No female starship captains in the 2250s-60s?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Noddy, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I can just see it. "Guys, here's a story about one of Kirk's former lovers really out to get revenge on him. And while we're at it we'll contradict three years of positive role models for everyone and concretely establish that women don't have what it takes to be starship Captains and can never hope to be. Oh, we'll also be ignoring what we established way back when the series was being developed as well as that little episode earlier this season that showed a woman commanding a squadron of starships. But of course she was alien and obviously superior to human women."

    Yep, I'm pretty sure it went something like that.
     
  2. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    I've been utterly serious on this point, in this thread and several others. I believe Christopher is being utterly serious, too. Harvey also, and no doubt others have been as well.

    Yes. Yes, it is. That's the point!

    Turnabout Intruder was the last episode made. I have to wonder whether standards had slipped because a lot of people involved were depressed, thought it was futile to care, were worrying about what comes next, etc. Can those knowledgeable with the product shed any light on this, one way or another?
     
  3. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I don't think the two make equal sense at all. If women are barred completely from being commanding officer, it would only make sense if they were also excluded from the chain of command completely. It would only make sense if a male officer had succeeded to command in Pike's absence. Why would a woman be eligible to take command sometimes, but not at other times? It's not credible.

    Placing women in the chain of command implies just that: They are in line to take command, period. Just like in the real world, when the US Navy allowed women to become line officers in the late '70s, it became inevitable that eventually a woman would take command of a US warship.

    As to whether a first officer succeeding to command counts as being "the captain," "The Tholian Web" strongly implies that it does. Kirk tells Bones, in his recorded message, to remember that Spock "is the captain," and Scott and McCoy both call Spock "captain."

    The rank of captain and the position of captain are different. We have been discussing the position. It was shown that a Starfleet officer can go beyond the rank of captain without having commanded a starship ("The Deadly Years") so the rank is not really pertinent to this issue.

    It seems pretty clear to me that "Turnabout" and "The Cage/Menagerie" contradict each other. I can also see all kinds of benefits in supporting the "Cage" interpretation and little for "Turnabout." Unless you're wedded to the idea of gender inequality in the TOS Starfleet, I'd say discard what "Turnabout" says on the subject and don't give it a second thought.
     
  4. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I don't agree the intent of the episode is to establish women cannot command. Particularly when the prime example used is a nutbar. And then they don't come out and explicitly say it. What I see is individuals using the words of an obviously irrational character to prove something that isn't supported anywhere else in the series. They are choosing to interpret something in a particular negative way rather than accepting what is a much more likely explanation.

    Lester was nuts. Period. Nothing she says can be trusted because she's long lost grip with all reality.
     
  5. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    This does not describe my position, and I've already explained why.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's the thing -- prejudice isn't a conscious decision. What's insidious about it is that it's unthinking, so even people who imagine themselves to be progressive can still have a lot of prejudices they haven't realized they have. By the standards of the 1960s, including women on a starship crew at all was progressive, but that didn't overcome the unexamined assumption that women would naturally fill the traditional roles of secretary, nurse, and the occasional scientist or lawyer, while men would fill the traditional roles of command and security and hold almost all the senior positions. They challenged one of the preconceptions of their era -- that women couldn't be allowed to serve on military vessels -- but they unthinkingly embraced another set of preconceptions -- that there was a natural difference between the roles that men were suited for and the roles that women were suited for.

    So you're right that it wasn't the conscious intent of the episode to assert that women should be excluded from command -- because that was something the writers didn't think they needed to assert. It was the default position that they accepted without thinking -- that men and women naturally have different specializations. The point that Roddenberry was hamfistedly trying to make was that, even though women's roles are different from men's, that doesn't mean they aren't valuable in their own way. He was going for a sort of misguided variant on ST's "It's okay to be different" message, saying that women didn't have to adopt male roles in order to have self-worth. We can recognize today how many unexamined preconceptions were blinding him, but it was too close to the everyday standards of the time for the episode's makers to realize how condescending they were being.

    It's important to have a historical perspective about these things, to recognize that prejudices are overcome incrementally and that attitudes that were progressive in their own day can be extremely backward by today's standards. So we have to take care to evaluate a creator's intentions in the context of their own era's attitudes rather than our own.
     
  7. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    That may be putting it too strongly. The intent of the episode was to give the characters an interesting dilemma to resolve in an entertaining way. Women's eligibility for starship command was a background detail to which the writing/editing team probably did not give a lot of thought, compared to the main plot.
     
  8. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    What I'm getting out of all this is that some seem to be asserting that an unconcious assumption (on the part of the writers) is to be taken as a de facto assertion that women cannot command in the TOS era. And that latent assumption is supposed to trump everything else seen in the series. I know Christopher and others are not arguing that, but some others (like the OP) seem to be taking that tack as "This is what the writers really meant."

    Maybe I'm thick but I don't see that latent assumption screaming all over the screen in that episode. I can see it if someone chooses to parse it so finely just to say, "There it is! It's a fact!"

    It's only there if one is looking for it and chooses to blow it all out of proportion.
     
  9. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm thinking it was conscious. A refection of the mindset of the times.
     
  10. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    "If only..."

