First in a new series.
There is no way to overstate how much of a Trekkie I was when I was a kid. But by the end of HS, I was already discovering Buffy, and by the end of college I had my feet planted firmly in many fandoms, and Star Trek was then, for a time, relegated to a fond childhood memory and my gateway fandom.
Roll forward a decade or so, and suddenly all the the franchise holdings were available on the too-many streaming services I subscribe to. A rewatch was in order. But how would they have aged?
Surprisingly, was the primary answer, which is mostly another story for another time. But here, I want to talk about my reunion with TOS, now as an adult with relevant professional expertise. Sure, I noticed things like how different the narrative pacing and ambitions of 60’s sci-fi storytelling were, compared to later eras. But most of all, outside such clinical conditions, a compelling narrative began to emerge–the only one my brain could assemble to explain the apparent norms of what I was watching:
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. On her five-year mission to perform and record, the most thorough, deterring, and explicit Human Resources educational videos ever made. To seek out new depths of workplace harassment, and boldly grope, where no one else has dared grope before.
I put to you, dear reader, contemplating TOS: Does this series, and the behavior of the crew, not make far more sense, if you add a context where Starfleet HR has culled the worst repeat offenders from the entire fleet and placed them all on a single ship, loaded with hidden cameras, all to record the rawest, most sobering workplace education videos ever made? This is a ship where everyone routinely sexually harasses everyone else, where racial epithets are casually laced into conversation, and everyone seems to know where the ship’s doctor hides the booze. Where bizarre, ranting, even violent, outbursts are common. Where no one is dressed appropriately for the workplace for more than five minutes at a time. (And no, I’m not just talking about the captain!) They go on field trips to planets where even more workplace-inappropriate behavior than theirs is the norm. They blame bad behavior on “evil twins”! If this were a normal ship, surely they would never be able to leave drydock thanks to the many, many pending legal complaints against them.
Try watching it this way. I guaranteed it goes from “squirmy” and “dated” to “knee-slapping workplace cringe comedy” in an instant.