Star Trek Into Darkness: Where Did All The Strong Starfleet Women Go?

uhura-originalStar Trek has always been about achieving your fullest potential no matter your race, gender, creed, or pointiness of ears. Which is why the utter lack of strong women in Star Trek Into Darkness is a slap in the face to all the outstanding female Star Trek characters we’ve met over the years.

Spoiler alert, Captain!

We like Star Trek because it has strong women. Gene Roddenberry’s original pilot had one of the series’ strongest women in Number One, its first officer. Although this was too much in the 1960s for chauvinistic network execs, the series slipped one over with Uhura, whose short skirt belied her intelligence, wit, and talent.

That’s why I’m saddened to see Nu-Uhura reduced to lip quivering and teary eyes as her primary means of communication. In STID she exists solely to express Spock’s emotions for him, so we can see he is a Deeply Troubled Vulcan.

STID-uhuraHer one big chance to shine is when she says, “You brought me here to speak Klingon, so let me speak Klingon.” I’m waiting for her to grab a phaser, because isn’t that how you speak Klingon? No, she’s going to talk to them and offer help. From what I understand, in most Klingon provinces that gets you quickly dead. This scene could have been full of an awesome Uhura kicking some serious ass while still using her brains and her linguistic skills. Instead she acts like it’s her first day on the job.

Even worse, however, is Carol Marcus. In one stroke of a misguided scriptwriter’s pen, this woman has gone from scientific powerhouse to Daddy’s little girl whose only role is to scream as if she’s in a 1950s B-movie.

twok-carol-marcusThe original Carol Marcus battled the Federation and Starfleet for control of her research project. Her team was so dedicated that they willingly underwent Khan’s torture so she could escape with the Genesis Device. (The original suave creepy Khan, not the “I’m too sexy for my coat” Nu-Khan.) She was not a woman to take crap from anybody, least of all Jim Kirk.

STID-carolThis Carol Marcus is supposedly an advanced weapons scientist, but for an advanced weapons scientist she sure doesn’t seem to know much about fighting, or tactics, or… well, much of anything other than how to keep her blonde hair looking perfect in the lens flare. She spends the pivotal moments of the movie either screaming or whining at her Daddy about what a meanypants he is. Or displaying her underwear. Can you picture Bibi Besch doing this?

Didn’t Dr. Marcus go to Starfleet? Don’t they have training on things like torture and not letting a little ol’ shattered kneecap get you down? And why is she helping McCoy at the end? I thought she was an advanced weapons scientist, not a medical doctor. Or is her only function at this point to pass test tubes to McCoy and tell him how brilliant he is, as Jo Grant once described her role as the Third Doctor’s assistant?

(Although… it would have been hilarious to have Uhura and Carol kidnapped by transporter while Quinto’s Spock yells: “THE WOMEN!!!!”)

To me, Uhura and Carol Marcus were the biggest disappointments in this movie. They could have been so much better and instead they were relegated to stereotypical, subordinate roles. What happened to the Starfleet of the future, where women like Janeway and Kira kick as much ass as the men?

This is not a Starfleet that will develop a Borg Queen-defeating Janeway. She’ll be designated some desk job at Starfleet HQ where her talents are wasted while lesser officers are promoted simply for being male. That is the universe we saw in Star Trek Into Darkness: a projection of today’s rampant misogyny codified by girls who sob or scream for help instead of relying on their own talents.

The amusing one-liners, the original series shout-outs, and the special effects weren’t enough for me to like this movie, and I have been to every Trek premiere since Trek IV. I went into STID wanting to like it. I enjoyed the first one, even though I wasn’t happy with some of the directions it took, because at least it was different and didn’t simply copy the original. And, for the first three-fourths of Star Trek Into Darkness, I thought, optimistically, that we would get more of that. Instead it degenerated into a wild-eyed mess that wasn’t even worthy of a second-season TNG montage episode.

Do better, Star Trek. As T’Pol told Hoshi, you’re capable of it.

 

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  1. [...] Star Trek Into Darkness: Where Did All The Strong Starfleet Women Go?: “Star Trek has always been about achieving your fullest potential no matter your race, gender, creed, or pointiness of ears. Which is why the utter lack of strong women in Star Trek Into Darkness is a slap in the face to all the outstanding female Star Trek characters we’ve met over the years.” [...]

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