nika once said she had no interest in watching The Animated Series … yet here we are, discussing “Yesteryear”!
- We may be a Star Trek podcast, but we’re a Star Trek podcast with a lot of Loki feels
- (Seriously, this episode includes big spoilers for Loki and a big-ish spoiler for WandaVision)
- Children’s media before stranger-danger was invented
- Abolish the time police
- Ethical time travel
- We made it to the 30 minute mark before declaring Sarek THE WORST
- Where’s Michael in the Yesteryear timeline?
- Okay, now imagine if Sarek adopted Loki…
- So Spock loses a pet, and he can choose to forego emotion for the rest of his life, but the rest of us just have to deal with our feelings? Unfair!
It’s the episode where we wish the tiny Vulcan children would put some clothes on!
Anika: Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext, and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz. This week, we’re discussing The Animated Series episode Yesteryear. That’s right! Liz convinced me to do an Animated Series episode.
Liz: I knew you had watched this because you did the Amanda Fashion Project for me, which I was very grateful for. And I thought, well, rather than making Anika watch a different Animated Series episode, what better way to launch into season two of Lower Decks than talking about this one, which is said to be the best – and only canonical, in Gene Roddenberry’s eyes – episode of the original Animated Star Trek.
Anika: I have not seen all of The Animated Series, but of the three that I have seen, it’s definitely the best.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah. I think that that’s about it, really.
Anika: No, that’s not all I have to say about it because this is actually a very sweet Spock story that, having been – so I’m doing this – it’ll be out by the time this is out, a new vid that’s a tribute to all of the Star Treks up through Lower Decksseason one, because I’m not including Lower Decks season two. Cause I’m putting it out before, before it starts.
So I’ve been watching little bits of every series, a lot. I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek over the past few days. I’m at Discovery. I’m almost done with Discovery, and then I’ll be moving on to Picard and Lower Decks and Short Treks. But other than that, I’ve watched everything. In little micro doses, though, but that means that I’ve seen parts of The Original Series, and the Spock parts of Next Generation, and the movies, and Discovery. A lot of little bits over the course of a very short amount of time, and Yesteryear actually fits in very well to Spock’s canon. So that’s fun. Yeah.
Liz: I think that’s because it’s written by DC Fontana, and she loved Spock, and she really put a lot of thought into this story. It ties in so closely with both Journey to Babel and the City on the edge of Forever that it doesn’t feel like a silly after thought the way, for example, the TAS episode about the giant robot Spock clone might.
Anika: Well, that’s one I’ve only heard about–
Anika: –but I believe. The Mudd episode of TAS unfortunately went in well with the Mudd episodes of TOS. But that’s not a compliment to either. And the tribble episode, which is the other episode that I’ve seen – those are the three episodes I’ve seen of TAS, and the tribble episode was very forgettable. It did not stick in my mind. The only thing that stuck in my mind is that there are canon pink tribbles
Liz: Which is important, but can they make up for everything else?
Anika: TAS does seem like we’re bringing out all the old hits of TOS, but wackier. I read a little bit of what Gene Roddenberry and DC Fontana said about it. And I love this, I will say, one of the purposes of The Animated Series was to do things that they couldn’t do with special effects in live action. And that’s great. I love that that was a point of doing this, a purpose. And so I can’t like be super angry at giant robot Spock–
Liz: No, no.
Anika: –or the griffin that appears in this episode. I actually love the griffin that appears in this episode, it’s fun, but also, it’s weird.
You know, we’re watching this because the Lower Decks is premiering soon and we’re getting ready for jumping back into that universe. And Lower Decks similarly does crazy things that are nonsensical, but Lower Decks does them on purpose. Whereas TAS tries to take it seriously.
Liz:Watching TAS, I sort of realized why my parents don’t take animation seriously.
Liz: Like, it’s cheap, it’s silly. It has brilliant ideas, but doesn’t really execute them with the sophistication of even live action Star Trek. I understand that there were a lot of budgetary constraints that went into TAS but it is now not, to me, a particularly great Star Trek.
Anika: Yeah, it’s just … I mean, whatever, it’s fine. It’s fine. We’ve discussed that I don’t love TOS either. And it sort of suffers from being more TOS, but even TOSier. It’s not going to be my thing.
But I did enjoy this episode. I think it’s a great little Spock story. And it’s ridiculous. Everything that happens is ridiculous, but that’s okay. That’s fun! And it was a really great time to rewatch it because I’ve been sort of, you know, semi obsessed with Loki.
Anika: This episode reminded me of Loki!
Liz: I had so many feelings about – first of all, this is an episode where Sarek is more than usually a bad dad. I thought a lot about the parallels between Loki and Spock, and Odin and Sarek, but particularly Frigga and Amanda, as mothers who love their kids, but are also complicit in the emotional neglect that they suffer.
