We’re taking a break from talking about writing this week, because I simply cannot pass up the opportunity to share this with you.
So, my kiddo is a bit quirky. Always has been. Lately, the easiest way to get him to nap is to curl up on our bed with him and watch an episode of the classic televisions series Star Trek. (It's unhealthy how much I love my Roku player). I know, it’s probably a little cruel to be turning him into a nerd at the tender age of two, but let’s face it--it was just a question of when, not if he would become a nerd. A well-rounded nerd of all subjects, I hope--nay, insist--but nonetheless.
(P.S. That pic isn't me, it's just a reasonable facsimile of my state while experiencing the video below).
The point is, I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek lately, in all its campy glory. I used to watch the show as a kid (no, not when it originally aired, thank you very much), and although I remember a lot of the episodes from Seasons 2 & 3, I can honestly say I had blocked most of Season 1. It's been an entertaining trip down memory lane, believe me. The costuming is reminiscent of a high school play, the stage makeup is orange and applied with a trowel, and the acting...well, okay, the acting stayed about the same for the whole run of the show.
A few days ago, I was lucky enough to see the second episode of the season, entitled Charlie X. Charlie is a mysteriously orphaned boy found on a planet and beamed aboard the Enterprise for transport to some space port, or something, I don’t recall the details. What matters is the glorious moment in which Captain James T. Kirk takes the wayward adolescent under his wing in order to teach him the ways of being a man. This kind of lesson can only be taught in a gym. Wearing bright red wrestling tights and no shirt.
If you think I’m making this up, please take a few moments to watch this scene.
There are a few notable details for me.
- Everyone is wearing red. I have no idea why.
- The women are apparently restricted to performing second-rate gymnastics in a narrow hallway. Perhaps the fear of smacking their extremities on the ceiling or the walls elevated their heart rates into the aerobic range when the cartwheels alone couldn’t do the job.
- The crew of the Enterprise studied Stage Fighting at theater camp in order to add a bit of flavor to their workouts.
- The props left behind from this show were lucky enough to find a second life in the 1990s when American Gladiators hit the airwaves.
- Captain Kirk’s athletic prowess is best expressed by his ability to take a punch. “You gotta slap the floor, Charlie.”
- The big Redshirt loitering near the wall during Kirk’s teaching moment is apparently trying to build up his biceps by pulling on some coat hooks. Which, I suppose is fair enough considering that Kirk couldn’t even be bothered to wear a shirt, much less hang it on the hooks provided on the walls.
The tragic part about this clip from youtube.com is that it cuts off too early. Here’s why: After Charlie uses his amazing mental powers to make Ensign Ricky disappear, Kirk takes a moment to give him a stern look in extreme close-up before...well, actually, that’s about all he does. A sixteen-year-old boy just vaporized one of Kirk’s crew, and he looks inscrutable. After a moment, he casually walks to the intercom and calls security, informing Charlie in a dispassionate way that he’ll be confining the boy to his quarters. For a show that made famous the line, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a (fill in the blank noun here) ,” this is a shocking underreaction.
Maybe the scriptwriter originally had some great scenery-chewing lines that William Shatner could really sink his teeth into, but the director was so overwhelmed by the majesty of the physical fitness he’d just delivered to his audience he knew they would be numb to any emotional outburst. Maybe there was some subtext that was lost on me, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, Kirk’s lack of reaction is the maraschino cherry on top of the visual sundae that is this scene.
With apologies to James Lileks, I just had to share this with you all. Don’t worry, I have no intention of starting a series of Star Trek related blogs. This scene caught my fancy and I am now enriching your lives with it.
In case you decide to bring it to your next book club meeting, church potluck, or Pampered Chef party, I’ll leave you with a few discussion questions:
- Was fitness so primitive fifty years ago, that this--THIS--was the great vision of the future? This was the best that the minds behind matter transporters and the predecessors to the cell phone could come up with? Giant Q-tip fighting behind a chain link fence and cartwheels so uninspired that they didn’t even disrupt the towering beehives of the female crew members?
- Was the shirtless Shatner supposed to be titillating?
And if you’re really bored, the rest of the episode is available on youtube. The basket-weave hair-do would be worth the time spent, trust me.
Live long and prosper.