Intro to ST: Voyager

Full disclosure: I only ever watched Star Trek in high school. I have only hazy memories of ST:TNG and DS9 (like I thought Troi and Worf were wicked cool, but that it was weird Picard was French with a British accent), but really like SF/F, and know a fair amount about the ‘verse.

On a whim, though, I started watching Voyager. I’d heard it improved on the issues I had with Babylon 5 (like that B5 is constantly the adventures of white boys in space!!!!!!!!!!) and plus there’s a black Vulcan. Basically, Voyager is the Gilligan’s Island of Star Trek

The Voyager got flung out to the Delta Quadrant because of a super powerful alien, and it’ll take them 75 years to get back home to the Alpha Quadrant. There’s no other Federation vessels, and they have to make deals with the locals while still remaining a Starfleet crew. So far there’ve been traitors (two, one of whom was so traitorous she lied about being Bajoran and stole someone’s sperm to make herself pregnant and also lied about being raped), a couple food shortages, and several near disasters.

I’m not gonna start reviewing from the first ep, since I’m nearing the end of s2 now, so am gonna use this intro post to talk about things I’ve already noticed, going character by character.

1. Janeway

She’s so awesome, and I love that she’s constantly channeling Katherine Hepburn.

On a characterization level, I love that the characterizationfor her is pretty consistent in regards to what she knows; you hear right away that she’s a former science officer, and her knowledge of science is casually referenced in nearly every episode. She’s never the audience-stand-in for when someone needs to do an explanation of what a proton is or whatever, in the way I sometimes felt like Picard was. She’s a little more gentle in her leadership style than I’d like, but that’s because, I think, she’s not in a place where she can be a hard-ass.

2. Harry Kim

Uhhh why does he keep getting kidnapped? I swear, he’s just like Mary Anne from Gilligan’s Island. He dies or gets kidnapped like every other episode.

3. B’Elanna

I’m glad she’s mixed, I guess it’s interesting that they did an ep about that, but seriously, if she hooks up with Tom Paris I’ll scream. He’s such a jerk AND responded in the exact wrong way in “Faces” when she was confiding in him about her childhood as the only person of Klingon descent in her colony when he was all, YAY you’re human now, YAY! after she’d been split into her two ethnicities. There’s, uh, also a lot to say about that as a plot line. Besides the racefail, there’s some great stuff re: her bonding with Janeway over SCIENCE! and her loyalty/personal integrity. I really dig her.

4. Chakotay

I know some people criticize the actor for being so wooden, but seriously, his lines suck, every time he does something “native” there’s a magic flute playing so you KNOW he’s being MAGICALLY INDIAN, and yeah. I’d phone it in too.

5. Tuvok

Oh, I love Tuvok, and how you can tell he’s five seconds from cutting EVERYONE ON THIS SHIP.

I especially liked “Innocence,” and the chance to see him not just as a Vulcan but as a Vulcan parent. It was especially satisfying to me because I keep telling people that Vulcans are really passionate people who use meditation to get along with all the other species (who are super annoying in close quarters).

6. Kes

Look, I know she keeps mentioning she’s just two, but are her years even the same as human years? And why would her age in human years even matter? What the shit. Either she’s practically a child in which case it’s skeevy that Neelix and her are boning, OR her species has a different definition of adulthood that everyone else should step off and respect. Everyone being like KES YOU’RE A CHILD would be as annoying as people going TUVOK YOU’RE ANCIENT because he’s damn near 200, and it’s weirdly infantilizing. I’m a little annoyed at how flat the actress’ voice is. I suspect this is a director decision, because even when she’s mad she uses dulcet tones, and her voice makes me think of what Jessica Alba said about director instructions to conventionally pretty actresses, and how she was sometimes told to not show emotions because it made her face ugly.

7 & 8. Neelix and Tom Paris

They bore me, but at least Neelix is funny.

9. The Doctor

He, Tuvok, and B’Elanna are the least annoying characters. If there could be an ep where they’re all vaguely annoyed at each other while actually making the ship GO without interferance from the Quizon, Tom Paris, or Neelix, and Harry could avoid getting kidnapped… well! Janeway could take a break in the Holodeck.

Next Monday, I’ll post a review of ST:V s3x1, which is called “The Basics: Part II.” The series is on Netflix if you want to watch along!

Comments

  1. I.A. Scott says

    Hm…I remember Janeway taking a lot of breaks in the holodeck. Maybe there wasn’t so much holodeck in the early seasons. I think I watched it pretty regularly after season 4, when we got Sky.

    I think this program was my first exposure to that weird “magical indian” trope.

