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

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Old March 16 2014, 07:45 PM   #1
Stoek
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Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

I had Trek on last night for background noise and I was playing Charlie X. My wife declared her desire for snack so we sat and ate popcorn chicken and watched the tail end before picking something to watch together. As I watched I realized something.

The bit towards the end where the pain on Kirk's face is evident as he realizes that he cannot fix the problem. The Thrasians are right that the Charlie problem is only going to get worse, at the same time he is essentially condemning a fellow human to a life of isolation. And he can so no way of making things come out right. In essence the white heterosexual young male lead the hero of a 1960's American prime time network television show... FAILS.

And it won't be the last time either. While to be sure Kirk doesn't fail often, from time to time there are situations where it is shown that he just doesn't have the ability to craft a resolution that is truly "best". In some cases he isn't even able to manage, pretty good.

To me that's pretty fucking brave at a time when the expectation was that the "hero" would always have all the answers regardless of the circumstances.
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Old March 16 2014, 09:27 PM   #2
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Stoek wrote: View Post
... a time when the expectation was that the "hero" would always have all the answers regardless of the circumstances.
I do hate disillusioning you, but the idea that the hero won't always succeed is one of the core elements of the grown-up western. If you have a couple half-hours get some of the radio Gunsmoke episodes --- they're easily available from archive.org and the like --- as while they're generally good shows, it's shocking to realize how rarely Matt Dillon is able to reach a happy conclusion. The best that's usually achieved is that at least the damage can be mostly repaired.

This isn't a knock against the Original Series. Part of what gives it its flavor is that it is a grown-up western set in space, where the protagonist is trying to provide order in a chaotic world and where one can realistically expect to just not be up to it at times. (Later Trek is much more an office drama set in space; while there is always the chance of failure, there's much more structure and organization in place around the characters, and a failure is less of a reflection of their smallness against the cosmos and more one of the system not having properly addressed the case just yet.)
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Old March 16 2014, 10:14 PM   #3
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Nebusj wrote: View Post
Later Trek is much more an office drama set in space; while there is always the chance of failure, there's much more structure and organization in place around the characters, and a failure is less of a reflection of their smallness against the cosmos and more one of the system not having properly addressed the case just yet.)
That's an interesting distinction, one I'd never considered in that context before. (makes note to think more about this)

Thanks for that slice of perspective!
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Old March 17 2014, 01:20 AM   #4
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Indeed, Kirk was conceived as a flawed and very human hero from the beginning. From TMOST:
James T. Kirk is an idealist, rather sensitive, with a strong, complex personality. Constantly on trial within himself, he feels acutely the responsibility of his position and is therefore fully capable of letting the worry and the frustration lead him into error. Ignoring the fact that he is also capable of fatigue, Kirk is often inclined to push himself beyond human limits. When he must give in to fatigue, he condems himself because he is not superhuman.
Perfect heroes make for bad drama. Hell, even Superman has his off days.
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Old March 17 2014, 11:05 AM   #5
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Trek got off to an even bolder start with Captain Pike: the lead character starts out brooding in resignation, shrugs off a distress call, and gets drunk with his doctor friend; has some adventures; and then walks away in like resignation, leaving behind a dying civilization and a dying female guest star.

That sort of stuff hooked people even back then, and it works very well in the current TV drama context. I bet not all of Captain Pike's adventures would have been that downbeat, had he continued as series lead, but launching the character that way was certainly an "adult" move that set the mood for Kirk's adventures as well.

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Old March 17 2014, 11:50 AM   #6
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

According to TMOST Kirk's character was inspired by C.S. Forrester's Horatio Hornblower and had this character not been portrayed with self-doubt (anything else than a superman) I don't think it would have been nearly that interesting to read (Yep, it's fair to say that Star Trek made me and some other Trek friends discover a whole new world of naval literature).

Bob
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Old March 17 2014, 04:26 PM   #7
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

There is a lot of darkness and downbeat moments in TOS that emphasize that it's not a Utopian future where the heroes always win and the ideal solution is always found. One can argue that PD situations often end with the least worst of solutions taken when none of the available choices are any good.

Hmm, that seems rather like real life.
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Old March 17 2014, 08:31 PM   #8
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Warped9 wrote: View Post
There is a lot of darkness and downbeat moments in TOS that emphasize that it's not a Utopian future where the heroes always win and the ideal solution is always found. One can argue that PD situations often end with the least worst of solutions taken when none of the available choices are any good.

