- Liz attempts to summarise the episode and we learn an important lesson about taking notes.
- A Medusan character in Prodigy.
- As a story about disability, this is … interesting. There’s a lot to unpack. Including Kollos, because he lives in a box.
- We only want the best for Miranda Jones
- “Both the Spock stuff and the Miranda stuff are actually all about how you present yourself versus who you are to yourself.”
- Telepathy and mental health professionals in Gene Roddenberry’s future
- Human telepathy in SF generally and Star Trek in particular
- Assistive technology but make it fashion
- Anika’s Scotty impression
- Infinite Cash in Gene Roddenberry’s Pocket
A link: Director Ralph Senensky’s blog about the production of this episode and the changes imposed in the final edit.
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 TOS episode, Is There In Truth No Beauty.
Liz: I have this radical idea that this time, unlike the last two episodes, I’m going to summarize what happens in this episode, before we start talking about those events.
Anika: Yes. That’s a good idea.
Liz: Like a proper podcast.
Anika: Oh, my goodness. I know. We’re so bad.
Liz: It’s just because we did it two episodes in a row, and I was editing and I was like, we really need to do this [summary].
Anika: Like, why are you listening to our podcast if you haven’t watched all of Star Trek?
Liz: I know!
Anika: But you know what? This is The Original Series. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that our audience is not a lot of Original Series watchers.
Liz: Certainly not the people whose primary part of the fandom is The Original Series.
Anika: Yeah. And while I know I’d seen this before, and I also had opinions before I started watching–
Anika: —but I only had the idea of it in my head. I didn’t have the actual episode.
Liz: Yeah, I had completely misremembered a bunch of things. All I remembered was that I loved Dr. Miranda Jones and that — spoilers. Well, we’ll get to that.
We begin as the Enterprise is on an Uber mission to carry Ambassador Kollos, a Medusan, a member of a race so hideously ugly that looking at them will drive a person insane — we’ll unpack that — to his next job. Accompanying the ambassador, who is a special effect in a box, is Dr. Miranda Jones, a beautiful woman who, by the by, is also a psychologist, and is preparing to join telepathically with the ambassador so that he can experience the life of a humanoid. It’s not really explained.
But this is a job she’s fought for, that she’s volunteered for. She’s very up for it. She’s also a telepath, a human telepath trained on Vulcan, and that makes her rather standoffish, but really the most important thing about her is that she is a woman. And she’s very beautiful.
Anika: A beautiful, a beautiful woman.
Liz: A beautiful woman. Ugly women don’t count.
The final member of their party is Larry Marvick, an engineer who–
Anika: He’s just a guy.
Liz: Yeah, he’s a guy. He helped design the Enterprise, and now he’s doing something or other with Ambassador Kollos’s box. Oh, that sounds a bit … anyway. He’s there.
We learn very quickly that the first choice for Kollos’s joining was Spock, and he turned the job down. So Miranda sort of has a chip on her shoulder because she’s not the first choice.
An awkward dinner party ensues. Miranda is hit on at every angle, and it ends with her saying someone In this room is thinking of murder.
Anika: Knives Out in the 23rd century.
Liz: I would watch that! Also, an awkward dinner party in space is, like, my favorite science fiction trope. So I was very into that.
That someone, that murderous someone, is Larry Marvick, of course, because everyone else at the table is a regular. His problem is that he’s in love with Miranda and thinks she should give up her career and remember she’s a woman, and marry him and have babies.
When she refuses, he goes and attacks Kollos but he looks upon the alien and is driven mad. He hijacks the Enterprise, flings it all the way across space into another galaxy, and then dies before Miranda can save him.
So, problem. They’re stranded on the other side of the galaxy and have no way of getting home. And this is a pretty good setup for a Star Trek spinoff. In the meantime, however, Medusans have this tremendous navigation power. That’s the word for it…?
Anika: I think they’re one with space.
Liz: They’re one with space. Just like that Diane Duane novel where a talking dolphin uses cosmic strings to get the Enterprise between universes. Anyway.
So Spock wants to join with Kollos, and combine Kollos’s understanding of space and time with his own technological skills to get the Enterprise home.
Anika: And ability to pilot
Liz: And ability to pilot. Yes.
Anika: That’s the main thing.
Liz: Miranda sees this as a threat to her role with Kollos and objects. Kirk’s like, “I’ll distract the doctor!” and he takes her to the arboretum and puts the moves on her. And by the time she realizes what has happened, it’s too late. Spock is joined with the doctor–
Shoot. I forgot a really important point. This is why we don’t do summaries. The other reason it can’t be Miranda flying the ship home–
Liz: She’s blind!
Anika: But Spock hasn’t already joined. The awkward arboretum date ends in her realizing what’s happening. And Kirk agrees — you know, points for Kirk, he’s less horrible than the other guy. He agrees to bring her and they interrupt it, but that’s when McCoy shows up and he’s like, “She can’t do it cause she’s blind.”
Liz: Right. And we’re 18 years away from a blind person being able to pilot a starship. So she goes in and consults–
Anika: Sucks to be you Miranda.
Liz: I’m sorry, Miranda. The 23rd century is just too ableist. She goes in and consults with Kollos, and we find out that he agrees to be joined with Spock because she starts screaming like a very rational adult.
Spock joins with Kollos, he flies the ship back where they left off. Then Spock catches a glimpse of the ambassador, and he too goes maaad!
Anika: He goes insane. But his insanity is not murderous, it’s just comatose.
Liz: Then we have this very odd final act, where Kirk accuses Miranda of sabotaging Spock and doing this deliberately, and this guilts her into helping him find his way back to sanity.
I have questions about the psychology behind — the actual real world — anyway.
And it ends with Miranda having joined with Kollos, and everyone’s happy and she’s got her career.
Anika: She’s like one with Kollos now,
Liz: Which is what she wanted.
