What do women want? It is a question which has inspired endless human art and literature. The original series of Star Trek, however, seems to have the answer. Women want an alpha male to tell them that they’re PRETTY!
Ah, our ultimate goal.
Of course, this is not always true- after all, most girls do go for Kirk, but Spock, Chekov, and even our favorite old country doctor get some love interest action throughout the original series. Generally, though, the Star Trek: TOS love interest subplots tend to follow this or a couple other predictable patterns. This stereotype is featured in many episodes, including “Space Seed,” in which a highly educated, intelligent officer allows herself to be completely subjugated by the powerful genetic monstrosity that is Khan Noonien Singh, forgetting all of her training and loyalties in her desperate need to look soft and womanly to her new love interest. And who could forget Yeoman Janice Rand, feverishly hoping that Captain Kirk will just ‘look at my legs!” In another episode, Yeoman Rand isn’t fazed even by attempted rape; she actually says that she wouldn’t have told anyone because she did not want to get Kirk into trouble.
Even Starfleet scientists feel this hunger. Just look at Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas of the episode “Who Mourns For Adonais?” In this episode, Lt. Palamas, archeology and ancient civilizations expert, beams down with Kirk, Chekov, Scotty and Bones to advise the captain in his mission to free the ship and crew from the alien entity once known on earth as Apollo. Apollo has taken the ship captive with a massive, hand-shaped field of energy, one of the godlike powers he possesses. Apollo means to hold the crew on the surface to provide the worshipping masses that sustain his life. Once she meets this Olympian alpha male, however, Carolyn simply melts under Apollo’s constant lavish praise of her beauty. When Apollo uses the same power source which holds the Enterprise hostage to dress her up in a pretty pink gown, she gushes happily, eyelashes fluttering, at its Grecian loveliness. I guess that all it really takes is a cute new outfit and a man of power to crush on and all of our advanced training simply disappears!
Mr. Scott, meanwhile, has been pining after Carolyn the entire episode, much to Kirk and Bones’ amusement. Mr. Scott manages to get himself hurt several times in this episode by committing unwanted gestures of male bravado in Carolyn’s honor, which she is too dazzled to notice. Maybe Scotty should have taken a cue from Apollo- the way to a gal’s heart is to say she’s beautiful, not tell her she looks tired, and should join you for a cup of coffee. Thanks a lot, Scotty! I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. As Bones dryly notes, “he thinks he’s the right man for her, but I’m not sure she thinks he’s the right man. On the other hand, she’s a woman. All woman. One day she’ll find the right man and off she’ll go, out of the service.”
I’m not even sure if I’m offended by that quote because it’s NOT true of women, or because it IS true- of this particular character, anyway. Unfortunately for the rest of us strong Star Trek females (not you, Janice), Carolyn Palamas is the epitome of a weak, fluttery, vain female, needing love to survive just as much as the lonely and temperamental Apollo. Carolyn is yet another single-serving love interest for the men of the episode- someone to ogle at and provide convenient plot twists. Carolyn’s historical expertise (“I’m a scientist!”) is a mere footnote to her real purpose- to give the men something to fight for possession of. Her character only serves as a love interest, and her knowledge of ancient history is mentioned merely as an aside in her rejection of Apollo. Asserting that he is merely a specimen for her examination marks one of the only references made in the episode to the fact that she is, in fact, a person of great knowledge and learning.
Meanwhile, on the bridge, Uhura is reworking the entire communications array, aiding Mr. Spock with restoring communication with the away team. Just working away, helping to save the day again so that the Enterprise can continue to boldly go. Does she get any thanks? Nope. But that’s OK! One day, she’ll meet the right man and she can quit the service.
“Trekette” is an ongoing series by Victoria Wright looking at Star Trek through a female perspective.