Anika: But it does go back to the fact that Amanda was created in 1968. She’s very 1968. Like, 1968 feminism, but it’s 1968 feminism. And I love that Discovery has teased that out and been like, “We have to explain why this is the way this is.” No points to the MCU for Frigga’s characterization–
Liz: Because that was the 2010s and there was no excuse. I just don’t think Frigga was a person to them.
Anika:Right. They just did not care. They did not care. And she didn’t get any characterization until after she was dead. And I love the fact that they brought her back and made her important, briefly, in Endgame. That was like a gift to me. But it was definitely an afterthought, literally. It was literally an afterthought, like, five years later.
And yet, at the same time, that’s one of the things that – not good fans of the MCU, but the terrible fans at the MCU are like, “We don’t care about her. We didn’t need to bring her back.”
Liz: It’s interesting that we don’t see the same sort of level of hostility to Spock’s mum in Star Trek fandom. And I don’t want to say that Star Trek fandom is so much better than others, but I feel like we’ve had time to process our stupid ideas and get them out of the way.
Anika: And I think it’s also that the bad MCU fans are still watching the MCU, but the bad Star Trek fans are angry at Discovery. They only hate watch Discovery. And so it’s very easy to ignore them.
Liz: True. Sure.
Anika: You can just sort of, you know, do a blockchain and be like, “I don’t have to talk to you.” Mute “STD”. I mean, that makes things better on multiple levels.
Liz: It’s true. There might be heaps of men out there complaining that Amanda is too prominent and, you know, more important than Sarek, and I just haven’t observed them. And if I don’t observe them, do they didn’t exist at all? They do not! (laughs)
Liz: So this is a time travel episode in which Spock and Kirk have taken a nice jaunt through the Guardian of Forever, with no mention of the deeply traumatic events that took Kirk through it last time. They’re there to observe a bit of history.
But when they come back, they find to their horror that the timeline has been changed in Spock’s absence. And they are now in a timeline where Spock died as a child, and his parents separated, and then his mother died. And the first officer of the Enterprise is an Andorian.
And what follows is a very simple story where Spock goes back through the Guardian of Forever to save his younger self. And along the way, he deals with some family stuff and loses a pet.
Anika: So he remembers the time when the other Spock died, he remembers almost dying, but he remembers his cousin saving him. And so it turns out that his cousin quote, unquote, was Spock, Spock from a different timeline shows up and saves Spock. And yeah, he’s literally parenting himself.
Liz: It’s not like his parents are going to do it!
Anika: That’s what he does in this episode. Older Spock shows up, and is a better parent in like the half an hour he spends with little Spock than his parents are for their entire lives. So that’s a little upsetting, but it’s also very – there’s a lot of stuff going on. Older Spock understands his parents, older Spock understands what young Spock needs to hear from an adult that his parents never told him.
And it’s all wrapped up in, you know, the troubles of a mixed marriage and two different cultures, two different cultures that don’t really get along to begin with.
Liz: And that have very conflicting and contradictory outlooks
Anika: So Spock, who calls himself Selek–
Liz: I just picture, like, Spock with a big mustache.
Anika: (laughing) Spock in a Hawaiian shirt.
Anika: So our Spock, pretending to be Selek, finds young Spock, and tells him how to be a Vulcan in the Spock way. It sort of suggests that the only reason that Spock got out of childhood as a sane person is that Spock came back in time and told him how to do it.
Liz: He is sort of his own grandfather in the psychological sense?
Anika: He’s at least his own mentor, his own teacher.
Anika: I have a lot to say about the fact that Sarek and Amanda are sort of like, “Yeah, sure, that cousin I’ve never heard of–“
Liz: Yeah. “We’ll let this complete stranger–”
Anika: “–we’re definitely related, you look like us, so sure.” And the fact that they basically abandoned their child to this random cousin that they’ve met like 15 minutes ago, who could be literally anyone. I mean Sarek is famous. Sarek is a celebrity. It would be so easy to kidnap Spock and or Amanda for ransom. And I get that like, you know, Vulcan is very, “oh, we don’t have crime,” but I’m sorry, Sarek, you’re ambassador of Earth. Many people want to harm you and your family.
Liz: It made me think that this was made in the seventies and it was before the whole stranger danger child kidnapping panic of the eighties. And so you do wonder if, even just a few years later, it would have played out somewhat differently.
Liz: It was a more innocent time.
Anika: I guess. It’s so funny to me. I mean, I’m very much a child of stranger danger being taught to me from a very young age. Like, kindergarten was when we were introduced to this idea. And you were terrified for the rest of your life.
Liz: Right, right. I listened to the You’re Wrong About episodes about the moral panics of the eighties, and stranger danger was a very much an inflated fear, but I’m still like, “Don’t let this strange man into your house to hang out with your child! At least supervise him!”
