Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Star Trek: Friday's Child

Episode: "Friday's Child"
Series: Star Trek: The Original Series
Season 2, Episode 11
Original Air Date: December 1, 1967
via Memory Alpha
In "Friday's Child," the Enterprise and her crew travel to Capella IV to negotiate mining rights with the natives.  Two complications: the sneaky Klingons got their man there first and the Capellans are edgy over the murderous intrigue within their tribal society.  The chief is slain and our friends find themselves on the losing side of the struggle.  So far, pretty standard fare for Trek.

Enter Eleen, wife of the fallen leader and bearing his child and heir.  The society's traditions condemn her to death, to which she willingly submits.  Naturally, Kirk, Spock and Bones aren't going to stand for that so they convince her to escape.  She bonds with Doc in time for him to deliver the baby.

There are troubling aspects of the Eleen story.  For instance, she only comes to respect McCoy after he slaps her - to be fair, she slapped him first, twice, and he was trying to help her, big picture.   It is one of many elements of Trek that don't quite live up to our 2014 sensibilities.  But here's an interesting wrinkle: the screenwriter, D.C. Fontana, is a woman.  Dorothy Catherine Fontana wrote 10 Original Series episodes in total, as well as episodes later for The Animated Series, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.  Beyond Trek, her writing credits extend over several decades, frequently under male pseudonyms.

*****
via Wikipedia
Julie Newmar (Eleen) was born Julia Chalene Newmeyer on August 16, 1933 in Los Angeles.  Her father had been a professional football player in the early NFL and her mother was a fashion designer.  She got into show biz initially as a dancer, appearing on stage in the Ziegfield Follies.  She won a Tony in 1959 for her perfomance in The Marriage-Go-Round.  Her biggest film role was as Dorcas in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
via Wikipedia
In geekdom, Newmar's guest appearance on Trek is trumped by her recurring role as Catwoman on the late '60s Batman series, 13 episodes in total.  Her costume from the show, which she modified herself to better exhibit her own figure, now belongs to the Smithsonian.

32 comments:

  1. Just finished watching episode. I believe it was the only one in which McCoy, Kirk AND Spock utter the line, "Oochie woochie coochy coo." Definitely a coup for Fontana. Most enjoyable!

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    1. Geo, I am both pleased and honored that you are watching these with me. I feel I should be making better use of your talents - a guest post, a link, something. Let me know if you have an inspiration.

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  2. So funny--I just finished watching Julie Newmar's performance on a Season 4 Twilight Zone I'd never seen. She was definitely a beautiful woman. Very unique features, especially for that time.

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    1. Let's not speak of her in the past tense just yet! She's alive and well at age 80.

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    2. Yes...and I'm sure she's still beautiful...I knew she was alive--I just never know how these celebrities look in their old age these days...plastic surgery is creating some monstrous faces out there in Hollywood!

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    3. Here's a link to a recent photo: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-GVdbo1r6rd4/UUlXJ9xBPvI/AAAAAAAAELk/XOba5ddopJM/s400/julie-newmar+2013.jpg

      She still looks pretty good, though I'm guessing there's been a lot of work done. It would appear extra effort has been made to maintain those killer eyebrows.

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  3. I dated a girl once who wanted me to hit her. The first time we had a fight about something, she started yelling at me to hit her. When I wouldn't do it, we had another fight about that. Yeah, that relationship didn't last much past that.

    I'd say I had a crush on Catwoman when I was a kid, but who didn't? That's like redundant information.

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    1. I'm glad you got yourself out of that one!

      I don't remember a Catwoman crush. Marcia Brady was my girl...

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  4. That's one of those mysoginistic moments that time period was infamous for Andrew. Great episode though. Every one loved Julie Newmar Andrew. :)

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    1. It's interesting, though, that the misogyny came from a female writer. In fact, her original script was even less flattering to the Eleen character than what ultimately made it to the screen.

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  5. A battery of thoughts in response to this post. Will sift.

    Andrew's last couple of sentences are cute.

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    1. I look forward to the forthcoming battery.

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    2. Okay, but first: Marcia?!

      Enlightening.

