season one and two. This second time around there were six episodes, two of which were animated, and timed to coincide with the premiere of Star Trek Picard.
The first episode took the popularity of season two’s young Spock, Number One and Captain Pike and gave them their own prequel to us meeting them on the U.S.S. Discovery. Spock is beaming aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise for the first time as an ensign and meets Number One who he gets trapped in a turbolift with. Their prim and proper conversation takes a turn for the personal, with a fun but odd singing rendition of I Am The Very Model Of a Modern Major General by both of them. They later pretend to meet for the first time in front of Captain Pike. I did have two problems with this episode- they should not have been wearing those uniforms yet, but most importantly, I like them so much that I want them back on Star Trek Discovery in season three (or even better- a spinoff of their own)!
The Trouble With Edward
This episode was hysterical! I was laughing so hard that my oldest son sat down with me to finish watching the episode after I gave him a quick overview of the iconic TOS episode The Trouble with Tribbles. While my three children are all Star Wars fans, I’ve never gotten them interested in Star Trek (to my everlasting shame) so having him watch this short trek with me was a victory indeed!
New Captain Lynne Lucero is assigned to the starship U.S.S. Cabot (and is escorted there by Captain Pike) where she meets scientist Edward Larkin who is conducting some morally questionable experiments on alien Tribbles, for he wishes to use them as a food source on a starving planet. Ordered to stop, he does not, and the Tribbles start to breed out of control, eventually overtaking the entire ship. While Starfleet officers are usually professional, Edward’s ego got the best of him (as did the Captain’s frankly), and the sequence of events afterward is comical. Captain Lucero’s explanation to an admiral board of review is accurate and a perfect ending to this episode. (BTW, this is the first time chronologically we see a Trill alien in Starfleet)
The third Short Trek with dreamy Captain Pike! When Starbase 28 is attacked, Cadet Thira Sidhu is tasked with guarding a mutinous prisoner who no surprise is Captain Pike. Pike attempts to convince Sidhu into releasing him, but she refuses despite her husband being on board the starship in danger. Pike then reveals that this is a simulated test, and because of her fortitude she is welcomed aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise as an engineer. We even get a brief look at Spock and Number One when she beams abroad. While I very much enjoyed this mini-episode, the likelihood of a captain taking the time to screen applicants for his ship like this is extremely unlikely. But I’ll let is pass, as this might have been our last opportunity to see Pike, Spock and Number One together.
Ephraim and Dot
I was unsure about the animated shorts, but this first was adorable! Set in TOS timeline, a mother Tardigrade wants a safe place to lay her eggs, when The Enterprise disrupts her, so she follows the starship to see if it would be a viable location. She is witness to some iconic episodes- Space Seed (Khan!), The Trouble With Tribbles, The Naked Time (shirtless Sulu with a sword), Who Mourns For Adonis? (giant green hand in space), The Doomsday Machine (the big planet killer), The Tholian Web (orange energy cube), and The Savage Curtain (hey, whats President Lincoln doing in space?!), along with some other shoutouts to TOS happenings. A droid, Dot, tries to stop her but later realizes her intent and there is a heartwarming ending. The animation was colorful, amusing and will appeal to all ages.
The Girl Who Made the Stars
As much as I loved the previous animated short, I did not like the second one at all. In this episode, we are shown Michael from the Star Trek Discovery crew, as a young child who is afraid of the dark. Her father wishes to reassure so he tells a tale of a young girl from Africa who brings stars to her tribe, as a gift from an alien she met. This story rubbed me the wrong way because a problem I have been having with the Discovery series is that Michael is just so earnest, and she and she alone is the savior of her ship and mankind. This cloying fairy tale-esque episode reinforced that issue which makes me wonder if Star Trek Discovery will fall to the wayside for me soon.
Children of Mars
This mostly wordless episode ties in with the Picard series as a prequel to Picard’s timeline, set in 2385, when Mars was attacked by deviant synthoids. The story begins with two girls who attend boarding school on Earth, speaking with their parents who are workers on Mars before they leave for school. The girls get into a skirmish at school and escalate it until they are truly fighting in the hallways. As they are awaiting punishment from the Vulcan principal, the news is announced and the girls each realize they have lost a parent, and link hands in solidarity. We briefly see Picard on a screen when he was still an Admiral and this all fits into the mystery of Picard’s storyline. This episode was effective on many levels- it showed youth in school as we don’t see many children or family units in the Star Trek world, the catastrophe will sadly remind viewers of iconic tragedies such as 9/11 or the Challenger explosion and ties in neatly with the timeline and reasons for Picard leaving Starfleet.