Anika: They just were like, “Cool. You’re here to hang out with our son, we’ll go out, you have fun. Like, take him on the field trip to prove he’s a man when he’s clearly not a man!” I don’t know how old he is. They’re young – are they seven?
The whole thing is terrible. Vulcans are terrible. Sarah and Amanda are terrible. Spock is the only good Vulcan.
Liz: I certainly believe that when Tuvok prepared his children for this rite of passage, he did a much better job than just going, “And you won’t disappoint me, will you?”
Anika: “Spock, I have some important advice for you. Do not disappoint me. Or else.” Like, that’s it. That’s his only advice.
Liz: What really blew my mind about this story is this idea that this little boy, this boy of about seven, is expected to choose between two contrasting cultures, and that’s his entire life from that moment. And I don’t even think people should be choosing their college degrees when they’re 17!
Anika: So I went to Brandeis University – where Gates McFadden went – which is a historically Jewish university. I’m not Jewish, and neither is Gates McFadden, but whatever.
Liz: It has a great arts program.
Anika: It has a great arts program. Exactly. So my oldest friends are the people that I met in college, and they are predominantly Jewish. My oldest and dearest friend, who was my sophomore year roommate, she married a Christian. And she raises her two sons within the Jewish faith. And they’re considered, you know, like, by blood Jewish, because it’s a maternal line. They are very, very Jewish and they both had bar mitzvahs, and, like, this whole thing, but they still also go celebrate Christmas with his family. They know all of those legends. I think that they would identify as Jewish, but they know a lot of Christian rites. They certainly respect their father and his family and their belief system.
Liz: And it’s not a case of, “Oh, well you’re Jewish. So we just won’t talk about your dad’s heritage.”
Anika: There was never this idea that as soon as you’re 16 and you decide to be a Jewish man, you no longer are allowed to like, care about your dad’s beliefs or his family, or have a day where you celebrate Christmas. Like, it’s okay. It’s not a bad thing. It doesn’t make you this horrible human being, or horrible Vulcan – but on Vulcan, it totally does. You are bad at being a Vulcan if you do anything to celebrate your mother’s culture. And that is wrong, I’m just going to put it out there. Bad Vulcans. Bad Amanda, for not, you know, saying, “Hey, I should count here.”
Liz: I wondered if this is a product of how the culture treated mixed relationships at the time, because I’m also thinking, now, of the iconic novel, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, in which the heroine has a Jewish parent and a Christian parent, and is also feeling like she has to choose one. So I wonder if just the culture at the time was not comfortable with the idea of a third culture kid, the way we are – or the way we try to be now.
Anika: I’m sure there are plenty of mixed marriages that you do have to choose. And, you know, there’s people who convert to a certain religion in order to get married. And all of that is valid. Like it’s – I’m not gonna get into any religious [stuff], but for this fantasy planet that we made up of Vulcans, like it’s gross that logic is their religion and that, therefore, that means that no other cultures can do it.
Liz: There’s no validity in anything else.
Anika: Yeah. It’s so weird. It’s so weird that Vulcans are supposed to be superior to humans in all ways. And yet they’re so backwards in some of their belief system.
Liz: In-universe, I can sort of point to it and go, well that’s because they’ve effectively been a monoculture for thousands of years, and anyone who disagreed just went into exile and formed their own separate culture. So they haven’t learned to co-exist the way human cultures had to.
And outside of that, I just have to explain it as, it’s a product of the times, and Vulcans were a metaphor for humanity.
And I do think that we see evolution in the way Vulcans are expected to integrate into society. And, you know, I think Michael comes along just after this kahs-swan and her experience is very different.
Anika: Yeah. You’re right about Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Cause I’ve also read other books, you know, about immigrants or immigrant families. I feel like I’ve read a lot of them. I don’t know if I was interested, or if were that’s what was being taught when I was going through history and social studies in the eighties and early nineties. I’m curious if I’m a product of the times, too.
But I do remember those stories that were written about the same time, and they are very, “You have to choose.” You shouldn’t have to say, “Now I’m just all American all the time” in order to be considered a person.
Anika: So I want to talk about the Guardian of Forever, because it showed up again in Discovery, as we know, and it was played by Paul … I can’t pronounce his last name, but he was in CSI.
Liz: Captain Brass.
Anika: And so, again, I saw Loki parallels, and the idea of that, the Guardian of Forever was very much the idea of He Who Remained, AKA the head of the TVA, who basically made sure that time went the way he wanted it to. And he said it was ‘the right way’, but the reality was, it was the way that he wanted it.
Liz: Yes. And damn any little girls who get in the way of that.
Anika:Right. And so the Guardian of Forever is like sort of a more genial – a more reasonable one. The Guardian is totally okay. It was like, “Oh yes, Spock, sorry that you accidentally erased yourself from time. Well, you can fix that. Go ahead.”
