domingo, 3 de março de 2013

Gene Roddenberry: The "Vision": Star Trek's Construction as Multicultural Utopia by Katja Kanzler



The textual corpus that comprises the cultural phenomenon Star Trek is immense, not just in terms of sheer quantity but also in the wide range of cultural references it makes. My approach to the various television episodes, feature films, behind-the-scenes- reports, etc. will locate the artifact on a discursive landscape shaped by contesting muliculturalisms as well as by the structural dynamics of the Science Fiction genre and of popular culture. I will develop my argument around the central thesis that Star Trek articulates a highly ambivalent and contradictory version of multicultural discourse, a signifying practice which its status as a popular SF narrative both necessitates and makes possible. This fundamental ambivalence distinguishes Star Trek from other discourses of multiculturalism, and I aim to chart both the limitations and the potentials that lie in such a popular version of multicultural thought.


In this chapter, I wish to focus on Star Trek 's self-designation as "multicultural." As I will outline, Star Trek 's various narratives draw on multicultural tropes and incorporate them into their respective generic conventions, may they be autobiographical, commercial or historical. The generic purpose of the text determines the way in which multicultural motifs are used. Although the different politics behind the various texts produce widely differing narratives of "Star Trek," I want to show that the program's affirmation of and optimism about multiculturalism generally occupies a central place in them.


Throughout the wide array of texts that dedicate themselves to Star Trek , the program is continuously alluded to as transcending the status of a mere television series. In fact, it is frequently described as both itself having risen to the status of a contemporary myth as well as hosting a set of mythic narratives concerning its own origins and creative process. Terms like "mythos" (Reeves- Stephens 12; Engel 149; Nemecek ix), "mythology" (Greenwald, front cover; Engel 165 and 142; Radio Times 3), "cult" (Engel 180; Radio Times 3), "cultural icon" (Reeves-Stephens xiv) and "folklore" (Reeves-Stephens xv and 2) abound in discussions of
Star Trek , may it be to celebrate or to challenge the program's supposedly larger-than-life status and the stories that sustain it.


Before exploring the contents of these less than modest labels, it is worthwhile to reflect on the politics behind employing such a terminology. Anthropologists like Lévi-Strauss use terms such as "myth" to talk about everyday cultural practices. The contexts in which Star Trek 's extra-textual discourse[37] employs the terms, however, are often concerned with marketing the franchise. This usage thus taps right into popular culture's ambivalent character as at once democratically open and part of "the people's" culture(s) and a commercial enterprise.

What extra-textual discourses label the "myth of Star Trek " is, above all, the extraordinarily successful market-image of an entertainment franchise. A new sub-field is currently emerging in the field of marketing, termed "identity management," which, trying to respond to an increasingly competitive market, spells out an "ideal" marketing strategy that happens to be perfectly congruent with the mechanisms behind Star Trek 's meta-narrative. This new approach is to update the industry's stock method of "branding" - i.e., creating a brand with specific connotations for a given product to trigger a particular image in the minds of the customers - by emphasizing that isolated images for single products are no longer sufficient. Rather, companies should create more comprehensive "identities" that integrate their corporate identity with images of their goods or services, and that address the customer on more than just the cognitive level.[38] In other words, companies are to expand the traditional tools of marketing to penetrate those spheres of people's lives where they do not even realize that they are "consuming" but rather think, e.g., they are "experiencing a lifestyle" or "participating in a cultural phenomenon." This concept of a marketable identity, I believe, perfectly fits the set of narratives that construct Star Trek 's status as transcending that of a mere commodity, as having outgrown the realms of commercial television and penetrated into the core of contemporary Western culture.


Looking more specifically at the ways in which the above quoted authors delineate Star Trek 's "mythic" nature only supports this thesis. The accounts generally locate the basis for Star Trek transcending its nature as an entertainment franchise in its wide­spread and long-lasting popularity, which has kept the program alive for more than three decades. They further maintain that such an extraordinary popularity points to the way in which Star Trek has captured the essence of late 20th century American culture, apparently "striking the right chords" with the American public. The chain of reasoning is usually concluded by referring to the impact Star Trek has had on individual people's lives.

