This week, the Enterprise visits Capella, land of shiny rocks, where people stab each other for fun and call it a favour, and women literally belong to their male relatives. Sounds like a super-sweet potential trading partner, right?
Capella, a pre-warp civilization (Prime Directive? What Prime Directive?) whose aesthetic falls somewhere between “Vikings! Rarrr!” and what looks 1960s’ Hollywood’s idea of Mongolia, happens to mine some Very Important Minerals that are crucial to artificial life-support systems. Bones has visited Capella so far, on a sort of semester-abroad deal where he tried to convince the highly-Darwinist Capellans that medicine is a swell idea, and in a supreme waste of effort, does run them through the Capellans’ veritable minefield of murder-worthy taboos before they beam down… so naturally everything goes to hell within about fifteen seconds.
Surely “avoiding escalation” should be a first-year course at Starfleet Academy??
The other part of the episode involves a Capellan civil war precipitated by a Klingon interloper, and a flight through the hills with the very pregnant widow of the usurped Capellan Teer (portrayed by a very committed Julie Newmar), who must now, by the laws of her people, be put to death; something that well-meaning but clueless landing party obviously will not allow.
Somewhere in this episode, deep, deep down, there’s a really clumsy and uncomfortable conversation about cultural relativism and the how everything sucks for women everywhere, always, but most of it is lost in the progression of frankly insulting comments about how said lady – whose name is Eleen, pronounced Ell-ee-enn – has no idea what she’s talking about and doesn’t know what she wants in regards to subjects ranging from her survival to her culture to her pregnancy to her own bodily autonomy.
We’re here to rescue you! …by ignoring your every explicitly stated desire. WHY AREN’T YOU MORE GRATEFUL
I mean, it turns around a little – mainly due to Eleen’s intervention on her own behalf once she puts that pesky childbirth business in the rearview. There follow some exciting and hilarious explosions and a series of frankly very silly grappling fights to defeat the Wicked Klingon and end the civil war. Eleen reclaims her life and her child and establishes herself as his regent – essentially the leader of the entire planet, after fifty minutes of being owned, dismissed, threatened, and smacked around by just about every man in the episode, including her doctor, while he is in the process of delivering her child. (And this in a D.C. Fontana episode! We can only assume the intervention of dudes later on in the process.)
It is… jarring, to say the least. Oh, Star Trek. As ever, you give me whiplash.
There, isn’t everything better when you just do everything men tell you?
We can only hope that Eleen, Regent of Capella, teaches her son to know better.
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[From The Not So Much The Neutral Zone Podcast]
In many ways Star Trek is an actual fucking study in how you can have the best of intentions and get so much right and still get so much so, so, so WRONG.
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