Professor prepares to journey
I prepare for my journey by letting go of everything I do not need. I let go of things and even ideologies, values, and beliefs that prevent flight. I’m left with my Self. I’m ready.
Star Trek: The Beginning
Scott Mantz, President and Co-Founder of the LA Online Film Critics Society and recipient of the ICG Publicists Guild Press Award (honoring outstanding entertainment journalism), and Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp, author and currently a curator in the Space History department at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, communicated in “Star Trek and the Business of Network Television” the advancement of Star Trek in the media. The business model of network television enabled Star Trek: The Original Series to appeal to a wide range of audiences by increasing the availability of the show for visible consumption by a geographically broad audience due to Telstar communications satellite and by lengthening the hours of television broadcast from 6 a.m. to midnight to around the clock. At the same time, the move to network television provided limits: shows had to be family-friendly and keep audiences so interested that they would watch the commercials that were so profitable to the network. Without quick maneuvering to make the second episode family-friendly and exciting rather than cerebral, without the championing and funding of the production company Desilu, and without the fans pushing for a third series after Paramount Pictures bought Desilu and did not champion the show like Lucille Ball, who became the sole owner of Desilu after purchasing it from Desi Arnaz, Star Trek may very well have ended before starting its journey toward becoming a cultural phenomenon.
The pilot “The Cage” that initially was rejected by network television is introspective and philosophical. Captain Pike is portrayed as an idealistic perfectionist who has upon him the weight of determining and preserving both life and death. Upon hearing from his doctor-cum-therapist that there is no escape from either the living or the dying, the career crisis experienced by Captain Pike is countered by an adventure in a world in which Captain Pike is presented with a choice between fantasy and reality. The episode explores what is just and is reminiscent of works such as “The Storm” by Kate Chopin. If an action does not fall into a high morality or into an idealistic way of being, then that actually might not be a reason to reject the action based upon context and positive results that bring happiness. The episode also explores gender roles: women in the workplace as well as women as objects of desire who seem to have no agency and who, simultaneously, seem to operate from their own agency within an oppressive, patriarchal environment and thus both undermine and reify patriarchy. The episode addresses other related issues such as slavery and the human will. Quite a few controversial issues are covered in less than an hour, and it is no wonder that the episode was rejected because it was not reflective of the patriarchal homogeneity still drenched in manifest destiny at the time. The second pilot, though, was more exciting with a greater focus on action and a new, charismatic Captain. At the same time, the focus on elements on being—on being human—remained part of the basis of the series.