  2. says

    I last watched this during my teen years, too, and to this day I remember how I loathed Paris’s smarmy act. Of course, he was the golden boy that (presumably) male viewers were supposed to identify with.

  3. Maria says

    I.A. Scott,

    So far she’s only taken two — the first to establish she’s got a novel she’s working on, and the second because the Doctor ordered her to because she needed a break. Then there were aliens, so no break for Janeway. No one ever cares that Tuvok needs a break. :(

    JT,

    I know! And it’s SO ANNOYING because he’s a JERK.

  4. Havoc says

    Wait, Jessica Alba got told what? I have no context for that comment; can you point me at a reference someplace?

  5. I.A. Scott says

    Maria
    Tuvok is definitely the ship’s rock. I think its a really long wait before you see any Tuvok personal time, and even then it always seemed to be interrupted by other people.

    Also: Ugh, Paris. What a git. Not even a git that’s fun to watch. Some of the Paris-heavy episodes still make me cringe to think about.

  6. Jhamin says

    I’m afraid I just couldn’t get into Voyager.

    I felt like they decided that the Next Gen cast was getting too expensive so they decided to recast the whole thing with cheaper talent and keep telling the same stories. The premise of the show was initially different but they quickly abandoned the “lost in space” angle and just told lots of stories about what everyone thought of the space wedgie of the week. It was a *very* rare Voyager episode that couldn’t have happened on TNG.

    The fact that Deep Space 9 was putting out new episodes concurrently for most of Voyager’s run just made Voyager look a little limp in comparison. Avery Brooks, Nana Visitor, Rene Auberjonois and company were just so much more fun to watch than Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, and the rest of Voyager’s cast were.

    But then I might be a bit blinded by my fannish preferences.

    • Maria says

      Jhamin, I’m gonna be honest and say I don’t care that you couldn’t get into Voyager. Your dislike of the show because of your like of another show is actually irrelevant to this thread and is a derail. I suggest you read:

      http://thehathorlegacy.com/activism-101-beware-false-allies/ –> particularly the part about eyeballs

      This is one of the reasons it can be hard to be enthusiastic about doing ep recaps.

  7. Korva says

    I watched Voyager and its predecessors on and off, and remember being hot-and-cold about it. Some good stuff, some “what the hell were the writers smoking”. Definitely count me in as another anti-fan of Tom Paris. B’Elanna and Tuvok were the ones I like best of the bunch.

    I *would* be curious about your opinion on “Faces”. It’s been a while, but I remember having the distinct impression that we were supposed to identify with the human half as the “real one” and the Klingon as “other”. That bugged me, and the admission that the Klingon half is needed didn’t make it much better. It felt like a predictable, easy way out seeing as how we viewers are human. Did you share that impression, and if so, did it play into the “racefail”?

  8. Maria says

    Korva,

    Heh. There were a couple bits of fail:

    1. B’Elanna’s Klingon (non-human/Othered) half gives her strength/anger/the ability to survive/the willingness to use sex as a tool. It’s animalistic, irrational and untrustworthy

    2. B’Elanna’s human half (the “normal”) is able to express complex emotions/reason/plan an escape/ is appropriately feminine/physically weak. It’s femme, desireable, and human.

    3. Personality traits –> race traits.

    4. Tom Paris’ response to her sadness over her father’s abandonment as being sympathetic — he basically snarked someone talking about their struggle coming to terms with their mixed race identity, and this is sexy WHY?

    ————

    While B’Elanna realizes she needs “both halves” to survive/escape/be herself, it’s still a really WEIRD plot. PLUS, even though people are trying to exploit her body for medical purposes comes up again in s2, it’s one of those things that’s neither historicized (like, there’s a long history of WOC getting exploited for medical experiments) or acknowledged as more than B’Elanna being irrational and a little selfish.

  9. Sabrina says

    Oh my, it’s ages since I watched Voyager. The only ST Series that get frequent re-runs here are TOS and TNG, while occasional episodes of VOY and DS9 are airing on obscure time slots like 2 – 5 a.m. Thankfully we have DS9 on DVD now and it was worth every single cent! :D

    Anyway, I remember loving the shit out of VOY as a teenager. The first seasons very always a bit so-and-so as usual (it’s like an universal law that ST writers always need at least a season or two to get the characters right) but they got some nice seasons later on.
    I really liked Janeway (my bf hates her guts, but as of now I will blame awkward dubbing for that). I don’t know why but I found Kes really irritating. Torres (yay for being bi-racial) kinda grew on me but — wait are we allowed to write spoilery rants here? XD

  10. says

    Hi guys! Guess what’s completely irrelevant to a discussion of a particular show? Answer: your negative feelings about that show. Your negative feelings are not a critical assessment. Basically, you are just jumping into a discussion to tell us about your feelings. Your feelings about the show under discussion may seem more relevant than your feelings about, say, Siamese cats, but they’re really kind of not (unless of course they come with some actual critical assessment about bigotry issues within the show).