If that justification for Star Trek 's elevation to the ranks of "myth" and "iconocity" seems hardly convincing, the content of that "myth" remains even more vague. As Tulloch and Jenkins so poignantly observe, accounts of the program's "mythos" often only evoke abstract concepts like "tolerance" and "diversity" without putting them into a political context. Therefore, they end up being employed in various, often contradictory ideological narratives (e.g., in fan-debates over the question whether Star Trek - philosophy would be in favor of or against affirmative action; 190- 91). Yet even beyond Tulloch and Jenkins' observation, my own reading suggests that more often than not terms like "mythos" are employed without giving any justification or content. Star Trek 's "mythic" status seems to be a fact that requires no elaboration - indeed, it seems as if subscribing to Treks "iconicity" functions as a prerequisite for socially entering its fandom.


The only way in which to chart Star Trek s identity, then, is to look at the fairly limited set of narratives that keep on re-occurring in Star Trek s extra-textual discourses. It is in these narratives where I want to locate Star Trek s self-designation as multicultural. I want to show that multiculturalism is indeed central to the identity the program has constructed around itself, as it focuses on Star Trek's portrayal of an egalitarian future in which racism and sexism have been overcome, and on the way in which the program is presented as inspiring individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In historical terms, the time at which Star Trek current identity was inaugurated is fairly easy to pinpoint. As even the most benevolent accounts concede, Star Trek achieved its "mythical" status only after The Original Series (TOS) had been cancelled in 1969 (Poe 27). The factual raw material of a television program of the mid-1960s was later, in hindsight, transformed into the story that constitutes Star Trek 's market-identity. When it became clear soon after TOS's cancellation that the franchise was far from dead, and that enough money could still be made by selling the show to television stations for syndication as well as on the by the mid- 1970s flourishing fan conventions, the agenda was set for a "creation myth" that could boost the program's market potential (Engel 149).


Next to the economic promise of Star Trek 's recycling pushing for the construction of a legend around it, the constantly growing number of fans - whom the program's identity was to target and bind to the franchise - provided a "pull-factor" of its own. According to Tulloch and Jenkins, TOS's cancellation left fan audiences with a painful absence of incoming material, whose discussion had provided the basis for their fandom.[39] They, therefore, enthusiastically welcomed the publication of The Making of Star Trek in late 1968 to fill that void (15). In this book, which was, significantly, co-authored by Gene Roddenberry - the "inventor" of Star Trek - the legend of Star Trek 's creative process was coherently articulated for the first time. Paving the way for dozens of other "Making of' and "Behind the Scenes" reports that define Star Trek s extra-textual discourse, The Making of Star Trek became the ur-text for the narratives I want to look at in this chapter.

Based on these introductory considerations, already three important points concerning Star Trek 's identity begin to emerge. First and foremost, the identity was deliberately constructed by the program's creator(s)[40] in order to bind fan audiences more closely to the franchise. This interest fed on the simple yet for Star Trek vital insight that an audience that would routinely re-watch the franchise's output promised higher earnings than a crowd of average one-time viewers. In order for the image to work, however, it had to be accepted by those it was targeting. And indeed, supported by the external circumstances described above, Star Trek fans willingly appropriated the legend, turning it into an important part of their fandom's language.

The relationship between the fans and Star Trek 's identity is highly complex, as to many fans it is obvious that the "myth" suspiciously serves corporate interests. However, as one fan's statement indicates, the fans' dedication to the image's central figure, Gene Roddenberry, is so great - almost religious - that any criticism of his persona becomes an act of blasphemy:
Most fans stop short of blaming Star Trek ! creator and producer for its sexism. We all feel a great deal of fondness, gratitude and respect for Gene Roddenberry. He has given us so much that it seems almost a betrayal to level strong criticisms at him or his creations, (qtd. in Tulloch/Jenkins 189-90)
The fans' passionate - and often profound and controversial - debates of the program thus generally leave the Roddenberry- centered identity intact, usually blaming the network or some other decision-maker with not living up to the series' high ideals. The alliance of internet fan groups "gaytrek.com"41 is a case in point: although their lobbying for the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters into the program42 distinguishes them from the mainstream of Star Trek -fandom, and although there would be more than enough basis for charging Roddenberry with heterosexism, they built their campaign upon the premise to push the show's current producers toward making a Star Trek  that would live up to Roddenberry's original ideals:

Given the future that Gene Roddenberry envisioned, in which poverty, racial prejudice, sexism and even war have been eliminated among humankind, it is logical to assume — as Gene has publicly acknowledged - that homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation will also have been abolished. [...] It is time to live up to Gene's vision by embracing diversity and tolerance in the tradition established by the original series. ("Gay & Lesbian Petition for Gay Characters," http://www.gaytrek.com, 10 Sept. 1997)

