That “What number am I thinking of?” bit goes back to when Afshar and Delos Reyes first met one year ago (in both real time and the comic’s timeline).
I know digital de-aging has been a thing for awhile, and Marvel has done a pretty bang up job at it since Brat Pack Robert Downey Jr. fought with mustached Roger Sterling in Captain America: Civil War. But this shot of Data from the new Picard show? Oy vey ist mir! He’s so bloated and puffy, like he’s holding in a comical amount of water in his cheeks. And his eyes… why are they so small? I get that a streaming TV show doesn’t have the budget of a billion dollar film, but that’s no excuse. If you can’t do it right then don’t. Use old Brent as is. Recast. Use a sock puppet. Anything other that whatever that is. Oh, god! It’s burned into my brain!
I’ve drawn a ton of different uniforms over the life of the comic – many in this current storyline alone. I’ve gotten to know their ins and outs and the details that make them all unique. Here’s my take on which worked best and which should be burned, ranked from favorite to most hated.
Toss-up: The Motion Picture Flag officer Uniform and Captain’s Class B
This one is a shocker to even me because I generally favor William Ware Theiss’s work far above Robert Fletcher’s. The flag uniform is a streamlined, powerful, high contrast statement that makes Kirk stand out as a rank above everyone else around him. It’s dressy, but it’s not bulky. It says “brass” without saying “dangling swords and medals”. And, yes, I even like the biorhythm detector that divides the midsection . The class B expertly walks a fine line between exploitively sexy and professional. The short, arm-squeezing sleeves, tight torso, and dipping v-neck (which evokes Kirk’s first season TOS wrap-around) are feminine, yet the same features along with the ribbed details contour and expose just how manly 1970’s Shatner was.
The Next Generation First Season Duty Uniform
Based heavily on the outfits Theiss created for Roddenberry’s failed pilot Planet Earth, the first season TNG uniforms are pure sex. The skin tight spandex unitard, stretched tight and wrinkle-free over (likely prosthetic) pecs, looks and acts like a comic book superhero outfit. The black shoulders even mimic a cape. Ever notice a lot of “Encounter at Farpoint” is shot from a worm’s eye view? It’s a classic superhero angle. The divide between the division colors and the black legs follows the shape of the Starfleet arrowhead. It’s a look that would define every uniform that would follow for the next twenty years (and more, judging from the upcoming Picard series). The shoulder and pant cuff piping is a nice detail lost in later iterations. While still militaristic, it tones those features down with boots mostly hidden under flared pant cuffs and pips replacing sleeve braids. It’s Star Trek’s most design-centric outfit. This goes for the skant as well. I love it, especially for its unisex quality. Dudes look as good in it as women. The sleeves are cute and the skirt is much more modest than its Original Series counterpart. A lot of fans like to repeat the nonsense that this uniform was impractical since the spandex demanded physical perfection from the actors. This concern seems to only apply to the men, since the women continued to wear spandex onesies throughout the series – even after pregnancies – while the men got loose two-piece outfits.
The Original Series Production Duty Uniform
This is the one that started it all (as far as viewers were concerned). It’s colorful, yet professional. Everything we expect from a naval uniform is present, including insignias, easily deciphered divisions, and rank. Their somewhat casual look is grounded in militarism by the sleeve braids and high-heeled boots. The short, untucked shirts over high-waisted pants should look goofy, but somehow don’t. Yes, the women’s skant is sexist. The skirt is so short one can often see flashes of underwear that would make any anime director applaud. This is hardly a look suited for an office or military environment, and the fact that its mandatory only makes it worse. But, from a pure fashion standpoint, with its long sleeves, asymmetrical collar, and thigh-high boots, it’s fabulous.
The Original Series Captain’s Wrap-Around
This is a sexed up, chest bearing version of the standard male uniform because, let’s face it, Star Trek presented Shanter as a sex object. I prefer the version with the collar braids. It gives more shape to the v-neck and broadens the shoulders without ugly padding.
Deep Space Nine/Voyager Duty Uniform
I’m not a fan of either of these shows, but I have a grudging affection for this uniform. It’s the best variation on Theiss’s original TNG design. It gave a two-piece outfit to women and men alike. The all-black body looks great, and while it tones down the colorfulness, the lavender turtle-neck somehow makes up for it. It also looks good with the sleeves rolled up. Though, that begs the question as to why there wouldn’t just be a short sleeve variant.