    Do we need a new comment rule about this? I’m not sure anyone ever reads them, anyway.

  11. says

    Maria,

    Is this ep based on the one where Kirk gets split into an animal Kirk and a civilized Kirk, and the animal Kirk tries to rape Rand while the civilized Kirk is completely indecisive and wishy-washy? Or is there another ep where something similar happens (can’t recall anything else where someone’s split that way, but I didn’t see all of TNG)? Because it sounds like a rehash of the Kirk ep without any thoughts as to what made that episode so VERY VERY WRONG, and how much it didn’t help for them to make the split between her Klingon and human selves, especially with the hair implications.

    (We talked about that one starting here. http://thehathorlegacy.com/a-look-back-at-the-original-star-trek-series/#comment-94377, if anyone’s curious)

    • Maria says

      @Jenn

      I actually don’t know — it might be a call-back to it, which is super depressing.

      The actress is great tho — you can tell that Roxann Dawson is really doing the best she can with such shitty lines.

  12. Sabrina says

    Alright, just wanted to ask, cause it’s that specific point about Torres and Paris: Yes they do hook up and I didn’t like it one bit. What the hell did she saw in that guy?!? I’m so not a fan for their relationship. Not a fan of Paris in general, too. It doesn’t help that his character was initially supposed to be that stupid dudebro pilot that got one of his and Wesley’s friends killed in TNG. They changed the name and a few bits of his past but kept the actor. So yeah…
    Regarding the other male characters: I hated that Harry basically was the damsel-in-distress and Chakotay’s kitschy shamanism thing. I also like Tuvok and how he always looked like he wanted to punch all the annoying people around him – particularly Neelix. Depending on the episode I’d totally cheer him on, haha. Last but not least I loved the Doctor – he was always fun to watch. I approve of your Doctor/Tuvok/Torres episode suggestion! :D

    Looking forward to your VOY articles. (I really need to re-watch the show!)

  13. Korva says

    Maria:

    Yeah it was a weird plot to say the least. Your points 1 and 2 are a good description of what bugged me too. And it didn’t help that, despite the acknowledgement of “needing” the Klingon half, the last scene I remember from that episode is human-B’Elanna i.e. “the real B’Elanna” wistfully touching her smooth forehead for the last time before she gets “the other” put back into her.

    Jennifer Kesler:

    The similarities between these two episodes never occurred to me before, but now that you mention it, I remember that ugly old piece of crap too. According to the Memory Alpha wiki, they didn’t want to make “Faces” too much like “The Enemy Within” but the “weak POV character realizing they need their scary other half” theme is much the same at least.

  14. Lavode says

    Janeway’s leadership style may be relatively gentle, but one of the things I love about the show is that there’s never any doubt that she’s the one in charge – Mulgrew seems to radiate an easy, natural authority. Voyager was one of the few things I watched religiously as a teenager, and the presence of a strong female leader (and a badass female engineer) was probably the main reason.

    Another major reason was Tim Russ and the emotional range he manages to put across even though he’s playing a Vulcan. Especially in the relationship between Tuvok and Neelix, which provides a lot of funny moments and some very touching ones, especially late in the series.

  15. Merryn says

    Interesting that you compared Voyager favourably to Babylon 5. B5 was the nail in the coffin on watching Star Trek franchise shows for me. It told an unfolding story with some moral greyness rather than resetting everything at the end of each episode, the ST:NG formula.
    I really disliked Voyager for one annoying aspect of it’s ‘diversity’. The original series has people from different Earth cultures, but it seemed that on Voyager, even the aliens were some variety of USAmerican, as if that was the only Earth culture than existed. It seemed very narrow and culturally imperialistic to me.

    • Maria says

      @Merryn

      Yeah, I feel like I can find moral greyness, savior-plotlines, and white guys as heroes in a lot of SF/F. But a WOC playing a mixed race engineer on a ship captained by a woman who isn’t a power-hungry lesbian that believes in torturing prisoners? Yeah… This is probably one of the reasons that I still really dig Dark Angel, even tho the acting isn’t the best. It’s just really refreshing to see a POC as a major part of an ensemble cast with her own stories as episode A plots.

