Star Trek: two episodes in

I’ve started watching the original Star Trek. You might be shocked that I’ve never really seen it before, but I’ve always been a dilettante when it comes to nerdy stuff. I probably spent almost as much time with horror and mystery when I was a kid as I did with fantasy and science fiction, and that hasn’t really changed. I’ve seen a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but largely because I watched it with my mom. I’ve sampled DS9 and Voyager, and seen all the movies, but I’ve never really been a Trek fan as such.

I don’t know if that’s likely to change, but I’ve REALLY been surprised by the two episodes I’ve watched so far, “The Man Trap” and “Charlie ‘X’.” Both are really atmospheric and strange, and in contrast to the almost unbearably well-adjusted TNG atmosphere, the original Enterprise crew seem a barely contained cauldron of id. I was surprised that the Spock/Uhura romance in the JJ Abrams films had a clear precedent here in these episodes; Uhura is super flirtatious with Spock (and though he’s relatively impassive, there’s a silent tension there, not at all a blank robotic incomprehension like you’d get from Data). Uhura has quite a bit more to do than I would have expected, and even Yeoman Rand, the supposed bombshell, is a reasonably substantial character at this stage and not just a bimbo.

But that sexual tension isn’t just between Spock and Uhura, it’s everywhere. Those miniskirts still look pretty scandalous, and there are several moments and lines (“man-to-man is one thing, but…”) that surely seemed as homo-suggestive back then as they do today. Plus you have one episode about an alien that can pluck from your head an image of the man or woman you most desire and show it to you in order to seduce you for the salt in your body, followed immediately by one about a teenager with hormones out of control, no sense of etiquette, and almost magical powers over life and matter. Unchecked hunger and desire, dangerous in part because the Enterprise crew is barely checked in those same departments.

It’s a fascinating show so far. I can see why it inspired such a legacy, even if most of what came after seems rather pale in imitation.