Anika: It’s fine. But it was still these super powerful overseers of the time. Guardians of time and Guardians of Forever. And I was just really into how City on Edge of Forever, this story from long, long ago that is still resonating throughout Star Trek, is also resonating throughout other properties. Like, you could also say that the world between worlds is the same idea too, which is the Star Wars version. And that’s super fun. All these stories are related, and I’ve said many times, there’s no new stories. It’s just different ways of looking at them.
Liz: And I think that as much as it really flattens our culture to look at everything through the perspective of, “is this a franchise, and is this inspired by X other thing, or is it just somethings people came up with independently,” the connections are there, and they can be important. And we can have both conversations.
Anika: Yeah. If a story shows up in multiple places, then you start thinking about why. You start thinking, “Well, why is that interesting to people?” And it’s definitely interesting to me. I’ve lived my entire life on the idea that I make different decisions and another universe, you know, pops up somewhere.
I don’t want me to sound like a narcissist. I’m saying that that’s for everyone. It’s comforting to me as a person to say, “I have to make this choice. And so I’m going to choose A, but somewhere in the universe, I chose B. And so that happened as well.”
It makes it easier for me to make that choice and to let it go and say like, okay, you know, I made the best choice for me right now, but somewhere else, another me made a different choice that was the best choice for her.
Sort of like the opposite of the TVA, but it’s just … really, it empowers me to make decisions. I get a lot of anxiety about decisions. I don’t know. I feel like I’m not alone.
Liz: No, no, I think that’s very common, and I think, certainly, your way of dealing with it makes as much sense as any.
For me, I think particularly in the last few years, the idea that there is a great and powerful entity controlling things, and making sure things turn out the way they want – it’s deeply terrifying! It should be reassuring, but I hate it.
And so I’m very into Sylvie killing He Who Remains, and I’m very into the idea that the Guardian of Forever has just noped out of society and is only turning up when a very special episode is required.
Anika: But what’s fun is to sort of think of like, what if Paul – what’s his name, Guardian of Forever, met up with He Who Remains? Imagine the dinner conversation. I just think that would be great. Cause they’re sort of, “we’re very the same, but we look at it from different perspectives, “and that’s like – that is fiction. That is the story. There’s so many threads there, and it’s so fun. So that’s all I have to say.
Liz: I was very interested by DC Fontana saying something about how this is ethical time travel, and had she had room to make a bigger episode, a full hour, she would have explored the fact that Thelin, the Andorian first officer, is not being wiped out of history by Spock’s actions here. He’s just going to take a different path.
And I liked the idea of ethical time travel. I think that is a phrase that we should introduce into our lives. And I enjoy Thelin as a character because he’s barely there – and he’s just kind of, I don’t want to say basically Spock with antenna, because he’s actually quite well-drawn, but he’s a very simple character who has nevertheless very quickly [feels real].
Anika: You could definitely tell stories about him. You could do a Short Trek about him and people would be into it, because you want to know what happened to him. At least, I do.
And I agree, I like the idea of ethical time travel, but it’s another one of those things where it’s like, who decides what’s ethical? And again, that’s another interesting story to tell and talk about. That’s very Loki.
And there’s also like … I lost my thread. I was going to say something about specifically D C Fontana having her ethics, but I don’t remember what it is. If it comes back to me.
Liz: I will seamlessly incorporate it. (I will not seamlessly incorporate it.)
Anika: Oh, I know what it was! It was that Voyager deals with this, and Voyagerlike totally gets called out multiple times for unethical time travel, but also, they keep doing it. Like Voyager are literally ends on, let’s just, you know, timeline be damned.
Liz: Maybe, with time travel, ethical is what you get away with.
Anika: It’s possible, but it’s interesting that they have time cops, you know, similar to the TVA, that show up and say, “No, you can’t do that.” And it’s in Deep Space 9, too, like Trials and Tribble-ations.
Liz: It’s even, now and then, a small thing in classic Doctor Who, with the Celestial Intervention Agency – the CIA – who are the Time Lords that interfere. And yeah, this idea that we need all powerful bodies to control time for us….
Anika: I mean, that’s related to the fact that we think we need all powerful bodies to control everything. Like we think we need cops.
Anika: We need time cops because we need cops. Like, that’s the throughline, right?
Liz: So what I’m saying is, abolish the time police.
Anika: Yeah, abolish the time police.
Because this is very similar to the, you know, why do we need eight different Star Treks. Why do we need a Black Widow movie after she died? And it’s like, because someone wants that. I want that! I have been waiting for a Black Widow movie my entire life.
Liz: I know.
Anika: And I finally got it. So this idea that there is one way to do things, that there’s one story to be told, and nothing else matters – I’m Sylvie. And I say, no, that is just not true.
Liz: I am always Team Sylvie.
