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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.

28 Comments

  1. K. Jones
    November 14, 2013 @ 10:26 am

    A true favorite. Of course, some time later DS9 pretty much one-ups it … with time travel and a contemporary spotlight. And the rest of the cast really has very little to do. But this is a champion example of a "Kirk and Spock" story and probably one of the ones that really cements the narrow focus on those two in the Pop psyche where Star Trek is concerned.

    It always feels right when Kirk plays the working-class hero. He's from Iowa, he only works in space. But more than that, Shatner is himself very working-class in origin, and every time they bring Kirk closer to Shatner, time and time again, things feel perfectly suited.

    Reply

  2. Josh Marsfelder
    November 14, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

    IMO DS9 one-ups it not just in "Past Tense" but all over the place in its first two years with the troubled history and culture of Bajor. And actually, TNG could have beaten it to the punch in its first season (and pre-empted the 90s problematization of the Federation to boot) had Tasha Yar been the character she was originally supposed to be. But of course, it's episodes like this that give Star Trek the ethical groundwork and backbone it needs to go on to do things like that.

    Naturally, I completely agree about Shatner-as-Kirk. This is the perfect kind of story for him.

    Reply

  3. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    the haves being the elite who are removed from the realities of everyday life – they live in their floating sky cities. The have-nots were called "Mannies" (for Manual Laborers) and were forced to live on the surface of the planet where the air was denser, pressure was high, and noxious gases made the conditions generally unlivable

    Didn't I recently see this with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster?

    Reply

  4. BerserkRL
    December 21, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

    a straightforwardly Marxist criticism of division of labour and the dehumanizing effects of industrial late-stage capitalism on a workforce that is so beaten down and exploited

    It always bugs me to see this sort of idea called Marxist, as though it weren't an established idea well before Marx.

    Reply

  5. Josh Marsfelder
    December 21, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

    Well yes, but in the case of this episode the approach to division of labour seems decidedly Marxist to me. At the very least, it's the mentality the show's writers would almost certainly have been working under.

    Reply

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