Anika and Liz revisit one of the most universally praised episodes of The Original Series … and it really is that good.
- We have nice things to say about Shatner
- Edith’s don’t-punch-Nazis attitude is … challenging in 2021! We hash it out with a little help from The Clone Wars
- How Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is like Game of Thrones
- The Kirk/Spock of it all
- We did not deserve DeForest Kelley
- A digression into CBS procedurals
It’s the episode where a psychotic break involves more time travel than most!
Darren Mooney’s essay on “The City on the Edge of Forever”
Liz claims this is episode 29 of a 30-episode season. It’s actually episode 28 of a 29-episode season (which is EVEN WEIRDER!), but Netflix throws the numbers off by including “The Cage”.
Liz: 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 classic, iconic Star Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.
Anika: Oooh, iconic.
Liz: Well, it is! You know, someone asks, “Hey, what’s the best episode of Star Trek,” and a lot of people will answer, “Oh, it’s ‘City on the Edge of Forever’, it’s got Joan Collins, it’s got a doomed romance. It’s got everything.”
I’m actually a little miffed. Because I suggested this thinking that we would talk about it and decide that it’s kind of overrated, and we would get to do that thing where we go, “Hey, this beloved old episode is actually really terrible.”
It’s really, really good. I really enjoyed it. I’m so mad.
Anika: It’s so cute how you’re disappointed that you liked it.
Liz: Sometimes things are overhyped. And sometimes it’s like, no, this is genuinely outdated and genuinely has problems, but it’s a really good story.
Anika: I think a lot of it is that all of the components are really well done.
Anika: The acting, the costumes, the set design, the lighting. Not the music. But the script, the plot, everything is well done. There’s nothing dragging it down. And so it comes off as, not just a good story, but polished.
Liz: Yeah, it has a level of confidence and professionalism that honestly, let’s be real, we don’t often see with The Original Series. Like as you say, the only fault is the music. Everything else, you know, sure the depiction of New York City is a fairly cheap backlot, or whatever. But that is, you know, it’s a product of its time. And I’m not saying that to excuse any racism! I’m saying that because it is cheap.
Anika: I think that their flop, to use the word – I love the set design of their little apartment, and how Spock’s radio is all over a table, and part of a chair and it’s creeping onto the window. I love that. Because it’s really difficult to swallow the idea that he recreated his tricorder mechanisms with things you can find in that time period, but they committed to it. And so I do believe it.
Liz: It’s silly, but they make it work, which is true of so much of The Original Series. And this is honestly not that silly a story. Its idea of history as a linear progression conveyed through old movie clips is obviously outdated, but it’s also something that the audience of the time would have understood, and and now still understand. And the performances are great! ‘Joan Collins in Star Trek’ has sort of almost become a punchline, but she gives a really wonderful performance.
Anika: Edith Keeler wouldn’t be who she is, if not for that performance. I don’t think this episode would work as well with someone else in that role.
Liz: No. Even Shatner, he is so often a parody of himself, and his acting style is very dated, but he’s charming, and he’s handsome, and you can genuinely understand why he was the hero of the show. It’s a really good episode and I’m so mad about it.
Anika: I mean, I still have problems.
Anika: I just like the conclusions that pretty much everyone comes to. I don’t like anything that people decide. They’re just they’re not the choices I want them to make.
Anika: It comes off as almost a fairy tale. You know, like with a moral.
Anika: Like it’s trying to teach me something, instead of being like this adventure story/romance. I want them to think about their choices more. And, of course, they only had whatever, 48 minutes, they couldn’t do that. They did a perfect job. I’m not angry with them for not being different than they would have been in 1967. I can’t be angry at anyone involved in this.
But as someone who is not from the 60s, and grew up with lots of time travel stories, and thinks about things in a different way, and also was raised to be a pacifist by basically Edith Keeler, I can’t really conclude that what happens is, is correct, or is the way that I want it to be, or what I would have done.
Liz: I think Edith is a really interesting character in 2021. Because we know that, had she lived, she would have gone on to [lead] an appeasement movement so powerful that it allowed the Nazis to win. I went into this feeling like we were going to spend a lot of time calling her out for that. But I think there is an argument to be made that Edith’s position is an analogy for Vietnam, and there’s an implicit criticism of the peace movement of the 60s.
And certainly Star Trek was very ambivalent about Vietnam. There are episodes where it seems to be very anti-war, and episodes where it’s like, “Well, this is very sad, but we’re just going to have to go to war with the Klingons anyway.” It really depends who is writing.
I think that is a reasonable interpretation that Edith is meant to represent the peace movement. But I also think that there is more nuance than that, because, as Spock and Kirk discuss, she is right overall, but just in this one particular instance, she’s wrong.
And it’s 1930. Hitler was not yet chancellor of Germany. She was right for 1930, she was right for 1960. For 1939 to 1945, she was very, very wrong.
Anika: I found it very interesting that you wrote in our document here, Edith is clearly dedicated to not punching Nazis.
Anika: Because it suggests that she’s not right for 2021, or at least 2020.
Liz: That’s certainly the thinking that I brought into the episode as I watched it. And like I said, I do think it’s more nuanced than that. But also, this is a flaw in her, that in that other timeline, she is not able to adjust her thinking to deal with new evidence. And that actually doesn’t make her a bad person, that makes her a more interesting character than a woman who is purely a saint.
Liz: So I disagree with her, I think her actions in that other timeline are wrong, but I understand them and I think she would have been completely unbearable and not remotely as iconic as she became otherwise.
Anika: It’s really interesting to me because I don’t know where I’m going with this but like, she – let me start over – – –
Anika: So her hugs not guns, I guess, philosophy is maybe naive. Definitely naive, I guess. And, right, you’re saying it’s wrong in the face of quote unquote absolute evil, because that doesn’t exist. The closest we come to absolute evil, I guess, – I think, at least in pop culture, it’s Nazis. That’s what they are. Setting aside historical reality, in pop culture, Nazis are absolutely evil. They’re like a shorthand for it. Basically, if you want to show that someone’s good, you set them up against some Nazis or some Nazi allegories
Liz: Just last week I saw the first Indiana Jones movie for the first time and that is exactly what I was thinking.