    If only she wasn't TOTALLY INSANE, of course. Got nothing to do with her gender. But rather, everything to do with the obvious fact that she was a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

    Like I said before: Janice's obvious insanity means that nothing she says or does can ever be taken at face value. Thus, it's easy to dismiss even the "Your world of starship captains doesn't admit women" line. (That is, if you don't believe that she was speaking personally about KIRK's world, of course.)

    And like I also said: In the perfect future utopia that we all know Gene wanted to depict, it is inconceivable that he would leave just this one detail (women in command) out of it. If Gene was as sexist as a lot of people keep saying, Number One would never have existed! If a woman can be XO, then by definition, she can also be a captain. Simple logic.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  11. Crisp Crinkle

    Crisp Crinkle Admiral Admiral

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    If only the line had read,

    Her life could have been as rich as anyone's, if only. If only.​
     
  12. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Agreed.

    Let us also recall what happened way back when Number One was dropped after the first pilot. GR liked to repeatedly say that the network didn't care for the character. But in fact they didn't have a problem with the character, but with the actress and the fact she was well known as GR's extra-marital girlfriend. Of course I doubt GR would actually tell Majel Barrett that so he claimed the network didn't care for the character. And from there he would have been stuck because if he ever pushed a woman in command again then he'd look bad in Majel's eyes and the network would no longer be the convenient villains he could posture against, at least on that point.

    Once the series got up and running, and we had a more interesting character in Spock, the issue likely never arose again.

    I would really love to ask DC Fontana about this issue. I'd think she would certainly know something about this as to whether it was simply an unconscious omission or if it was actually a no-go subject.
     
  13. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    I take Kirk's reactions to Lester as having more weight on the issue than anything Lester says. I don't like the message of female inequality, but it's what was intended by the episode. Some novels have contradicted it, and I consider the novels to be pretty close to equal with episodes in continuity, so I'm on board with women being captains. Which I would be in principal anyways.
    I don't think anyone is saying that the sexist ban was a good idea.
    I do accept that TOS was a product of it's time, and subject to prejudice in ways tptb were sometime unaware of. It was still ahead of it's time on social issues.

    I had never heard that the network didn't like Majel. That's very interesting, if it's true. They did cast her as Chapel, but that was a smaller role, and maybe they liked her better in that role regardless.
    I can't help but think the more popular story of the network objecting on sexist reasons has to have some weight to it, given the time period and how controversal a woman in authority over men in a military setting would be.
     
  14. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    ^^ Then you're not aware that back in the mid '60s the networks were willing to be more proactive with positive roles for women. NBC didn't have a problem with the Number One character, but they had two concerns. One was that they didn't think Majel was strong enough to carry the character on a series and they didn't like the obvious nepotism of GR casting his openly known extra-marital girlfriend.

    Christine Chapel was basically a bone GR gave to Majel. And the network apparently had no beef with her in an occasional minor character.


    And also what is there in Kirk's remarks that supports Lester's assertions. That he chooses not to argue with an obviously ill woman? Oh teach, that must be it. How about his reaction is more like, "Yeah, whatever."
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2013
  15. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    I'm really not aware of any positive movements in the roles of women on tv in the 60s, but then I wasn't born until the early 70s.
    I've never really been all that up on behind the scenes gossip, but I had heard something about Majel being involved with GR while he was married to someone else. Apparently a rare instance where the mistress really did get the man in the long run. Interesting, but ultimately none of my business. I respect them both for the work they did.
    I'm not really aware of many strong women on tv in the 60s. Bewitched was doing some subversive stuff but they were very clever and covert about it. I am also a big Dark Shadows fan, and Julia Hoffman is a great character, an unmarried middle aged doctor who becomes a heroic figure fighting monsters, but my vague awareness of 60s tv is mostly of women as wives and mothers, maybe the occasional unusual character who doesn't fit in those cookie cutter roles, like Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke.
     
  16. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Diana Rigg as British Secret Agent Emma Peel in The Avengers. She could use guns and fight hand-to-hand using martial arts. Barbara Bain as the very capable agent Cinnamon Carter on Mission: Impossible. And M:I was being produced at the same studio as Star Trek. After Barbara Bain left the series the show had a string of similar characters to replace her. Marlo Thomas was a single woman in the big city on That Girl. In 1970 that idea was pushed further with Mary Tyler Moore.

    I'm sure there are examples I'm overlooking.

    Star Trek also had Commissioner Nancy Hedford, a ranking Federation official.
     
  17. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    And a female Romulan Commander.
     
  18. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Doh! How could I overlook that one after citing her myself earlier up thread?
     
  19. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    I do think it's interesting to point out how Trek's women seemed to have more authority, at least on screen, among the Romulans and maybe the Klingons. I'm not sure if there was a reason for that or if it was just the way things worked out. Possibly the writers just enjoyed having Spock have an attraction to a woman who was technically an enemy. She's a great character, and there's real sparks in their interactions. Part of me always wants Spock to run away with her.
     
  20. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I also forgot Stephanie Powers as agent April Dancer in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.

    The essential point is the climate with the networks allowed for strong roles for women and in extent the character of Number One on Star Trek. That Number One was dropped rather than recast was GR's choice and not NBC's.

    Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeannie were mentioned and shouldn't be discounted given Elizabeth Montgomery and Barbara Eden were the central stars of their respective shows.