Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Star Trek: What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Episode: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 1, Episode 7
Original Air Date: October 20, 1966
via Memory Alpha

The early Star Trek writers were especially fond of stories with duplicate Kirks.  For the second time in three aired episodes, we get a bonus Shatner, this time by virtue of a robotics/cloning project.  In "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", the Entreprise crew travels to Exo III in search of exobiologist Roger Korby.  For garnish, Korby is also the fiancĂ© of Nurse Christine Chapel.  Turns out, Korby's been building robots, key to his shady plan for galactic conquest.  Two of his androids are in the photo above: Ruk (Ted Cassidy - Lurch of The Addams Family) and Andrea (Sherry Jackson).  Korby actually inherited Ruk from the planet's former inhabitants, referred to simply as "The Old Ones." Andrea is a Korby creation.
via Memory Alpha

With a centrifuge contraption, Korby creates the aforementioned Kirk copy.  The new entity even maintains memories along with the physical replications.  The double is good enough to fool Chapel at the dinner table but the real Kirk cleverly plants a clue in the android to tip off Spock when the fake is beamed back to the ship.
via Wikipedia

Gene Roddenberry (series creator) was born on August 19, 1921 in El Paso, Texas.  During the Second World War, Roddenberry served in the Army Air Force, flying combat missions in the Pacific Theater.  After the war, he worked first in commercial aviation, then for the Los Angeles Police Department.

While working for the police, Roddenberry started writing scripts for various television series.  After several other failed ideas, he created and produced the series The Lieutenant, which aired for a single season.  He first conceived of Star Trek as a combination of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, plugging it as "Wagon Train to the Stars."  The series was picked up by Lucille Ball's Desilu Studios, then pitched to NBC.

38 comments:

  1. One of the earliest episodes, and a good one for Chapel.

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    1. Gene certainly liked to cast the women in his life...

      The man did have good taste.

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  2. I don't actually remember that episode.

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    1. I didn't watch enough back in the '70s to know if there were certain episodes left out of the syndication package. I know that happened with a lot of other shows. Surely, Trek was no exception.

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    1. Yes?

      Not quite enough for me to riff off of, Suze!

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  4. This episode is of course classic because of Lurch's booming baritone. Whenever someone talks about any kind of "old ones," the first thing in my mind is his wistful (paraphrased) recollection: "Ah, the Old Ones... now it comes back into my memory banks..."

    Suze, I may grok your "Hmm." The title of the episode, as well as Andrea's outfit, definitely evidence a distinctly sixties point of view on the fairer gender that is similar to what was on display in "Mudd's Women."

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    1. Two corrections (one for me, one for Squid):

      I shoulda said "evince," not "evidence".

      In the original post above, it should be the Addams Family, not the Munsters! :-)

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    2. First, good catch on Lurch. I meant to double-check before I posted, too, then forget. I'm not exactly an expert on either show.

      Second, I had to Google "grok."

      Third, if that was the intention of Suze's comment, let's not hide from it folks. Sexism and objectification are on the table for discussion. I'm not going to deny that Sherry Jackson is a beautiful woman but I'm certainly willing to concede that the depiction of her character is, as Tony L would say, cheesecakey.

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    3. The Addams family! How could I have missed that?

      Glazed over that bit, I suppose, due to my loathing and extreme repulsion at the image featured in this post and the title of the ep.

      Excuse me while I vomit.

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    4. Is it the outfit or the vacant stare? Or both?

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    5. The title was the first thing that had me convulsing. But that outfit. You know what I hate? What I hate?! It's ... Okay, felt my blood rapidly coming to a boil and was about to spew all over your comment box but I just switched it off. I don't want to. I will just say, and I know I'm preaching to the choir, would it be so difficult for a man to try and imagine what it would be like to automatically be viewed as a body part or two with no respect to history, perceptions, education, philosophies, paradigm-twirling contributions and the source of lively banter? It's nice to be thought of as attractive, but it's a hell of a lot nicer to be respected for less obvious charms, foremost among them, microrevolutions of intellect and spirit.

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    6. Yup, I get it. And because I respect both your intellect AND spirit, I feel it's fair to challenge you to give me more than "Hmm."

      It's on the table now. Let's go...

      This episode in particular is an interesting study because Nurse Chapel is relatively nuanced as female TV characters of the era go. Roddenberry, while most certainly a womanizer in his personal life, was a reasonably forward thinking white guy for his era. Majel Barrett, the actress who played Chapel, was also his girlfriend at the time. In the original pilot, she was First Officer - not a common casting choice in the mid-'60s.

      The Andrea character is definitely problematic. She is completely devoid of intellect and seems to exist only for the pleasure and ego gratification of men. Even the male robots in the story are given more range than she has.

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    7. "Microrevolutions of intellect and spirit."

      5 jewel-like words to encapsulate what I think we're all trying to do with our blogs, for sure.

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    8. Words to live by. Words to blog by.

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    9. I haven't watched the episode so feel I need to in order to do the entire conversation justice. I do think, though, it's an enormous challenge for us with the benefit of a 2013 perspective to understand the full impact and restraint of the mores of some 50 years ago. In the intervening time, we've gained--and lost--a lot, as the book on the 1970s I recently completed drove home for me.