A similar dynamic can be observed concerning "revelatory" books like Joel Engel's Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek or Herbert F Solow and Robert H. Justman's Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, books published after Roddenberry's death in 1991. These books quite violently debunk the narrative of Gene Roddenberry as Star Trek 's, (sole) visionary creator, drawing a picture of him as a procrastinating writer, incompetent producer and misogynistic egocentric. While their sheer existence as well as their impressive sales figures[41] speak to the way in which the followers of a "cult" more or less secretly indulge in scandalous deconstructions thereof, such accounts could not manage to destabilize Star Trek 's, identity in any significant way. A quick glance at Star Trek 's, extra-textual discourse of the past ten years or so indicates that the way in which its identity is talked about has not undergone any radical change at the time of these books' publications.[42]
Turning to the actual texts this chapter is dedicated to, the "Behind the Scenes" reports, of which I reviewed a representative[43] sample of 15 books, structurally changed little from Whitfield and Roddenberry's "original" to Reeves-Stevens The Continuing Mission in 1998. The only development that can be observed would be that the sheer number of publications for which there seems to be a market makes it less likely that they are written by someone actually involved in the program's creation. In order to still evoke the authenticity Roddenberry's text had embodied, these authors- outsiders heavily rely on interviews with and quotations of the people involved in Star Trek 's production.[44] In addition, a second category of texts I will include in my analysis are the biographies and auto-biographies of people involved in making Star Trek that are now beginning to be published.[45]


Both groups of texts represent quite comprehensive projects - to narrate a person's life or the making of a pop-cultural icon. Multicultural narratives, therefore, figure as only one, albeit significant aspect among many. Besides determining my choice of texts for analysis, the presence or absence of multicultural narratives already offers important insights into the role multicultural aspects play in Star Trek 's identity: Among the "Behind the Scenes" reports I surveyed, each text contains some multicultural reference;[46] among the biographies and auto­biographies, however, only those of the program's creator Gene Roddenberry and those of the two only non-white actors in Star Trek: The Original Series,[47] Nichelle Nichols and George Takei, articulate an interest in multicultural issues to any significant degree. This phenomenon evidences that, first of all, those accounts of Star Trek that attempt to comprehensively capture its identity draw on multicultural narratives as a necessary ingredient. Among the accounts of people's personal involvement in and experience of the program, however, only the "ethnic" actors choose to position themselves within the multicultural elements of Star Trek 's identity. The motivations for such a choice might lie in what bell hooks calls "the burden of representation" (Reel 6),[48] the way in which members of a marginalized group are culturally expected to always speak for their group, their individuality permeated by politics in a way the personalities of those in power are not.

Within the individual narratives, I identified two items around which Star Trek 's construction as a multicultural utopia again and again circulates. The first narrative cluster could be called "Gene's Vision," hosting a corpus of texts which stage the program's creator, Gene Roddenberry, in a role of visionary authorship. Rhetorically most interesting among these narratives is Yvonne Fern's Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation, a book based on interviews with Roddenberry shortly before his death in 1991, as it neatly outlines all the narrative moves that construct "Gene's Vision." Fern begins by, rather unsubtly, describing Roddenberry as standing apart from the rest of humanity. For example, when they talk about the meaning of God, Fern catches Roddenberry referring to humanity as "them:" "'Why them Gene? Are you not human?' 'Yes ...' He sounds hesitant. 'Yes. Yes, of course I am ... at least, my body is - this vessel is.' He shakes his head dismissively" (68). After thus establishing himself as the involuntary and modest outsider, lingering among humanity in disguise, Roddenberry gets the opportunity to more specifically reflect on this difference between himself and humanity: '"I feel ... apart , sometimes. [...] I think many writers, poets, artists, stand apart. They are all essentially creators, and creators, as someone said, have a spark of divine fire'" (69). Roddenberry's status as a (superior) outsider is here translated into a god-like position, underlining the significance of his cultural work by paralleling it with divine creation. Only a few pages later, however, Fern's own reading of Roddenberry evidences that the divine persona she has him inhabit differs significantly from its religious equivalents in that it does not require a liaison to translate its divine wisdom for its disciples. Roddenberry can be both the divine creator and his own prophet at the same time: "He has an odd way of speaking today: like a prophet, a parent, and a cosmic administrator all at the same time" (164).