All in all, I found five of the six episodes strong. These shorts allow some additional ideas to be developed that there is no time to explore in regular episodes. Fan favorites such as Pike, Spock and Number One got more character development, and threads that connect to the newest series were introduced. It a smart move by CBS to produce these mini-episodes to keep interest strong in the franchise and keep subscribers from dropping the paid platform. However, for me, I waited until Picard premiered to re-up my subscription and just caught up with these shorts at that time. So, soon enough you can expect a Star Trek Picard post from me. In the meantime- live long and prosper!
I have a secret…although I profess my love for Star Trek, I have had a hard time following this new series, and have only very recently finished the second season although the finale came out months ago. In theory, I DO like this series, as I’ve shared in the posts I wrote about the beginning of Season One and then when I finished it. But each season I’ve had some time constraints that popped up mid-season and I had to put my watching on hold, and then I struggled with finishing the final episodes.
The first season was atypical to what most Star Trek series have been like, and I came to think of it as more Star Trek-inspired than truly a Trek show. With a mid-season break, the creators seemed to do a bit of course correction and tried to hew the last few episodes of season one towards established canon. Captain Pike, the predecessor of the Enterprise’s Captain Kirk, was introduced and it seemed as if season two might try to actually be more Treky. They even cast a new Spock to be introduced as a pivotal character as the foster brother to Michael Burnham, the lead of this series. I truly enjoyed the four Short Treks that started off the season as teasers for the regular episodes to come. But alas, season two went off the rails with an extremely convoluted storyline.
*Spoiler alert* At the end of season one, Discovery meets up with Enterprise that had been on a faraway mission and sat out the recent war with the Klingons. With Captain Lorca no longer with the ship, Captain Pike is sent over to captain the USS Discovery as the USS Enterprise is docked for repairs. This sets us up to meet a young Spock who is in the midst of a mental breakdown and not anything like what we expect from TOS. Spock and Michael are brother and sister as Spock’s parents took in an orphaned Michael as a child and their connection is forced and ridiculous. There is a huge absurd storyline about a Red Angel visiting at pivotal battles to help and it ends up with the two of them needing to save ALL HUMANITY with a time-traveling space suit. In the midst of all this, a character is brought back from the dead and my favorite character Tilly has to fight the most annoying alien ever. Three of the Short Treks tie into the narrative at the conclusion, and in the end, the crew splits up, with some of them having to go to the future with the USS Discovery.
It doesn’t bode well that many of my favorite characters were left behind in their present-day, while Michael and many of the younger crew members were sent to the future. I assume that’s not to say we will never see them again, cause come on its Star Trek; but I will miss Captain Pike, young Spock, Number One, love-struck Ash, Klingon Chancellor L’Rell and mirror-universe Georgiou. Michael was really grating on my nerves, with way too much focus on her and her earnestness, so more of her next season is not appealing. This turned out to be a pretty negative review of Discovery, but I’m not ready to give it up yet. The recently announced new Short Treks look promising and I will be all in for the new Picard series next year!
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Kathleen and I have joined up with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate! A group of eight of us are each picking a fictional fearless female to feature. I had the pleasure of participating in another blogging series last year, The Great Chis Debate, in which several of us argued who the best cinematic Chris was (Chris Pine was absolutely the winner) but in this series, there are no winners, as each woman featured in the next few weeks are fabulous and ALL are deserving of praise.
Our series was expertly kicked off by the Green Onion, who wrote about Ellen Ripley of Alien movie fame. Ripley was a perfect starting point as “She represents all that is great in a heroic character and being a woman doesn’t define her, it’s just a part of who she is” and led to other excellent portrayals of women in film and on television. That now leads me to my choice for our #FictionsFearlessFemales series: Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Star Trek Voyager crew played brilliantly by Kate Mulgrew.
Star Trek is my favorite fandom, as many of the posts on my blog revolve around the movies, television and web series that have been inspired by the original classic. In the first series we were introduced to Uhura, who was beautiful, smart, ambitious and equal to the men- she was the original Star Trek role model. All strong female Star Trek characters owe a debt to her, and we were blessed with other great women in the Star Fleet universe such as Doctor Beverly Crusher and Deanna Troi of The Next Generation series, plus Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax of Deep Space Nine. But Star Trek took the next logical and needed step of having a new series feature a female captain, with subsequent series Enterprise and Discovery building off Janeway’s pioneering role.
In 1995 Voyager premiered with the perfect captain who I picked as best captain in my earlier post My Perfect Star Trek Crew. The series premise was for the newly launched U.S.S. Voyager crew to track down an infiltrated Maquis ship and bring them to justice. The Maquis were a paramilitary terrorist group in which Janeway had sent her Security Officer in as an undercover operative and had enlisted a disgraced former Starfleet officer who had been a gun for hire for the Maquis to help find them. Voyager’s crew and the Maquis fighters are accidentally drawn 70,000 light-years to the far side of the Delta Quadrant by an alien seeking survival, calling itself “The Caretaker.” The Voyager and Maquis crews have to form a tentative bond to survive once both ships are compromised and they have to unite into one crew as they face the reality that it will take them 75 years to get back home.
