Star Trek

I just finished watching all three seasons of Star Trek on Netflix.  It seems to be becoming a tradition to record my thoughts when I finish a series, so here goes.

Star Trek was a really great show.  Not every episode was great, but every episode was trying for something.  I’d always rather watch people try and fail than play it safe and be boring.

William Shatner is actually a very good actor.  I can’t understand the criticisms.  Yes, he was often campy.  But, the show was often campy.  In three full seasons and a bunch of movies, there was never a time when his performance was out of place within the show.  A subtle, measured performance would have stuck out as inappropriate.  He nailed it.

Speaking of unfair criticisms, I enjoyed the third season.  People complain about it a lot, but “The Tholian Web”, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The Savage Curtain” are three of my favorites.  I mention “The Tholian Web” later, but Abraham Lincoln floating in space and the people with one black half and one white half are two of the other images that never left me.  As an adult, I can see that the messages were a bit heavy handed, but that doesn’t stop them from being entertaining.

As a kid, I completely missed the casual sexism in the show.  It is a bit jarring now just because the show was trying to be so progressive.  It’s hard to believe that even progressives had such views of women only fifty years ago.

Netflix has the versions with the updated special effects.  I have no problem with the idea of updating, but I wasn’t thrilled with the way it was done.  They only updated the scenes without people, so there was a clear difference between the updated scenes and non-updated scenes.  I found this distracting.  I was also annoyed during “The Tholian Web”.  One of the images that has always stuck with me from watching the show when I was a kid was the Tholian ships building the web.  In the new version, it looks completely different.

The best episode is pretty clearly “The City On the Edge of Forever”.

My favorite episode is “The Trouble With Tribbles”.

I love the relationship between Spock and McCoy.

Spock is, and always shall be, my favorite character.

I really wish Uhura had been given more to do.

I’ve always liked the theme music.  Must be the prominent horn.  It reminds me of Les Jazz Modes with Eileen Gilbert.

I think I’ll check out the animated series next, but I’m really looking forward to Next Generation.

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Mr. Spock

I’m sure you have heard that Leonard Nimoy died.  I, like almost everyone else, will forever think of him as Mr. Spock.  And I, unlike most people, will forever think of Mr. Spock as my first philosophy teacher.

Of course everyone associates Spock, and all Vulcanians (that’s what they were called in the original TV series), with logic.  While logic is a branch of philosophy, many people don’t realize that, and I’m not really talking about his logic.  Many people also know that Gene Roddenberry used stoic philosophy as a sort of guide in the creation of Spock’s character.  But, that’s not what I am talking about either.  There are two elements to Mr. Spock that are essential to all great philosophy.  One is the fact that he is always an included outsider.  The other is his sense of wonder.

The position of included outsider is important to philosophy.  What I mean by the phrase included outsider is that a philosopher needs access and distance.  Too close and there is no objectivity, but too far and objectivity is sterile. From Socrates’ gadfly to Nagel’s “View From Nowhere”, this has been a part of the philosophical tradition for as long as there has been a tradition.  Spock is the perfect embodiment of an included outsider.  He is an alien from the point of view of the audience and most of his shipmates, but he is a part of the crew and a friend.  Even on his home planet, he is half human and not fully accepted.  His outsider status allows him to see things that no one else can.  But his relationships are what allow him to use those insights.

The ancient Greeks said that philosophy begins in wonder.  Without wonder we wouldn’t progress, we wouldn’t question.  Wonder, even more than intelligence and society, is what defines us.  Spock’s sense of wonder is constantly on display, but rarely talked about.  Everyone associates Spock with the word, “Logical.”  I was always struck by his use of the word, “Fascinating.”  He is not looking for profit or power.  Spock wants to learn just because he is curious.  And I think this is where Nimoy really shines.  Vulcanians are cold and calculating when played by anyone else.  When Spock says, “Fascinating,” the sense of wonder comes through.

As I have studied philosophy, Spock has always been a kind of model.  Not because I follow any of his specific ideas, but because I try to emulate his style.  I try to cultivate a sense of wonder.  I try to be objective while still being involved and caring.  Leonard Nimoy created a character that truly impacted me and I think helped to make me who I am.  For that, I will be forever grateful.