Fern's choice of words is symptomatic here, as the notion of parenthood - invested with larger political significance in terms of "cosmic administration" - is central to the image of Roddenberry as both divine figure and prophet. Several times, the text has Roddenberry refer to himself as an adult in a species still in its childhood: "Gene Roddenberry's favorite description of humanity was a child race. He seemed to believe that in the great cosmic scale of evolution, we were in the sandbox. Sometimes he changed that description to an adolescent species, other times, he equated our level of development to that of ten-year-olds" (12), and, "He [Roddenberry] was very definitely a man - an adult of the species he was wont to call 'child'" (16). The text specifies Roddenberry's image as a prophet in terms of a paternal role - an image echoing religious visualizations of divinity as well as American national myths of the "Founding Fathers" - while making sure to emphasize the "public" significance of this parental relationship by complementing the "private" scenario of parenting by terms like "evolution," "administration" or, repeatedly, "cosmic."


After having thus positioned Roddenberry in the role of the prophet, Fern goes on to establish the content of his visions as circulating around the future of humanity, around the direction of their ongoing evolution. She repeatedly observes that Roddenberry is obsessively interested in humanity - evoking, again, the parent- child-image - and that it is this interest which leads him to seek out and value diversity: "'[I]n diversity, you can trace certain properties of the human spirit that transcend differences. It is only when you look at what unites humans rather than what divides them that you have some idea of what it means to be human'" (27). Acknowledging diversity (inevitably?) leads to transcending differences, thus revealing the "essence" of humanity. Knowledge of this "essence," this line of reasoning concludes, is vital for humanity's future survival:
[Roddenberry:] "The worst thing that could happen is for all of us to look and think and act alike. For if we cannot learn the value of the small variations among our own kind here on Earth, then God help us when we get out into space and meet the variations that are almost certainly out there." (64)


This final declaration that only an appreciation of our own diversity makes us fit for the future runs through several of Roddenberry's most often quoted soundbites, e.g.: '"Intolerance in the 23rd century? Improbable! If man (sic.!) survives that long, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures'" (Whitfield/Roddenberry 40), or, "'Diversity contains as many treasures as those waiting for us on other worlds. We will find it impossible to fear diversity and to enter the future at the same time'" (Gross/Altman 128).

As the context of these quotations already implies, many commentators read Star Trek as the site on which the Visionary Roddenberry could most fully and truthfully express his philosophical ideas:
With its polyglott crew, Enterprise became a metaphor for America. Out in deep space, our bonds became more important than our differences; we needed to stick together. (Ramer xiii)
In an age when the battle for civil rights and equal opportunities for all was quite literally still being fought in the streets of America, those on the bridge of this odd-looking space ship were Japanese, Caucasians, African Americans, Russians, and half-breed aliens working side by side. [...] And if that was not enough to raise the hackles on the back of a redneck's nape, their interactions with each other made something else clear: They valued the diversity of each other's culture. (Poe 127-28)
By linking Roddenberry's ideas to the contemporary reality of "America," these statements position Star Trek as a daring and visionary project (the reference to the still raging Civil Rights Movement) while implicitly affirming "America's" own utopian potential (the metaphor).

The bold and progressive quality of Roddenberry's Star Trek - project is typically identified in a set of moments safely canonized in the narratives of Trek's identity. First of all, commentators applaud the racial and ethnic mix of the Enterprise crew, particularly the presence of the Asian character Mr. Sulu and the black female Lieutenant Uhura:
At a time when the networks were still dubious about the use of black characters in television [...], Roddenberry pushed the envelope by creating the black communications officer of Uhura. Things were thrown even more out of kelter when he made the character a woman as well. (Hise 14)
The subsequent creation of a black (male) and a (white) female Captain in Star Trek -spin offs - the Captains Sisko and Janeway - is framed as continuing that tradition of featuring a multicultural cast of characters (cf. Schuster 29).


A second element of Star Trek 's identity-narrative as "Gene's Vision" consists of a set of episodes quite self-consciously dedicated to "multicultural" issues or even just containing one "multicultural" moment. Figuring prominently among them is, for example, "Plato's Stepchildren," a TDS-episode which, as Star Trek 's extra-textual sources repeatedly point out, wrote television history by showing the first interracial kiss on network television. Star Trek attempted to re-capture this episode's scandalous air when, roughly 30 years later, the Deep Space Nine episode "Rejoined" featured one of its permanent female cast members kissing a woman.[49] Other such episodes canonized as "multicultural" comprise "Let that Be Your Last Battlefield" (TOS: racial prejudice), "The Measure of a Man" (STNG: human rights), "The Host" and "The Outcast" (STNG: homosexuality), as well as recurring storylines like that concerning Bajor's resistance under Cardassian occupation (DS9).

