For the last eight years, my president was Black. More than that, he was a Black Nerd, a Nerd of Color, the Head Nerd in Charge. After today, we aren’t going to see the likes of someone sit in the Oval Office as intelligent or intellectually curious as Barack Obama. His record in office speaks for itself. Because of President Obama’s leadership, 20 million more Americans have health insurance, marriage equality is the law of the land, and nerds of color were finally represented in the White House.
Thanks to CAPE (The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) and AMP (Asian American Media Professionals), I got to attend a small screening of Star Trek Beyond at Paramount studios.
I won’t get into the story itself, but I must say to all my Trekkies: my solid ice cold anti-Trek reboot heart is starting to melt. I understand how this film had a 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating, making it a ripe tomato.
It seems that Spock and his mixed-species brethren and sistren haven’t served as multiracial muses only to me and fellow NOC Claire. Even during the last year of its original television run, just a year after the landmark Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case legalized all interracial marriage across the United States, Vulcan/human hybrid Spock spoke so much to a biracial black/white teenager in Los Angeles that she wrote to him, via a teen magazine, for advice, so moving that actor Leonard Nimoy wrote her back with a message of self-acceptance.
With Star Trek Week on The Nerds of Color coming to an end after an amazing week of posts both celebratory, critical, and somewhere in between, I wanted to introduce you to two artists of multiracial heritage who use Spock as a way to explore mixed-race identity in their work.
Welcome to Day 4 of ST:NOC, and it’s an all-alien reveal in the categories of First Officer and Counselor/Chef/Shoulder to Cry On!! Tune in tomorrow for the final day of ST:NOC, when we tell you the winner (by an incredibly razor-thin margin) of our choice for Captain, as well as our vote for best Starship!
Vote for your own favourites after the jump!
“Balance of Terror” is rightfully considered one of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), with anti-war and anti-bigotry messages couched in an intense battle of wits and starships. It’s also an important episode for the franchise as whole because it introduces major antagonists for the United Federation of Planets in the unsettling form of the Romulans. In the opening of “Balance of Terror,” we learn that the Federation, despite having warred with them a century earlier, never actually saw what a Romulan looked like. Without knowing the face of the enemy, Kirk and his crew have to entertain the possibility of a spy in the crew. But before they can start accusing one another, a chance visual transmission is intercepted by Uhura, and the crew and audience share in the stunning revelation that the Romulans have pointy ears.
Although Romulans, with this episode, have pretty much been with Star Trek since the beginning, they have also remained — 47 years later — remarkably undefined. As we learn more about Klingons, we learn about their bushido-like code and oligarchical feudal system of government. The Ferengi are commerce-minded chauvinists that don’t like war (though war is good for business). The Cardassians have a Prussian efficiency and ruthlessness that they share with the Romulans, but they go on to demonstrate other aptitudes and capacities through seven seasons of development on Deep Space Nine (DS9). Moreover, those three races change quite a bit in the course of the audience’s time with them. We meet characters that are quite often wrestling with their cultures and governments in rapid flux. Cardassia flirts with a Weimar Republic before the Dominion War. Ferenginar becomes more progressive as Quark’s mom challenges gender norms. Chancellors Gorkon, K’mpec, Gowron, and Martok all evince different personalities and approaches to changing and saving their government and their people without losing identifiable Klingon cultural tics.
But the Romulans? They’re inscrutable, yo.
It was probably not a coincidence that my adolescent Trekkiehood (and no, I’m not uptight over the whole -ie vs. -er thing) coincided with the beginnings of the interrogation and articulation of the politics of multiracial identity that has preoccupied my academic and extracurricular life since then (and I’m 39 now).
I’d already spent a good number of my childhood Saturday afternoons watching Classic Trek reruns on Channel 13 when Star Trek: The Next Generation started airing at the same time that I started junior high. I don’t think I was quite sure why, exactly, I was so into it, but I was. My friends and I would spend science class talking about the previous night’s episode or passing around the latest NextGen comic book. I filled my bookshelf with TOS and TNG novels from Pocket Books, plus all the oversized manuals and behind-the-scenes-looks and field guides filled with art and graphic design. I hung a framed poster from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (a.k.a. The One With The Whales) over my bed and taped a pair of those shades they give you after the eye doctor dilates your eyes to slide into your glasses over Spock’s eyes.
I wore an original series command uniform made by my mom of soft gold velour to school on Halloween at least once if not twice (and somehow avoided getting beaten up). I received TNG action figures as gifts and pinned them to my cork board, keeping them mint-in-box. I went with friends from school to the monthly LA comic-con, first at the Ambassador, then at the Shrine, to browse the dealers’ room and see special guests (the “Save Max Headroom” flyer I got signed by Matt Frewer, Jeffrey Tambor, and George Coe hung on my bedroom wall for a long time after that show’s demise). We graduated to Creation cons devoted to our beloved Trek, and took the bus to the Westin Bonaventure downtown or got my dad to drop us off at the LAX Hilton, where I won a mug in a Pocket Books trivia contest and we saw a surprise preview screening of “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I” introduced by The Great Bird of the Galaxy himself in what was to be one of his last con appearances. I was a teenaged Trekkie, and I was not ashamed.