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Star Trek - Original Series The one that started it all...

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Old January 25 2015, 01:22 AM   #1
Joel_Kirk
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By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

Indeed, that scene with Yeoman Julie Cobb (I forget her name) and the security guard portrayed by a black performer. Given that it is an American show and how race works in America....one might think that 'Oh, good grief....the black guy is going to get!"

However, we get a little surprise. Kirk is upset that the cute yeoman has been 'sacrificed' and the security guard is the one who lives.

For me, I've always disliked the idea (perpetuated mostly by fans) that Star Trek is progressive. Especially, since 'progress' means different things to different people depending on one's experiences,including race, gender, sexual orientation....etc. Albeit, 'progress' is usually measured and viewed within racial lines.

If Star Trek is 'progressive' it usually is when it's subtle, not in your face, such as: 'LOOK FOLKS, WE HAVE ONE BLACK PERSON IN A SEA OF WHITE PERFORMERS! WE ARE A PROGRESSIVE SHOW!" Or, "LOOK FOLKS! WE HAVE A BLACK CAPTAIN ON A SHIP THAT IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED! PROGRESS! YES, HE'S" - and it's usually a 'he' - "IS GOING TO DIE, BUT HE DIES WITH HONOR! PROGRESS!" (Note: This is thinking that has spilled into other spin-offs during the Berman era. Of course, when we have an episode like 'Code of Honor' with a cast of mainly black performers - despite whatever when on behind the scenes - we have fans who are majority 'white' cry "RACISM! RACISM!")

Thankfully, in the age of the internet (as well as people overall becoming more aware of racial disparities and roles, basically put in place by American society) we can have another look at many of these images from past and present film and television and re-evaluate them.

In regards to that scene from 'By Any Other Name,' I want to say that Warren Stevens' alien possibly was making a statement. Maybe, like many aliens in the original, saw Earth as a place that still needed to grow up. For example, the writers would have Archer from "Enterprise" say 'we' - 'we' meaning Earthers - 'have put aside our differences.' (Well, I didn't see that reflected in the crew, nor reflected when the blue Andorian Shran would call humans 'pinkskins' basically ignoring those with dark or 'chocolate' skins. Now, if they put Shran under a pointed hood that probably would have made more sense ).

Interestingly, in the TNG episode 'Where the Silence Has Lease' the sacrifice to an alien 'testing humanity' IS an Enterprise crewmember....and that crewmember IS a black man. (It's almost as if the writers wanted to rectify their mistake in 'By Any Other Name').

Too, I posted many months ago how black people actually seem to do pretty well in red, given that 'red' is supposed to be a curse in the Star Trek franchise. We have the guard from 'By Any Other Name'...Uhura...as well as Sisko. The one unamed crewman from 'Where Silence Has Lease' is an anomaly.

Like the guard in 'By Any Other Name' that's a bit of subtle progress, i.e. it wasn't intended, and probably went over the head of the writers and directors.

Anywho, I'll probably add a bit more, but I found that little tidbit from this episode pretty powerful. Especially, when I - a black man working to get into film and television and someday have his own production company - look back at these images, especially given the current events in regards to 'race.'

(Quick Sidenote: I've seen some subtle 'progressive' scenes with Uhura, a black woman, being sexy and tough in 'Mirror, Mirror.' As well as Sulu, an Asian man, being tough and having a sex drive in the same episode).
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Old January 25 2015, 01:43 AM   #2
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

You don't think Kirk would have been upset if Shea (Carl Byrd) had been the one crushed? The real shock for me when I first saw the episode in the 60s was it was the onscreen "death" of a woman instead of a man on the series. Race didn't enter my mind at all.
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Old January 25 2015, 01:48 AM   #3
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

re "Code of Honor": if the all black planet were the one in "Justice" and if "Code of Honor" was the planet of the blondes then I doubt you'd see as many of these complaints. "Code" is just awash with Hollywood tropes about "savages" and when you cast that with a minority you can't be surprised that people will wince.
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Old January 25 2015, 02:49 AM   #4
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

From what I've seen of interviews and so forth, "Code of Honor" is reviled by the TNG cast as their worst episode. They consider it an embarrassment.

The crushing scene in "By Any Other Name" is, in a sense, the most violent and explicit death in Star Trek. I find it very disturbing.
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Old January 25 2015, 03:02 AM   #5
Mark 2000
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

I understand what Joel is saying about the fact that this is the only Star Trek episode ever where there's a majority black cast and people are finding reason to complain. It's really not that bad an episode in S1 terms. The E crew examining all the possible weapons to figure out a solution for each was clever. When Tasha jumps on Yareena to save her that was a great lady helping out a fellow lady moment. It's not even a problem that the Ligonians were "savages". Trek has had plenty of white savage planets. The only real problems are Lutan's cartoonish acting and the costumes that all look like Punjab from Little Orphan Annie. And that's almost a kind of self sabotage. It allows white folks to cry foul about a majority black show by wrapping it up in one or two details. And then the producers say "We better not have anymore black planets. It's just too touchy!" And they never did.

As for Any Other Name, I did really hope it wasn't the black guy and was surprised when it wasn't. But killing a woman is another motivational trope so really that scene is a no-win.
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Old January 25 2015, 03:27 AM   #6
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

Joel_Kirk wrote: View Post
(Quick Sidenote: I've seen some subtle 'progressive' scenes with Uhura, a black woman, being sexy and tough in 'Mirror, Mirror.' As well as Sulu, an Asian man, being tough and having a sex drive in the same episode).
Sulu gets his props in "Arena":

Arena wrote:
KIRK: We're helpless down here. And the Enterprise
SPOCK: Sulu is an experienced combat officer.
He was also left in command of the Enterprise during a state of war in "Errand of Mercy".