Speaking of women and relationships in the alternate timeline, Spock dies. And so Amanda divorces Sarek and then dies on her way back to Earth, because I guess we can’t have anyone remarrying because mothers are ‘pure’?
Anika: I’m just really, really into this. It suggests that the only thing keeping Amanda in this relationship is her children.
Liz: I mean, it’s not unusual for a relationship to end after a child’s death. I have no personal experience, but I understand it’s very common, but I’m also like what was keeping – like, she could have left any time. Just take your children and leave Vulcan, Amanda, you can have shared custody with Sarek. You don’t even have to get divorced! You can stay married and just live on Earth. Make him adapt to you!
Anika: It’s funny because Spock really acts like an only child, even though we know that he has siblings.
Anika: But he is their only – he’s Amanda’s only, “you are my child that I gave birth to. “
Liz: He’s her only biological child.
Anika: She definitely loves her other children. Like, she loves Michael. I haven’t seen her with Sybok. She loves Michael, but when Michael’s not there, certainly, she treats Spock as an only child. He has only child syndrome, but it is partly because he is.
Liz: Yeah, exactly. He didn’t have much of a relationship with Sybok. And his relationship with Michael became strained almost immediately.
Anika: It’s similar to his relationship with his Vulcan peers, in that, like, “I should have friends, but my peers don’t understand me.” And it’s similar. “I have these siblings, but I’m still not allowed to have them.”
Liz: I don’t think it’s unusual for people to have a tense relationship with their siblings in childhood, and then go on as adults to develop a different kind of friendship. That seems pretty common to me. And it’s just a shame that Spock is constantly losing his siblings, right as they’re developing a relationship.
Anika: It’s a weird trope that he’s stuck in.
Liz: Well, I noticed that – like, stop killing Amanda in alternate timelines, please. I’m just putting that out there.
Anika: Seriously. I guess it was easier for them, maybe it gave Spock more—like, he’s willing to change the timeline to keep her alive more than he’s willing to change the timeline to keep himself alive.
But it’s still annoying. It’s still annoying that she’s dead. I’m just like pro don’t kill moms.
Liz: No, that’s it. I do think that Spock needed that extra emotional push, and I don’t actually think Sarek could have provided it had, Sarek been the one to die, but–
Anika: But you know what, Sarek made his own bed. Sarek is the one who completely failed to parent any of his children. Or be a good husband. Like, Sarek is the worst. I love Sarek, I love that he honestly wants to be better, but he is just terrible. Every decision he makes is bad.
Liz: I want to know, in this timeline where Spock has died ,and then Amanda has left and also died, does Sarek still adopt Michael?
Anika: Oh my gosh! What an interesting concept. Single dad Sarek.
Liz: I mostly feel bad for Michael, because I don’t think that is actually a healthy situation for her, but it’s an interesting–
Anika: It’s definitely interesting. The idea that Sarek didn’t remarry, that does not compute for me cause A, he’s Vulcan, aren’t they required–
Liz: Well, I assume that they have ways around pon farr. If, you know, allegedly you can masturbate, I mean, meditate through it. But yeah. Sarek’s a wife guy.
Anika: Sarek is definitely a wife guy
Liz: And he’s into his human ladies. Both of his known wives, a human. And then he also had a previous Vulcan partner, the mother of Sybok, so, yeah, he doesn’t seem like someone who likes being single.
Anika: So now I’m imagining the Sarek raises Amanda – not raises Amanda! The Sarek raises Michael by himself timeline. He wouldn’t – like he wouldn’t seduce her. That’s gross. That’s not where I’m going. But I can imagine him adopting Michael, like, to take care of his house and keep him on track and be his – his person in charge of things, because he’s terrible at being in charge of things.
Liz: He is, he is. That is terrible as a concept, but it has a sort of Victorian Gothic concept…
Anika: It’s super interesting to think about. Michael would actually be good at it. And she would be so desperate for his love and attention and, like, want to please him. This is horrible.
Liz: No, this is this is terrible. I hate it. But it’s – no, it’s terrible. It’s bad. It’s–
Anika: It’s really, really bad, but also would make a good story.
Liz: It comes out of a long line of fiction and even true stories of this type of relationship. Which is messed up! But I’m into it.
Liz: I thought you were going to go, single dad Sarek hooks up with Kat Cornwell, and–
Anika: Well, that obviously happens. I’ve not written anything, but I’ve plotted out the alternate timeline to – Kelvinverse Sarek totally marries Kat after Amanda dies. That happened in at least one timeline. And this is why I love timelines, because I can have all of them.
Liz: Your headcanons don’t have to be consistent.
Anika: No, my headcanons don’t have to be consistent at all. I can have every single one, and it’s still valid. It still happened somewhere.
Liz: I just think that if Michael is going to be raised by a single dad Sarek, Kat is really the only person who is going to get her to adulthood with anything resembling mental health.
Anika: Or wait, wait! Georgiou.