Through seven seasons the Voyager crew explored and engaged with alien species they were completely unfamiliar with as they journeyed home. Through several dangerous maneuvers and battling of wits, they were able to get back into Federation space in seven years. Janeway was the perfect captain for this journey, for faced with extraordinary pressures, she united two warring factions and built a unified crew out of former enemies. Faced with an untenable situation, she came out stronger than ever. There were times she made some questionable decisions, including cutting off her glorious long hair (I loved her ever-changing hairstyles and buns), but her imperfections and quirks made her relatable.
As with many iconic characters, the real-life actors and actresses become forever tied to their roles, and Kate Mulgrew is no exception. She just recently wrapped a well-regarded six-season arc as Red in the television series Orange is the New Black but she will always be remembered as Captain Janeway. Thus, I loved finding this tweet on International Women’s Day, which was also the day this blogging series launched. She is fully supportive of a new captain in our universe- Captain Marvel! Having females support other females is so important, and never detracts from the original’s glory.
Star Trek presents an idealistic and Utopian future, with Earth moving past its racial and cultural differences, and ready to explore space. The tagline was “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”. And boldly go it did- the series gave us a groundbreaking captain that was not defined by her being a female. She was an example of grace under fire who exemplified remarkable leadership skills. Janeway not only is a hero but a role model and a perfect example of a fearless female!
I ♥ Characters is a weekly meme hosted by Dani @ Perspective of a Writer to showcase blogger love for characters. Each week she supplies a topic and we supply the character from whatever media we love and link up so others can blog hop and share the character love. ♡
This week’s topic is: A Character Overrun with Personality (This character totally bowls you overdue to their powerful/expressive/ in your face personality. Do you enjoy them or are they annoyance incarnate?!)
I am choosing Ensign Sylvia Tilly of Star Trek Discovery as my example of a character that has personality to spare. Typically Star Trek ships are shown to have crew members that are professional to the extreme. Set in the future, it’s as if crew members have evolved, and that they are never awkward or make mistakes. While it’s nice to think that people will develop, let’s be realistic. Discovery seems to be pushing boundaries on what fans consider Star Trek, and this is one example, as this series seems to be letting us see crew members as more realistic. As such, Tilly has become a breakout star in the cast, for many people relate to her.
Tilly is a new engineering crew member of Discovery and is very eager to please. She yearns for more and gets accepted into the command track, as she has ambitions to captain someday. When Michael Burnham, a disgraced crew member from another ship is assigned to her as a roommate, Tilly teaches her empathy and helps Michael integrate better into this new ship’s crew. But despite her awkwardness, Tilly is very smart and a good soldier.
A reason why I connect so much with Tilly is that she reminds me of myself. She is sweet, and can often be overlooked or not taken seriously because of her kindness. She is curvy and has wild curly hair plus a parent that she never could please. But she is also extremely competent and has a steely resolve that takes some people by surprise due to her being underestimated.
When the show was on hiatus between seasons CBS created four shorts to tide over viewers, and Tilly headlined the first mini-episode. Her big personality has made her a fan favorite, and Discovery would not be the same without her!
Star Trek Discovery tried an innovative approach in keeping it’s audience’s attention and building interest- it put out four shorts (each approximately 15 minutes long), one each month starting in October. They were non-linear, with three of them showcasing fan favorites.
Ensign Sylvia Tilly was featured in the first episode, with a short that featured Tilly befriending a stowaway alien.
Tilly, in all her awkward glory, has become a favorite of the Discovery crew for many viewers (including me!). In this short, she accidentally meets a new species of alien that can turn invisible. When the two encounter one another in the mess hall, chaos erupts, but when other crew members arrive for a meal, the shambles can be attributed to Tilly being known for unintentionally being a magnet for mayhem. I had to have a huge suspension of disbelief that Tilly never reported this alien, even for the somewhat valid reasons for her being there, and got away with transporting her back to her home world. Wouldn’t there be logs of those kind of transmissions? But I digress. The friendship between the two and the character development you see in Tilly make up for these issues, and it was a sweet slice-of-life short.
This short proved to be the most atypical as it is set 1000 years in the future and is set on the empty USSDiscovery, and the title name refers to a story in Greek mythology.
An unnamed human soldier, who later goes by Craft, is found drifting in an alien shuttlecraft and inadvertently comes near the USS Discovery. A tractor beam brings him inside the ship and he awakens in sick bay. Wary, he tries to escape, but he is calmed when the female speaking through the intercom is friendly and non-threatening. We find out the ship had been abandoned 1000 years prior by the crew, and the AI has evolved in that time and calls herself Zora. Craft shares that he was escaping a battle and wants to be reunited with his wife and child, whom he hasn’t seen in ten years. Craft and Zora (in holographic form) bond, and there is a poignant scene in which the two recreate a dancing scene from the movie Funny Face. The ending harkens back to the title of this episode, and if you aren’t familiar with that myth, look it up!