Anika: So on that sort of pop culture scale, she’s definitely in the wrong. Because she’s – not sympathizing with Nazis, but she is empathizing with Nazis and you’re not supposed to do that.
Liz: But I don’t think it’s even that I think she – okay, if we say she’s empathizing with Nazis, why is she not empathizing with the Jewish victims?
Anika: Don’t we see like, one slideshow of what she was doing? So I have no idea what happened in that timeline, or what she knew, or what she knows or anything. I don’t know how she met FDR – like, that’s random.
You’re saying you like that empathy is her flaw, that she’s thinking about everyone as a human. Like, every she’s humanizing everyone on one level, instead of seeing that some people have less humanity. And that there’s this – and I don’t mean, like, less humanity, because that actually is something that Nazis say, so I don’t want to say that. But that some people make worse decisions, I guess?
Liz: Yeah. I don’t know if I think that empathy is her flaw. I think it’s one of her great strengths. I think it’s more that, at some point in the 1930s, she prioritizes peace as a concept over everything else, including the wellbeing of others. I’m not quite a pacifist, but I’m close. But I feel like – that is the point where … this is really complicated! We should have done “Spock’s Brain”!
Anika: I have a thought. And I have to say it, even though it’s ridiculous, but you said that she prioritized peace over everything else.
Anika: And I thought, oh, like Satine Kryze! You know, not as many people watch Clone Wars as watch The Mandalorian, I would say, but The Mandalorian wouldn’t exist as a series if Mandalore hadn’t been destroyed. If Satine Kryze didn’t Edith Keeler all over it. And that’s kind of great to me.
I’m really super excited now because I love Satine but I also think that that is her rigidity is her is her main downfall – and so is Obi Wan’s, and that’s why they’re such a great couple. And it makes me like Edith Keeler more, because now I can see her not as just this Star Trek angel type person, they put her on a pedestal – fandom, Kirk, for sure.
Liz: Absolutely. Yes.
Anika: Even Spock is like, “You know, she has to die. But she’s great.” And maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get in her head, I only see it as this binary idea of, either she’s on the pedestal, or she’s got to die because she doomed us all. Whereas you’re saying, there’s a lot of nuance here. And that’s what makes a very good story.
Liz: I’m deeply touched that you got that out of my incoherent attempt at an idea! But yeah, I think I think that’s how I feel. I think this is her flaw as a character. And it’s a really interesting one, especially for the 60s. Because they’re going, here is this great woman who is future-minded, and a humanitarian, and almost a proto-hippie in her love for humanity. But, applied uncritically, that thinking is also a mistake.
And I love that she’s not vilified for it. That’s what I really like. And that is the absolute opposite of what I expected to be saying as I came into this episode. I think she’s interesting. And I think she has the potential to be a lot more complicated than people realize.
Anika: I think this episode could be like a feature length story. Maybe not now, when Star Trek movies have to have a space battle every 30 minutes, and there has to be stakes and someone has to die, and all of that stuff. But if it was not a Star – like it was a time travel movie, but a time travel movie like the Terminator where it’s small – – –
Anika: – – – yet it’s also about the end of the world. But the end of the world part isn’t the important part. The important part is the feelings between the people. I think that this is that sort of same bottle as a Terminator.
And I wish that we could have gotten to know Edith more. I wish that you could have gotten to see Kirk and Spock in the 30s more – – –
Anika: – – – because that’s interesting and funny and fun. And, you know, even McCoy! I wish we got to see more of McCoy grappling with what’s real. Like, that’s super interesting. And we basically get two sentences – and good lord DeForest Kelley just knocks it out of the park in his two sentences!
Liz: You saw my dot point in our notes: we did not deserve DeForest Kelly.
Anika: I am amazed. I want a whole extra episode just about what McCoy is going through, because it was so interesting. And it was such an interesting idea of not being able to know what’s real, both when he’s like, high on the cordazine, or whatever, and when he has come down from that, but he’s in a completely different place and is like, “This is not what I remember. I remember being in a starship it looks nothing like this, you know?”
It’s like that Riker episode, “Frame of Mind”, where it’s like, which one of these things is real? And that’s super interesting! So I feel like this could be longer. And again, I’m not saying that it’s not perfect as it is. I’m just saying it brings up lots of really interesting ideas that could be explored.
Liz: No, I agree
Anika: What are Scotty and Uhura doing on the Guardian planet? What can they see? Are they watching and eating popcorn? I want to know.
Liz: And when Kirk says like, if we don’t come back, you have to go next.
Anika: I know!
Liz: I want Uhura wandering around 1930s New York in her miniskirt, and stealing clothes and falling in love with a beautiful social worker.
Anika: Oh my gosh, so good!
I like there’s just so many different ways it could go. But I have to say, both that that directive that Kirk gives when he says, “When you’ve decided it’s been long enough, you guys gotta try it next. And everyone has to, like, you know, there’s four more of you. So there’s four more tries to get this right, and if you fail, at least you’ll be like living your best life, wherever you end up.” It’s like, that’s interesting! It’s like, Whoa, I want to see everybody living their best life in this alternate timeline.
Liz: Yeah, like Picard’s orders at the end of First Contact, when they’re loading up the escape pods, to find a quiet corner and stay out of history’s way
Anika: But that line, that idea that they could try as well – and then, at the very end of the episode, they pop out of the Guardian and Guardian’s like, “Cool job, guys. Everything’s reset. What do you want to do now?” And they just leave. It’s like – – –
Liz: “I want no more of this place.”
Anika: The Guardian is ready to go again and do it over, and it’s like, “Hey, let’s go save Edith this time.” And they don’t even consider it. Really.
It’s like, that’s what I mean when I say when I say I’ve watched too many time travel things. Like, guys, you could definitely go get her and fake her death. And it wouldn’t – nothing bad would happen, because no one would know what happened to her. They would assume she’s dead. And you could bring her back, you know, bring her into the future.
Liz: That’s what I was going to suggest! Like, she comes into the future, she adapts to the miniskirt really, really fast, and, 20 years later, she’s the one who introduces Gillian Taylor to the 23rd century and acts as her guide.
Anika: It’s her perfect future. It’s her perfect existence. She would finally be somewhere where her ideas weren’t radical.
Liz: Yes, yes.
