Gaze not into the abyss lest you accidentally write a book

Skip to content

L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Adam Riggio
    February 26, 2014 @ 8:29 am

    To begin, I've been loving your extended essay treatment of this series.

    Given the dual nature of Fontana's storyline in this comic series, I can't help but find a slightly more positive interpretation of Sulu's going undercover as a Klingon. Basically, the questionable race politics of how TOS treated Klingons have always been on display. And Klingon culture after TNG has borrowed so much from stereotypes of Japanese samurai that the weird race politics simply continue. Doing this story in 2008, in the lead-up to J. J. Abram's franchise launch, we're all aware of the uncomfortable racial imagery that the Klingons have always fostered. And your analysis always includes how Fontana seems to use this story as a critique of TOS' iconography. The story always has a meta-fictional angle to it.

    So putting Sulu in the forefront of the Klingon infiltration plot strikes me as possibly having the tone of a Chappelle's Show sketch, where racial stereotypes are thrown so obviously and in such an intense form at the audience, that they can't ignore the details of implicit cultural racism anymore. As well, because we're dealing with meta-fiction, Fontana would have done so while being well aware of George Takei's activism on behalf of imprisoned Japanese. So meta-fictionally, Sulu is critiquing the racial weirdness of Klingon iconography by engaging in a plot behaviour whose racism is impossible to ignore.

    That's at least my own redemptive reading of this idea.


  2. Adam Riggio
    February 26, 2014 @ 8:30 am

    Japanese-Americans imprisoned in internment camps during the Second World War, that is.


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    February 26, 2014 @ 9:10 am

    I think you're largely on the mark here. I am of course extremely sympathetic to the idea of The Enterprise Experiment being a metafictional endeavour meant as much to critique the iconogrpahy of the Original Series as anything else. I think your reading is a far more nuanced and detailed version of what I was, somewhat clumsily, trying to get in the second-to-last paragraph: Sorry if I didn't make that clear enough.

    The problem for me is that this story is cynical and depressing as all hell. And, once we get to the final chapter on Friday, it will maybe become more clear how much of a dead end this feels like. No matter how bang-on and overdue Fontana's criticisms are, it still feels pretty heavy and upsetting to have the scene with Sulu layered on top of the one with Arex and have them both come after the flashback with Joanna. It almost feels…perverse and sadistic.

    If there had been some call-forward to one of the other Star Treks or some statement that reaffirms Star Trek's commitment to neverending personal improvement, like there frequently was on TAS, that would be one thing, but there isn't. Not anymore. Fontana's taking TOS and TAS apart bit by bit, but she doesn't seem to have an idea for something better to put in its place anymore. And that's sad to me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.