Anika: For reasons that are not explained.
Liz: Not entirely.
Anika: She is now one with Kollos, and that’s what she wanted, and they were going to wherever they were going together to do this anyway. So it all ends up basically status quo.
Anika: Except poor Larry is dead. Oh, well.
Liz: He was an incel.
Anika: He was a sexual predator. So, you know, whatever.
Liz: And I guess Miranda is more comfortable in herself, and happier, and she has endured an awkward trip with lots of men telling her that she’s a very beautiful woman.
Anika: I want to jump to the end, but the very final scene — we definitely have to discuss what even happens there, because it does not make sense. Nothing that happens in the final scene makes sense with the rest of the episode.
Liz: I mean right down to the fact that Kirk doesn’t bother wearing the protective goggles that enable a human to see.
Anika: He’s not supposed to be in the room! I did research.
Liz: Oh gosh,
Anika: I have notes on that.
Liz: Notes, that’s something I should have taken. Obviously.
Anika: There was a summary! That’s what happened! You did good.
Liz: I was rehearsing my head and then none of the right words came out.
Anika: It’s hard to try to do it, you know, in under two minutes.
Anika: There’s a lot. A lot actually happens, but like I said, it ends up status quo. So it’s very weird. It’s a weird little episode, I think.
Liz: I liked it. It felt very much like a sixties short story, but I definitely find myself with many things to talk about.
Anika: I want to start with just why we decided to watch this episode, which is that there is going to be a Medusan in Prodigy, in the animated series, which is premiering kind of soon. I don’t know exactly when, but I know it’s soon.
In any case, sometime later this year, Prodigy is coming out, and one of the main cast is a Medusan who exists in a robot.
Anika: That’s exciting! It’s exciting to me that finally, however many years later, hundreds of years later, someone has decided to allow this species to not require telepathic, emotional, human type people to interact. And I assume that the robot — ‘cos the robot has a voice actor, so the robot can talk, and that means the Medusan is going to be a fully fledged character.
Anika: In a robot body.
Liz: I am also very keen to see how the 21st century deals with the “so ugly they drive people insane” concept
Anika: That was, like, the theme of this episode. It was a little muddled, I think, because I think they were trying to say that there are different versions of beauty and ugliness, that Miranda, while being the most beautiful woman that ever existed in the universe, has this horrible jealousy that is very, very ugly. And the Medusan that is so hideous, it, it–
Liz: Drives you insane?
Anika: I can’t even say it with a straight face. I’m so sorry. But yeah. So the Medusans, that are so ugly that they drive you insane, have an appreciation of life and what makes relationships work. I guess? I don’t know.
The Spock inhabited by Kollos scene was really cool. I liked that part of the episode. I think that was my favorite part, when Spock was being Kollos, because he was still Spock, but he was also Kollos and there was this really interesting dynamic going on. And I think that we’re supposed to understand that Kollos, while horribly ugly, is also a poet. Like, he’s quoting poetry, and he’s like this, you know, Byronic hero or something.
Liz: He just has a really great personality.
Anika: It’s just really interesting, like, he is this hideous person who’s very charming. And she is this beautiful person who is very standoffish, and all of these men are in love with her, and none of them are good enough for her — and it’s just — it’s bad. But I think that that’s ultimately the theme of this story.
Liz: First of all, that’s not how psychology works. Looking at something ugly is not going to cause a psychotic break or a mental illness. And the idea is kind of, in a modern context, ableist.
And secondly, I follow Carly Findlay, who is an Australian disability rights activist and writer, and a lot of her work is in the field of facial diversity and appearance diversity. And that’s basically, you know, people who have disabilities or medical conditions, you know, something as simple as alopecia where you lose all your hair that separates them from the so-called norm, and the discrimination they face.
And the idea that someone is physically ugly and therefore can cause harm to others just by looking at them, it’s exactly the sort of thing she fights against.
Like, it’s a metaphor and it’s sort of Lovecraftian in its construction of the Medusans, but I just … sometimes I’m very literal, and I have a really hard time when disability and metaphor collide like this.
Anika: It’s just really bad. It’s yeah, you can take it on a meta level of, okay, what is the episode trying to say? And there’s more to it than just disability–
Liz: “Ugly [equals] bad.”
Anika: —is bad, but not only are the Medusans literally trapped in a box because people can’t look at them, Miranda is unable to fulfill her goals because she happens to be blind and she hides it because she knows that people are going to treat her differently.
Liz: Right. Yes. And as a disabled character, I really like her. I love that she refuses to accept the ableism she faces if people realize that she’s disabled.
And sure, there are other ways to approach that. And she could be a 23rd century disability rights activist and fighting that ableism. But what she wants to be is a psychologist, and an ambassador for her people to Kollos. And just because you have a disability doesn’t mean, shouldn’t mean, you have to be an activist. And so I respect this as a story of a woman just noping out of that dynamic.
Anika: Yeah. But it’s hard to, you know, going back to the promise of Star Trek, it’s hard to be like, so 300 years from now, she has to hide her disability in order to be respected.
Liz: It’s not great.
Anika: And she’s still not respected because she’s so pretty.
Liz: Yeah. That’s the other thing. Miranda shouldn’t have to also be an activist for her disability because she’s fighting just to be treated as a seemingly able-bodied person who deserves respect.
Anika: Right? All of the men, because all of the main characters in this are men, they’re all — attracted to every single man in this story is attracted to her, and treats her as a bauble. And you’re right. They don’t even see her as a professional. Like, yes, she’s a psychologist and she’s some thing that got her off this gig, you know, like–
Anika: There has to be a reason that she was able to study on Vulcan. And now she’s in a position of some kind of professional power, but none of the men on the Enterprise respect it, including the person who’s like her assistant.