Liz: Oh yes. Okay. Yes. That will also be amazing. And I could–
Anika: And you know what? I totally shipped – until Kat and Sarek hung out at all, I totally shipped Georgiou and Sarek until it was taken over by my Kat feelings. But in those first episodes, I was like, oh yeah. I like this Sarek. Sarek and Georgiou hanging out.
That Michael would end up really happy.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah, no, I like that. Okay. So all is not lost for Michael in this universe.
I also feel bad for her [in the main timeline] sort of coming into this household in what I assume is the months after Spock’s encounter with Tom Selleck, and near death experience, and the death of the beloved family pet, and this household is already so fraught. And then in comes this traumatized little girl.
Anika: Yeah. Ooh, Ooh. I understand that, you know, Sarek felt responsible – and he also had this weird idea where if he brings in more humans, it’ll–
Liz: It’s like when you get a cat, and your cat is lonely, so you get another cat.
Anika: It doesn’t make sense, but okay, Sarek. Sarek’s very flawed logic. I love the Sarek family. I love them. They are horribly screwed up by all of their family trauma, but I love them. And so I’m all for it. I would never be against it. And I love any AU where there are more of them, just all of them. They can adopt Loki, they can adopt whoever, go for it.
Liz: I think that the AU where Sarek adopts Loki is–
Liz: Look, it’s pretty great. Like, he wouldn’t have magic, cause he’s not raised on Asgard, he would just have sarcasm and logic.
Anika: You know what? Loki would make a really good Vulcan.
Liz: I mean, he has that sort of trollishness. And the best bit is, like, the whole ‘Vulcans don’t lie’ thing is really gonna work for him.
Anika: He has that sense of entitlement and sense of superiority, and that “I just know better than any of you.”
Liz: I think we were talking just recently about how Vulcans and Asgardians have the whole moral superiority, ‘please don’t ask about our history of imperialism and genocide’ thing happening.
Anika: Yeah. it’s fun. When I first got into Thor, after the first movie, I, at that point made connections between my love of Vulcans and Romulans, so it’s there. I’m not crazy. It’s there. Or I am crazy and it’s there.
So can we talk about the, the big emotional moment where I’Chaya dies?
Liz: It’s so sad!
Anika: It is sad. So Spock’s pet, that is like a teddy bear with fangs is I believe how it’s described in Journey to Babel–
Liz: Yes. Yes.
Anika: –is injured during his trip to manhood
Liz: Injured saving Spock’s life, too.
Anika: Yes, injured, saving Spock’s life. So this is super emotional. And they get a healer, but the healer says, “All I can do is make him more comfortable and, and let him die. I can’t fix this.”
So Spock chooses to allow the healer to euthanize his pet. And that’s what convinces him that he should be a Vulcan, which is a lot to unpack.
Liz: It’s interesting that this is the choice that pushes Spock towards Vulcanhood, when it’s also a choice that humans do have to make. Maybe not human children, but the whole point of telling that story is that this is something that children do deal with, and DC Fontana felt that they weren’t being prepared for it.
Anika:Right. What I’ve read in a number of places is that a pet dying is actually very good for children, because they learn the concept of death, and the concept of, ‘something that I love, and that was a part of my family, and that was a part of my everyday existence, is now gone, and that’s really sad and really traumatic, and like what death even is.’
Anika: You know, it is super traumatic to lose a pet. Plenty of people spend more time with their cats than their grandma, and are more upset by losing the cat than by losing the grandma that they saw maybe once. And that’s okay! No one should feel bad about that.
But there have been studies, and if a child loses a pet and then loses a parent or, or someone, or a grandparent that they have a very close relationship to, they are more prepared. They are more capable of understanding what happened and going through those stages of grief, because they’re prepared for it. They’ve had that, know, you first loss.
And so I think DC Fontana was absolutely correct that you could do this, and you could do this in a kids show. And, you know, they do it on Sesame Street. So why can’t they do it on Star Trek?
Liz: Yeah. And I’m very squeamish about animal death in media. I really don’t like it. I nearly noped out of the season two of Ted Lasso in the first five minutes. And I love that show, but a dog dies. It’s very sad.
But I think this was handled really tastefully and respectfully, and it was a kind story. It didn’t feel like it was going, “Well, kids, everyone you love is going to die, starting with your pet.” It was child-appropriate. And, uh, I personally need my depictions of pet death to be child appropriate.
Anika: I’m going to go back to my ‘the Vulcans are wrong’ rant. The fact that Spock decides to suppress his emotions for the rest of his life, because his pet died, is a problem. And that is not healthy. That is not a healthy response to the death of your pet.
Liz: It is my response to the death of a pet.
Anika: The healthy response is to cry, you know, to deal with it. To have those emotions, feel them, to live with them. And that’s the only way that they won’t rule your life. If you suppress them, you end up Darth Vader. Like, I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is.
