Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pointless Musings

I ended up catching the Star Trek episode "The Menagerie" the other day and I got to thinking. I'd always found the female first officer in the Enterprise's "original crew" (or rather, the crew of the pilot) pretty intriguing. I always thought it was a shame that Roddenberry was apparently given the option of keeping either her or Spock instead of both. (For the record, I would have chosen Spock too, but it's a shame we couldn't have her too.)

I remember, when I was a kid, reading one of the Star Trek novels that expanded quite a bit on the character's past. It was a pretty interesting idea, as I recall. The Majel Roddenberry character had apparently been one of many genetically engineered "perfect women", (the scientist who created them was male, of course) who apparently decided "screw this" and left, joining Starfleet instead.

I mean. That's pretty damn cool. All sorts of nifty feminist interpretations available there.

It strikes me that with a bit of judicious tweaking, that could be a really nifty backstory for a comic book superheroine. Pygmalion and Galatea with a much more satisfying ending.

And punching things.

Well it's cool in my head at any rate. :-)


  • At January 23, 2007 7:43 AM, Blogger Elayne said…

    Oh, I've no doubt someone's already written and/or drawn that story, but I couldn't tell you who since I haven't kept up with Star Trek comics.

    As I recall, Roddenberry was just pressured too much about having a woman in any sort of managerial position, so dropped it. I guess you can't blame people for not being ahead of their time... unless they're SUPPOSED to, writing about the FUTURE and all...

  • At January 23, 2007 10:31 AM, Anonymous green with wheelpower said…

    And he did manage toge a russian, a japanesse and a black women on the bridge crew. That last so important that MLK jr. himself insisted she stay on.

    Anyway, that episode is indirectly responsable for, in order: Dr. Crusher, Col. Kira and T'pol. Also she is the Documented direct inspiration for Captain Garret(TNG Yesterday's Enterprise) and Admiral Janeway.

  • At January 23, 2007 11:20 AM, Blogger ticknart said…

    According to the some of the interview stuff on the DVDs, the character of Number One (her name) didn't test well with audiences. Men thought it was unrealistic for a woman to have that much power and women reacted in a how-dare-she-think-she-can-do-that way.

    I like to think that audiences have grown up in the past 40 years.

  • At January 23, 2007 6:41 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    Fan fascination with Captain Pike's first officer goes back a long way: there were already fan fiction stories being written about Number One back in the Seventies. And the different noncanonical book series have come up with at least three different and mutually contradictory backstories for her: she's a genetically engineered perfect being, she's an immortal alien, she's the mother of Wesley Crusher's girlfriend. And to me these all sound far more lame than any fan fiction, even if professional writers got paid for them.

    You know what the coolest and most unashamedly feminist "origin" for Number One would be? That she was just a regular person. Just a smart, talented, efficient Starfleet officer who impressed Captain Pike with her no-nonsense attitude and intellect that he assigned her as Executive Officer even though she was a mere Lieutenant.

    This seems like it would be the most in keeping with Roddenberry's intent for the character: the simple statement that in an enlightened future, her gender would be irrelevant and she would advance to command based solely on her merits. Any attempt to "explain" her as an alien or a genetic experiment utterly spoils that simple message, and seems grossly unfeminist and retrogressive. It panders to every stereotype of female characters as "girly" and "emotional" and prone to screaming fits without the steadying presence of a strong, calm man. Honestly, would any writer feel the need to "explain" the behavior of the same level-headed and reserved character if she were a male instead?

  • At January 23, 2007 7:48 PM, Blogger Bill D. said…

    So was Number One her actual name then, not just a sort of unofficial title, like how Picard always referred to Riker? Or - and this idea is the stuff fan fiction is born from - was the title inspired by the actual Number One, as a sort of nickname for any super-devoted, astoundingly-competent XO?

  • At January 23, 2007 10:14 PM, Blogger Shelly said…

    Well, it was the mid-'60s. Just getting the show on the air was a big deal, and it got cancelled after the second season and was the first successful viewer write-in campaign that saved a show, only to have a sucky third season because different people were involved in the haste to get it back on. I know the writer of the only good episode that last season: The Empath.

    Chekov was not on in the first season, and the interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhura was a BIG deal (and forced on them, as I recall).

    And of course, Star Trek zines go way back, and filled in lots of gaps. Some even got pro published, pretty much, in 2 pbs: The New Voyages.

    I still recall my father announcing right before the first episode aired that we were going to watch "this new science fiction show." It was a family thing.

  • At January 23, 2007 10:17 PM, Blogger Shelly said…

    Oh, and of course, Majel Barrett, as she still was back then (she married Roddenberry after) might've lost the part of Number 1, but she stayed in the show, as a blonde, as Nurse Christine Chapel, a much weaker character. I like to think Roddenberry made the doctor in Next Gen a woman to make up for that. Chapel should've been a doctor.

    I wish Jeffrey Hunter could've stayed as Pike. I much preferred him to Kirk and always thought he was a better actor and less of a ham than Shatner.

  • At January 23, 2007 10:47 PM, Blogger Bully said…

    Morgan Primus, in Peter David's New Frontier novels, is another Number One/Christine Chapel/Lwaxana Troi lookalike. (Even though I pictured her looking like Naomi Judd, coz after all, her daughter was played by Ashley Judd...) I can't remember the justification, but it was definitely tied up with a solid realization that all these women definitely looked alike (Scotty even thinks Morgan is Christine in one novel.)

  • At January 23, 2007 10:48 PM, Blogger RAB said…

    Bill: "Number One" is a common term for the first officer in the British Navy, hence Picard (an oddly British Frenchman) using it the same way later. The idea that it was her actual name was used in one of those books I was griping about above, and to me a clear sign the writer didn't know enough about the subject.

  • At January 23, 2007 10:50 PM, Blogger Bully said…

    I wish Jeffrey Hunter could've stayed as Pike.

    I'm a big Jeffrey Hunter fan myself. But consider this: Hunter died in 1969. Without the Captain of the franchise, would there have been an animated series and a new movie series, and without the new movie series, would there have been any of the sequels and spin-offs?

    However, nobody but Sam Beckett can posit if three years of playing Captain Pike on Star Trek would have led Hunter in a different direction and perhaps he would not have died of a stroke in 1969. Maybe we'd be seeing him on Priceline commercials now.

  • At January 23, 2007 11:21 PM, Blogger Derek B. Haas said…

    Picard (an oddly British Frenchman)

    I think, somewhere in TNG's run, Data mentions or implies that French is a dead language. I like to imagine that during WWIII (which was a major part of TNG's early backstory), England annexed France--hence, Data's comment and Picard's accent.

  • At January 24, 2007 8:30 AM, Anonymous green with wheelpower said…

    Shelly: Chapel made MD by Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the computers voice in ALL vpre-Enterprise series

    Derek: Season 1 in reference to couting coupe (sp?) Data "from an obscurelanguage..." after Yar is Kidnapped by the Leader of a independent planet possesed of a unique Vaccine

  • At January 24, 2007 6:15 PM, Blogger Sinspired said…

    Worst decision by the producers ever:
    Not let Number One be a woman.
    Best decision by Paramount ever:
    Not let Star Trek books be canon.



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