Liz: No, I will say, I think Spock treats her with great respect, but at the same time, her own insecurities and her own expectation of mistreatment mean that she can’t see it.
Anika: Mess up the relationship. Yeah.
Liz: They could have been allies and they could have been friends, but she doesn’t trust him.
Anika: It’s true.
Liz: The dinner party scene, where she assumes that Spock is wearing his IDIC pin to taunt her, is really, really telling. Because it’s ridiculous. It’s completely self-absorbed, and completely misunderstands who Spock is. Though granted, she only met him an hour ago. She’s been around Vulcans, so she should know that that’s an illogical proposition–
Anika: I can see Vulcans condescending to her.
Liz: And being passive aggressive through jewelry?
Anika: Yeah. That sounds like a Vulcan thing to do. So I can sort of see it from her perspective.
Anika: Yeah. She doesn’t know Spock. And Spock — this is a great episode for Spock, because you’re right. Spock is the one person who respects her and who treats her as deserving of respect. He respects her, but he also treats her in this, like trying to elevate her for everybody else too. It’s like, why are all of you not doing this? And then he has that scene that I mentioned at the end, where we really get so much insight into Spock being Spock, it’s like really wonderful. It’s like a gift of a scene.
Liz: I assume that you, as a Spock/Uhura shipper, appreciate that he takes one look at Uhura and starts quoting Byron.
Liz: Not just Byron, but his most iconic love poem.
Anika: Right. Like, it’s huge. It’s huge that he immediately says that, you know, Kirk is one of his best friends and that, oh, actually a McCoy is also one of his best friends. And then immediately goes over and throws his heart out in front of Uhura.
And then, at the end, when Kollos has to leave his body, and he has this whole speech about the terrible loneliness of being human — I interpret it as, if he was inhabiting someone else, he would not have that speech. That’s Spock’s terrible loneliness that he is showing to the world.
Liz: And if we’re to draw from that that this is actually Kollos’s first joining with a humanoid, Miranda seems equally lonely, and if she is sharing her consciousness with Kollos, does that mean she will become less lonely, and will they together learn how to connect with others?
Anika: I hope so.
Liz: Me too. I only want the best for Miranda
Anika: Yeah, I really want the best for Miranda too. And I think that, I think that she is just so — like, she has so many shields up, which again, it makes her so much like Spock. Like, of course they’re rivals, because they’re very similar.
Anika: Neither of them is going to be taken for an individual in this position. They’re going to be taken as Vulcan-human hybrid and blind telepath. People are going to see their details before they see them.
Liz: And I think that goes for Miranda’s beauty as well. You know, you see a beautiful woman and you make certain assumptions. Like, oh, she’s such a bitch. She’s totally up herself. She’s completely self-absorbed, and petty and jealous. And I feel like these are all completely valid readings of the character, but they’re completely uncharitable and unfair.
Anika: It’s super interesting. Miranda Jones is a really interesting character who has to do a lot in this one story.
Liz: I was interested that they originally wanted to cast Jessica Walter for the role, because Jessica Walter in the original Star Trek would have been amazing, but also she was an incredibly talented actress. And then they replaced her with Diana Muldaur who is, I think, equally talented. And I think a less brilliant actress would have really struggled to convey the complexities of this character.
Anika: Definitely. People assume that beautiful actresses get their roles because they’re pretty, not because they’re good at it.
Liz: Right. And I feel like I just did that then, when I suggested that they couldn’t just cast any old beautiful lady, that they had to go for this one in particular. Whereas I’m sure that Hollywood is and was absolutely crawling with women who are both beautiful and tremendously talented.
Anika: Right. It’s just a weird double-edged sword, because there’s also the idea that you can’t be cast in any movie or television series if you’re not beautiful. You know, TV ugly is prettier than regular pretty. It’s really interesting.
And Diana Muldaur has a really interesting story in regards to Star Trek, because this was actually her second appearance on The Original Series. She was already in Return to Tomorrow, with the Archons. It’s another one where she was possessed by another bodyless alien. So that’s fun.
Liz: I feel like they just knew that they could trust her to play two — like, that they know that she has that sort of range.
Anika: That she can do this. And it’s like this idea that she was pretty enough. Because, of course, my first experience with Diana Muldaur was as Dr. Pulaski, and also the lawyer in LA Law. They were within a year of each other and she was older. She had short hair, which I wasn’t into. I was a kid, I was a kid. And what was pretty to me was Beverly Crusher and not Katherine Pulaski, because it’s just — it’s just the way it is
Liz: No, these days I look at Dr. Pulaski and I’m like, yeah, yeah. But back then, I was like, who is this old lady?
Anika: Right. Exactly. It was just, I was not at the right place for me. Like, now I am approaching the age and so it’s like, oh, okay.
But literally, like, Scotty, Spock, McCoy, Kirk, and the Larry guy all said that she was the most beautiful woman that ever existed, in so many words.
And then, like, they almost had to also tell her about her flaws, like, “Oh, and also you are jealous and also you are blind. And also you are too focused on your career and like, not romantic enough and you don’t want the right things.” I know that it’s the sixties and people are still struggling with this now in the twenties–
Anika: But the idea that she shouldn’t go off with Kollos because eventually she will want to fall in love with someone as pretty as she is–
Liz: I know. Oh, I know.
Anika: I was just like, I can’t deal with this. This is just so bad. I hate this gross concept of, this lady is going to want to have an epic romance with a hot human and settle down and have babies and forget all this, like, forget all of her ambitions and I was sitting there, like, screaming at the television, maybe she’s asexual! I was just so mad. Because she definitely shows no interest in Kirk or Larry, or any of the men.
Liz: No! Maybe she’s gay, and what she really wishes is that Uhura had been at that dinner.
Anika: Right. Okay. Oh, and you know, my notes on the dinner are just, ‘yikes’.
