CBS has all of the original series available online, so I’ve been running episodes while I clean my office or do laundry or whatever. Not entirely sure why; I have to admit that my opinion of the show hasn’t changed much. There are the occasional moments I enjoy, but there’s also hella clunky writing, cheap sets, overacting, and a general lack of the things I love (like arc plots and long-term character development).
It’s interesting to look at it with historical perspective, though. The technology: I presume they did their best to be futuristic, but now it’s this weird mash of incredibly dated limitations (tapes???) and still-implausible handwavium (tricorders). The plots, reflecting the concerns and ideals of the time. But what really gets me, as you might expect, are the characters.
I think I have an easier time coping with the show’s racial shortcomings because it’s easier for me to recognize the ways in which it was progressive for the time. I mean, two non-white bridge officers? Sure, Uhura does almost nothing of note (at least as far as I’ve watched), but as Whoopie Goldberg said to her mother, there’s a black woman on television, and she ain’t no maid. And there’s the occasional black or Asian background character, too. I still cringe at things like, oh, the casting of a Mexican actor as a northern Indian Sikh, but I can usually manage to get past it, by focusing on the ways in which this was an improvement over the mass of media at the time.
With gender, it’s harder. Maybe I just don’t know enough about female roles elsewhere on TV at the time? Because it sticks in my craw that the women are mostly just sex objects, and on the rare occasion that one of them has a relevant professional role (the psychologist in “Dagger of the Mind,” the historian in “Space Seed”) their narrative function is to be incompetent and screw everything up. The men constantly reduce them to their attractiveness and/or treat them like children, and the women respond accordingly. I damn near cheered when I watched “Amok Time” (I’m at the beginning of S2 now), because while Vulcan marital tradition blatantly reduces women to prizes for the men, T’Pring quite cleverly manipulates that tradition to achieve her own ends. Go go gadget agency! And you get T’Pau, who’s respected, powerful, and able to help the protagonists — because she chooses to, not because she has to. Vulcans: 2, Humans: 0, where non-objectified women are concerned.
(Incidentally, having watched “Amok Time” — I don’t know when exactly K/S came into existence, i.e. whether it existed before that ep . . . but ye gods is that thing slashy. Much is now explained.)
The fact that I’ve watched so much is really more a testament to my obsessive sense of completism (and the ease of online watching) than any growing affection; there’s maybe two or three eps so far I’d have any desire to watch a second time. I really wish some of the other series were available online, so I could give them a shot, but sadly this does not seem to be the case.