Anika: It’s just so – yeah, so that’s why I’m mad. Especially now that I’ve seen “Yesteryear”, and I know that they go back to that planet and hang out and do stuff. It’s like, guys save Edith Keeler! Edith Keeler does not have to die. The story doesn’t have to end that way.
Liz: I was thinking, as I prepared for this episode, that I really hope we get to title it “Edith Keeler in the 23rd century”. And now I’ve said it so we can call it that.
Anika: That’s where she belongs. We don’t need a dead woman in the past. She doesn’t have to stay with Kirk, she can do whatever she wants.
Liz: You have a note, “Why is this so popular?” And it’s like, fandom loves time travel, doomed romance and dead women. That’s not to say that the only reason it’s popular is that fandom loves dead women. But I think there is a laziness in accepting Edith’s death. And I don’t necessarily blame the characters because they are not the time travel pros that they will become.
I just think that in writing it, Harlan Ellison – and Gene Coon rewriting it – wanted to tell a tragic love story and the only way they could do that was by killing Edith and saying it absolutely had to happen. And, again, not motivated by misogyny just these are the tropes that we’re dealing with.
Anika: Right? Like, for some reason, it wouldn’t matter as much to Kirk and Spock if she survived. That’s where they’re coming from. They’re coming from this place where, in order for this to be this beautiful, tragic love story, she has to die. And so they started with that idea, they started with “Edith Keeler must die” – as Spock says – – –
Liz: Three times!
Anika: – – – and build out of that. So whereas I always start from, what if not, what if they didn’t have to die?
Liz: Also, I think we’re coming from a different era of television, where characters are killed for shock value all the time, and it doesn’t really mean much. Whereas with Star Trek, they killed a lot of characters, but most of them, we didn’t really get to know.
Anika: Normally, we just get the red shirts who die. Whereas this time, it was someone that we care about, someone that we get to know, and I think most importantly, someone that Kirk cares about.
Liz: Yes. And, like a lot of Kirk’s love interests die. Basically any time he looks like he’s about to settle down, the woman dies.
Anika: That’s why it’s just so interesting. I feel like it’s become such a meme – such a wrong meme – that Kirk is a ladies man, and he’s always romancing someone. Whereas like Kirk is a serial monogamist whose love interests die at a extreme rate, you know, it’s like – – –
Liz: You almost start to wonder if Spock is killing them off.
Anika: He doesn’t jump from woman to woman because he doesn’t care about them. He jumps from woman to woman because he needs a new woman to like, forget how sad he is about the last woman.
Liz: Right. And his main love is his ship, but he can’t make love to the Enterprise.
Anika: It’s really interesting. This reputation that Kirk gets that is really not – at least in TOS – is not fair. Yeah, he’s sexy, and he has romances. But he’s not treating any of them poorly, like he doesn’t go around and not care about them. There are a few exceptions, sure.
Liz: But most of those exceptions are outdated writing and old fashioned ideas about how it’s acceptable to treat women, rather than malice or cruelty on his part. Particularly in The Original Series. I feel like movie Kirk is a slightly different character, and I don’t really like the man that Original Series Kirk evolves into as much [as I like TV Kirk].
But TOS Kirk is a gentleman. And as much as it’s ridiculous that we’ve had 20 minutes of Edith Keeler and he’s like, “I am in love with her”, in the episode they have been hanging out together for – – –
Anika: A week.
Liz: I think a few weeks?
Anika: I think they’re like, “we’re at least a week behind McCoy”. And McCoy, I feel, is there for at least a week before – – –
Liz: Certainly a matter of days, at least. So it’s an episode like it’s an episode that unfolds [over time].
Anika: There’s the episode where he falls in love with the daughter of the mad scientist, and she turns out to be a robot.
Liz: Oh, yeah.
Anika: So in that episode, it is literally hours. They do not have a relationship at all. And yet, he’s so distraught that Spock has to like make him forget her for all time.
Compared to that, his build up with Edith Keeler – I believe it because I do see how he’s like – he has that arrow through the eyes. The first time he sees her, you know, he definitely gets the heart eye emoji. And then they go into the soup kitchen scene, and she gives her a little speech where she’s basically, you know, talking like a Star Trek episode.
Liz: It really is Gene Roddenberry’s manifesto coming from her mouth.
Anika: Yeah. And so there’s this real connection. I think that Kirk is attracted to her, and then realizes – like, there’s this weird time displaced romance going on. But he accepts it? Because she’s so beyond her time.
Liz: Yeah. And that also cuts out sort of the power differential you get with time travel romance, where one partner knows the future and the other doesn’t, because her grasp of the future is pretty uncanny.
Anika: Right, exactly. And also, there’s the idea that, like, maybe Kirk is thinking, “This is my backup plan, you know, if I can’t get back to the future that I know, at least I can settle down with this lady.”
Anika: And there’s also sort of a – you know, we get this really more in the movies, where, you know, he has the bifocals, and he has to have the real book, he can’t read it on a tablet like a normal person. Kirk is a – like, he wants to live back in time. He’s one of those men who wants his reality to go back to the simpler times
Anika: I don’t mean in like the Make America Great kind of way! I think like Kirk is – he believes in Edith Keeler and Gene Roddenberry’s utopia. Kirk isn’t a bad guy. But he does have this old fashioned aesthetic.
Liz: He does.
And the other thing is, you know, this is not an episode where Kirk is a jock. He’s talking to Edith about the literature of the future, and breaking the temporal Prime Directive, which I assume was invented in response specifically to this episode. And – yeah, he’s, he’s the gentleman
Anika: I mean, she dies. So he doesn’t have to worry about what she knew.
Liz: He’s the gentleman and he’s – wow can I put this? Charming without being empty? I think one of the reasons Edith is drawn to him is that he seems like a guy with a lot of substance, even though he is temporarily embarrassed financially.
Anika: And he straight up admits to her that they stole the clothes and they’re hiding from the police, like, he doesn’t even blink an eye. He’s just like, this is the way it is. And I think that that goes a long way with her. Or with anyone in that position. And of course, she owns a mission because times are hard. Like, it’s the 30s, guys, no one’s no one’s living high right now.
Liz: No. Although I have to assume, just from how she dresses and her accent and everything, that Edith comes from a wealthy English family, and has left that all behind to serve the poor. Which I respect.