Anika: Just big yikes for the entire dinner scene. But it starts with Miranda and — I think it’s four men
Liz: Miranda is literally the only woman in the room.
Anika: No, no, because there’s two red skirted, random unknown and nameless women who serve them dinner and then leave.
Liz: And see, I didn’t even spot those women! Guys.
Anika: So it just started at a negative 10 and went down from there.
Liz: I found that whole thing — like I said, I love an awkward dinner party in space. [But I] do not understand why Uhura wasn’t there, because in other episodes she would be in that scene.
And I do feel like they were intentionally keeping other women away from Dr. Miranda Jones, first, because if you have every man in the room talking about how she’s the most beautiful woman who ever existed, and then you put her next to Uhura, it’s kind of like, maybe there are two most beautiful women, ever existed. And also that would make them look like dicks, and worse, ungentlemanly.
But also Miranda never has an ally. The only person who is interested in being her ally is Spock. And she doesn’t trust him.
Liz: My heart breaks for her.
And the interesting thing about this episode is that the original script was written by a woman, and then the final revisions were done by a man, and specifically the man who wrote Turnabout Intruder. Which is, as we’ve discussed just recently, one of the more misogynistic episodes in the whole franchise.
Anika: I also found out that when she pitched the episode, the title was Miranda, and I just think it is so — so I’m just going to go with sexist, to take a woman’s story, where she literally centers the woman.
Anika: And decide that it needs a more poetic, you know, beautiful title that centers the beauty–
Anika: –of the woman. I think that’s just, just hugely problematic and just says everything. Everything that needs to be said.
Liz: And I’m sure someone out there is going to say that Miranda is a Mary Sue. This is the perfect episode that takes an original character and uses her — first giving her a story in her own right, but also using her as a vehicle to teach us more about the established characters, and tell an interesting science fiction story. And as you said, we learned so much about Spock from that one scene. So I think that the original author, the original writer, Jean Lisette Aroeste–
Anika: It’s cool that she was a librarian. That’s what I find cool about her.
Liz: Yes. I feel like there’s this tension in the episode between Miranda and everyone else, and the sexism that Miranda faces versus the subtext that tells us that this sexism is right and proper.
And I don’t want to say that Jean was by any standards a right-on feminist. I don’t know anything about her, but I feel like she was writing, in 1969, a feminist story. And I strongly suspect that it was then defanged by Arthur Singer.
Anika: To make it more about the package of a woman as beautiful. And then these other things. A woman as a romantic interest. And then those other things.
They elevated her beauty and her position as a love interest instead of a psychologist and a scientist and an ambassador and, like, a storyteller, like, she’s Kollos’s voice, right? She’s so much more than a pretty face.And they kept trying to say, that was the sum of her worth.
Liz: No. And I wonder if in her original script, that was what Jean Lysette Aroeste was talking about. You know, she was a librarian and she was an academic librarian, which is a fairly masculine subset of a feminine field.
And I wonder if she had a lot of pressure to, you know, give up her career and have babies and, “Oh, Jean you’re so beautiful, sooner or later, you’re going to give up on this silly career nonsense.” And so I wonder if Miranda’s experience of being objectified and reduced was also Jean’s.
Anika: Yeah, I can imagine that. And I agree. I think that, like, this is no Turnabout Intruder, it’s way better than that. I obviously haven’t seen the original script, or the many revisions, but I can imagine them.
And it’s just — like, this is a more — you said complex. This is a complex story. It has a lot to say about beauty, about femininity, about presentation, like both the Spock stuff and the Miranda stuff, are actually all about how you present yourself versus who you are.
Anika: And that’s super interesting to me. So there’s a lot of layers and I mean, I enjoyed watching it. I think it had a lot to say. I just, the dinner scene was super–
Anika: Uncomfortable. It’s a good word for it. And then Kirk’s seduction as distraction.
Liz: That felt like something out of a parody.
Liz: As usual, I’m going to cite Darren Mooney, but he has talked about how, in season three, Kirk was being positioned as a more traditional ladies man than he had been in seasons one and two. And that was partially because Gene Roddenberry had more or less moved on and the new producer didn’t really understand the series or the characters, and particularly Kirk.
Anika: I don’t think it’s crazy to say it’s similar to when they lowered the neckline on T’Pol’s costumes–
Anika: —in that there was studio pressure to bring up the ratings, and having Kirk — like, the reason that the second Star Trek pilot got through over the first Star Trek pilot is that William Shatner was in a fist fight at the end.
Liz: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a sort of appeal to the lowest denominator thing.
Anika: The studio wanted a certain sort of cowboy type character. And again, like, I don’t want to go out here defending Captain Kirk, because I find the arboretum scene really cringeworthy in many ways, but he starts in for the kiss and she puts up a really big, “Yeah, no, I’m not interested in this.”
And he immediately backs down, and she says, “I know what you’re doing, you’re going after Kollos, and how could you bring me here to do that?”
And he’s like, “Yeah, you’re right. Okay.” Like, he admits it. He doesn’t press it. He doesn’t actually follow through with the whole distraction-seduction thing. He actually respects her enough to say, okay, we’re going to go now.
Liz: Yes. He doesn’t respect her so much that he doesn’t make the attempt, and I find that interesting.
Anika: Like I said, he’s a little better than the other guy. And then at the end, the end is really interesting to me because it’s definitely not Kirk reacting to Miranda. It’s Kirk reacting to the fact that Spock’s in a coma and Miranda is the only person who can help. It’s like, “I’m going to lose Spock. And this is the person who could help, and the only way I know to get her to do it is by berating her and accusing her and being horrible.”
Liz: It’s a really horrifying scene to watch, and I hated it.
Anika: Yeah. It’s really bad. But the thing is that then he, like, comes out to McCoy and he’s like, “I shouldn’t have done that.” So there’s this weird thing where Kirk is sort of self-aware that in both scenes, he’s doing something wrong, but he doesn’t stop himself. And I think it’s accidental, but I think it’s interesting.
