The bodies on the gears of the culture industry

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. K. Jones
    September 10, 2013 @ 10:46 am

    “Let's not argue about it, let's go study it,” is pretty well representative of the Shatnerization of Kirk here. This is possibly the most Shatner we'll see Kirk (the peak occurs during Fizbin, I think, although other bits of camp elsewhere come close; Turnabout Intruder may suffer in gender roles but it's a pure drag moment for Shatner to play). At every turn this episode, Kirk turns efficient, charming turns from Nimoy and Kelley into calls for adventure.

    Calling the Federation “Feds” was on-the-nose, in hindsight, particularly the Starfleet of that era (prescient if you look at “Command” as “Producers”, Kirk is basically eschewing Command's mandate that captains occupy contradictory roles of non-interfering moral/ethical cargo cult initiators), and the whole scenario is an inverse of A Private Little War. Even the gun-toting molls subvert the usual dynamic. Apart from subverting its own narrative, this episode has all the hallmarks of great TOS. Doohan left to mind the ship, easily cutting himself a piece of the comedic action in fourth musketeer glory. Nichols hasn't much to do but Kirk's automatic knowledge and appreciation that Uhura will be up there doing her job competently paints a good picture. Spock and McCoy spend much of the episode as a twosome, while Kirk improvises his way into every kind of dynamic.

    The Doctor Who comparison is apt; I watched it with that in mind and you could see the same improvisational, “easy-in, easy-out of trouble” back-and-forth coming from both Kirk and Spock (with trusty Bones as Spock's assistant). Of course they resemble different versions of the Doctor by their very nature, and they never abandon their own iconography. I'm curious to see if rewatching the next invasion into another narrative (Patterns of Force) captures that same vibe. And in a million years, the ENT pseudo-sequel to both these Early 20th Century jaunts (Storm Front), with its own cool parallels to its own contemporary Doctor Who series.

    It's enough to forgive the anachronism of site-to-site transporting. And the map-geek in me wants to know the layout of the Iotian Central City, if divvied into twelve territories, it still only takes a short drive to get from Oxmyx's HQ to Krako's HQ. I imagine a 12-way divided Cold War Berlin-like scenario.


  2. 5tephe
    September 10, 2013 @ 11:45 am

    I've been hanging off making comments for a while, for off-line reasons, but I've finally caught up in my reading and given your last sentence there this seems like a good time to make one.

    I find your approach to the franchise fascinating, and am enjoying every minute of it. However, I can't help but be a little mystified at times.

    See, I grew up in Australia in the late 70s and early 80s, watching Star Trek re-runs on Sunday afternoons with my dad. He is from the USA, and in a distant past life had been in the army. And as an 11 year old, it never occurred to me that Star Trek, Kirk, and the Federation were anything but The Serialised Adventures of the Space Navy. Because that's clearly what they were. I see now that there were occasional glimpses of something nobler (and those were always my favourite ones, of course) but I always viewed this era of the Federation as an evolutionary one. They were just taking their first stumbling steps into the light.


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    September 10, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

    I found "Patterns of Force" to be something really rather special. I think you'll appreciate it.

    And you're absolutely right about the "Feds" comment. I probably should have made a bigger deal about that, come to think of it.


  4. Josh Marsfelder
    September 10, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, and I'm happy to be your source of mystification! Mystification is good sometimes.

    I think ultimately your conception of the Original Series here is probably the correct one. The easiest and simplest way to read it is in fact as a fumbling, stumbling first draft of things to come, and half the time half of the show isn't even aware what the other half is doing.

    I (obviously) have a very different idea of what Star Trek should look like and be about, and that comes largely from how I was first exposed to it and which specific parts of the franchise I latched on to and why (suffice to say, all the weird bits no self-respecting Trekker would ever fixate on).

    More on that tomorrow.


  5. BerserkRL
    December 14, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

    Another point: this is essentially Star Trek characters doing 20th-century Earth cosplay instead of the reverse.


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.