Back in the mid-‘70s, I attended a lecture by Gene Roddenberry where he acknowledged some feminists were accusing him of using women as sex objects in Star Trek. He pled guilty, saying he intended to continue using women as sex objects but added, “to be fair, we will continue to use men as sex objects as well. I’ve played one myself. It’s great fun.”
Clearly, sex in Star Trek has been a subject of countless discussions since the original series aired, including a lengthy (and sometimes inaccurate) Wikipedia article touching on elements in all the series and films. Now, Will Stape beams in on sex in the original series although his book could be better titled “Star Trek Sexuality” as physical consummation was rather uncommon onscreen for Kirk, Spock, and the rest back in the day. But sexual aspects were there from the beginning, notably the alluring Susan Oliver as Vira in the pilot, “The Cage,” where Vira repeatedly tries to seduce Captain Pike (Jeffery Hunter) in a number of settings. Thereafter, the classic cast dealt with topics like inter-species breeding, prostitution, the raging hormones of puberty, attempted rape, population control, conflicting gender roles, out-of-control emotions, and many suppressed and not-so-suppressed desires. And that just scratches the surface.
While most of the book is a series of summaries describing the sexual elements Stape perceives in the first episodes, he later abandons the scope implied in his title. For one, his list of the hot babes of the Star Trek universe includes ladies from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Sorry, while some might find spaceships “sexy,” I found the chapter describing the different types of Federation ships seriously off topic. Perhaps I’m the one too limited. When I think sexy, I’m thinking Nichelle Nichols and Grace Lee Whitney in miniskirts, green slave girls, and Mudd’s Women and not the “Defiant” or “Reliant.” Nor latter-day parodies or the Howard Stern show.
Will Stape certainly has Star Trek credentials. For one matter, he wrote for both Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. So his familiarity with the mythos makes his Star Trek Sex an interesting addition to the canon of book-length Star Trek studies. Still, most Trekkies and Trekkers won’t learn much new—there’s really no new ground broken here—but readers might see the original episodes in fresh, and sometimes surprising ways. For example, while many remember the famous Kirk/Uhura kiss, they forget in the same scene Spock and Nurse Chappel are forced to share an inter-species embrace. And I didn’t know that kiss was preceded by one between James T. West (Robert Conrad) and Filipina-American actress Pilar Seurat on an episode of The Wild Wild West. Not a black and white match, of course, but such tidbits make these books worth perusing for unexpected nuggets of what we never knew before.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com
By Wesley Britton, author, The Beta-Earth Chronicles