The Original Series Pilot Duty Uniform
Historically, this one actually started it all. It definitely looks like a primordial version of the production duty uniform. The colors are muted, the rank braids are less functional, and the insignias are small and hard to read. But it has its charms. It’s mostly unisex, and I like the ribbed collar that doesn’t try to be a mock turtle-neck.
Toss up: Discovery Enterprise and Beyond Duty Uniforms
These are both a decent variation on the Original Series duty uniform. My only quibble would be the collars and shoulders, which on both are just too stuffy and stiff. They get rid of some of the comfort and laxness of the original design.Props to Discovery’s black skirt variant which isn’t too short to be ridiculous, but isn’t too long to be puritanical.
The Motion Picture Everything Else
There is something to be said about a uniform that is comfortable on a ship with perfect environmental control. That doesn’t mean they should look like pajamas. Most of the confusing myriad of TMP uniforms just don’t work. They’re often unflattering and their colors, especially the brown, are bland and uninspiring. The unitards have nothing to break them up but the biorhythm device that adds a mere dot to the midsection. The two-piece honestly looks like sleepwear. Spock’s odd collar looks too complex for something that has so little detail everywhere else. The one variation I do like is the kimono top. It reminds me of the work jumpsuits in TOS.
2009/Into Darkness Duty Uniform
Supreme Kudos for returning to the show’s roots as far as flashy color and comfort. But this variation on Theiss’s TOS design just doesn’t work for me. The material is too thin. It looks like silk, and silk is tacky. It just doesn’t conform to the body the way the old velour did leaving a lot of unsightly wrinkles. The collar is too wide and loose and the hem is too long. Plus those pants are really chunky and haphazardly stuffed into the boots. Why would you stuff pants into boots? Are they going to be walking through a swamp? Are they fly fishermen? I’m also not a fan of the arrow head texture that covers the entirety of it. It looks like the netting on a football uniform top. The skirt variant is cut well, but with no sleeves comes no rank. How did they miss that for two films?
The Next Generation Third Season Duty Uniform
The folks slowly taking over TNG from Gene were sexist prudes, and the first thing that showed this was the change in the uniform. While Crusher and Troi had to keep on keeping on in skin tight spandex, the boys got these extremely paunchy looking two-piece muffin tops. What was supposed to be a more flattering option made everything on an aging man look worse. I mean, who wants love handles built into their shirts? And the mandarin collars just add to the stiff, no-fun-allowed theme. Were naked necks too sexy for Rick Berman? And please don’t tell me about how Patrick Stewart’s chiropractor warned him against the first season onsies. Chiropractors believe disease is caused by interruptions in life line energies.
The Next Generation Captain’s Jacket
I’ve got an idea. Let’s take a frumpy, ill-fitting mock turtle neck with ribbed shoulders and tuck it into frumpy, ill-fitting pants with no belt. Now, let’s put a frumpy, over large jacket made of velvet with a completely different style of ribbed shoulders on top of that. In the TNG style of covering the men as much as possible, this takes the cake. Kirk was all about ditching fabric when he put on a uniform variant. Picard just keeps adding pointless layers. At the very least the jacket doesn’t have shoulder pads.
Toss-Up: Discovery and Enterprise Duty Uniforms
Nothing is more boring and over used in modern science fiction than blue uniforms. Everyone looks alike. Nobody looks good. Enterprise’s coveralls make the crew look like janitors. Discovery’s blues are more form fitting, but still look like something a mechanic would wear. The boring blue clashes badly with the boring division-based metallics that line the sides. What’s really strange and off-putting is that it’s a two-piece, but the metallic design in the jacket continues onto the pants. Either make it a one-piece, or stop the metal works at the top’s hem. Rank is hard to see on both, with Enterprise’s as close set squares that blend together and Discovery’s as completely invisible pips hidden in the insignia.
First Contact Duty Uniform
The TNG movie uniforms enflame and exacerbate every problem with the previous incarnations from the third season on. They’re ill-fitting and poorly tailored. Even more color is drained out of them by making the shoulders a bleak grey. The ribbed shoulders are bulky and uncomfortable looking, and their padding is so thick it rides up when the actors lift their arms. Are they planning to play football in them? The inner layer looks to me a half inch thick and has a visible seam and zipper down the middle. For something made for a big budget film they look cheap and uninspired.
