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.


Writing, Depression, And Science Fiction

I wasn’t going to talk about this here. Maybe that was naive. I’d been working on a nice mundane post about my writing resolutions for the New Year, but it’s going to have to wait. When I woke up yesterday I read something really important from The Bloggess about her struggle with depression.

Uh-oh. And it’s January. That’s significant for me, like a cosmic message saying, “You are supposed to write about this.” (I believe the universe added, “Now, stupid,” but that part was muttered under its breath.)

Because I suffer from depression and anxiety, too. Not offically, as I have an abject abhorrence of anything approaching therapy, but I’d be a fool to think it was anything else. In my case it revolves around my adoption, hence my issues with January because that is when I was born and adopted. There is evidently also some biological basis, but that’s one big joojooflop situation better discussed on my 73adoptee blog.

My BFF (howdy, sis!) calls me “high functioning” because I can go about my daily world while depressed. As far as I know, most people aren’t aware of my inner struggles. Maybe that, too, is naive, and everyone is really whispering behind my back. It’s not something I want to talk about in public – which is why I’m blogging about it. I might not have bothered if The Bloggess hadn’t brought it up, but too many suffer in silence and that’s a theme I know all too well. I’ve discussed it at length on 73adoptee. Adoption and depression go together like peanut butter and chocolate, only not as tasty. (There’s a related entry that I posted on 73adoptee this week: my annual thoughts on adoption, birthdays and depression.)

Just as people in the adoption community are not supposed to talk publicly about the downsides of adoption, people who suffer from depression are not supposed to discuss it either. That’s why The Bloggess’s post is so important. It’s rare to find someone who is so honest about her experiences with depression. I wonder how someone who doesn’t suffer from depression would read it. Would they find it disturbing or unusual? It resonated to me.

I use writing, both fiction and nonfiction, to combat depression and anxiety. You could call it a crutch, or creative therapy without shelling out the health insurance. To me it’s more of a spiritual necessity, a formative part of an identity already fractured by adoption: I-Must-Write. Not-Writing equals walls closing around me. I can’t let my imagination stay in one place. Reading, writing, blogging keeps the depression at bay, like a single candle in the cavernous dark.

It’s also why I love science fiction and fantasy. Escapism is my coping strategy. I don’t care if it’s inappropriate to admit that. Why should it be? It’s how I’ve always lived. I don’t know another way. I’m not sure there is one. I’m not sure I want one, because it also gives me incredible strength. I see strange and often beautiful things in the world around me that I might otherwise miss. I appreciate my husband and kids more. I can enjoy things with the wonder of a child. I get to talk with really cool geeky people about really cool geeky things that other people might think stupid. Like, does it really matter exactly how long you can run the Enterprise NX-01’s engines at Warp 5? Of course it does! It makes life more hopeful to pursue the things that make your heart soar. If no one did we would all be like the people of Camazotz, forever hypnotized into a dull routine.

I wasn’t sure if I should post this or not, because it exposes a lot of my personal life and because it may change the way some of you think of me. But then again, I’m the person who used to run down the halls of my all-girls school with a phaser and a Starfleet comm badge. I have always erred on the side of independence versus conformity, struggle versus stagnation. If what I have to say bothers you, you’ll unsubscribe and ignore me. If it interests or inspires you, you’ll stick around and maybe we can all learn something from each other.

It’s good to be reminded that depression comes in waves and it is possible to ride the crest for a while. I guess it doesn’t matter if we come crashing down afterwards as long as we know we’ll eventually rise again. So big thanks and thumb’s up to The Bloggess. Your message came at just the right time for me and a lot of other lost and lonely souls.

(She wrote a followup post which you should read also. The Internet community is rallying to the cause of those who suffer from depression and it’s already making a difference.)

Image: m_bartosch /

Ten Reasons I Still Love… Star Trek: Enterprise

Voyager might be seen as Star Trek’s redheaded stepchild, but Enterprise is its bastard offspring. If Trek fandom could force Enterprise to take the black and go to the Wall it would. Never have I seen a Trek show so dissed by fans, and I suffered the indignity of seven years as a die-hard Voyager enthusiast who never went anywhere on Wednesday nights.