Liz: And the other interesting thing is like we talk about Miranda making this irrational accusation against Spock, but then at the end, here is Kirk being equally irrational, and I’m going to use this word very deliberately, a bit hysterical. And so, yeah. And it’s interesting that Miranda is paralleled with both Spock and Kirk.
Liz: And now that the MS word has gone through my head, I do kind of see how Miranda conforms to the Mary Sue type in a lot of ways. But I just think that she is such an interesting and complex character that no one reasonable could look at her and think, oh yeah, that’s a two dimensional, self insert or idealized character.
Anika: No. I mean, she absolutely has all of the hallmarks, but she’s a quote unquote, real person. I can imagine her backstory and I can imagine what she does afterwards. I would almost like to meet up with Kollos and Miranda and see what happens with them.
And, and that’s interesting. It’s like, I actually care. I actually care about both of those characters. I mean, Kollos is literally a light in a box–
Liz: And yet when he speaks through Spock, he’s so interesting.
Anika: He’s so interesting,
Liz: Like these are two disabled people entering a partnership to support and care for each other.
Anika: Which is super great. I mean, that’s a really interesting story
Liz: Yeah. And obviously this was not the intent, but I think you could get a valid reading of Miranda as autistic or in some way neurodivergent.
Anika: Yeah, I think that’s fair.
Liz: Not so much in anything that she does, but the way she simply tries not to engage with humans and human emotion, I really connected with it as a person who is a bit neurodivergent.
And, you know, she studied on Vulcan and I’m sure that was a real relief to her, as someone who finds human emotions burdensome. We haven’t even talked about what it must be like to be a human telepath.
Anika: I just want to point out that it’s interesting to me, as someone who studies these things, that both Elizabeth Dehner and Miranda Jones are telepaths.
Liz: Yes. And mental health professionals.
Anika: Right. It’s sort of like Star Trek or, you know, The Original Series has this idea that the only way to really understand mental health is if you — and, Deanna’s an empath, it’s like an even it goes forward into — I’m just going to go out on a limb and say Gene Roddenberry’s vision, quote unquote, is that people who, by some twist of fate, have more ability to understand someone’s feelings and belief systems are the only ones who can actually be good at being mental health professionals.
Liz: Which is interesting. I was thinking about Miranda in the context of your list of mental health professionals in Star Trek, because she definitely doesn’t come across as a therapist. She is strictly a research psychologist, but I’m into that.
Anika: Right because she keeps everybody at length.
Liz: That can be a good trait in a therapist. I just don’t think she’s interested. I think that anyone who is not a Medusan probably needs to work really, really hard to gain her interest, let alone her trust.
Anika: I think that’s fair. And that’s why she’s so interesting, because she doesn’t — like, she doesn’t want to be on the starship.
Anika: Again, that dinner scene, she’s not responding to the flirtation, she’s not encouraging it and she certainly doesn’t encourage Larry Marvik. She is practically a stone faced Medusa. Ha.
Liz: She’s definitely not sending signals.
Anika: Yeah. She’s sending signals of, “Stay the hell away from me, Larry.” That’s what she says, the signal she’s sending. And he clearly has had a thing for her for a long time.
Larry, to me, represents this like male entitlement idea that, “You’re a beautiful woman, and I’m the person who spends the most time with you, why haven’t you fallen in love with me yet?”
Liz: Yes. Yes. And I found it interesting that we have this script where Jean is apparently positioning the male cast, the regulars, as not necessarily villains, but certainly unsympathetic in their treatment of Miranda. But then with Larry, because he’s her own character, she can go, this is just a straight up, not good, dude.
Anika: I don’t know people like that in real life, but I’ve heard of people like that in real life.
Liz: I’ve certainly encountered it in it’s less overt modern form. Certainly, a man who is rejected by a woman and then immediately turns to violence is a familiar figure in this age.
I wish Jean was alive and I wish that we knew more about her work and her intent with this episode, because I think her intent must’ve been really interesting. And, in fact, her early drafts are available at the university library where she worked it’s just, you know, you have to apply and get access. And I’m not going to Los Angeles anytime soon.
Anika: It is interesting. She only sold scripts to Star Trek.
Anika: She totally sold her Mary Sue to actual Star Trek and got her on actual screen. And that’s aspirational,
Liz: It is. You know, she must’ve been one of the first people who did what would become normal with The Next Generation era, pitching a script as an outsider and having it accepted.
Liz: She’s an inspiration to all of us.
Can we talk about the way human telepathy was sort of a thing on and off in The Original Series and has just vanished from the Star Trek universe together?
Anika: When we were talking about how Elizabeth Dehner was also a telepath, I was thinking about the sixties and, like, the concept of ESP.
Liz: It was sort of still a credible–
Anika: And it is not now.
Liz: I think we’ve conclusively proved that human telepathy is not a thing. And I say that as someone who totally believes in like human psychic powers, but that’s like my great-grandmother knowing when her son’s leg was cut off in World War Two, not literally sensing the future of the entire human race, or whatever.
Anika: Right. Like, like psychic mediums, not into it. People who talk with the dead or read your aura, not into it.
Liz: I think the telepathy thing kind of did fade out. I feel like the last time anyone does take human telepathy seriously is Babylon Five. And don’t get me wrong, I love the telepathy stuff in B5. I love the Psycorps — I mean, they’re terrible, they’re fascists, but I love them. [Editorial note from Liz: I do not endorse the Psycorps, I just think their terribleness is interesting and Walter Koenig is always great.] But even watching for the first time, I was like, it’s kind of weird how we’re just treating this as a normal thing that humans do.