The Wrath of Khan Duty Uniform
WT-ever-loving-F were they thinking? These outfits would look ridiculous as dress uniforms, but as duty uniforms? The jackets are so absurdly ornate their difficult to parse rank insignias are on them twice – shoulder and arm. There’s a thick braid on the sleeve to show how long you’ve been in the service as if that’s important at-a-glance information. The collar colors that denote division clash with the bright maroon more times than not, especially the international orange Saavik wears around her neck. The jacket’s front fly opens to reveal… more jacket. It’s just as preposterous that anyone would run around a ship doing work in these as it is for Batman to do acrobatics in any outfit he’s worn since the 80’s. That’s why when people are prepping for the battle sequences in TWOK they’re all in the slightly less ugly and way more practical cadet outfits. Plus they look like bell hop…ehem… imperial navy uniforms. If the Federation is supposed to be anything, it’s definitely not an empire. And they somehow survived five movies and supposedly were in service for 75 years!
Hate to leave you on yet another cliff hanger, but I’m taking a little summer break. See you in two weeks! Don’t let the gamma rays of Proxima Centauri give you too bad of a sunburn.
Spring is sprung. The cherry trees are blooming. The kids are out of school. It’s Purim/Holi/that goyishe holiday with the rabbit. The comic is at a nice cliffhanger, so it’s a perfect time to take off for a week. We’ll be back on April 5th, 2019. Enjoy the warming weather!
“Great Mother of the Egg!”, the excited exclamation yelped by Acting Lieutenant Young in last Friday’s strip, was an expletive uttered by Romulan Ambassador Bendes in the Peter Pan Star Trek record, “In Vino Veritas”. I’m guessing it’s a reference to the fact that Romulans like birds. It was written by Alan Dean Foster who later wrote the final storyline for “The Motion Picture”.
The Mary Sue recently put up an article chastising William Shatner for so-called un-Kirk-like views regarding the #MeToo movement. I’ve chided Shatner myself on the subject and have been banned from his Twitter feed for doing so. The part of The Mary Sue’s article that annoyed me, though, was the Kirk/Shatner comparison. Ever since Erin Horáková’s essay “Kirk Drift” there’s been a new movement to beatify James T. Kirk as some kind of über-woke bae who slaps down misogyny at every turn. But what kind of feminist was Kirk really?
Horáková’s main piece of evidence is the excellent job Kirk does mentoring young Charles Evans of the Original Series episode “Charlie X” on sexual consent. Written by Dorothy Fontana, it features Kirk telling the kid not to force his affection on women and never put his hands on them without permission. He is not owed their attention. Considering the “boys will be boys” attitude many still have today, the speech seems downright radical for the late 1960’s. But did Kirk practice what he preached?
The fact is Kirk was, in many cases, a pig. I’m not here to bash Kirk’s general libido. We at the comic approve of and encourage physical love often and in all combinations. And, as Horáková points out, Kirk’s serious exes are all brilliant, professional women who still respect him with only a few exceptions. But what we see in action is a different Kirk, one that crosses a lot of professional lines and has a general disdain for female opponents.
Let’s start with the work place stuff. The first glimpse we get of the Kirk/Rand relationship is in “Corbomite Maneuver” Kirk is extremely rude to Rand and complains to McCoy about having a “female yeoman” forced on him. The implication on the part of both men is that Kirk is not trustable alone with a woman, even a subordinate.
Not long after, in “Enemy Within” we get the ugly side of Kirk’s lust where we’re shown that at least part of him is, in fact, capable of assaulting his assistant. After Rand is attacked by Evil Kirk, Good Kirk confronts her directly in front of Spock and McCoy who all gaslight her into believing it didn’t happen at all. Only the corroboration of a male witness makes Spock and McCoy take the accusation seriously. And even then they come up with the flummoxing idea that it’s an intruder, an assumption not yet borne out by the evidence they have so far.
Topping off the Rand weirdness, Kirk actually pulls her into an embrace on the bridge during a tense moment in “Balance of Terror”. From an erotic/dramatic stand point this is pure red meat for the audience, but from a real world, professional one it’s pretty unacceptable. Oddly enough prospective script writers were told this exact behavior was a no-no in the 1968 book “The Making of Star Trek”.