      I’d say a lot of the cultural imperialism probably comes from it being more like a space Western… they’re constantly having to circle the wagons to protect from those blood thirsty Indians Quizon

  16. Maria says

    @Merryn

    Speaking of USAmerican stuff… I wonder if it’s not that the show only shows USAmerican aliens, but instead Aliens/Others where a USAmerican perspective is normalized? Because I feel like the Ocampa and a few of the other alien species they encountered are built using US stereotypes about the Oriental Other.

  17. says

    Maria,

    Oh, Roxanne Dawson did a great job!

    Korva: According to the Memory Alpha wiki, they didn’t want to make “Faces” too much like “The Enemy Within” but the “weak POV character realizing they need their scary other half” theme is much the same at least.

    Ah, you knew how to look it up, LOL! The two eps ARE different in many ways, but the idea that Kirk splits into a beast and a wimp is so not improved by having B’Elanna make a similar split, with the Klingon parts being more beastly, and those parts being coded partly to the actress’ African heritage. I mean, if anything, that’s an uglier message than The Enemy Within, which is what bothers me.

  18. jennygadget says

    “Janeway’s leadership style may be relatively gentle, but one of the things I love about the show is that there’s never any doubt that she’s the one in charge”

    Really? Because I remember watching the first ep and being very annoyed that we finally get a female captain and they immediately set her up so that she is sharing command in a way none of the male captains had to. Possibly I need to rewatch it? I think the only time I have was when it first aired. :p

    Part of the problem though is that we need more female captains. (and more diverse captains overall) When you only have one female captain you only get one chance to do a great female captain. And since different people will have different expectations of of what makes a great female captain, you will always have people that are annoyed and disappointed rather than just “oh, well, not my cup of tea” or “she’s not my favorite but she’s still good.” I think there was a lot of awesomeness in Janeway that I totally missed because I was so. very. excited. to finally get a female captain…so when Janeway (and the set-up of Voyager) did not at all match what I had been building up inside my head, it made them hard to watch.

  19. Korva says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    There are differences, yeah, and I’m not sure which episode bugs me worse. One notable difference is the sexuality aspect. Other-Kirk, as a man, “of course” was sexually violent. Other-B’Elanna, as a woman, “of course” was a sexual object and seductress (even if she didn’t really mean it and only used it as a trick to free herself). Plus the matter of B’Elanna being deliberately imprisoned and victimized to split her combined with what Maria said about medical experiments inflicted on people of color in the real world, while Kirk’s split was an accident and he was always a free agent in his episode.

    Both send some really ugly messages. I guess “The Enemy Within” was just more in-your-face about it with the whole “you can’t be anything but a useless wimp if part of you isn’t a raving, rampaging rapist” BS. The problems with “Faces” seem less blatant at a casual glance (because “we” are used to women sexualized and victimized, and “everyone knows what Klingons are like”, plus “they’re not even real so how can it be racism”, and after all the two B’Elannas appreciate each other in the end, etc.), but maybe that is what in fact makes it the worse of the two.

  20. Merryn says

    Maria,

    The character you mention is a classic example of what I mean. She’s half Klingon, but her human half is USAmerican. We also have native USAmerican, Asian USAmerican (rather than just plain Asian), etc. Everyone human seems to be USAmerican, which I saw as a huge step backwards from the original series.
    Ivanova of B5 may have been white, but was also a Russian Jew. I agree there should have been more female characters on B5, and more non-white faces, but I don’t think different shades of Americans is really an improvement.

  21. says

    jennygadget,

    I actually agree with you (http://thehathorlegacy.com/chakotay-is-my-co-pilot/). It felt to me like what they did when Carter became the leader of SG-1 – it turned into a democracy where they decided as a team what they would do instead of Carter being the boss, like O’Neill had been. I suspect Hollywood was terrified to show a woman giving orders to a man, so they felt they needed to mitigate it somehow.

    I do think, however, that Kate Mulgrew puts across some serious authority that could almost make you forget whatever message the people making the show are trying to put across, and I appreciate her for it.

    Korva,

    Yeah, that sums up exactly what’s worrying about Faces. Also, it just hit me that the title sort of reduces the whole thing to a stereotype of female vanity. Kirk is fighting an “enemy” within himself, valiantly and heroically, like leading men do. B’elanna is dealing with two different faces, and we know how much those gals worry about their faces! /eyeroll

  22. Shaun says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    You know, I like the title Faces. I like the implication that the two beings were both expressions of one whole. I guess in a way this title is accurate, since it reflects the writers’ standards of B’lanna as a (white) Woman and a racialized Other.