Anika: Edith Keeler as the rebel. I love it. It’s so good.
Liz: It’s a bit condescending, but it’s not as if she’s going home to her mansion. You know, she’s living in a tiny apartment just like everyone else. So I respect Edith
Anika: I respect Edith as well. Yes. And I love her whole look. All of the costuming is really, really well done, all of the makeup. Sulu’s eyeliner!
Liz: My gosh, yeah, like, Sulu was serving looks.
Anika: I just want to say, every single person in this episode has amazing eyeliner, and I was just staring at it the whole time. Even McCoy, when he has like the lesions on his face and stuff, he still had these eyes popping up.
And also, someone recently posted on Twitter about the cinematographer for TOS, and how like – I don’t even remember his name, but he doesn’t get enough credit for how amazing he made all of them look.
Liz: I particularly remember a tweet – it was particularly Nichelle Nichols, because no one back then paid attention to, like lighting people of colour.
Anika: People don’t know how to light a Black woman or an Asian man, and it was gorgeous. It was just like, this is it. Everything was just so pretty. You said it, that William Shatner literally never looks better.
Anika: He’s just so attractive in his plaid shirt, and his golden glow. It’s just like, wow!
Liz: I just think that the uniforms of the era are not very not very flattering, and aren’t that well made. So they don’t look great on modern television in the remaster.
And then you put them in what would have been, you know, contemporary clothes, and from the quality of Edith’s costumes, I’m guessing they were borrowed from movie wardrobes, because they’re beautifully made.
And they make sense. Her makeup is pure 1966, but from the neck down, it all looks mostly historically accurate. I think she might be wearing 60s bras, but other than that, she looks right for the era.
Anika: And there’s that one dress that she wears when she almost falls down the stairs.
Liz: Oh, yeah.
Anika: Like, I want that dress, guys. Where do I get it?
Liz: The Edith Keeler collection.
Anika: So beautiful. I would wear everything. I would wear her little purple suit. I would like all of it, I want all of it. And I yeah, I said have my line in here that I sometimes feel bad about how much I like Depression-era looks. Because it’s like everyone was sad. I mean, it’s in the title. Right? Depression?
Liz: But no, the fashion – – –
Anika: The fashion was good.
Liz: Yeah. And I think it’s a nice detail that her clothes are more 1920s than 1930s.
Anika: Yeah, right!
Liz: Because it is just 1930 and she’s still wearing the drop waist that was about to go out of fashion. And all of that. It looks really, really good.
Anika: It looks really good. Like the 20s, 30s, and 40s, I will say are some of my favorite fashion eras.
Liz: Bad time for comfortable underwear.
Anika: But for quote unquote, modern times.
Liz: Yes. Yeah.
Anika: And it’s always fun to sort of look at how how things come and go and you’re like, in – the 60s are absolutely like another 20s in terms of fashion, like not in terms of the actual silhouettes, but in terms of like, why things were happening.
Liz: Right, they were periods of upheaval.
Anika: Right. So it’s just really, really fun to to look at all that. With my height, and my waist, and the way I’m put together, I belong in that 20s to 40s era.
Liz: Oh gosh. I went through a 20s phase in my 20s, but I no longer fit any of those clothes. Any of those clothes and those designs just no longer look good on me. But my gosh, the aesthetic! I have watched every episode of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It’s a very problematic show, but the costuming is really good.
Anika: It’s like Game of Thrones.
Anika: So I agree. I think it was definitely – obviously that was the Paramount backlot, that was not a set that they built for this episode.
Liz: And then they incorporate what are clearly shots from films and stuff, with shots of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Anika: All the Nazi stuff was actual Nazis. So it was really well done. This episode, I it’s not my favorite, and I – I don’t side-eye and I don’t disagree with people who say it’s the best TOS. But I do sort of sigh it because it’s – – –
Liz: It’s such an obvious choice. We are far too cool to choose such an obvious, mainstream episode.
Anika: But it’s also not representative of Star Trek.
Liz: No, that’s true. I’m a big reader of Darren mooney’s blog, them0vieblog.com. And he has a pretty in-depth post on this episode, which I read yesterday. And – – –
Anika: Yep, he was the one you linked me to, right?
Liz: Yes, and I’ll put it in the show notes
Anika: That was very good.
Liz: Yeah, he is a smart guy. And, like, he has a lot of stuff about why Voyager is bad. And I’m like, “I completely love this post. I disagree with your conclusions, but I love this post.”
But he has a lot of stuff from behind the scenes of, you know, Harlan, Ellison’s script and the rewrites. And that that was his conclusion on Ellison’s scripts, that it was very good, but it wasn’t Star Trek. And what we have is a very good episode of Star Trek, that is nonetheless atypical.
Anika: Yeah, it’s just – if I was introducing someone to Star Trek…
Liz: No, it wouldn’t be this.
Anika: I might use this to loop them in, but I wouldn’t show them this to get them to like Star Trek, because this is not what Star Trek is about, at least from my perspective.
Liz: No, no, think that’s quite reasonable. And I think it says a lot about the show that we’re 29 episodes – this is a 30-episode season – but we’re at the end of the very first season and doing non formulaic stuff like this.
Anika: Mmm. Yeah. And in that article, you know, he was saying how, because nothing was serialized ever, obviously, Edith Keeler was never mentioned again. And I wish she was! I would like to have episodes that reflect back on her, because if we are to believe that she’s the love of Kirk’s life… I mean, not to dunk on Generations again.
Liz: But you can, like, feel free.
Anika: They have a woman that is never seen in that movie, it would be so easy to just name her, Edith. And bring that back. It blows my mind that they didn’t do this very simple thing to make fans happy.
Liz: And it would have made no difference to casual viewers who didn’t get the reference.
Anika: It would have been no difference, no difference whatsoever, to the film as it was. I don’t get it. I don’t know why we have to live in this world where Kirk forgets everything that happens next time, right? Even in the movies, it’s like, two, three and four are together. But that’s it. One has nothing to do with them. And then five, six, and generations have nothing to do with each other or the past. None of it is tied up. It’s only that one little one little trilogy that’s in the middle that has any character growth over time. And it’s weird. Now, you know, now, everything is so serial[ised].
