I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my brothers every Saturday night before we had to wake up for church the next morning. I subsequently became the lone Deep Space Nine fanboy in our family (I pretended Voyager & Enterprise didn’t happen). Although I had seen many Star Trek: TOS episodes, I had never made a concerted effort to watch The Original Series all the way through. This is my attempt to do so, and I will try to blog out my thoughts about as many TOS episodes as I am able to.
The unaired pilot episode for Star Trek: The Cage, is an exploration in the dynamics of gender roles. From the beginning, Lieutenant Number One, played by Majel Barrett (creator Gene Roddenberry’s wife), is described as being the second in command of the fleet, with the second most experience and credentials behind only Captain Christopher Pike. When Pike is captured by the telepathic, sinister Talosians, Number One is the person who leads a failed attempt to rescue him. One other female character, yeoman J.M. Colt, stood in to represent an ideal youth during that era (I mean, the late 1960’s—although Star Trek takes place in the future). Pike resists the Talosians attempts to mate him with Vina, a beautiful damsel in distress who promises Pike she can be “any woman he wants her to be.”
The Talosians dictate that the role of women is relegated to reproduction. They are telepaths, and in science fiction, the trope of the telepath with an overgrown skull is an outgrowth of a particular vision of Western human agency, one of Eurocentric rationality, one that denies individual experience and subjectivity. The Talosians allow Colt and Number One to dematerialize onto their planet, but only to give Pike more options. Colt is considered very young and filled with hormones, while the Talosians assure Pike that in spite of Number One’s high grade intelligence and lack of emotion, she still fantasizes about being with him. Number One figures out that Pike is to be “Adam” in this new Garden of Eden. But who is to be the new Eve? That’s the question we are left with at the end.
I found it interesting that the Talosians punish Pike for having “wrong” thoughts about the second sex. The Talosians were offended by the very notion that women could exist for more than just breeding. It rings so familiar in both secular and religious circles, and the fact that a particular eroticized understanding of Eve and Adam’s story (where they are adults, not children) further demonstrates Roddenberry’s progressive vision of a future with the genders as equals.