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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.

6 Comments

  1. Adam Riggio
    October 11, 2013 @ 4:41 am

    To be honest, I don't know that I've ever been able to take this episode seriously enough to be offended myself, though I agree entirely with your offence and rage. So much about the episode is utterly silly. Uhura's hallucination is so sexist that it's beyond stupid, same with Sulu's vision of samurai swords in space. The children in the episode are all idiots, and it's almost as though the hallucinations are what a bunch of ignorant, overly-sheltered children who've never seen a non-white person before would think adults and foreigners would be afraid of.

    Of course, the actual problem is that the episode is written by professional adult television producers, and not moronic children. So they don't really have an excuse. This is living proof that some scripts are inherently impossible to save.

    Except maybe for one moment, more precious than any other, when a confident man on the verge of collapse can be brought back to his firm, strong self with the whisper of a single word from one person he knows loves him.

    "Jim," he said.

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  2. Josh Marsfelder
    October 11, 2013 @ 10:12 am

    "The children in the episode are all idiots, and it's almost as though the hallucinations are what a bunch of ignorant, overly-sheltered children who've never seen a non-white person before would think adults and foreigners would be afraid of."

    Which is even more unforgivable as there are very clearly Asian and African kids in that group.

    Other than that, very well said. Couldn't have put it better myself.

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  3. K. Jones
    October 11, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

    And to think there's magick in this one.

    Usually magick is a signifier; something that lets us know "really good Trek" is on its way. But that's the thing about magick – its practitioners, or the writers are artists who understand it in the context of theatrical entertainment, are open-minded, often queer or at least full of kink.

    This thing isn't just an insult to children, it's an insult to practitioners, and it's a witch-hunt. It's sooooo bad. I mean I'm not trying to call "The Way to Eden" any kind of good, but that at least had some caveats, some dynamic relationships, and some underlying motives (to say nothing of basic, essential storytelling craft).

    I'll be very curious to see if we can call this the Worst of Season 3. There's some proper doozies this season, but this is the only one that I routinely just skip over during NetFlix binges. (Well, this and "Paradise Syndrome")

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  4. BadCatMan
    October 12, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

    I've always felt Sulu and Uhura were in a trance, completely unable to do anything bar look at their hallucinations. Sulu, I recalled, seemed more dazed than frightened. It kind of takes the edge off them being too dumb to work it out.

    And those swords Sulu sees aren't samurai swords:
    http://tomwhahappen.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/sulu_knives.jpg
    Depending on what the artist was thinking, they appear to be flamberges/flame-bladed swords, falchions, and straight-bladed daggers and swords. They're all European swords, none of them are noticeably Asian, let alone Japanese (the wavy ones are similar to a Filipino kris dagger, but the hilts are wrong).

    Which brings up an interesting point for me: Sulu in TOS is not particularly Japanese. His name, 'Sulu', isn't Japanese; the closest possibility is Filipino. His interest in swords involves European fencing, he becomes a French musketeer in "The Naked Time", and now hallucinates these European swords. The only obvious Japanese stuff seems to come with the samurai and the Zero in "Shore Leave" (both stereotypes attacking him, I suppose).

    I recall reading somewhere that Roddenberry intended Sulu to be "pan-Asian", which I imagine meant "generic Asian". 🙁 So soon after WW2, Sulu could have been an embarrassing stereotype, but the TOS crew failed to do much with it, perhaps to their credit, or at least they got all their swords wrong. So, by this point, Hikaru Sulu is a Japanese-Filipino man who enjoys fencing and and has an interest in French history. This seems to make him nicely mixed-race and eclectic, rather than a racist stereotype.

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  5. Josh Marsfelder
    October 12, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

    Of course Sulu himself isn't a racist stereotype, if for no other reason then he was created out of NBC's interest in ethnic diversity and George Takei is a bloody good actor. But that doesn't mean clueless writers can't write racially insensitive scenes involving him (though I grant your point about the swords here).

    Actually, the name Sulu is an in-joke: Roddenberry named the character after Herb Solow, whose last name was often mispronounced "Sulu".

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  6. Adam Riggio
    October 15, 2013 @ 5:01 am

    I totally forgot about that! I could only remember the little blonde girl Kirk carries in the final scene and that skinny ginger kid who was the leader of the group. I guess we have to conclude that the writer was an ignorant, overly-sheltered child who'd never seen a non-white person before.

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