The third element, which completes the identity-narrative by contextualizing the other two, addresses Gene Roddenberry's battle against stubborn TV-officials in order to bring such progressive moments onto the small screen. As both Nichelle Nichols and Roddenberry himself quite succinctly narrate the battle of "Gene" versus "network brass":
[H]e [Roddenberry] clearly saw and understood the limitations of commercial television and network front-office 'suits' who seemed dedicated to preserving the status quo. [...] [T]he industry's resistance to change, to challenge, drove Gene that much harder to buck the system, to create and produce shows that would express what he wanted to say. (N. Nichols 123)
The television writer-producer faces an almost impossible task when he attempts to create and produce a quality TV series. Assuming he conceived a program of such meaning and importance that it could ultimately change the face of America, he probably could not get it on the air or keep it there! (Whitfield/Roddenberry 21)

This part of the program's identity, again, alludes to a set of episodes highlighting specific moments in the history of Star Trek 's production. One such moment was when NBC rejected the first Star Trek -pilot as "too cerebral" (cf. Whitfield/Roddenberry 124); others include the network's rejection of a female second-in- command, its resistance against the satanic-looking alien Mr. Spock, or its disapproval of the interracial kiss in "Plato's Stepchildren."

These identity-narratives so roughly sketched out evidence, as to be expected, a highly selective writing of Star Trek-history. While highlighting those aspects that fit the progressive, multicultural image with which the program has adorned itself, they leave out everything that would disturb this picture. For example, although Star Trek 's identity rightfully emphasizes that the presence of a black woman in a Science Fiction program of the mid-1960s was progressive, it does not mention that the character of Lt. Uhura remained marginal throughout all TOS-episodes. As the starship's communications officer, she never contributed much to advancing any plots, instead uttering the same line in episode after episode ("Hailing frequencies open, sir."). Equally, TOSs other non-Anglo and female characters, whose presence the identity-narratives unamendedly applaud, are marginal in the program's narrative. In effect, all of the elements of the Star Trek identity I referred to above have such relativizing histories, which the narratives carefully and quite effectively silence.


In addition to all these narratives of "Gene's Vision," Star Trek 's identity draws on a second group of narratives which might be generically categorized as testimonials. Where "Gene's Vision" establishes an authorial fiction of enlightenment and prophesy, the testimonials are to evidence that the product of this vision is indeed having an impact on people's lives. As a genre, the testimonial is primarily associated with two contexts. First, its semantic siblingship with "testimony" refers to the testimonial's largely religious roots. Alluding to the way in which individuals initiate and/or re-affirm group membership by relating their personal relationship to the group's faith, the genre's religious background sheds light on its prominent role in fandom. And indeed, the World Wide Web is full of personal sites where people relate their initiation into Star Trek fandom and the way in which the program has changed their lives. A typical example reads like this:
I first saw Star Trek while on vacation at Lake Tahoe. I remember the first episode I saw well, it was "Devil in the Dark." After that I occasionally watched TOS, until TNG came out. Then I had to watch all the old episodes to understand the newones (sic.). [...] I am a Trekkie. (http://www.csua.berkeley.edu/lee/startrek/index.html; 20 June 1997)

After identifying the moment of initiation ("the first time/episode") and the explicit affirmation of group membership ("I am a Trekkie."), these testimonials often feature some narrative of how Star Trek has influenced the testifier's choice of job or some other important decision in her/his life:
[...], 35, a study project manager at Marshall, remembers watching Trek as a kid in the '60s. It fueled his passion then for wondering "what's out there, if we're alone, the whole idea of space."
"I admit I'm a Star Trek fan. I wouldn't call myself a trekkie," he said to emphasize that he's not a hardcore fanatic.
Science fiction led him to explore science fact, which led him to physics and eventually to Marshall in 1990 and the program development office where future space missions begin.
A second context in which testimonials have been increasingly used is advertising: There is a particular type of advertisement that relies on people relating the way in which the product has changed their lives (to the better, naturally). The dual nature of the testimonial resonates with and focalizes the ambivalent character of Star

Treks market-identity as a whole, serving two very different sets of needs: the audience's cultural and the producers' commercial ones.