Liz: I do think that it’s a real shame that we haven’t revisited Edith in tie-in literature. And anyone wants to commission us to write a sort of “what if” where Edith comes to the 23rd century, you know, call us!
Anika: We can do it for all of them. Rain Robinson comes to the future, Keeler comes to the future. Like everybody, let’s just bring everybody to the future. We can do it right there. We know that they go back in time in all of this series. So we can do this, we can make it happen.
Liz: When is Discovery going to visit the 2020s?
Anika: Oh, my goodness, I mean, it’s sort of a rite of passage for Star Trek.
Liz: First, you turn your characters into lizards, then you visit the era that you’re made.
Anika: But Discovery is sort of really different on that scale. Like, I think Lower Decks is much more likely to go to the past than…
Liz: Honestly, given what a hellscape the 2020s have been so far, I would rather see Lower Decks do it and make fun of it. Have Boimer wearing all the PPE even though Dr T’Ana has given him all the vaccines.
Anika: So it looks like he looks in Back to the Future, when he’s wearing the radiation to go back and say, “I am Dr. Spock.” That’s what he would look like. Because Lower Decks would take it from that funny level. Whereas like, yeah, Discovery – if Discovery went back to 2020, you’d be like, “wow, this sucks. This is a really bad place and we don’t want to be here.”
Liz: It would be like that episode of Deep Space Nine, “Past Tense”, only the past would be even worse than Deep Space Nine imagined.
Anika: That’s the thing, “Past Tense” is, like, three years away now. And we are so close to making it real. Like, we are so close.
Liz: But we’re also doing much worse like, can you imagine a tech bro these days, who takes public transport in San Francisco?
Anika: Yeah, right. No, no, they build their own transport and make you pay for it.
Liz: Exactly. And like, they wouldn’t build sanctuary districts for the poor, because that would be taking resources away from people who could be making money off them. They would be charging, money to get into the sanctuary districts.
Anika: I don’t know. I mean, on, like the idea of, “Yeah, we don’t want to give the poor anything”. However, there is definitely a – you know, Amazon in Seattle and their little bubble world?
Liz: Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that.
Anika: So they definitely displaced homeless populations to create their bubble world, and they definitely, like, have created camps to put their homeless in, because they don’t want people in the bubble world to see them. So that’s basically “Past Tense” that they’re going towards.
Liz: I guess, I guess, the difference is, they’re putting the homeless in camps, rather than cordoning off a whole nice area of a suburb that could have just as easily been gentrified.
[Transcriber’s note: Liz is using “suburb” in the Australian sense. Substitute “neighbourhood” if you’re confused. Also, we had a looooong conversation about inequity and late capitalism which got trimmed, so we suddenly segue to…]
Anika: Yeah, again, I don’t want to keep, again dunking on Spock, but the whole idea that Edith Keeler must die just really grates on me, because that is such a lack of imagination.
Liz: Well, I don’t think Spock has much of an imagination.
Anika: Good point.
Liz: I don’t feel like it’s something that Sarek really encouraged. And obviously, Amanda didn’t take hold that well. And so this is his conclusion and Kirk’s like, “Well, I always do listen to Spock, so why should I stop now?” And really, he should have stopped.
Anika: And again, I don’t remember what episode I said that McCoy was the heart of the whole thing. But, again, McCoy is the heart of the whole thing in this. McCoy is the one who’s like, “We’re gonna save her, right?” Like, he saves her in the first place.
Anika: And Kirk physically has to stop him from saving her,
Liz: Which is so hard to watch. Shatner’s performance there is just absolutely amazing and understated – which you don’t get to say about Shatner very often!
Anika: I don’t know Shatner, and I don’t want to psychoanalyze him, for sure. But I think he prefers this kind of script.
Anika: I think he understood this version of Kirk. He realized that he had to convey this quietly.
Anika: And I don’t know why he thinks that he has to convey everything else loudly. But I have to tip my hat to him to say he understood this script, and he realized what he had to do [in order] to do it, and he honestly did it to perfection.
Liz: He did! It’s sad that we didn’t get to see more of this version of Kirk.
Speaking of Shatner again, he went on a tear this week on Twitter about how Kirk couldn’t possibly be bisexual. And this was in response to Mark Hamill going, “Oh, sure, if you want to believe that Lucas is bi, then go ahead. I’m happy for you.”
Liz: Shatner would prefer that we not do that. Sooooo … let’s talk about the Kirk/Spock of it all.
Anika: I like how you’re like, so let’s prove him wrong.
Liz: Look, I don’t really ship Kirk/Spock. I don’t really have any OTPs in The Original Series. And I think, because of AOS, I kind of prefer Kirk/McCoy. But, like – – –
Anika: One hundred percent.
Liz: – – – the subtext is real. The people who believed and believe in the Premise were not crazy!
Anika: Yeah, I also don’t ship Kirk and Spock, but I totally get the domestic – like, that I can believe that they would live out their lives together in this apartment.
Liz: Oh, yes.
Anika: Totally. I completely believe that. And, and not in a completely nonsexual way.
Liz: Spock would hit that pon farr sooner rather than later. In fact, given how – – –
Anika: And what would his options be, really? In 1937? What’s his plan? I guess it would be the next year, right?
Liz: Yeah. We’re just a few months away from it.
Anika: Yeah. So.
Liz: Can someone go check AO3 and confirm that this AU has been written, just to put my mind at ease? I’d be very grateful. Thank you.
Liz: I really respect the way this episode sets up a het romance for Kirk, but also acknowledges, at the same time, how important Spock is to him. And I think that’s a really good way of having a cake and eating it too, in terms of not demonizing either character.
Anika: And that’s the thing. Literally no one is saying, “Hey, Kirk should be gay.” Like, no! He’s saying that everyone just wants him to be bi or pan, you know? And – – –
Liz: Can I just have a quick rant about the fashion on Tumblr to refer to any woman who has been in a relationship with a man on screen, and who that who a fan ships with another woman – calling them a lesbian instead of a bisexual? Just the casual biphobia of it all really annoys me.
Anika: I think that the episode after our next one is scheduled to be about bisexuality in Star Trek.
Liz: Oh good!
Anika: So look forward to that, everybody!