Rand isn’t the only female crew member who is the object of Kirk’s misplaced horn-dogging and general disrespect. In “Who Mourns for Adonais” Kirk and McCoy ruminate about what a waste Lt. Palamas is because female officers are bound to leave the service to start a family. To this day that’s an argument used in offices and academia to enforce the glass ceiling. In both this episode and “The Lights of Zetar” Kirk allows Scotty to harass an underling even thought they’re clearly not interested. He seems to even find it cute. In “The Immunity Syndrome” Kirk talks about how great it will be to take shore leave “on some lovely planet” while leering at a female crew member with McCoy and Scotty. After dealing with the Mirror version of Marlena Moreau, Kirk implies to Spock that he’s going to hit on the one in our universe. He then walks over to her and possibly does just that as the credits roll. “Wolf in the Fold” starts with Kirk and his male senior staff at a belly dancing parlor and ends with him inviting them to go to a club “where the women are sooooo…!” This is after witnessing several women, including a member of his own crew, get brutally murdered.
It actually gets worse when Kirk leaves the ship. Sometimes he’s just plain inappropriate with the natives like when he falls in lust with the ward of the one guy who can save his crew from a virulent disease in “Requiem for Methuselah” or when he sleeps with a sex slave that’s offered to him in “Bread and Circuses”. Then there’s that time he says the Federation will just have to “find another woman somewhere” to replace Ambassador Nancy Hedford when they’re forced to leave her behind in “Metamorphosis”. More often than not the captain uses his sexuality as a weapon against female opponents. How about that time Kirk forces the robot Andrea to kiss him so hard he leaves marks on her arms in “What are Little Girls Made of”? Or when he tries to win the affections of Sylvia, Shahna, Kelinda, and Deela in order to defeat them? Kirk never tried to seduce Kor or Rojan or Anan 7, so he’s either too much of a homophobe to take that kind of one for the team or he simply thinks there’s something specifically naive about women that will make them give up everything for his D.
And then let’s never, ever forget the unforgivably grotesque time Kirk asked Dr. Miranda Jones, point-blank, what a pretty thing like her is doing spending her life with an uggo like Kollos in “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”. It’s interesting yet unsurprising to note that this episode, with its deconstruction of Kirk as an insecure lothario and its example of murderous male entitlement as seen in Lawrence Marvick, was, in fact, written by a woman.
There’s no doubt that if Kirk was real he would be rightfully #MeTooed out of his command. But Kirk isn’t real. He’s a character. And we don’t have to approve of everything a character does to be entertained by them. We don’t have to be politically aligned with everything a TV show is putting across in order to watch it week after week. But we also can’t be blind to its faults and unsound messages. “Is There in Truth No Beauty” proves that even at the time Star Trek was airing women were seeing Kirk as problematic. He was a liberal guy who constantly strove for a better tomorrow, but when it came to women’s issues he fell way short. Trying to make him into a feminist icon is not helping anyone.
Hope you all are making spirits bright in whatever manner you love best. The comic will resume on January 8th, 2019. Oddly enough, it’s a completely hilarious coincidence that Delos Reyes is incapacitated in a cliffhangery way every time we go on break. Enjoy the rest of the holidays!
The Next Generation and it’s progeny had a number of annoying narrative crutches they relied on, such as the incessant “Captain’s Log” that started nearly every single episode. The other major one was the conference room. Both of these were used rarely in The Original Series, which usually started in media res, often not even on board the ship. The original Enterprise did have a briefing room, but it was used sparingly and certainly not in the midst of a crisis. Those discussions were left on the bridge.
The Next Generation, on the other hand, made it a point to take every important person off the bridge at any moment to sit around a table and leisurely confab. One of the most egregious examples is in “Q Who” where, after the ship has had a chunk of it removed by a still looming Borg vessel, the Enterprise just sits there while Picard calls a meeting. Could you imagine Kirk taking everyone down to the briefing room in “Corbomite Maneuver” with three minutes left on the counter to come up with his Big Balok Bluff?
This is not an appeal to tradition, though. The Enterprise D doesn’t have the same psuedo-military hierarchy as it’s parent show, and I respect TNG as its own kinder, gentler ensemble animal. Picard is a listener, not a dictator. People talk more and react less. The A.V. Club’s Zack Handlen once described The Next Generation bridge as a space for Picard to walk about and explore his options, as opposed to a place where he can just swing his chair one way or another and bark. There’s even more than one center seat so that everyone can sit down next to the captain and have their say.
That’s why, when looking at the many old Probert concept bridge samples Ryan sent me for the Vikrant I immediately seized on the ones that had replaced the captain chair completely with a conference table and also increased the size of the resources available to explore. I wanted to double down on the Next Generationness of The Next Generation while also keeping the action where it belongs – in the command center with the problem on screen in front of all involved. And, yeah, it looks even more like the lobby of a Hilton. So much the better.