Anika: Not to be that person. But one of my favorite things to do is try to make things that I like, like Star Trek or Star Wars, or even Game of Thrones, is, like, make sense–
Anika: —when they do something that I don’t like, or that I disagree with, or that I think doesn’t fit into what I already believed in that the universe. And so I can write off the idea of a telepathic human in The Original Series as it’s 300 years from now.
Anika: And so there’s the idea of evolution if someone was really trying, or if we had eugenics — which we do in The Original Series, I mean, it’s not that that’s good, but that I can understand it would come from.
Liz: Like, I could headcanon it as a recessive gene caused by a mutation in World War Three, and it’s quite rare, but every now and then it pops up.
Anika: Right. Because of exposure to radiation or exposure to, you know, fill in the blank.
Liz: Yes. And it’s just unusual and uncommon, but the Federation taboo against genetic manipulation means they’re never going to be entirely rid of it. Problem solved.
Anika: That’s one of those things that I really like about a super old fandom like Star Trek is that you can see the changes in our society and how it affects what happens in the quote unquote future.
Liz: And even the trends in science fiction writing at the time, and the trends in television. And I feel like Star Trek and Doctor Who are probably the only works where you can track the changes in science-fiction and storytelling and television across decades.
And that’s great. I love doing that. It’s one of the things I most enjoy about watching classic Star Trek, even though that’s not really my jam. And it’s one of the reasons why, like, I love classic Doctor Who, and this is one of the reasons why.
Anika: Right. And that’s why I’m much more interested in having these conversations about how things change, instead of having conversations about how we have to explain why it happened. Even though I just did that. But that was for me, that wasn’t for canon. It wasn’t for — I don’t know. I just think there’s a difference between “I can explain it to myself,” versus, “I have to put it in the script so that people don’t yell at me on Twitter.”
Liz: Yeah. I certainly don’t think we need an episode of Lower Decks, even, to tell us why there are human telepaths every now and then, I mean, Lower Decks could do it and it would be funny, but that’s almost a parody of the fannish inclination to explain things.
Anika: Yeah. There’s a difference between headcanon and continuity.
Anika: And we, everyone needs to let it go. The continuity is fluid.
Anika: I want to talk about the camera techniques on display in this episode, because it was not a normal Original Series episode. They were definitely playing around. And this is the part where I did research!
Liz: Oh, oh, ooh! We never talk about camera stuff! Go ahead.
Anika: So the director, Ralph Senensky, has a blog, which is great.
Liz: He’s alive?
Anika: I don’t know if he’s alive, because, you know, his blog was started, uh, recentish. The post that I read, I believe, was in 2012. So in 2012, he was still alive and telling stories. But I don’t know after that. [Note: The day after our podcast went out, Ralph made an appearance on The Trek Files, so he’s still with us!]
Liz: Well, I hope he’s well.
Anika: But he has a blog where he talks about his memories of directing all the various things that he directed. He did a lot of Star Trek, and then he also did, like, Mission Impossible, and Eight is Enough, and The Partridge Family, like, he was super active in this time period. And I’m just like, this is so cool. I think I followed it from Memory Alpha. I clicked on one of the footnotes and I ended up on his blog and it was delightful.
So we will put a link in the show notes to senensky.com and his post-production notes on Is There in Truth No Beauty. But he hated all of the post production stuff that they did. He was not asked, and he did not understand why any of it was happening. And it was just — it was so fun to read this.
Now again, the Spock scene on the bridge, they did a lot of, like, showing us what Spock was seeing . And then in sickbay, they did it again ,when there was basically a mind-meld–
Liz: Yeah. Like a human initiated mind-meld.
Anika: Human initiated mind-meld, and at the end, like, he grabs her and does the actual mind melding things. That was cool. That was the best part of the sickbay scene. The Kirk stuff was awful. But during that scene, they cut flashbacks to earlier in the and weird camera angles and crazy things going on. I liked that stuff.
And by the time we got to that part in his blog, he was like, “I’m just not going to talk about this anymore, but I don’t like it.”
But at the beginning, like, okay, so I’m going to read the quote because I think it says a lot about what he is saying and why he was against it. So. “Due to ensuing circumstances that occurred after I turned in my director’s cut,” #releasethesenenskycut, “I did not view the final master print until the night. The show aired. When I saw this scene, I was appalled. Who had ordered the horror film, the flickering green light and the comic strip animation that was inserted to represent the ugliness of the ambassador? I had my suspicions since that kind of vulgarising technique had never intruded into Star Trek before.”
Liz: Fred Freiburger strikes again.
Anika: Yeah. “My objection was that its insertion negated the true intent of the scene, which was to show Spock’s reverent reaction to meeting the ambassador, an esteemed person, not a monster. After Spock left, there was an even greater distortion. The script called for Miranda to look, at the,” in all caps, “CLOSED RECEPTACLE as she said, ‘What is it he sees when he looks at you? I must know.’ The unscripted addition of a shot of the receptacle opening, with a repeat of the animation, was outrageous and tasteless.”
Liz: I love this. He was regarding Kollos as a real character with dignity. And he’s like, now it’s just been turned into this horror movie nonsense instead of something beautiful and reverent.
Anika: Okay. So let me get to the dinner scene.
Anika: And, you know, during the dinner scene where she was, like, “ne of you is thinking of murder,” that scene. So this is his response to that. “The reason for me to be distressed, the superimposition of the ambassador’s receptacle was again, all caps, WRONG,” exclamation point. “Miranda was reading, by her telepathic ability, the thought of murder. Who in the group was thinking that thought? The ambassador had no seats at that table.”
Liz: This is great. I interpreted that as someone, and I knew it was Larry because he’s the only other guest star there, is thinking of murdering Kollos. I didn’t realize that it was intended to be more ambiguous.
Anika: Which I guess is, like, the studio, the studio was like, this doesn’t make sense. We have to add in what it’s about. But that means that the studio assumes that, as you say, that it was Kollos, and Ralph here is like, no, that’s not the point. It’s the point that someone here is thinking of murder.