I’m that person who searches desperately for the Spock/Uhura fic that doesn’t also include Kirk and Spock, or the Sarek and Amanda fic that doesn’t also include Kirk and Spock, or the McCoy and Carol Marcus fic, that doesn’t also include Kirk and Spock. Like anything, any of my relationships have been overrun by Kirk and Spock. And I get it! They basically created the idea of fanfiction and slash, and all of that. And so like, good on you – –
Liz: It’s just frustrating when you don’t ship the juggernaut pairing.
Anika: Right, exactly. I just want something else. [The transcription AI missed something here, and then I missed it again when I was correcting it, but Anika says something along the lines of valuing the Kirk-Spock friendship.]
Liz: You know, I say that, and I agree with it. But I so often see that argument as sort of thinly veiled homophobia, that I don’t usually express it, because I know people are uncomfortable to hear it.
Anika: That’s like people saying that – so I ship like Spock/Uhura in AOS, like super a lot. And I talk about it all the time. It’s like it’s the Star Trek relationship that I want the most to be real.
Anika: And I have been accused many times being homophobic because of that.
Liz: And you’re like, “I’m not even straight!”
Anika: Like, that’s not what I’m saying. I would never do that. And I would never stop anyone from shipping literally anything! Whatever you want to ship, I’m good with it. But I just get sad when I can’t find what I’m looking for because it’s been eaten up by everything else.
Liz: No, that’s how I feel. Like, because Kat is a minor character, a lot of the fics tagged with her are actually about other characters. And the biggest pairing in Discovery fics is Stamets/Culber, and so I feel bad, but I have to exclude Stamets/Culber anytime I’m looking for Kat fic if I want to find anything that’s about her specifically.
Anika: Interesting. Yeah, yeah, exactly. I feel that.
Liz: And also, I just don’t read about characters that I’m not fully obsessed with.
Liz: I read about Kat, I read about Laris. I still read a bit of Lin Beifong fic in Avatar, and a bit of Mai/Zuko. I don’t just sit down and think, “I’m going to read a Discovery fic,” and pick one at random.
Anika: No, yeah, exactly. You know, I have favorited tags on AO3 where I just – you know, when I land on their main page, they show up. I have those. And they’re small pairings in giant fandoms, because it’s exciting to me when I get a new Draco/Ginny. Because that’s not as popular as Draco/Hermione or Draco/Harry or Ginny/anyone.
So – I don’t know. I ship everything. I think that I think that Kirk is pansexual – clearly, like, all versions of Kirk. No offense to William Shatner, no offence to Gene Roddenberry – – –
Liz: Oh, full offense to William Shatner.
Anika: – – – I’m sorry, James T. Kirk in all universes is pansexual. That’s just how I feel.
Liz: No, no, you’re not going to get any arguments from me.
Anika: And Spock, too, I have mentioned in Tumblr on more than one occasion that I firmly believe that Vulcans are actually polyamorous. Not all of them, but there’s a cultural, like, ritual for polyamory in Vulcan, that is completely accepted and as normal as pon farr.
Liz: Right, right. Because I think that a system in the 23rd century where you have arranged marriages at childhood, and divorce is very, very difficult, polyamory is just logical.
Anika: Right, exactly. It’s logical. It makes sense. So it’s not like I don’t think that Kirk and Spock wouldn’t be attracted to each other. It’s just that in certain situations, I prefer other things.
Liz: No, no, I think that’s fair. I just really like how there’s room for everything in “The City on the Edge of Forever”. You can even get Kirk/McCoy out of it, if you want.
Anika: Oh, my gosh, when he runs across the street and McCoy’s is like getting this giant hug.!
Liz: Also, if you wanted to ship McCoy/Edith, I think that would also be interesting.
Anika: Also good. Also good. There’s every ship And so, again, I’m saying like we could have more of this. We could have a whole season of just this concept and have different things happen.
Liz: Yeah, like Sliders, but not quite.
Anika: Well, like how “Year of Hell” should have been more than one episode?
Anika: That’s what I mean. Like, how about six episodes, you know, six episodes of “City on the Edge of Forever”, where we get to see Uhura in the past, where we get to if there is a reality where Kirk tries to save Edith and fails. Like, I want to see that.
Liz: See, now I’m thinking of, like, the possibility of a Star Trek miniseries – a standalone with new characters and everything, but where they are going back to try and fix something and experiencing different versions of the same thing. And sort of like a “City on the Edge of Forever”/“Cause and Effect” thing where you would really, really want to pay your continuity people well, but really digging into the implications of time travel in a way that one or two episodes stories can’t.
Anika: There are those temporal agents, right? Like, where’s the temporal agent series?
Anika: I am super ready for the temporal agent series! I think it could be amazing. You could go into every era of Star Trek and mess it up – and then fix it. It would be so good! You could do stuff like, you know, in “Trials and Tribble-ations”, where they go into the TOS episode, like that could be every episode.
Liz: Oh, that would be so expensive!
Anika: It would be so good. It would be such a Valentine to like Star Trek fans, because we would know the original episodes and we would be excited for how they’re going to change them, and how they’re going to keep them the same.
Just saying, Star Trek people, Liz and I are totally available to make amazing series for you. And like, I don’t know how much it cost to make “Trials and Tribble-ations”, but a lot of it is already made, right? You just have to just stick the little person in the other part.
Liz: I just think that if Star Trek called us and got us on board, even to just throw ideas at them, they would get some pretty good stuff out of it. Call us, CBS!
Liz: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Anika: They’re rebranding.
Liz: Yeah. Rip to the three people who subscribe to Ten All Access here in Australia.
Anika: It’s gonna revert, right? I mean, my CBS All Access is definitely going to revert to Paramount+.
Liz: I’m actually not sure if anything has been announced here. But CBS bought a network here, and then then rebranded their streaming service as Ten All Access.
Anika: Oh, wow. That’s – wow.
Anika: But I mean, they were really trying to break into the Australian, you know, people or whatever – what’s it called? What’s it called when you’re a bunch of people who are trying to get you to do something? Audience? I guess? I don’t know. They’re really trying. They’re trying to woo you personally.
Liz: I had this idea that being owned by CBS would mean that that Ten was going to make a lot more good Australian television. Hasn’t happened so far.
Anika: I mean, have you watched CBS television?
