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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. dc3e7394-cdd0-11e2-a81c-000bcdcb8a73
    June 7, 2013 @ 2:34 am

    I agree about the weak script, but it’s good to be reminded about Gene Coon, he deserved credit for so many well-known contributions to the Trek saga as a whole. Seems like this story could be seen as a reflection of the sharp generation gap in the 60’s and maybe also draws on Golding’s Lord of the Flies(?).
    As you note, it does bring out a tender paternal side of Kirk. William Shatner and Kim Darby also starred in a TV movie produced by Francis Ford Coppola, “The People” (1972) – Shatner plays a gentle country doctor, Darby plays a children’s teacher in a remote community –people with strange powers, who turn out to be aliens–


  2. Josh Marsfelder
    June 7, 2013 @ 9:57 am

    This is an episode I've warmed considerably to: I still think the script is pretty godawful, but there are a lot of interesting ideas the show is working with here. The generation gap angle is another great way to read this story and I agree the text supports it, but, sadly, I think it's yet another intriguing concept it hints at and than does nothing with.

    Star Trek, even under Gene Coon, is always going to have a problematic relationship with youth culture IMO: "Charlie X" was blatantly reactionary to the point of becoming youth hating and later on we're going to get lazy space hippies as lotus eaters, which isn't especially palatable. But equally, there's enough progressive motifs about the show that it can be turned into something more utopoian and forward thinking as well.

    Definitely agreed about Gene Coon: He's going to become the primary creative figure I'll be focusing on for the remainder of the first season and the second. He deserves all the credit he can get.

    And thanks for the plug for The People! It's good to see Shatner and Darby together again: They have such good chemistry.I'll be sure to take a closer look at it-cheers!


  3. trekker709
    June 10, 2013 @ 3:10 am

    It does seem like Miri, Charlie X, Squire of Gothos, And the Children Shall Lead all show kids being bad when separated from parents. The Way to Eden has Spock sympathizing and jamming with Sevrin’s followers, but the episode is a negative, trivializing view of hippies. And yet, if Star Trek TOS had been perceived as “youth hating” it would never have caught on as it did. As Trek evolved, there were much more positive portrayals of kids and teenagers, especially in TNG.
    If you don’t mind, could you clarify your earlier statement, “there is a way forward…I’m making a passionate case the franchise eventually finds it…there is a sense the only way for ST to really escape its cage is to burn the jail down and turn itself into something else.”


  4. Josh Marsfelder
    June 10, 2013 @ 4:14 am

    Right, I mean clearly there's something about this show that appeals to the youth. Anything with the level of clout that Star Trek has in progressive circles has to have something going for it. I think a lot of that is due to its utopian trappings, the development and evolution of which I'm slowly attempting to trace here. But on the other hand it's hard not to read something like "Charlie X" as being anything other than bluntly in favour of adult authority.

    As for TNG that's another story entirely as far as I'm concerned, but we'll get there eventually 🙂

    The statement you quote me on is going to be the defining thread of not just the next few posts, but of the rest of my TOS (and TNG, actually, now that I think about it) section on the whole, so I fully intend to explore it in much more detail in the days and weeks to come. In fact the post I just finished writing deals with this somewhat explicitly.


  5. trekker709
    June 11, 2013 @ 3:29 am

    Interesting, had never connected the idea of Kirk as Caesar, with the new ‘triumvirate’ that displaced Janice Rand. Not sure what is meant by “the indictment of Star Trek as an empire builder, is definitely there and it still stands” – that Trek’s theme of exploration has always been policing/ imperialism in disguise? seems a bit harsh considering the way the series grew, but maybe. Maybe the one area where TOS came closest to actually embracing liberal values, was civil rights.
    When it comes to diversity and inclusiveness though, one progressive ideal where they really fell flat was accepting gays– though apparently Trek has always had its share of LGBT fans, and there’s been no problem with George Takei and Zachary Quinto. TNG had “The Host” and “The Outcast” episodes which are deeply sympathetic to gays in an oblique way. In 1991, Roddenberry said he planned to add a gay character to the cast, but when he died suddenly a few months later his intention was lost.
    I know nothing about ancient Polynesian culture, but most likely Roddenberry et al would identify themselves the same way, as “explorers, navigators, poets, mystics and philosophers, not conquerors…” It’s an intriguing challenge to expose Star Trek’s hypocrisy without completely undermining the atmosphere of hope.


  6. Josh Marsfelder
    June 11, 2013 @ 4:22 am

    I'd like to stress I'm drawing a distinction here between Star Trek the franchise and Star Trek the TV show that ran from 1966-9. Even within that second category there are variations as the show operated under several different showrunners over the course of three years: it's not all Roddenberry all the time as the myth goes (and I'm highly skeptical of anything he said about himself to be perfectly honest), but that's something I'm trying hard to convey.

    My indictment in "The Conscience of the King" post is strictly targeted towards the show as originally conceived: Star Trek under Roddenberry is very clearly militaristic, although I grant mostly by association, as its premise is fundamentally about space law enforcement. Under Gene Coon this is beginning to change, and my argument is that Coon's first few episodes are explicitly about taking the show to task for its militarism and looking for ways to move beyond it. There are indeed leftist utopian elements to TOS, the problem is we just haven't seen the majority of them yet. But we're getting there, please be patient 🙂

    Star Trek in the 1980s and 1990s is a completely, utterly different animal from my perspective and there are a number of talented people that help reshape it over the course of 20 years or so. What TNG and DS9 go on to do is incredible and I can't wait to talk about them. But what I'm trying to do here is trace the evolution of the series; to try and tease out how Star Trek gets to that point from its troubled beginning. You're right it does get there, but the story of how is a lengthier one than I think many realise.


  7. trekker709
    June 11, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    I meant to respond to the post above…sorry about that 🙂


  8. Josh Marsfelder
    June 11, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    No worries-I figured as much 🙂

    I was hoping to move this whole thread over to the relevant post, but I'm not sure if there's a way to do that on Blogspot…


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