    I liked Voyager when it came out (I think I was too young when DS9 premiered to get into it), and I liked TNG better than TOS when I saw them later, but I think the modern Treks have done a consistently shitty job of pushing the edge or having any sort of progressive politics in their writing. People applaud TOS but at this point the four successive series should have been building on that base, not simply telling the same safe stories or telling new one they must know are more racist than what came before.

    To be fair Voyager did have a female lead and a person of color 2nd-in-command, something Enterprise didn’t even attempt to do (gods know we can’t have two women commanders in a row), and it was the 90s. Am I judging a little too harshly here? It sounds like there’s awesome but only if you pick it out of the bad parts.

  23. Charles RB says

    JT: Of course, he was the golden boy that (presumably) male viewers were supposed to identify with.

    I watched Voyager when I was ten and I don’t think I remembered his first name the whole time (and forgot his surname afterwards). The male lead that always stuck with me was the Doctor because he was rude and funny and he had this cool thing of being a hologram despite being a nerdy wuss, everyone needed him (not that I remember consciously picking up the fourth one). And he always did a good job and people could rely on him and I don’t remember him ever having to heroically thump someone to do it. There should be more Doctors and less Parises because the Doctor’s more interesting and a better example of a good man.

    (The other character who I remembered was Janeway because she was The Boss and I always remembered a strong sense of The Boss from her. She hit all the right Boss notes that TV had trained me to accept.)

  24. Lavode says

    jennygadget,

    Hm. That didn’t bother me, since Chakotay nearly always defers to Janeway even when he thinks she’s wrong (or at least he doesn’t question her decisions in front of the others). But what I mean is really the way she carries herself – in some shows I’ve seen, female characters who are supposed to be leaders tend to keep looking at their male subordinates as if to ask for permission or approval when making a decision or giving orders. I don’t know if it’s because of the actors involved or the direction or what, but it doesn’t seem to happen as much on Voyager.

    Definitely agree that there should be more female captains.

  25. Ara says

    Lavode,

    While I haven’t watched much Voyager (now that Netflix has them all on instant, I’m going to go in chronological order, starting from Enterprise and working my way forward), I distinctly remember someone else on here complaining in comments on another post about Janeway doing exactly that– looking over at Chakotay like she wanted his permission.

    Different people, different perceptions, I guess?

  26. Lavode says

    Ara,

    Apparently. I’ll pay more attention next time I watch an episode (I’ve been rewatching the series in a very lazy and unsystematic way for a few months now) and see if I notice anything like that.

  27. Maria says

    Lavode,

    So far I’ve noticed her more looking over to the people who are specialists in their field/responsibility — like she’ll glance at Tuvok, Harry Kim, etc. I think what’s interesting about scenes involving the site/sight of command — like the deck — she’s generally the only woman, because Kes has no rank and B’Elanna is in Engineering.

    I need Trekkie help — are there enlisted and officers in Star Fleet?

  28. Ara says

    Maria,

    Yes, there are, although it doesn’t come up often. It came up explicitly in the Next Generation episode “The Drumhead” when Picard asks an enlisted crew member why he didn’t go to Starfleet Academy and become an officer.

  29. says

    Ara,

    That was me, in the article I just linked above. There were a lot of exchanged glances between the two of them when a decision had to be made, and this struck me as something I did NOT see male in-charge characters doing on TV.

    BUT I’m going to have to grant that Maria’s perspective here didn’t occur to me. It might make a difference if I watched it again.

    And once more, to be clear, I do remember thinking Mulgrew carried herself with great authority, and that certainly contributed to a feeling she was a proper Star Fleet captain, regardless of my other perceptions.

  30. Maria says

    Ara,

    Thanks! I was asking because I thought of B’Elanna as an junior NCO but I see she’s now being referred to as LT and her insignia changed, and I thought that was an interesting demarcation between her and the other Maquis crew (who still seem to be enlisted)

  31. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I noticed it because I really appreciated how Janeway immediately treats Torres’ as an intelluctual equal when talking about engineering stuff, and is gracious to Neelix and Kes about politics in the Delta Quadrant.

    But it’s still unfortunate that she and B’Elanna are the only main character women with rank.

  32. says

    The SO and I are currently rewatching the first season of TNG. There’s a LOT of Picard glancing over at his second in command, Riker in particular, and while he has the center seat, he consults with his ‘secondary’ crew almost every episode. He seems tentative in the first season, much like Janeway.

    And wow, Janeway? Was tons more authoritative than I remembered on my first-run run through of the series. I must have missed those episodes or scenes where Paris dissed B’Lanna that others have mentioned, because I must be the only person here who doesn’t despise the character!