Anika: Now, I love Discovery. I even like – the production value of Picard is really amazing. And I’m gonna say, All Rise, everyone go watch All Rise, because the main character, Lola Carmichael, is a Black woman who is a judge, and she’s trying to change society from within. And she really struggled with it, and it’s kind of great
Liz: Is that the series where it turned out that they had no Black people in the writers room at all? And the actors just had to push back and push back and push back.
Anika: I don’t know, but that sounds like something that CBS would do
Liz: It really does.
Anika: This season has been revolving around the Black Lives Matter riots, and there’s only one white guy in the cast. He played Wade Wilson in Heart of Dixie, so he’s great and you love him.
Liz: That does sound fantastic.
Anika: It is fantastic. And the – it’s related. It’s related, I swear, because Lola, her icon is Uhura, like, the reason that she wanted to be a successful black woman is because of Uhura. And I just think that that’s so great.
Liz: I have to give CBS props for their cross marketing, too.
Anika: Right, exactly.
Liz: I have to admit that I’m very curious to see Clarice. It comes out in a couple of weeks, I think. One, because – – –
Anika: I’m excited for Clarice.
Liz: – – – I love Silence of the Lambs. I liked Hannibal, but it sort of disappeared on its own butt in the third season. And I was very intrigued to learn that Clarice didn’t get the rights to use the name Hannibal Lecter, which means she is forced to stand alone as a character and won’t have to exist so much in the shadow of Hannibal the series.
Anika: That sounds so exciting. I did not know that tidbit. And I’m super excited because – you don’t understand. That – you know, if you say like, what are your – you know, like, it’s a meme, post four characters that, if you want people to know you, they’ll have to understand
Anika: Clarice Starling is totally one of my characters. And Hannibal – not the series, but the second film with Julianne Moore.
Anika: My daughter loves this. She makes fun of me for it. But I call that my feel-good movie.
Liz: I’m also going to make fun of you for that because that is hilarious!
Anika: If I need to be cheered up, if I’m having a bad day and I need to cheer up, I watch Hannibal. And it always makes me happy.
Liz: Well, I am very weirded out, but I’m very happy for you.
Anika: It’s the very end, Hannibal says – I’m gonna cry. At the very end, Hannibal has, like, kidnapped Clarice.
I’ve read the book.
Anika: And he’s forcing her to eat people and it’s awful. And he says, “Do you think that they would accept you as you are?” Like, “No matter what you do, they’re never going to accept you. And all you would need to do is look – like, you don’t need a medal to be accepted. You just need a mirror is,” what he says. And that – I that’s what I need to hear. I need to hear someone say, you don’t need anyone else to accept you. You just have to accept yourself. Like that’s how – that’s what I need from life in order to feel good. And so I watch Hannibal for it.
Liz: I didn’t know this about you! I recommend – highly recommend the YA novel None Shall Sleep by my friend Ellie Marney which is – okay, sort of a – I don’t want to say a YA AU of Silence of the Lambs. But it is very proudly inspired by Silence of the Lambs.
Anika: I’m excited. That sounds exciting.
Liz: It’s really good.
Anika: It’s funny, because I love – the novel and the film of Hannibal are very different are. The endings are very, very different. But I love both. I am that person who can accept alternate universes very easily. And I have no problem just being really, really happy with both.
Liz: The other interesting thing is that Clarice is a Hidden Enemy production. So it’s produced by Alex Kurtzman, and the co-producer is Jenny Lumet, who was in the writers room for Discovery on season three. I liked her work enough that I was going to give Clarice a chance, even before I knew that Hannibal wasn’t a part of it.
Anika: I’ve been afraid of Clarice, mostly because – – –
Liz: Yeah, I saw the premise and – – –
Anika: I had such very personal feelings for it. And I enjoyed Hannibal the series, and I enjoyed, who was it? It wasn’t Anna Paquin … was it Anna Paquin? There was an actress who played – basically Clarice, but not called Clarice because they didn’t have the rights to Clarice Starling. Just like Clarice doesn’t have the rights to Hannibal Lecter. Interesting. So it wasn’t Clarice. But it was like a fake Clarice, and I couldn’t get into it. They introduced that character, and she died immediately. So it wasn’t a long-term thing.
Anika: But I couldn’t. I couldn’t, like…
Liz: It no longer spoke to you?
Anika: I couldn’t connect to it in the same way anymore. Because they did that. And so I haven’t even seen it like the last season, because I just – they killed off all the women in – it’s three seasons, right? So in the season two finale, they killed off all the women, and it was just sort of like, I’m done. I’m good.
Anika: I don’t need to watch this anymore.
Liz: A couple of the women ended up together as a couple. And normally I’d be into that, but it really felt like that thing slash writers do, where they’ll just, like, get the women offstage somehow. “Okay, we’ve decided they’re lesbians.”
Anika: Oh my gosh. Yes.
Liz: This is Liz Complains About Fandom: The Podcast.
Anika: I read a lot more femslash than slash, I’ll be honest. Partly because I’m a girl and I am just not super interested in reading about two men. I’m just not. Sorry.
Liz: I’m just not very interested in stories about men that don’t have women in them.
Anika: Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard to be me.
Liz: It’s hard to be a heavily misandrist podcast.
Anika: It’s not in any way hard to be me. However, sometimes I get sad that there’s so much more slash than femslash or het.
Liz: Or gen. Like, I wanna read about characters having adventures and doing stuff.
Liz: But that requires plot, and plot is genuinely hard.
We’ve sort of wandered off topic. We should probably wrap up.
Anika: What are we talking about? You mean Clarice Starling isn’t in “City on the Edge of Forever”?
Liz: Suddenly I’m seeing a whole new AU!
What I was going to say is, that scene where Uhura says, “Captain, I’m scared.” It is so sexist, and it is just – – –
Anika: I hate it.
Liz: – – – an awful, awful moment for her. But following season three of Discovery, and Saru’s speech in the second episode about how fear is something to acknowledge and not be ashamed of, I don’t hate it so much. Like it’s, it’s marginally less awful.
Anika: Even Emperor Georgiou sort of has to come to terms with fear.
Anika: So it’s sort of like, okay. But why couldn’t Scotty say that instead of Uhura? Why couldn’t random red shirts in the back?
Liz: Because sexism.