Hmm, that seems rather like real life.

...which makes one wonder why the myth of TOS being "Utopian" ever took hold. TOS is littered with the the three "Ds" of death, destruction and dysfunction. Aside from assumed medical advances and the opportunity to explore, there's no glorious, gold-paved roads across the stars.
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Old March 17 2014, 08:53 PM   #9
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

TREK_GOD_1 wrote: View Post
Warped9 wrote: View Post
There is a lot of darkness and downbeat moments in TOS that emphasize that it's not a Utopian future where the heroes always win and the ideal solution is always found. One can argue that PD situations often end with the least worst of solutions taken when none of the available choices are any good.

Hmm, that seems rather like real life.

...which makes one wonder why the myth of TOS being "Utopian" ever took hold. TOS is littered with the the three "Ds" of death, destruction and dysfunction. Aside from assumed medical advances and the opportunity to explore, there's no glorious, gold-paved roads across the stars.
I think a great deal of it is related to context. The '60s were a turbulent time with established conventions being questioned and the threat of nuclear holocaust hanging over people's heads. Star Trek's very depiction of a multiracial group of characters working together in a far future as they reached out among the stars was in itself a powerful message of optimism. It was made even more powerful because it was shown "this is the way things are" and without over selling it. An analogy would be the depiction of a phaser in use---you don't explain it or how it works, you just show it. Throughout the series it showed the characters wrestling with preconceptions and bias and personal failings in aspiration of something better. It should humanity as we are trying to be who we want to be.

And I think this is part of why TOS still resonates after all these years. TOS didn't show us a literal Utopia, but perhaps a comparative one. Strictly speaking it depicted a better but certainly not perfect future.

That said fans picked up on this, interpreted it in their own ways and projected that back onto the show. They repeated these things back to Gene Roddenberry who in turn seemed to try putting a lot of it into TNG. I think that's partly why early TNG can seem a bit pompous because it's telling us rather than showing like TOS did.
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Old March 17 2014, 08:55 PM   #10
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Robert Comsol wrote: View Post
According to TMOST Kirk's character was inspired by C.S. Forrester's Horatio Hornblower and had this character not been portrayed with self-doubt (anything else than a superman) I don't think it would have been nearly that interesting to read (Yep, it's fair to say that Star Trek made me and some other Trek friends discover a whole new world of naval literature).

Bob
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Old March 17 2014, 09:00 PM   #11
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Earth is a utopia. It's why TOS never goes there--utopia is boring.

TNG brought that utopia shipside. That's why TNG is boring and seldom holds up to repeat viewing--those rare episodes that do are invariably the darkest ones.
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Old March 17 2014, 09:17 PM   #12
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Earth is a Utopia according to TNG and that is retconned onto TOS, but what the original creators thought of Earth back in the day is undefined. The real reason they never showed future Earth is it was a can of worms GR didn't want to open and it could have been a minefield in terms of budget.

One can say that we get a glimpse of what GR was thinking in his novelization of TMP, but none of that is shown on-screen. In TMP we saw nothing of GR's "new humanity." In the novel Decker is supposedly an example of "new humanity" but again it's not referenced anywhere in the film. If anything the film shows that Decker would likely have been stymied by Vger while Kirk was indeed the right man for the job.
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Old March 18 2014, 03:16 AM   #13
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Decker's example of "new humanity" needs to wear a cup.
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Old March 22 2014, 08:45 PM   #14
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Re: Charlie X Is Incredibly Brave

Stoek wrote: View Post
In essence the white heterosexual young male lead the hero of a 1960's American prime time network television show... FAILS.
[..]
To me that's pretty fucking brave at a time when the expectation was that the "hero" would always have all the answers regardless of the circumstances.
I think your premise about mainstream American television of the 60's is a cliché and I don't see any connection with bravery (or cowardice). Charlie and the Thasians had superpowers...and those superpowers itself had limitations. In fact, the Thasians failed too.

Kirk and his crew will have their ass saved by powerful alien being on other occasions too, it's a part of the deal when you decide to explore space. Errand of Mercy is a paradox: it's a failure, because they're owned by the Organians, and a success, because a war is avoided. In "Who Mourns for Adonais?" they will have a bitter victory against an ancient god.

Oh, and thanks Nebusj for your observation.
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