Uhura gets some props as well from Spock in "Who Mourns for Adonais":

Who Mourns for Adonais wrote:
SPOCK: Cut power, Mister Sulu. Lieutenant, we must restore communications with the landing party.
UHURA: I'm working, sir, but I can't do anything with this.
SPOCK: Oh?
UHURA: I might be able to rig up a subspace bypass circuit.

***

SPOCK: Progress report.
UHURA: I'm connecting the bypass circuit now, sir. It should take another half hour.
SPOCK: Speed is essential, Lieutenant.
UHURA: Mister Spock, I haven't done anything like this in years. If it isn't done just right, I could blow the entire communications system. It's very delicate work, sir.
SPOCK: I can think no one better equipped to handle it, Miss Uhura. Please proceed.
I would definitely liked to have seen more of these nods and moments from Uhura and Sulu in TOS. I do tend to think the Abrams films have brought the characters a bit more to the foreground than they had been. Which is a good thing.*

* - I'm not trying to turn this into a thread about the Abrams movies. Just noting that the current Powers That Be recognize that those characters have something to offer.
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Old January 25 2015, 09:22 AM   #7
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

Melakon wrote: View Post
You don't think Kirk would have been upset if Shea (Carl Byrd) had been the one crushed? The real shock for me when I first saw the episode in the 60s was it was the onscreen "death" of a woman instead of a man on the series. Race didn't enter my mind at all.
Ditto (although I saw it for the first time in the early 70's).

I also remember the music sending a chill up my spine.
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Old January 25 2015, 09:24 AM   #8
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

Mark 2000 wrote: View Post
It's really not that bad an episode in S1 terms.
Sorry, it was a bad episode for ANY season... of ANY Trek!
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Old January 26 2015, 03:50 AM   #9
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

CrazyMatt wrote: View Post

Sorry, it was a bad episode for ANY season... of ANY Trek!
That's just silly.
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Old January 26 2015, 01:09 PM   #10
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

Melakon wrote: View Post
You don't think Kirk would have been upset if Shea (Carl Byrd) had been the one crushed? The real shock for me when I first saw the episode in the 60s was it was the onscreen "death" of a woman instead of a man on the series. Race didn't enter my mind at all.
I fail to see how the death of a female human would be more tragic than the death of a male human white, black or purple.

And I'm with Joel here, Kirk seldom showed any care for the death of his crew or others, unless they were a) his personal friends b) people he was attracted to or c) both (Spock)
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Old January 26 2015, 01:20 PM   #11
Melakon
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

Orphalesion wrote: View Post
Melakon wrote: View Post
You don't think Kirk would have been upset if Shea (Carl Byrd) had been the one crushed? The real shock for me when I first saw the episode in the 60s was it was the onscreen "death" of a woman instead of a man on the series. Race didn't enter my mind at all.
I fail to see how the death of a female human would be more tragic than the death of a male human white, black or purple.
I didn't say more tragic, I said shocking. Note that I said I first saw the episode in the 1960s, I was 17 when it aired. Star Trek had killed plenty of men onscreen at that point, but rarely a woman, unless we count Edith Keeler and the woman in "The Deadly Years", and Nona in "A Private Little War". It was rarely seen in the 60s, though it happens all the time now. What intensifies it in "By Any Other Name" is Rojan "kills" her with his bare hands. It was a brutal onscreen murder for its time. If you weren't around in the 1960s, it's difficult to explain the nature of television then.

Kirk mourned over redshirts killed in "The Apple".
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Last edited by Melakon; January 26 2015 at 01:43 PM.
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Old January 26 2015, 02:16 PM   #12
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

The death of women on TV in the line of duty, in a military or paramilitary context, in the US of the 1960s, 1970s, and even later, especially women on "our side," was colored by the same cultural mores that affect how we, in real life, view putting women into combat, having women register for Selective Service, etc. It's something that our culture collectively finds even less desirable than putting men in harm's way.

I agree that the scene in "By Any Other Name" totally played against expectations and went for maximum shock value. It's a shame that the episode had to end without further reference to that crime.
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Old January 26 2015, 05:26 PM   #13
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

Melakon wrote: View Post
I didn't say more tragic, I said shocking. Note that I said I first saw the episode in the 1960s, I was 17 when it aired. Star Trek had killed plenty of men onscreen at that point, but rarely a woman, unless we count Edith Keeler and the woman in "The Deadly Years", and Nona in "A Private Little War". It was rarely seen in the 60s, though it happens all the time now. What intensifies it in "By Any Other Name" is Rojan "kills" her with his bare hands. It was a brutal onscreen murder for its time. If you weren't around in the 1960s, it's difficult to explain the nature of television then.

Kirk mourned over redshirts killed in "The Apple".
Ah I see so you meant it was unexpected because it had not happened before. Sorry for misunderstanding you.
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Old January 26 2015, 05:47 PM   #14
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

No problem. I'm just a cranky old fart.
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Old January 26 2015, 06:44 PM   #15
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Re: By Any Other Name - That CRUSHING Scene (Subtle Progress)

I think the original Star Trek was far darker than many folks now give it credit for.
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