Anika: I really liked that Uhura was the one who was sort of like, “If you fail, at least you can find happiness in the past.” Like, that was nice. I was like, “Okay, I’m down with you, Uhura.”
Liz: Uhura ships it.
Anika: Exactly! Uhura ships it. But I don’t like it when Uhura, who is the only woman in the quote unquote main cast – because there’s not actually a main cast in TOS. But eventually, there’s the seven of them, right? She’s the only woman.
Anika: So she’s stuck being quote unquote, the woman – the girl, I should say, because I really feel like they intantilize her a lot.
Anika: So it’s like, “We need an emotional connection. We need someone to be scared,” you know, “we need someone to be scared. So let’s give it to Uhura.”
And it’s like, okay, but everything I know about Uhura, and, frankly, everything I know about Black women, is that they’re not gonna say that.
Liz: No, no, least of all to their boss.
Anika: Right, exactly. I mean, maybe we’re supposed to believe that this is the future and people don’t have those stereotypes and people don’t have those fears. But it was actually the 60s.
Liz: Yeah. The other thing I noticed was that there’s an Asian Yeoman on the bridge, and when Sulu is exploded out of his chair, he falls into her arms. And I wondered if she was put there deliberately to avoid any controversial multiracial arm-falling-into
Anika: Which is gross, like it’s so upsetting that we have to think about this.
This is the thing that Shatner – like Shatner was doubled down on saying that, like, “Hey, Star Trek was super progressive, but even so we couldn’t possibly have had – someone who was bi in the 60s like that wouldn’t be that wouldn’t have gotten on screen. And if Star Trek wasn’t on screen, Star Wars wouldn’t have happened.”
And it was like, okay, step back. I understand how history works. And I understand what you’re saying, in theory, but you are super inflating your own place in history to put down people who now, in 2021, want to say that Kirk is bi. Like, what are you doing?
Liz: Also, people’s headcanons and interpretations of a character do not have to be constrained by the limits of the time in which that character was created,
Liz: What Shatner was saying was technically true, but also incorrect in the context of the conversation he was butting in on.
Anika: And I’m just sort of like, dude, it’s 2021. I don’t care what the reality in the 60s was. Because we are watching through a lens of February 2021. That’s just the way it is.
Liz: Right, and if interpretations are not allowed to evolve with the time, then ultimately that piece of media is going to become obsolete.
Anika: Right? I mean, look at like, things that have lasted for hundreds of years, like Shakespeare.Shakespeare didn’t last for hundreds of years by never doing, like, the version of Shakespeare with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes – which is like the best Romeo and Juliet ever.
Liz: My local cinema is doing screenings of that for Valentine’s Day. And I’m like, on the one hand, I want to go, and on the other hand, that cinema clearly failed year ten English. But yeah, Shakespeare has always evolved with the times.
Liz: It’s really interesting to learn about how Shakespeare was interpreted in his own time. But that is not the be all and end all of his work. And likewise, you know, a lot of Jane Austen’s comedy and satire is lost, because we’ve lost a lot of the context for it. But she still has a lot to say which is valid.
Anika: Have you seen Austenland?
Liz: I haven’t, but my flatmate enjoyed it very much.
Anika: I really love Austenland. Because it’s saying like, these are the tropes that you loved in Jane Austen. And you can’t live them as if you were in like [Regency] times, like, that doesn’t work, because you’re not, but you can live them as if you were in the 20th or 21st century. It’s so heartwarming. The whole point is to embrace your present, to embrace Jane Austen in your present instead of embracing Jane Austen in the past.
Which is – to bring it back to our last episode, Janeway didn’t learn because she was trying to be Jane Eyre, and in Jane Eyre’s time instead of in the 24th century.
Liz: That’s a very interesting observation.
And I do think that there’s a lot to be said for, you know, “this media is important and has value to you. and also it is very outdated, and you need to give it a new context.”
Anika: Right, exactly. The Jane Austen Book Club also does this.
Anika: I love Jane Austen. I love literally every Jane Austen adaptation. They’re all wonderful. They’re all great. Everything’s amazing. But the ones that are modern AUs like, have a special place in my heart, because they take these ideas and fling them forward in time as if history didn’t matter. As if the ideas are more important than the time period that they were created in and I think that that’s really at the heart of Star Trek.
Liz: It is. And I think when fandom doesn’t want Star Trek to evolve to acknowledge its current context, that’s when you get season two of Discovery.
Anika: Right, exactly. And every other franchise has the same problem, where, when you do something new, like Last Jedi, you’re gonna get people who push back on it, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Liz: Right. I haven’t watched WandaVision yet, but I keep seeing this headline, Has The MCU Trained Its Fans Not To Accept Change? And I think that’s an interesting question. And I think the answer is yes, but it wasn’t just the MCU. And it was also something that fans did to themselves.
Anika: Right, it’s definitely something that fans did to themselves. And the problem is that studios are listening, which was not a thing – even 10 years ago, the fans had less power. And I really think that fans should not have a lot of power. You’re not gonna get the best things. And I’m not saying like fans in the writing room – fans in the writing room should totally exist.
Liz: And we’re not saying CBS should not listen to us.
Anika: I’m saying that mob mentality is bad. It’s bad in politics. It’s bad in fandom.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah. So, like Edith Keeler, I believe that humanity and fandom can improve. And, like Kirk, I recognize that one can carry that attitude too far.
Anika: Oh, my goodness. I’m gonna cry now. Lovely sum up. Good job.
Liz: Please don’t cry, you have to read the outro.
Anika: Okay. 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 follow us on Twitter at @antimatterpod, and on Facebook at antimatterpod.
If you like us leave a review on Apple podcasts or wherever you consume your podcasts. The more reviews – especially high reviews – the easier it is for new listeners to find us, and we love the new listeners.
Liz: We do. Every single one.
Anika: They’re great. You know what, we also love old listeners. So shout out to you.
Liz: We’re not fussy. We’re not proud.
Anika: And join us in two weeks when we’ll be discussing – I’m very excited for this – zines.
Liz: So what we’re gonna do – fanlore.org has a lot of scanned fanzines from the 60s. So we’re going to pick one, we’re going to read it, and then we’re going to talk about it. And we’ll share a link online so that you can also read it, and either tell us we’re very wrong or very right or have a completely different opinion.
Anika: I am very excited about this.