|She-Hulk Prototypes, top: Susan Olvier - Unaired pilot / Bottom: Yvonne Craig - season 3|
Sure there are issues to take umbrage with, such as the sheer unrealistic aspects: apparently everyone in the galaxy speaks English and all planets have breathable atmosphere, or domes, thus dispensing with the helmet issue, and the citizens of the universe are, more often than not, just like us and open to philosophical debates and cordial receptions, class warfare, chess, and pointy beards, and each planet seems to have a population of no more than four people and a few matte paintings and some purple-lighted rock walls, but why are any of these things bad? Space helmets are hard to mike; endless translations, subtitles, and interpreters between alien races would get tedious, and I'll take the deep red skies and purple-lit rock formations of studio-bound sets for my alien planet landscapes any day. If you're ready to come along with me on this journey here's a few highly Acidemic episodes I'd recommend:
If you don't dig Kirk, if Shatner's tribble-ish hair unnerves you, then peep thee the original pilot, "The Cage," which has Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Pike, running the Enterprise with a whole different crew / cast (with the exception of Spock) and costume color scheme. Their velour chalk blue uniforms with khaki green collars (above) are a perfect antidote to anyone who winces at the sight of the primary color-coordinated outfits to come, and there's a sexy plot wherein Pike is abducted by near-grey baldheads and urged to mate with a hottie (Susan Oliver) who appears in many seductive scenarios (including the green sexpot atop). Shades of Trout, Kilgore!
And in addition to being hip about sex, the show is hip about drugs: "The Naked Time" finds the gang wrestling with an inhibition-lowering, mania-inducing disease that acts like meth or coke: Spock gets it on with the nurse and Sulu and shows off his Bruce Lee chest and fencing moves, the whole ship is going to the blazes!
"This Side of Paradise" finds Kirk the only member of the crew not bewitched by space poppies into becoming placid and too happy and content to do anything but loll around in the sun and love one another. Kirk tries to convince them they need goals and challenges to evolve as people, but they're too busy digging the flowers; it's not until he stirs their more violent emotions that they snap out of it. And though you can argue both sides, which is to the script's credit, it's one of the earliest examples of Kirk seeming a killjoy, especially when Spock gets the closing line "for the first time in my life, I was happy."
Incidentally, the idea of interstellar space plant that makes you trip out and tap into the joy of the universe is very reminiscent of Terence McKenna's theories on the psilocibe cubensis mushroom spores:
What the mushroom says about itself is this: that it is an extraterrestrial organism, that spores can survive the conditions of interstellar space. They are deep, deep purple – the color that they would have to be to absorb the deep ultraviolet end of the spectrum. The casing of a spore is one of the hardest organic substances known. The electron density approaches that of a metal. Is it possible that these mushrooms never evolved on earth? That is what the Stropharia cubensis itself suggests...Dude, here's a genius physicist talking trans-galaxial travel with a sentient mushroom! That is so Trek, but alas, Kirk responds to the ''threat' by getting rid of the pods instead of bringing them to hospitals where they can surely cure any type of life threatening disease and prepare the terminally ill to face death with dilated eyes wide to the mystery. Drug War! All you have to do is imagine the countless chemo-therapy sufferers slowly dying miserable nausea-related deaths because their home state wont let them have medical marijuana, and there you go... when will the old power lizards let us evolve into butterflies already?
I couldn’t figure out whether the mushroom is the alien or the mushroom is some kind of technological artifact allowing me to hear the alien when the alien is actually light-years aways, using some kind of Bell nonlocality principle to communicate. The mushroom states its own position very clearly. It says, “I require the nervous system of a mammal. Do you have one handy?”(More)
If you dig the show Ancient Aliens, or the mad writings of Phillip K. Dick or David Icke you'll want to be sure and study episode 62, "Way of the Dove," an examination of a force a feeding off the hate and violence it provokes in others; Ancient Astronaut theory is indirectly explored in #31:" Who Mourns for Adonais?" wherein Apollo, an advanced laurel leaf-sporting alien from Earth's distant past who misses human worshippers, abducts the Enterprise crew. The complex idea of 'fourth dimensional' existence as occurring at a higher frequency, or speed, than our eyes can see is masterfully concretized in "Wink of an Eye," (#66, co-starring Herb "Brain that Wouldn't Die" Ankers, dressed like a masochist houseboy) and of course there's the eerie similarity the Gorn ("Arena" - left) has with the daemonic reptilians of my best and truest hallucinations.
|Herb Evers, Kathie Browne - "Wink of an Eye"|
As Wiki notes: The group is impressed by First Officer Spock, who understands their philosophy. Spock makes an oval "symbol of peace" hand gesture and simply says: "One." The group responds with the same gesture: "We are one." They ask Spock: "Are you One, Herbert?" Spock replies that he is not Herbert, and Adam declares: "He's not Herbert. We reach!"We reach, man! We reach man. And it's all about connection, and that's something Star Trek is keenly aware of, which is why perhaps it's so cult-ready. We science fiction fans tend to relate to feeling isolated, and it's lonesome out in space but never on the Enterprise. In the first season especially that seems to be the over-arching symptom of the galaxy. When the Enterprise drops in on old friends it's like coming back to a ghost town, the one or two beings they encounter invariably want to force the Enterprise to stay and play with them forever. Anyone who's ever had a real bad trip can relate to dying of loneliness in a matter of minutes, "with not even a tormentor for company." Weird aliens, lonesome in their blues, try to abduct the Enterprise, possess its crew, or challenge them to duels, just to have a nice tormentor for company, and it's all very much like a cult - Trekkies are a cult of sorts, and cults were a big problem in the late 60s-70s, especially the Moonies and the Mansonites, and it's also a good metaphor for the healing hand of television itself, the show reaching into our suburban isolation but--especially in the days before VHS--impossible to capture. The Enterprise never overstayed its slender time slot. If we missed it, we missed it, until its rerun orbit completed one full revolution. There was no way to capture the magic, let alone all three seasons in one click on an 'add to instant cue' button... truly the future is better than Rodenberry could have imagined.
As the series progressed things got a little more intentionally campy and laden with Wild Wild West-style anachronism: cowboys, Indians, centurions, 20s mobsters, Nazis, enslaved working class miners, dandy fops, Abe Lincoln, and comic relief moments like tribbles and Harold Mudd all had their day and prop room dusting. But hey, as a kid I appreciated those nods to my generation, for Star Trek never coddles or talks down (is there any show that even comes close today, as far as allowing its characters to be uniformly brilliant and analytical?) and in its even-sided examinations of problems humanity struggles with and for which there are, as yet, still no answers, it's still as timely as retro-futurism can ever been (or has is?). Some episodes are fairly comical, but none are terrible.
The Trek has the future on its side, a new kind of future, explored not in outer space but in the simulacrum of our collective screen. Only here, where the trappings of escapism help us examine truths otherwise unbearable, can we truly escape our prison orbit.
One day digital media will progress past the point of screens altogether and we'll all be able to go go back to "The Menagerie" just like the burned-out Jeffrey Hunter gets to, first by watching that unaired pilot from the safety of his paralysis (left) and then 'for real' in that special way only big-headed aliens can make it.