    I do love the doctor, and, even though 7of9 kind of took over the show, it was still good to see episodes featuring B’Lanna, and the Captain. It was strange to me how often Chakotay would disappear from the bridge/episode entirely. I do know the actor is openly derisive of the ST franchise, and of his experience on the show.

  33. MarchHare says

    To riff on the current discussion of the “a whole splitting to halves”, I would also toss in the episode “Tuvix”. It was interesting that VOY decided to tackle this shade of morality; but it really bothered me that despite Tuvix being happy with himself and contributing to the show, the end decision was to forcibly split him in two. I think it was very insidious and actually regressed the progressive tone to the show.

    I’m interested in hearing what other thought of that episode.

  34. says

    Maria,

    Sounds like perhaps I zeroed in on the conferring glances between Janeway and Chakotay and missed glances between her and other crew members. I did watch it shortly after S8 of Stargate really pissed me the fuck off, LOL, so I may have been oversensitized. I may give VOY another try.

  35. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Maybe — I still think it’s problematic that on a show with a female captain, there are so few women with authority that her conferring glances mostly hit men. For the 9 member ensemble it’s:

    Kes (female, no rank –> coded as exotic-but-civilized –> works in the medical place)
    B’Elanna (female, provisional rank, afro-latina/Klingon (and I think coded as a provincial — she’s from the area of space the Maquis are fighting over), works in the engine room)
    Janeway (female, captain, white, American, works in the command center)
    Doctor (hologram, male, outranks everyone on med matters, white, centered in the medlab but appears everywhere using the comm)
    Chakotay (male, lt commander, ambiguously Native, works in the command center)
    Paris (male, white, American, lt junior grade —> which doesn’t make ANY sense to me, white, works in the command center)
    Neelix (male, no rank, coded as exotic but civilized, works in the kitchen place)
    Tuvok (male, full lt, coded as exotic but civilized, played by a POC, works in the command center)
    Harry (male, ensign, coded as American but played by a POC, works in the command center)

    Anyways, I think it’s striking that only Janeway works in the command deck place as a named woman in a position of authority. Didn’t TNG have more women with rank overall?

  36. says

    Maria,

    You’re definitely right about all this. TOS certainly implied there were women coming up in Starfleet even though the Enterprise somehow missed having more than one in the bridge crew. Rand and Majel Barrett’s character are both seen in the movies later as higher ranking officers, and TOS had ranking women as guest stars (not high-ranking, but still – and then of course there’s the infamous pilot they didn’t get to run with). So, several years on in the ‘verse from all that, we get Janeway and her all-male crew who only end up with a second woman on the bridge because of an unplanned merging of ship personnel. It’s a big WTF, and suggests to me TPTB are thinking in terms of tokens: “We got a woman, we got TWO blacks, one of which is hispanic, too, and we got an Asian – I think we’re good to go!”

    TPTB in TV are convinced the AUDIENCE is only comfortable around white American men, and will get edgy if confronted with women and POC and people not from America. If the creators even consider things like a nearly all-female crew, the studios/networks wouldn’t allow it. And it’s true that such a crew would look strange to us, and we’d wonder why it was a nearly all-female crew… because we’ve been conditioned to expect the exact opposite unless it’s a story about sexy Amazon pirate chicks taking over spaceships in their undies or something.

  37. Sabrina says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    I suppose there is actually a visual component that might have added to that feeling. All the other bridges have the captain’s chair at the centre – either alone (TOS, DS9, ENT, possibly every other ship we see that has such a thing) or framed with two chairs like the TNG ships. The sole exception is the Voyager where we have what looks like two captain’s chairs. Janeway’s chair is not at the centre, it doesn’t stand alone – it’s side by side with Chakotay’s. So even if she doesn’t actually exchange more conferring glances with Chakotay there is definitely a visual indicator that says “these two are partners when commanding this ship” instead of “she’s the sole boss”.

  38. Korva says

    Tokenism is probably the answer, yes, plus the attitude that 1-2 “token minority people” are plenty and more would be too much. Whatever isn’t the “default” stands out more. So the “minorities” say sweet, I like that character, but why is s/he all alone when your setting is supposed to be so progressive and inclusive and equal-opportunity? And the “default” people complain that there are too many freaks that they can’t identify with and why does everything have to be so stupidly PC … even when all the “token minority” characters added together don’t even add to 50% of the cast, much less the majority. (And even if they did, I don’t think the “minorites” are happy to be all lumped together. A strong gay male character won’t do much for the sad little girl wondering why women almost never get to be heroes and best buddies.)