[Note from Liz: can confirm, am Darth Vader]
And so because I know Spock, and because I know that he doesn’t actually suppress all his emotions, I’m not worried about him. And again, I think this is a really good story for Spock. I think it’s a wonderful story for adult Spock, realizing what he needs to hear as a child to become who he is and to make it easier on himself. I think that’s great. I love it. I love self-love. So good job, Spock.
The reason I’ve read studies about children losing pets and then parents, and the reason that I’ve studied how watching something like Star Trek can help you work through your own traumatic experiences, and how fiction is not – it can’t teach you things, and it can’t help you in the way a therapist can help you, but it can give you the tools and the language to describe how you’re feeling. My brother, who had never seen – he’d seen, like, two MCU films, watched WandaVisionand he’s watched it three times now. And it’s the best thing he’s ever seen, and he loves it.
And he said he’d never felt seen until he saw Wanda. And it’s because that ability to both – your – your trauma takes over, and then also, to bring it back in and say, “This is a part of me and it made me, and I’m not letting go of it, but I’m also not going to let it take over.” Like, that’s such an amazing lesson.
And, you know what? A dog dies in WandaVision, too.It’s like they sort of creep up to, ‘we’re going to kill off everybody, starting with the dog,’ to, like, ease you into it in that same way. It’s very intelligent psychological storytelling.
Liz: And even though there’s, of course, the twist that Agatha killed Sparky, it’s also that the death of the dog itself is conveyed in a lesson for children. Which is again, the only acceptable way to kill an animal in media.
Anika: And totally it’s like the opposite of Spock where she’s like, “Don’t skip over this. Don’t ignore this. You know, don’t make not feeling this a part of your personality, make feeling this as part of your personality.” Media is important. It’s not more important than human relations and interactions–
Liz: You have to say that because you have just pitched the worst fic ever.
Anika: I’m just saying.
Anika: But yeah, yeah, she was right and I’m so proud that they stood up and said, no, this dog’s going to die.
Anika: And the thing is that Spock comes back to the future, and he was like, “That didn’t happen. That’s not how I remember it.” So it was a lesson for children, but it was also a lesson for adult Spock, and that’s kind of great.
Liz: Yeah. And then Kirk’s like, “Oh, well it’s just a pet.” And I’m like, you are a monster. You are history’s greatest monster.
Anika: But Spock totally pushes back on that too. And he’s like, no, it’s not just a pet!
Liz: I feel like, as an adult Spock, is in a better position to understand that than tiny child Spock.
Anika: Yes, absolutely. Which is why tiny child Spock was lucky to have adult Spock.
Liz: Oh, Spock’s parting words to Sarek, “Can you at least try to make an attempt to be a good dad? For me?”
Anika: Oh, my God heartbreak. Right? Like, arrow through the heart. Poor Spock! I think, when I was live-tweeting, I just did like the crying emoji, I was just like, I can’t handle this. Poor Spock.
Anika: I cannot.
Liz: It’s hard out there for a Spock.
Anika: He deserves so much better.
Liz: Starting with a better childhood costume. Because the little boy Vulcans are just running around in, like, Speedos with beauty queen sashes and cowboy boots.
Anika: It is terrifying. No child – like, that in and of itself is like, no, Vulcan. No.
Liz: My brother won’t appreciate me sharing this story, but when he was, like, two or three, he liked to wear a water pistol in a holster around his nappy, and gumboots, and nothing else. [Note: sometimes he also wore our dad’s Akubra hat.] And that’s what I think of whenever I see these tiny Vulcan children.
Anika: I called it off-brand He-Man.
Anika: What is going on with these children? And they’re all horrible. Like, that’s the other thing, is that Spock’s bullied in this, he’s bullied in 2009. And, again, his parents do nothing.
Liz: Why does Vulcan have such a terrible bullying problem?
Anika: Sarek basically tells him to, you know, stiff upper lip it .
Anika: And it’s just like, what is going on? How is that acceptable? How is it logical in any way?
Liz: Amanda is meant to have been a primary school or an elementary school teacher before she married. And it’s like, she should have skills to deal with this! Oh my gosh. But it really was, you know, the seventies, I’m sure they thought it would build character or whatever.
Anika: They ruined so many people with those ridiculous ideas.
Liz: The Vulcans are sort of the ultimate Boomers. They’re like, “Well, we had to suffer, and we had to suck it up, so now you should as well.” And if you don’t, they will ask to speak to your manager. (Your manager is logic.)
Anika: I want to see more Vulcans in Discoveryera, because I want to see that they’ve evolved. I desperately want to see that they’ve evolved.
Liz: I want to see that they’ve evolved, and that they’re happier, and that they’ve found new ways to be without losing the – what made them uniquely Vulcan.
Anika: They did make up with the Romulans. So it’s like, okay, that’s a good place to start.