      Everyone in this dialogue is a product of both the point at which we entered the larger cultural conversation and a dozen other variables unique to our upbringing, temperament and history. In addition to all of this, I have a particularly powerful reaction against externalization of the female and a part of me believes I would have felt equally strongly about the title and imagery had I watched the program the night it first aired. Partly because I know what it is like to be infantilized, objectified and discredited because I am not only a girl, but a dainty-looking one (I am 5'2 and have been slender all of my life) with an open, well-proportioned face. I have repeatedly experienced the shift in perception from males and females alike that happens when I open my mouth to speak. There's my personal history being brought to the table. Does that make sense?

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    10. Of course it makes sense. I am not a woman but I grew up with a sister who has had many experiences similar to what you describe. I always enter a conversation like this with her in mind, not to mention the sweet little girl we're doing our best to prepare for some of the world's harsher cruelties.

      The Star Trek original series was, in many ways, ahead of its time. The casting of women and minorities in positions of authority was definitely unusual. Visions of world peace as a necessary precursor for interstellar exploration was a challenge to the Cold War mentality. But some old cultural habits die a lot harder than others. The portrayal of women is still often troubling. And it's not just a 1960s issue, either. Deanna Troi in spandex, anyone?

      I can virtually guarantee this won't be the last time it comes up. As far as I'm concerned, the topic is fair game.

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    11. One thing that is foremost in my mind, always, as a storyteller, is that our stories enable our vision, they help us to imagine how things could be. It's an awesome and terrible responsibility. (Terrible in the sense of its weight and honor.) Veering off a tad but your last response brought that to mind.

      As for our own daughter, that is one of the things about which I feel most proud: the openness, the dignity, the validation with which Shawn and I are both raising her. The main thing I wish to equip her with is the capacity to consult and trust her own intelligence and the humility to learn from others. Lifting my cup to parents of daughters in our generation everywhere. For the most part, the peers I know are really doing their best to get it right.

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    12. Had to come back in and qualify: of course I lift my cup to parents of sons, too!

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    13. Personally, I'm encouraged by my daughter's taste in stories. Strong female protagonists are a baseline requirement. She's never taken to the Harry Potter series and I think the fact that Harry is a boy is part of the reason why. As previously discussed, I think strong female leads are part of the appeal of Miyazaki for her as well.

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    14. Squid, I loved the character of Umi in 'Poppy Hill.' She was maternal and somewhat reserved but with a pristine spine--if you get my meaning. That was part of the reason I loved that film so, so much. I watched it twice in as many nights!

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    15. Still haven't seen it yet. I thought the girl might pick it for this weekend but she went in another direction.

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    16. About Harry Potter, Squid, have you seen this article? It's a reimagining of the series as if JK Rowling had decided to make Hermione the lead character. It's scathing satire, but not quite of the ha-ha variety.

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    17. Good stuff! I love Harry Potter but I think the criticism here is dead on. The world is slowly changing, though. There are a lot more options for strong female leads than there used to be. There are also plenty of old ones to be discovered. In recent years, I've become an Anne of Green Gables convert, for instance.

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  5. A lot of the early Trek episodes depict women like this. I don't mind it...it's a product of its time. The whole time girls are running around in skimpy outfits as robots or cavegirls, we still have Lt.Uhura on the bridge. She's an OFFICER on the DECK of a STARSHIP...it thrills me to this day to see her there.

    Majel Barrett Roddenberry continued to play the voice of the Enterprise computer in every incarnation of Trek, until she passed away in 2008; but my favorite role that she played was as Lwaxana Troi in TNG...a force to be reckoned with, and about as far away from 'girly' as you can get! LOL

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    1. Yes, it's a product of it's time. But I do think it merits discussion. American society has progressed in 47 years but it's worth remembering where we've been. Even in 2013, the objectification at issue here is far from dead. The criticism is fair.

      I agree with you on your other points. As I said above, Roddenberry was pretty progressive for a white guy in 1966. And Lwaxana Troi is great.

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  6. So I take it from the comments that there is something wrong with the outfit the woman in the first picture is wearing?

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    1. While I admire his decision to stay above the fray on this one, I do think this has been an interesting discussion and would welcome his thoughts...

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    2. As this series of posts goes on, this guy is going to have a lot to answer for, I suspect...

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    3. Another winning link, Cyg! It's interesting that his Wikipedia page mentions this episode and Andrea's costume specifically.

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  7. Very interesting mini-bio on Roddenberry. I'm glad he kept a it. Though I've never ever watched a full episode of Star Trek, I do love the fandom.

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    1. No Trek?!!!

      That does beg the question, how do you get your geek on, Nicki?

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  8. I thought I'd seen every episode of the original Star Trek but I don't remember this one. Of course there are a lot of things I can't remember, but judging from the other comments I'm wondering if this episode is not one that was regularly in reruns.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I think this must have been one that was left out. Way back at the top of the thread, Andrew Leon made a similar comment. I was not enough of a devotee to the syndicated reruns to know myself but I'm guessing that must be the case.

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  9. Interesting and intriguing post. And loved the comments!

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