Liz: That’s so fascinating.
Anika: And then final scene
Anika: I am really excited to talk about the final scene.
Liz: I’m so excited to hear about it!
Anika: “Did you catch the gross error? The script and my director’s cut had Kirk say, ‘Peace,’ and then he exited. Who decided to have him hanging around without a visor, which wouldn’t have protected him anyway, because he was human. I have run out of scorn.”
I love it so much. And I want to say, I caught it. You caught it. All of the comments on the blog caught it. It was a huge error.
Liz: You know, we’ve talked about how one of the things that makes science fiction work as a genre is that everyone involved in making it takes it seriously. And here is a director who’s done many mainstream series, but he’s taking this science fiction universe with a silly visor and the rules around it very seriously.
And then you have Fred Freiberger, who by all accounts had no experience or interest in science fiction. And the changes that he made just don’t make sense because he doesn’t take it seriously.
Anika: That makes sense. So, yeah, I strongly recommend reading the whole thing, because it’s so good. And he has images of parts of the script, and he has the clips included, and he showed the actor who played Larry this episode, like, however many years later. He’s like an old man with white hair and stuff. And he took pictures. And so there’s, like, pictures of old Larry looking at young Larry, and they’re great. It’s so fun. So Ralph Senensky, go see him. He gets Star Trek.
Liz: I really do love this because it sounds like everyone involved at a creative level, except maybe Turnabout Intruder guy, really believed in what they were doing. And that’s so wonderful.
And one of the things I like about this episode is that it’s so self-consciously literary, you know, you have your Byron quotes, you have your poetry in the title, your classical history with the Medusans. Miranda is a name from Shakespeare. Obviously Next Gen is all about the Shakespeare and blah-blah-blah, but in terms of intertextual references, Star Trek isn’t like this anymore.
Anyway, let’s talk about the costumes.
Anika: Ooh. Okay. There’s some great costumes.
Liz: So many great costumes. I feel like Miranda just has the same outfit in different colors, but it’s magnificent. It’s like 1960s haute couture.
Anika: Yes, it’s absolutely elegant, and just her. So she has this wrap shift dress. It’s like an overlay that she puts over all of her clothing that is bejeweled.
Anika: And it’s actually a sensor array that tells her where things are, so that she can appear to not be blind. And I will say speaking of, of Mr. Senensky, I liked the choice to have Miranda stay seated during the dinner scene because she didn’t know that everybody was standing.
Liz: Oh, I didn’t even catch that! I thought that was a choice made to highlight her vulnerability as the only woman in the room. But as a minor detail foreshadowing her disability, I love that.
Anika: I’d seen this before, and I knew who Miranda was, so I knew that she was blind when I watched it this time. So maybe I like interpreted it that way, but that’s how I interpret it. That it was broadcasting that she couldn’t see what was happening in the room.
Liz: Yeah. No, I absolutely buy that. It could also be both, you know, we can send several messages at the same time.
Anika: Yeah. So I love her entire look. My friend Sue, who is one of the hosts of Women at Warp, has cosplayed as Miranda, in a really, like, impeccable perfect representation. And it’s just such a good look. It’s so good. I just love it.
Liz: I know that having her sensor web look like a piece of fashion is for the surprise reveal, but I love that we have adaptive technology that is also very beautiful.
Liz: We live in an age where people are blinging up their wheelchairs and decorating their crutches and their walking sticks. And I am totally here for the sparkly sensor net cape.
Also, in early Discovery, when all we knew about Lorca was that he was a troubled guy with eye problems, I was like, maybe if he doesn’t want to have his eyes replaced, he can get like a cool sparkly cape.
Anika: A cool sparkly cape!
I mean, even just something as simple as eyeglasses, which is one of those things that in the ableism conversation is always brought up as like, look everybody who is nearsighted or farsighted and has to use glasses for some reason is actually disabled. But we, as society, have chosen to fix that and make it very easy for them to get around. We’ve normalized it
Liz: Yeah. We don’t even think of it as assistive technology or a disability.
Anika: Right. But 100% you can spend hundreds of dollars to get designer eyeglasses. And so absolutely, why would sensor cape be any different?
Liz: And also, unlike Geordi’s visor, it doesn’t cause her pain. I know there’s at least one tie-in novel where Geordi recalls wearing a cape like that as a child, before he got his visor, and preferring the visor because even though it’s painful, it gives him a better level of sight. But I love that people have the choice.
Anika: So, speaking of Geordi, I do like that Geordi is sort of a callback to this episode, in that he was the pilot. He became chief engineer, you know, in the first episode of the second season, so you almost forget that he was the pilot.
Liz: I remember, I’ve seen conversations about how this new Star Trek is so politically correct that they have a blind man piloting the ship
Anika: Why do we always have the same argument over and over again?
Liz: Because new people come into fandom. They’re idiots, they learn, they get better, then more new people come in. That’s the charitable reading.
Anika: Okay. But I like that she is not allowed to be a pilot, but Geordi is pilot of the Federation flagship x many years later. I just, I liked that. I liked that Star Trek is saying, “we’re sorry. We’re sorry to have said that she wasn’t allowed to pilot.”
Liz: The way piloting works in Star Trek, there is no reason a blind person cannot do it.
Anika: There is no reason. What do they have to see? The view screen doesn’t show what you need in order to pilot.
Liz: No, no. It’s purely by instrument. So that was honestly a bit of lazy ableism from the sixties. And Like you, I’m really glad that they rectified it. I liked the sign that assistive technology advances and people get more opportunities, and it’s harder with a disability, but it’s not impossible.
Anika: Right. So then there’s Scotty and his dress uniform, which is a full-on kilt,
Liz: Yes, because he’s Scottish.