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    3. Yes, my sister was/is a very big Brady Bunch fan. We watched them all. In as much as I had any crushes at that tender age, Marcia was pretty impressive. I would not appreciate Catwoman-esque assets until adolescence.

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    4. My big crush when I was under 10, and it's possible you might remember this from the '80s crush blog party, was Elliot from E.T.

      As to the rest of this post, I read last night (in the Nicoll book) that 'the feeling of being right is at the bottom of most violence.'

      I think it may be what people resort to when they feel the most helpless, the most anxiety-filled, the deepest grief. The fact that this script was written by a woman fills me with perfect befuddlement (as does the whole 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.) The only thing I can think is that when people feel guilt or shame at some very murky level, violence against them can sometimes feel like a necessary chastisement, a sort of purging. It's not, of course, but the psyche can be a very treacherous cyclone to navigate.

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    5. After your comment and those of others, I'm trying to see the story through a different lens. The slap exchange is definitely a power struggle. She slaps Doc because she considers him unworthy to touch her. He slaps her to establish himself as the authority. That seems to fit in well with your quote from the Nicoll book.

      The story is further complicated by a matter I didn't address in my original post: Eleen's ambivalence towards the baby. It's not an easy thing to ponder but the situation isn't as unusual in the world as we might like it to be, especially in a society where the status of women is low and their reproductive rights limited - clearly the situation in this story. In Fontana's original screenplay, Eleen abandons the baby for good in order to save herself. Rodenberry wasn't comfortable with that so in the story we see, the move is presented as a self-sacrifice for the good of the child.

      As for the broader matter of those who embrace the role of victim for whatever reason, I have learned this much from life: one should never underestimate the power of clinical depression. It explains a lot of the inexplicable.

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    6. This is the idea in my head about depression: it stems from feeling like, no matter what you do, no difference in your situation can be effected. I felt that one point in my search for representation by a literary agent. It's being confronted with a situation which you feel must go another way, you exhaust your resources doing all you can, and yet the situation does not budge. I think you can go two ways from there: depression or a profound alteration in your perception of the situation.

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    7. Unfortunately, with genuine clinical depression, it's not a choice.

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    8. I thought about that after I wrote what I wrote, imagining that I am speaking only of those scenarios in which the individual does retain some command over what they are experiencing emotionally. I don't know near enough of clinical depression to speak of it with any kind of true understanding. I hope it's appropriate to at least communicate that you have my sympathy for whatever form this has touched your life.

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    9. As for myself, I've been lucky. But I know and love others who have struggled with depression. It's a strain on any and all relationships in a person's life and often lies at the root of abuse, for perpetrator, victim or both.

      Sorry, didn't really mean to get all heavy. I do find the apparent contradiction between this story and its writer interesting. There's too much going on to write the slap off as run-of-the-mill misogyny. Nor is Eleen a formulaic victim character at all. I suppose if I ever have a chance to ask...

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  6. I *love* that Catwoman photo! Rawr.

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    1. Yes. I think she understood her role pretty darn well.

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  7. I always thought Julie Newmar was beautiful and I loved her voice and delivery.

    cheers, parsnip

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  8. Julie Newmar was a magnificent woman. She trained in ballet but became too tall. "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"--she was fun to watch. What was the TV show in which she was an android-type character with Bob Cummings? Cannot think of it. She was beautiful.

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    1. She was a genuine triple-threat: actress, singer, dancer.

      The show was My Living Doll. I have to admit, I've never seen it.

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  9. I loved Catwoman and watched Batman religiously as a 6 year old. As for that Star Trek episode, oh boy are those some bad costumes!

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    1. Batman is easily the Trek contemporary with the most overlap in terms of guest stars, fan base, etc. A complete DVD set is finally coming out later this year.

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  10. All kinds of synchronicities here. I remember this episode, but I don't remember Eleen being the purrr-fect Julie Newmar.

    And her character from 7 Brides was named "Dorcas?" I first encountered that name in Gene Wolfe's New Sun novels -- as the name of an alluring female character -- and thought he must have made it up. :-)

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    1. Thanks to Wikipedia...

      Dorcas (Aramaic name: Tabitha) was a disciple referenced in the Book of Acts. The word tabitha means gazelle. One species of gazelle is known as the dorcas gazelle.

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