Liz: Yes. I am very much a unificationist. I feel like both of these societies broke when they separated.
Anika: Yes, exactly. Because what happens is that the extremists, the extremists on both sides are now separated it and no one is arguing against the extreme anymore. And so they just become more of that.
Liz: Yeah. My other note on the costumes is that, like, the art is really strange in this series. You have these beautiful painted-looking backdrops, and then you have these very, very cheap human or human-esque figures. But then you have these pops here and there of hot pink, and it is not part of the overall palette of the show at all.
And it’s so weird. You’ve put a screen cap in our notes of a lady wearing a hot pink catsuit with a pink streak in her hair.
Anika: I love her. She’s my favorite.
Liz: She’s voiced by Majel Barrett. That’s how you know she’s a girl.
Anika: She’s a girl. So she has to be in pink.
Anika:Amanda is also in pink.
Liz: Yes. but then you have, like, the healer’s hot pink car. The palette is so strange to me.
Anika: He’s pretty amazing too. He has like a green, you know, Vulcan, flowy, Jedi robe.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah.
Anika: And Spock changes into his ‘I’m going to go pretend to be Selik’ outfit. And it is a blue … well, it looks like a flannel, like, a onesy thing. I was like, what? It’s like, like, you know, a grandma would wear. It’s just so weird.
Liz: I think what this demonstrates is that even in animation, it’s important to have some budget for costume design.
Anika: Was that really what anyone was wearing in whenever this, was made? I just feel like no.
Liz: This looks like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. It is so cheap. And I really do think that they had basic human figures and drew simple clothes on top of them that would be cheap to animate. I’m not throwing shade here because that is basically how I draw it. But also, I am not a professional artist. I am at this moment drawing Vulcan Loki for you though.
Anika: Yes! She’s great. And her name is Grey.
Liz: The lady in pink?
Liz: That is cool.
Anika: Grey. So that’s cool. And then the Griffin, which this is clearly a Griffin, or a large chicken.
Liz: Look chickens–
Anika: I love him.
Liz: –have a place in Starfleet.
Anika: And he’s just naked. He’s just wearing a tricorder ,and that’s it. It’s just the way it should be.
Liz: I mean, what are you going to wear? What are they going to say? “Oh please, sir with the giant claws on your hands and feet, put on some clothes.”
Anika: No, he doesn’t need any clothes. He is a Griffin scientist, he would look ridiculous in live action. No one can animate that well enough to make him not look ridiculous in live actions. So I appreciate him.
Liz: I would love for some enterprising – heh – fan out there to put in a million hours of free labor and just do new art to support the audio.
Anika: Oh, that’d be cool.
Liz: It would be really hard work! I’m saying this out loud and I’m like, no, animators have better things to do with their time.
Anika:Better things to do – but this is the episode to do it.
Liz: Yeah, if I were a talented artist and a budding young animator, I would do a few minutes of that for my showreel. Just because I do think this is a great story, and it deserves to be prettier. And people deserve better costumes. And these Vulcan children do need to go and put on some clothes. I’m sorry.
Anika: The Vulcan children need to put on some clothes, Spock needs to change out of his pajamas. Sarek’s wearing the same thing. So both of them need to change out of their pajamas. Amanda is just sad. Again, I watched this for the Amanda fashion project.
Anika: My note was, this is not even a costume.
Liz: And also, she doesn’t look like the Amanda in the–
Anika: No, no. And because she’s voiced by Majel Barrett, Roddenberry, she sounds wrong as well. That’s not shade on, Majel Barrett, but I now know what Majel Barrett, sounds like, because she voices everything.
Liz: I have developed feelings over the years about Roddenberry’s insistence on putting his mistress slash wife in everything, regardless of whether it’s a good part for her. It’s basically nepotism and it makes me uncomfortable. And it makes me resent when she turns up in a role that doesn’t really suit her.
Like, I don’t think she was amazing as Christine Chapel. I think she was brilliant as Lwaxana, but I don’t like Lwaxana as a person. And I kind of just wish she had just been Number One and the computer voice. And the fact that all the women in this look alike, and they’re all voiced by Mitchell Barrett except Uhura. It’s like, you can have more than two women in the world’s guys.
Liz: Shall we outro ourselves?
Anika: I think so. I don’t have anything more to say.
Liz: It’s a very small episode, and I’m quite happy to have a short one to edit.
Anyway, thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.tumblr.com, including links to our social media and credits for our theme music. You can also follow us on Twitter at @antimatterpod and on Facebook.
If you like us, leave a review on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you consume your podcasts. The more reviews, the easier it is for new listeners to find us. I keep thinking that we should like tweet something about getting reviews, or say something at the beginning of an episode. Cause I feel like people are probably tuned out by this point.
Liz: And join us in two weeks where we’ll be discussing the DS9 two-parter, Past Tense.