The Brightest Star
Commander Saru gets an origin story that explains how the first Kelpien joined Starfleet.
We first meet Saru, living a quiet agrarian life with his father and sister, but the village lives in fear as an alien nation demands tributes on a regular basis. When the alien ship drops some technology Saru examines it on the sly, refusing to accept that this life is all there is. His questions to his father are rejected but he continues trying to send out a message to others beyond his home planet. Time goes by, but he eventually receives a message from an unknown ship that they will arrive the next day. I gasped with who stepped out of the shuttle, and I’m sure all Trekkie fans started checking their Star Trek canon to see if the years matched up. While this story had a bit of a discrepancy with what Saru previously shared about his home world (edit- and a comment in the first episode of the second season didn’t match either), this was a lovely origin story. His last quote “I saw hope, in the stars. It was stronger than fear. And I went towards it” was perfect.
The Escape Artist
Harry Mudd, an expert on long-cons, pulls the wool over many bounty hunters and renegades in a clever way in this last episode.
Mudd is a recurring scoundrel in the Discovery series, based off a character that only appeared twice in TOS. Actor Rainn Wilson is having fun with this role, so his inclusion in one of the shorts was welcome. In this episode Mudd has been sold by a bounty hunter to an alien that was previously wronged by him. We see Mudd also trying to get out of previous jams with other aliens, so we don’t know if this current alien will fall for his tricks. The way he was begging not to be taken to the Federation made me think of Brer Rabbit, and the reveal at the end of exactly how this rogue got out of trouble again was ingenious.
All four of these shorts were strong, and each had a different feel. They were a wonderful lead-in to the start of the second season of Discovery and I hope they continue making them for future seasons. In the meantime, live long and prosper, my friends!
After my rough start with The Autobiography of James T Kirk, I was leery of picking up The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, but I’m glad I did. Listed as the “story of one of Starfleet’s most inspirational captains” it is presented as if it were written by Picard and once again it is “edited” by David A Goodman.
The foreword by Beverly Crusher Picard immediately establishes that Picard and Dr. Crusher married sometime after their TNG days together, which pleased me to no end, but when Q co-opted her foreword I almost put the book down. The editorial choice for Goodman to interrupt a book by Q was unbelievably lame.
We start in Picard’s youth on his family’s vineyard in Le Barre, France, and he establishes the difficult relationship he had with his father and older brother. He shows ambition from an early age and never gives up on his quest to join Starfleet. His Starfleet days showed that he was a stickler for the rules, and didn’t necessarily have the charisma that you associate with a captain.
To me, the book started to take off when he graduated and began his career leading to an early captaincy of the USS Stargazer. He ended up spending 20+ years on that ship, and we are shown why he would choose to stay on an old ship for so long. Normally we associate officers in Starfleet as having stellar careers but Picard has some ups and downs, and sometimes makes decisions that are a bit suspect. He also has time off-ship and has to deal with bureaucracy and uncertainty.
What I liked about this book, so much more than the Kirk novel, was that the relationships between Picard and others were so much more believable and fleshed out. His friendship with Jack Crusher and a young Beverly on the Stargazer, established the crushing guilt he felt when Jack died under his command leaving Beverly widowed with a young son. He long carried a torch for her but felt he couldn’t act on it. I enjoyed meeting some people from his past that were new to me, and I loved every time that he first met a character that you knew would play a role in what we know as Star Trek canon. When he was given the USS Enterprise to lead he specifically asked for some officers that he had met in past missions on other ships.
His time on the Enterprise wasn’t covered in-depth, as this book is geared mostly to fill in gaps of his life we are not familiar with. I was disappointed that so few pages were devoted to his time with the Borg, as I thought that was a crucial and life-changing event for him. His later years, including his time as Federation Ambassador to Vulcan, and his late in life marriage to Beverly isn’t given much time either.
These books are supposed to be viewed as canon, as they are approved by Paramount and CBS Studios, but as it was written in 2017 I question how much it will hold up as it was recently announced that there will be a new Star Trek series starring Patrick Stewart who will once again play Jean-Luc Picard. While I am thrilled at the chance to experience further adventures with Picard, I do wonder how they will handle storylines, and if any of his TNG crew will make appearances, especially Gates McFadden who played Beverly. Please have all of them on the show- make it so!
An autobiography about Spock will be coming out in August of 2019 (edit- pushed back to September of 2021), and since my opinion of these novels written by Goodman has improved, I plan on picking it up. I need to know the identity of Spock’s wife that was hinted at in this book! In the meantime- live long and prosper my friends.