Let's face it-- we've always thought of Star Trek as a guy thing. From the miniskirt Enterprise uniforms on the original series to the bromance among Spock, Kirk and McCoy and the stereotype of the Trek fan living in his mom's basement, the universe of Star Trek seems to be limited to the egghead boy who identifies more with Spock's pursuit of logic than Han Solo's hotheaded galaxy adventures.
And on the surface, sure, there's not much in it for girls-- the original series and the first six movies as a whole severely lacked female characters, and most of the plots were either about men searching for their identities or fighting each other in space. But after a full-scale immersion in the world of the original Trek in preparation for the new movie, I'm hear to spread the good news-- ladies, it is safe to like Star Trek! In fact, next time your boyfriend or your dad is watching old episodes of the original series on CBS.com, you might surprise yourself by enjoying them.
Below are five reasons that women should give Star Trek a second chance, aside from the fact that the new Kirk in the new movie is totally cute. Obviously there are plenty of women out there who have been dedicated Trek fans for years, and ladies, I salute you. But this list is more for women like me, who never had much use for sci-fi and couldn't figure out why a show set on a spaceship would have any appeal at all. Also worth noting that this list only applies to the original cast, both because that's all I've seen and because it applies to the new movie. By the time the new Star Trek comes out this Friday you can sit in the front row with all the geeky boys you used to puzzle over, finally knowing what all the fuss is about.
1. It's all about equality. There's a lot more going on in the Star Trek universe than just guys shooting at each other with lasers, and more to the intergalactic politics than funky-looking aliens and a guy with pointy ears. Gene Roddenberry's vision for Star Trek was to show a future in which we were our best selves, which included a lot more diversity-- check out all those different faces on the Enterprise bridge!-- and also a dedication toward fairness. So while there's a lot of credence given to Mr. Spock's sense of logic and order, the heart of Star Trek is really gooey, obsessed with things like taking care of one another and the ability to be decent even to our enemies. Everyone knows that sci-fi and fantasy operate as metaphors for our current world, but unlike Lord of the Rings and its World War II commentary, Star Trek is a mirror to reflect the society we all-- even women-- are a part of.
2. It's funny. And not just unintentionally so (say it with me now: "KHAAAAAAAN!") From Dr. McCoy's endless sarcasm to Chekov's silly Russian accent to Kirk and Spock's witty banter, the humor of Star Trek makes it a much more accessible kind of sci-fi, in which the characters-- though living in a near-perfect society-- still act pretty much like the rest of us. Probably the easiest entrance into the Trek world is Star Trek IV, in which the crew of the Enterprise travels back to the 1980s and is completely baffled by everything they find, from buses that demand exact change to punk rock. The silly self-awareness really got the best of the franchise after that, but for the most part it works well, winking to the audience and saying "Yes, we know, warp speed is crazy-- but we want you to love these characters anyway."
3. Uhura. Sure, she's the most ignored member of the Enterprise crew, and has to pimp herself out ridiculously in Star Trek V for reasons nobody really understands. But it's cool that, as the only main female cast member, she's not treated any differently-- no one ever has to rescue her from some evil genius, no one has to tell her how to help run the ship, and everyone trusts her with a phaser when the time comes. Watch her take control at the beginning of Star Trek III and tell the puny kid to lock himself in the closet! Plus, during the original TV series she and Kirk shared television's first interracial kiss-- even though it happened as a result of mind control. A groundbreaking character whose legs also looked awesome in those miniskirt uniforms? Who wouldn't want to be Uhura?
4. Kirk and Spock. First of all, they're best friends who are remarkably open about their dedication to one another, which is a refreshing change of pace from modern men who can barely hug one another without feeling embarrassed. Second, with their wildly different personalities, they offer nicely different crush material-- Kirk the bad boy alpha male who probably ought to get his ego in check, and Spock the logical nerd who might need to cut loose once in a while. I've always been told that Spock is the one women love-- NPR had a great piece on it a while back-- but for me there's something about Kirk, the captain with the love 'em and leave 'em reputation and the illegitimate children to prove it. Watch him put on the moves in Star Trek IV and tell me you wouldn't also follow him back to his spaceship.
5. It's all about friendship. It's not just Kirk and Spock who love each other fiercely-- everyone on the Enterprise, either because of the 20 years they spent working together or Gene Roddenberry's big heart, treats one another like family, and constantly jumps in harm's way to save a shipmate. In Wrath of Khan Spock sacrifices himself, saying "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," but in the next movie, Kirk reverses it, putting the entire crew of the Enterprise at risk in order to rescue Spock. And they all volunteer for the mission too, understanding that even though the purpose of the Starfleet is to do what's best for humanity as a whole, friendship comes first. As a result the thread throughout all of Star Trek that makes it worth watching isn't the lofty sci-fi ideals or the truly thrilling action scenes, but the devoted friendships that hold it all together.
Bonus: Ricardo Montalban. Technically he doesn't count as a reason to revisit the entire original series and the first six movies, because he's only in one TV episode and in one movie, albeit the best one, Wrath of Khan. But by God, there has never been a set of pectoral muscles like those, and never a guy who can spout off dialogue like "From hell's heart, I stab at thee!" with such conviction. Just watch Space Seed and see Montalban, as Khan, seduce an Enterprise crewmember who can't help herself when he touches her hair. I promise you'll feel the man's power right through the screen.