    I don’t follow the Trek fandom, but that is the observation I’ve made elsewhere, at least. In one RPG setting, some male fans were annoyed that “all the rulers of the current generation are women, that’s unrealistic, and barely any women roleplay anyway so who even wants to see all these chicks in charge”. Needless to say, “all the rulers” meant less than half, but somehow the male rulers didn’t count in their minds when other fans showed them the numbers, and none of these guys seemed to have any problem with the fact the previous generation of rulers in the world had been almost entirely male (and going by the gender of the firstborn children, the next generation will be strongly male-dominated too). Also, a few gay or bi NPCs of both genders dotted across the setting make some fans complain that there are hardly any normal people around.

    It’s rather mind-boggling.

  39. Alara Rogers says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Other members of Janeway’s crew, including the named, ranked, Lt. Stadi (a woman), died.

    Stadi was the counselor, which is a trifle problematic (really? women are always the counselors?), but counselor is a bridge position (because of the conflation of “therapist” with “advisor to captain”, but it’s still a bridge position). So no, it wasn’t Janeway and her all male crew that ended up with women only because of the crews merging; half of Janeway’s original crew died.

    • Maria says

      @Alara

      Didn’t Stadi die in the first ep? I remember Tom Paris sexually harassing her in the shuttlecraft that brought him to Voyager…

  40. says

    Sabrina,

    That’s an interesting point I hadn’t thought about.

    Korva,

    Studies into whether women actually talk more than men find consistently that there is no significant statistical difference in how much the genders talk, but somehow people perceive women as talking more. And yet, interestingly, we have the constant stream of stories in which women make smart suggestions at work, and the men pretend they didn’t hear it at all, and then four seconds later one of the men repeats the suggestion word for word and suddenly it’s audible!

    Someone could probably write a book on what’s behind all that, because I think it’s connected.

    Maria,

    Which further supports the idea that women do rank in Starfleet, but the fact that she had to die because B’elanna was going to come in and WOW TWO CHICKS IN ONE PLACE OMG I’M FREAKING OUT really supports your earlier point.

  41. Robin says

    Maria, Didn’t TNG have more women with rank overall?

    Not really, I’m afraid. Among those regularly appearing on the bridge (and named), there was only Counselor Troi (who didn’t wear a regulation uniform until late in the series run, grr), and security chief Lt. Tasha Yar, who was killed off in the first season to be replaced by Lt. Worf. There was, of course, a female CMO in Dr. Beverly Crusher (replaced for a season by Dr. Pulaski), so she did pull rank from time to time, and the head nurse was a woman as well. All the other department heads were male, as were the majority of their underlings. There were a couple lower-ranking female officers that were around for a few episodes at a time, and some female captains for an episode or two, but no one else consistent that I can remember.

    I think the non-speaking extras were pretty evenly distributed along race and gender lines, for what it’s worth.

    As I understand it, there was far less emphasis on both gender and racial equality in the Trek franchise after Gene Roddenberry passed away in the middle of TNG’s run. But even TOS wasn’t as progressive as he’d first imagined, since Majel Barrett was originally cast as the first officer (the Riker / Chakotay position), and the network forcibly vetoed that.

  42. says

    Robin,

    Credit where credit is due and all that, but I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on GR’s personal contributions. From what I’ve read, he was very sexist himself, both into womanizing and objectifying his actresses. Ms. Barrett, who played Number One in the pilot and Nurse Chapel in later episodes, was widely believed to have gotten the job on the casting couch. GR also allegedly had much input into the actresses’ costumes, most of it “shorter hems and lower necklines”. And it’s worth remembering that the inspiring story about Martin Luther King Jr. telling Nichelle Nichols to hang in there starts with Nichols getting frustrated with all the sexism and racism on set.

  43. Shaun says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    I don’t know that an actress being “widely believed” to have gotten her job on the casting couch is necessarily very credible. Do you have any sources on that?

  44. says

    Shaun,

    Crap, I meant to add that that part could possibly be just sexist rumors, but in this case I doubt it. Nor were my words meant as a slur on Ms. Barrett’s ability, but of the environment she had to earn her living in.

    My sources are multiple behind-the-scenes books I read ten years ago. I don’t remember the titles anymore, but I did see that rumor mentioned in at least two, if not more, of them. GR’s sexual harassment/”womanizing” was mentioned in every book I read. Quoting from TV Tropes:

    according to Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, by Herb Solow and Robert Justman, most of the costumes following this theory were actually somewhat more modest before being “improved” by Gene Roddenberry.

    If Inside Star Trek is the book I think it is, the casting couch rumors are discussed and the evidence from the authors’ point of view is given.

  45. says

    It’s interesting that the original TOS pilot had all the women in the same uniforms as the men, if Roddenberry preferred short skirts and whatnot. It is of course possible for someone to be progressive in some ways and just not get it in others, so it’s hard to sort out what his contributions may have been.

