MST3K: Pepto Bismal for Star Trek and John Wayne

August 31, 2008

After SNL we stumbled across a Star Trek: TOS episode, one in which Kirk is split into two personalities by a transporter malfunction. I've probably seen this, but don't remember it. I came back in the room roughly 10 minutes in, so missed those crucial intro scenes. When I came in, a blonde yeo(wo)man had smeared lipstick and was explained to Spock and the Captain that the Captain had attacked her, just look at the scratches on his face. But there were none, and thus they realized there must be "an imposter" aboard.

As usual, the poor set design, cowboy acting etc. were only distractions if you let them. The genius of Star Trek was always that they did just enough to give the audience a situation separated from their own (in space), but like enough to dwell easily on real social and psychological issues. In this episode, they were exploring something like the Phineas Gage effect (although that is more truly in Spock); they were asking the question of what happens when you completely separate the "good" and "bad" elements of humanity. Can a man become or remain a strong and decisive leader without harnessing all aspects of his personality?

Much good came out of Star Trek this way. Sadly it did not do enough to stray from the culture that produced it. A momentary tangent. Earlier in the evening, when I first turned on the TV to watch football around 10:00, I caught John Wayne on the PBS Saturday movie — and he had a woman laid out over his knee and was obviously about to spank her. Shocked, I left it on for a minute, and incredibly saw someone hand him an iron fireplace shovel, with which he proceeded to beat her! Of course there was a crowd of men and women laughing uproariously. It was all okay, it was just some uppity woman being shown a lesson. Back to TOS.

Then we reach the end of the episode. Dialogue between Spock and yeoman:

Y: The impostor told me what happened, who he really was, and I'd just like to say that... well, sir, what I'd like—

S: Thank you, Yeoman. The, uh, impostor had some interesting qualities, wouldn't you say, Yeoman?

That's it? That's what Spock says to a woman who is nearly raped by her commanding officer? That left rather a sinking and disgusted feeling, especially combined with the John Wayne.

So to cleanse that feeling, T dug up a brilliant mockery of 50's "ideals" of womanhood, healthy living. I'd really forgotten how awesome MST3K was back in the day. "I'm late for my Hitler youth meeting" might be my favorite line.

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