Anika: Which is great. He also introduces himself, he was like, “Montgomery Scott, chief engineer, call me Scotty.” It was just like, really? Okay. Okay, Scotty. But for the Amanda fashion project, I watched Journey to Babel again. And the dress uniforms get an upgrade from Journey to Babel to this.
Liz: Oh, that’s nice.
Anika: They’re the same, like, design, but because now everything is in HD, I can really see the difference. Like, we decided to make these, you know, this random gold brocade better this time, you know, we sewed it on instead of gluing it on. It just looks crisper. Everything looks better. They all are shinier in some way.
Liz: That’s really interesting. And it’s kind of a shame that the series was canceled before we really got a lot of use out of those new uniforms.
Anika: The whole Scotty — it’s a little United colors of Benetton, in that there’s Scotty, and there’s Chekov and then there’s — like, you have it’s diversity in a very specific way
Liz: Yeah, it’s tokenistic.
Anika: Is the best way to put it.
Liz: But it was progressive for the time.
Anika: But I do like that he is full on and proud and, you know…
Liz: It’s about time the Scots felt free to celebrate their identity.
Anika: But then there’s Spock’s IDIC
Anika: That he wears as a pin, and then also as a necklace.
Liz: Cause he is all about that bling.
But my favorite bit of research from this episode was the reason that Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations was introduced. It’s more Like Infinite Cash In Gene Roddenberry’s pocket.
Liz: You tell this one.
Anika: Okay. So Roddenberry, as we’ve discussed, had sort of stepped away from Star Trek. But he’s kind of — like, he started a QBC channel.
Anika: He started a shop, Lincoln Enterprises, where he–
Liz: I don’t think he started it. I think it was started by a fan.
Anika: And he took it over.
Anika: He realised that there was an audience, and he purchased it.
Liz: There’s some sort of conflict around it.
Anika: I believe that. So, he decided that that was the best way to make money and, you know–
Liz: I guess
Anika: —all of America is now based on this idea. So I guess it was, uh, forward-thinking.
Liz: He was ahead of his time in so many ways.
Anika: So he designed this Vulcan pendant, but the entire purpose of it was to sell, you know, for $50, a pop, jewelry–
Anika: —to the fans. That was the whole point. And so the great part is that Leonard Nimoy was like, “h, hell no, I refuse. I refuse to do this. I am not going to be a party to your product placement in Star Trek.”
So this was the first scene that was going to be filmed, and so the director showed up, and this is another quote from his blog. “Our first day of filming Tuesday, July 16th arrived, and I was greeted with a mutiny on the Enterprise. And so Nimoy called Fred and he ignored him. And so then he called Gene and said, you know, look, come, down here and rewrite this scene or else I’m out.”
Liz: Yup. No more Spock for you.
Anika: William Shatner backed him up.
Liz: And when those two are agreeing on something at this point in the series…!
Anika: Yeah. So that scene was not filmed on the first day because Gene Roddenberry did rewrite it to make it less of an advertisement for Spock’s jewelry. Although he does wear two different versions in the episode. So it’s still product placement.
But, like, the best part of this story, other than Leonard Nimoy having a spine, is all of the obnoxious Boomer fans who yell at all of us who enjoy Discovery and say that Discovery only exists to make Paramount money, and that it goes against Gene Roddenberry’s vision…
Liz: There is a reason Gene invented the Ferengi.
The other great thing is that this was actually the second attempt at getting the IDIC medallion and pin into the series. The first attempt was Spock’s Brain. And again, the cast mutinied.
Anika: I am so proud of the cast for understanding that they were in this anti-capitalist series that wasn’t about that. Like, they understood Star Trek.
Liz: There’s something that really sits wrong with me about the money for this merch going to Roddenberry as an individua,l and not the production company, and not in any way supporting the production of the series.
Anika: Especially if he bought it out from a fan, like, that’s like someone going to an Etsy shop and — which is something that’s happening now.
Liz: We don’t like it when this happens. We don’t like it when fan works are exploited by the creators. And, I don’t know, maybe if there had been a viable pipeline of merch money for NBC, they wouldn’t have been so quick to cancel at the end of the season.
And obviously, we would not have Discovery today if Star Trek had not been prematurely ended, but there’s just a level of selfishness from Roddenberry that I think is really telling. It’s like when he created lyrics to the theme that would never be used, just so he’d get a piece of the royalties for that. He had many great ideas, but he was very much a capitalist.
Anika: Which is why when people get so up and it’s like–
Liz: Yeah. “Oh, I just think it’s wrong that I should have to pay to watch Star Trek.” Mate, I used to pay $12 a month to rent new release videos. And that was the only way.
Anika: So it’s just ridiculous to be complaining about it. Like, it’s just so weird to me. And then there’s so much merchandise.
Liz: Honestly, l wish there was better merchandise.
Anika: I have a bunch of action figures, but they’re in my closet because they are meant to be when we do a live recording–
Anika: –at a convention, and we give them away. It’s like, no joke. That’s why I bought them. I found someone who had a whole box full of old Star Trek figures. And so I got all of my favorite guys, but I haven’t opened them. I’ve just put them in my closet. Because that is my goal. My goal is for them to be giveaways at a live–
Liz: I am fully vaccinated as of yesterday. It is just a matter of time until I can leave the country. And also, separately, have the money to leave the country.
Anika: No, I definitely don’t have the money to come to Australia.
Liz: No one does. We’re not letting anybody in. I’m going to do the outro.
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 @antimatterpod, all one word, 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. Also, I logged into my American iTunes account the other day, and saw we have one, one star rating. Everyone else is five stars.
Liz: I know, I’m outraged. How dare. In the Australian store, we have mostly five stars and one, four star. And I’m like, yeah, that’s valid. But that one star, it haunts me. So rate us.
And join us in two weeks when we’ll be discussing relationships and shipping in The Next Generation.