    I do think Deep Space Nine, which continued many years after his death, was about as anti-sexist as TV gets, and that show – according to DVD extras – happened largely outside his influence.

    From Wikipedia:

    In 1942, Gene Roddenberry married Eileen Rexroat. They had two daughters, Darlene and Dawn, but during the 1960s, he had affairs with Nichelle Nichols (said by Nichols to be the reason he wanted her on the show)[20] and Majel Barrett. Twenty-seven years after his first marriage, Roddenberry divorced his first wife and married Barrett in Japan in a traditional Shinto ceremony on August 6, 1969 and they had one child together, Eugene Wesley, Jr.[21]

  46. Maartje says

    You might not want to watch all the episodes… There is one where Tom gets body-switched without anyone being the wiser. Fake-Tom has sex with B’Elanna, which at the VERY least is dubious consent, and later assaults her in the hallway. B’Elanna goes to Janeway but gets told off for overreacting to a lover’s spat. Now it has been a long time since I saw that episode, and maybe I misinterpreted but… Grossed out is too mild to describe my feelings at the time. Of course once Tom switches back everything is all fine and dandy. Too creepy for words.

    What I have always been curious about is the relationship between the Doctor and B’Elanna. He’s the one to fix her up and she’s the one who fixes him up. And both seem to be both resentful and grateful for it.

  47. Maria says

    Maartje,

    UGH, seriously? I hate it when SF shows have women in authority spout conservative BS (like in BSG when Roslin was all “ALL UR BABEIS R BELONG TO US”

  48. Shaun says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    I get what you mean. The casting couch exists, it’s a problem we should talk about, but when you get into specific examples you could be working from a base of rumors.

    There are a lot of first-person accounts, though. My dad is a huge Trekkie (I almost feel like this is a confession) and had a lot of memoirs. I remember being interested in Nichelle Nichol’s because of some of the subject matter it talked about but I never actually read it. I’d be curious to see what the women who worked there thought of the environment.

  49. Sabrina says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Seeing as DS9 and VOY ran alongside for quite a while I’d say DS9 definitely had the better writers on board. They also had some incredibly strong notes on difficult topics like racism and xenophobia. So yes, it’s probably closer to the idea of what ST should be than all the other series. GR certainly wasn’t as perfect in his approach as many fans want to believe.

  50. Ebb says

    Heh, I remember liking this series but hating the ending. I really should rewatch the post-Next Gen shows.

    Robin: Not really, I’m afraid. Among those regularly appearing on the bridge (and named), there was only Counselor Troi (who didn’t wear a regulation uniform until late in the series run, grr), and security chief Lt. Tasha Yar, who was killed off in the first season to be replaced by Lt. Worf. There was, of course, a female CMO in Dr. Beverly Crusher (replaced for a season by Dr. Pulaski), so she did pull rank from time to time, and the head nurse was a woman as well. All the other department heads were male, as were the majority of their underlings.

    There was also Lt. Ro Laren, who started of as an ensign, only had 8 episodes to her(I remember her being more prominent, but the wikis don’t lie! …except when they do), and eventually [SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS] leaves the crew.
    I liked her if only because her story was stood out and I love redemption arcs. Unfortunately, there was an episode where the entire crew loses their memory so this leads to Riker playing the ‘playa’ with Troi and *sigh* Ro. Nothing much came of it but I still wish it wasn’t a thing in the first place.

  51. Sabrina says

    Ebb,

    AFAIK they desperately wanted to give Ro a bigger role but overall it didn’t work out because the actress didn’t want to. It’s a pity cause I also quite liked her. Then again we later got Kira and Torres as compensation – and I certainly won’t complain about them. ;)

  52. Ebb says

    Sabrina,

    Very true from what I recall!

    I just re-read this post and I’m going to watch Voyager on Netflix when I get the chance. It looks like they have all of the seasons too!

  53. says

    I loved watching Voyager, especially in the early series. Captain Janeway was most inspiring — I think her voice made up a large part of her command presence — and I identified strongly with Harry Kim. I’m actually surprised to read that Paris (a bit of a jerk) was supposed to be the audience surrogate character; Harry was young, naive, a little shy, a perfect character through which to introduce the audience to the ship and crew and the situation. (Plus he played the clarinet and was rather cute!) But I suppose it’s impossible that audiences could be expected to identify with a non-white character…

    I also liked the characters of B’Elanna Torres, Tuvok and the hologram doctor, so it was frustrating that so many episodes revolved around Paris (and he invaded all Torres’ stories when they began a relationship!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>