There is much pontificating among science fiction media fans about how damned moral we are, because we watched these TV shows and movies that taught a moral lesson. Oh my God, we are so moral! Star Trek taught us not to be racist. Star Trek taught us not to be homophobic. Star Trek taught us that people who are different should be celebrated.
Oh, the cleverness of us!
Most of us have only learned, from Star Trek and other shows, the cleverness reinforced by the news media, our HR departments, and public policy enacted by certain politicians.
What I learned from Star Trek, and many other shows, was a lesson I don’t see evidenced in the attitudes or behaviors of a lot of people, not even fans. Maybe especially not fans.
I learned that people who disagree with me are not therefore evil.
This was actually the back cover of the zine. I said there was only one chapter without an illo. I lied.
Spock felt the irrational urge to try to run somewhere and hide. Of course, it would have done no good. Jim would see him as soon as he materialized.
He never had the chance. A sudden burst of light came from beside the Guardian and hit Kirk, who collapsed on the frozen ground. On Spock’s left, Saavik advanced, phaser drawn, on the fallen admiral’s companions: Chekov, McCoy and Uhura. The two younger officers wore expressions of utter shock. McCoy knelt immediately by Kirk and began looking him over while Chekov drew his own phaser and pointed it at Saavik.
“I hev no idea what’s gotten into the two of you,” the Russian security chief began in anger, “but you’ve—”
Seeing that none of the landing party had noticed him, Spock took advantage of the element of surprise in an attempt to prevent further injury. “That will not be necessary, Mr. Chekov,” he called out in a commanding voice.
Chekov spun, his face white. Uhura gasped so that the sound must have been loud even in human ears. “Meester Spock?” Chekov asked, his jaw hanging open.
Spock stepped out of the Guardian and came forward to stand by him. “Yes, Commander.”
Penthesilea, the world on which Night of the Twin Moons is set, is a female-led culture. The name of the planet suggests that, if you know your mythology. Penthesilea was a queen of the Amazons, sister to the more-familiar Hippolyte, whom she had killed in a hunting accident, making her queen. In Greek myth, the Amazons were not, like Wonder Woman’s Amazons, women who lived without men on an island. They were warrior women who dominated their timid husbands, lopped off one of their breasts to make them better archers, and lived in the city-state of Themiscyra.
Lorrah’s Penthesileans are likewise women who dominate their men, with the added wrinkle that there is a tremendous IQ differential between the women and the men, with few of the men being of even average intelligence, compared to humans, while the women’s intellects are comparable to those of earth people, or even Vulcans. The women therefore use men for breeding, swap men, retire (and castrate) men when they become too old to be attractive. It is heresy on Penthesilea to even suggest that a man could be as intelligent as a woman. Men are, essentially, livestock. Indeed, “one man” is a unit of currency. But Penthesileans are not Amazons, for the very simple reason that they are not warriors. War has never occurred on their world, because there is literally no competition between the sexes, and the choosing of a mate is so well regulated that there is no jealousy.
Into this unusual paradise comes the Starship Enterprise, on a diplomatic mission to negotiate rights for the planet’s dilithium resources. Two big challenges are evident: One, the ambassador has to be female, since Penthesileans don’t believe men can think: two, the Penthesileans expect, if trade is to be opened with the Federation, to be paid in men.
Time was Star Trek books were very different from what fans have known for the past 37 years. The novels were not carefully reviewed by Paramount licensing for accuracy and continuity. They were not written by people who were Star Trek fans and knew every episode by heart. They were science fiction novels by professional science fiction authors who had no previous tie to the series, and the stories they produced bore little resemblance to the TV show whose title graced the books’ covers.
In April, 1976, when Jean Lorrah first published Night of the Twin Moons, there had been only a single original Star Trek novel published. It was Spock Must Die! By James Blish, the veteran SF author who had thus far novelized 71 episodes of the original series, making Trek the first TV series in history to have (almost) all of its episodes turned into prose stories. (Blish never novelized the Kirk-era parts of “The Menagerie,” although he did novelize the original pilot episode, “The Cage.”)