Enterprise deserved better ratings than it received. The crew had good chemistry, the episodes were well-written, and the exploration of Starfleet’s early days made for interesting watching. Here’s why Enterprise has an important spot on my shelf.

Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer
As a Quantum Leap fan, hearing that Scott Bakula was going to captain the next Star Trek was like being told they were going to bring back Doctor Who. (Wouldn’t that be cool?) I’m just sorry we never got to hear him sing.

The Enterprise NX-01
It’s a sweet little ship. No wonder Archer stole it from Starfleet and took it for a bit of a joyride (just to prove a point, mind). Trip Tucker will scold me if I don’t mention that the NX-01 has the first Warp Five engine, designed by Archer’s father. Just don’t stay at top speed too long. It’s very much like Microsoft system requirements: technically it’s a Warp Five engine, but you really don’t want to go above four point nine.

How can you not love Shran? He’s blue. He’s Andorian. He’s Jeffrey Combs, for pity’s sake. Cut off his antenna and it only makes him more cynical. His blood runs cold and his weapons run hot, and he doesn’t have much tolerance for pink-skins.

New beginnings
No holodeck. No replicator. The captain doesn’t even have a swimming pool to play water polo. But we get to see Hoshi invent the Universal Translator and Phlox discover medical breakthroughs that will affect Treks to come. It’s nice to see how it all starts, especially the interactions between original alien races like the Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites.

The intro
Why does everyone hate the Enterprise opening credits? It’s a montage of important figures and events in space history (including a few fictional ones as segue into the Star Trek universe). Considering what real-life people go through in the name of space exploration, the least you can do is sit there and offer a moment of silence on their behalf. </rant>

Honorable mention: Gary Graham as Vulcan Ambassador Soval. After Alien Nation I kept expecting him to shout and pound on things.

Plus, five don’t-miss Enterprise episodes:

Terra Nova
The Enterprise discovers a long-lost Earth colony, where the inhabitants have forgotten they’re human. A good early episode that gives us a chance to get to know the crew, plus intriguing backstory about the Novans and their colony.

The Andorian Incident
This early episode, in which Archer, T’Pol and Trip are held hostage by Andorians at a Vulcan monastery, exemplifies a lot of what makes Enterprise worthwhile. We’ve got some nice interactions between our three top officers, quick-thinking military maneuvers by Reed, and sulky, sneaky Vulcans sparring with uptight, gun-wielding Andorians. And we get to meet Shran for the first time.

Shuttlepod One
“The universe can giggle all it wants, but it’s not getting any of our bourbon.” Trip and Reed end up trapped in a shuttlepod and running out of air, after believing the Enterprise destroyed. So much fun you’ll forget it’s The Galileo Seven without bothering to file off the serial numbers.

The Enterprise encounters their own ship from seventy years in the future, now crewed by descendants who are determined to help them prevent the Xindi from destroying Earth. Timey-wimey episodes are always fun and this one has a lot going for it, especially the fabulous acting by David Andrews as Lorian.

Babel One/United/The Aenar (Okay, so that’s three episodes counted as one.)
Andorians! Tellarites! Romulan drone ships! The beginnings of the Federation, plus plenty of screen time for our man Shran.

Honorable Mentions:
Shadows Of P’Jem, Fusion, Minefield, Regeneration, First Flight, Twilight, North Star, Home, The Forge/Awakening/Kir’Shara

Somebody out there owes us three more seasons of Enterprise to bring it up to the Trek standard of seven. I want to find out how Travis Mayweather’s family is doing, if Hoshi’s students miss her, if Trip and T’Pol are ever going to end up with a halfway normal relationship. (Yeah, I know, never mind the final episode or the retcon in the novels.) Enterprise may be underappreciated but I suspect that, like the original series, it will become more popular over time.

Meanwhile, we Enterprise fans will be here, enjoying our chamomile tea and Chilean sea bass. Drinks at the 602 Club? Be sure to ask for Ruby.