The surface around the Guardian was covered completely by a white blanket of snow. The Guardian, as ever, stood untouched and isolated in the center of the landscape. Saavik shivered at the sight of snow again after so many years.
Terry must have noticed her, for he looked over and grinned. “Well, Mr. Saavik, if we’d remembered to bring skis, this wouldn’t be such a bad leave after all.”
Before she had a chance to ask what “skis” were, Saavik saw movement in the corner of her eye. Several feet from the Guardian, a tent made of standard blue Starfleet-issue plastic had been erected. The door which held the temperature-regulated air in had drawn back, and Spock emerged. Apparently, he had brought the portable shelter with him from Vulcan—the other Vulcan.
Still angry and dismayed over the mutinous behavior of his two officers and the on-going mystery of the ship’s malfunctioning computer, Jim Kirk came out of the turbo lift, pushing at the edge of the door with his left hand in an impatient gesture.
He approached Uhura’s station. “Have you raised the Excelsior, Commander?”
“No sir,” Uhura said apologetically, “I’m afraid I haven’t.”
That wasn’t the answer he had expected. “What?”
“I’ve tried, but there’s no response.” She shook her head, aggravated. “I don’t understand it.”
Seeing “Wrath of Khan” again, and remembering the feelings it kindled in me, made me realize what a comedown I was in store for as a fan. These young characters whom I cheered in this film would not survive the next one. My old friends would not be allowed to grow as real people do. I could not help reflecting how sad it was for Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, Saavik and David that we would never see adventures in which they were the heroes. (I’m talking about in the course of televised and movie Trek, here. I’m aware that they all have had their moments in licensed fiction. I wrote some of those moments!)
What I wanted, what I expected, in 1982 was to see Star Trek both live and grow. To see Kirk continue to age, and teach me how to age, while finding purpose in his life. To see Saavik and David become mature adults. To see Sulu, Chekov and Uhura promoted, instead of stuck in jobs fit for junior officers. I wanted to see more.
Star Trek – The Next Generation was not that. It was set 78 years later so that its creators could rule out the need to have to address what happened to the original characters. It was something called “Star Trek,” but it was not a continuation of the original crew’s adventures. It was a reboot, and it was a reboot so hog-tied by what came before that, despite its amazing popularity, it never knew what the hell it really was as a show.Continue reading →
“Identity scan indicates two passengers,” the computer voice announced. “Identity: Starfleet—active.”
Okay, thought Hikaru Sulu, bemused by the mystery of the entire situation. It wasn’t often that an unannounced, unidentified shuttle approached a Federation starship, offering no communication except a request for docking.
As it was a Starfleet, vessel, Hikaru had little choice but to grant clearance.
He had sent for a security force, which stood behind him now, ready in case this was a commandeered shuttle preparing an attack against the Fleet’s newest, proudest vessel. Hikaru, however, found this possibility ludicrous, to say the least. He wasn’t concerned so much as unbearably curious.
Accepting Saavik’s voice print, the computer-activated door slid open into the access corridor which led to Regula’s main reception area. The last time she had been here, the station had been cold and dark and strewn with bodies of the victims of Khan Singh’s mad attempt to appropriate the Genesis project.
Now it had been restored after two months of labor on the parts of the remaining Genesis team and a Starfleet work crew. Saavik wondered how much of the actual work Carol Marcus and her colleagues had found themselves able to actually participate in. This laboratory complex was a vessel for horrible memories for those who had survived the Reliant affair as well as those of the Genesis personnel who had returned from leave only to discover that the project had come to an end after years of dedicated labor with the deaths of their friends.
A few Wednesdays ago now, I went to the Lyric Opera House with family and friends to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the big screen. I had last seen it thus-presented back in 1982, when it was released. I believe it was the first movie I ever returned to the theater to see more than once, because it was just that good. (For a lot of people, that movie was Star Wars. Not for me. I was a Trek kid.) The screening of the film was followed by a Q&A with William Shatner, MC’d by my friend Bob Greenberger. (Who may someday forget that he was on stage with Bill Shatner for an hour, but not any day soon.)
Shatner’s presence was a good thing, because the audio on the film was terrible. Kinda disappointing in a hall where people go to hear live musical performances.