If one would want to categorize the testimonials that circulate in Star Trek 's, identity-narratives, one could distinguish between statements by those involved in the program's production and by fans-outsiders. In the context of the former group, it constitutes almost a generic imperative for their autobiographical narratives to testify to Star Trek 's impact on their own lives. The memoirs of the TOS actors ranging from William Shatner to Leonard Nimoy all feature stories of the professional challenge the series posed to the actors and how their rise to stardom changed their lives. Next to the fact that such narratives are to be expected in actors' memoirs, however, the autobiographies of TOS's non-white stars - George Takei and Nichelle Nichols - as well as autobiographical statements by the spin-offs' actors-of-color tell of the way in which Star Trek has held a special meaning for them because of their ethno-racial identity.

George Takei's autobiography most poignantly exemplifies this phenomenon. His text is a narrative of his own rise from victim of racial prejudice and discrimination to stardom in a television series showcasing a future of racial equity. Quite atypically for the genre, his narrative begins with a historical excursion, recounting the history of American bans on Asian immigration and the proceedings of the Japanese internment during World War II (xii- xiv). In addition to the generically typical identification of the narrator in terms of his time and place of birth, Takei establishes his identity by locating himself and his family within this history of anti-Asian resentment and politics - from his family's internment when he was a child (7 ff.) to his aunt's death in Hiroshima (47). From this point of departure, Takei develops his own life-story against the background of a multicultural trajectory he highlights in American history, pointing to the progress that has been made since the events he narrated in the beginning (xiv-xv). Both within his personal story and in his historical narrative, Takei positions Star Trek as the driving force. Not only did the program open up the precious opportunity for him to make a living as an actor; acutely aware of the limited range of (unflattering) roles Asian actors were allowed to play, he also points to the importance of being part of a television series that "was reversing a pattern in America's images of Asians" (178). He particularly emphasizes the significance of his character's presence on screen during the Vietnam war:

There on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, we saw our heroes, the good guys. And there at the helm console we saw Lieutenant Sulu, a crack professional, a dashing swashbuckler, one of our good guys - one of us. And he was Asian; his face looked like that of those on the six o'clock news. For the first time in the history of the American media at a time of war in Asia, there was a regularly visible counterbalance to the pervasive image of Asians as evil, of Asians as nemeses. (179)
Such an awareness of and personal identification with history, along with the consequent assessment of Star Trek as an inspiring vision for those marginalized by past and present social conditions also characterize the statements by other actors-of-color. LeVar Burton, who plays African American Lt. Geordi LaForge on STNG, traces his fandom in the original series, which eventually led him to take a role in the spin-off, to the extraordinary nature of Star Trek 's racially mixed cast against the background of American television history:
"I can trace in my lifetime the evolution of people of color, black people in particular, in the popular culture, specifically on television - from the time Diahann Carroll had her own series, called Julia [...], to the present, where black faces in the media and popular cultures are a matter of course. It's an everyday occurrence now, but it wasn't when I was growing up. And for me being this kid who devoured science-fiction novels at the rate of one a week, never having encountered heroes of color in the pages of those books, to finally in the late sixties see a representation of the future - a science-fiction series that had a black woman on the bridge - it was a big deal! [...] Driving to Paramount that first day, for that first meeting, I remember thinking to myself: 'You know what? If I get this job, great. But if I don't get this job, at least I will have had an opportunity to meet and shake the hand of the man who put Lieutenant Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, on the bridge of the Enterprise." (qtd. in Reeves-Stevens 79-78)

Burton had been well known to the audience for his role as Kunta Kinte in the screen adaptation of Alex Haley's African American epic Roots. As a significant subtext to his narrative of race­conscious career decisions, the wide-spread knowledge of Burton's previous involvement in this "black" project further underlined the profundity of his applause for Star Trek s empowering potential. Along quite similar lines, Whoopie Goldberg cites as her motivation for joining STNG childhood memories of the classic series as "the only time an audience ever saw black people in the future" (Reeves-Stevens 79; cf. Nemecek 64).[50]

Recounting such memories of their own inspiration and encouragement often engenders a sense of responsibility in the actors and actresses to make their own screen presences offer similar empowerment. Playing DS9's black Commander Sisko, Avery Brooks captures this sentiment when he recounts how he eventually overcame his reluctance to take the role in order "to give African-American children 'who are planning their own funerals the chance to think the long thought, to believe that our people will be alive three hundred years hence'" (Schuster 32).

The statements by outside admirers[51] of Star Trek essentially re­iterate the same sentiments as those articulated by the actors and actresses. However, as might be expected, the testimonials by high- profile personalities have been much more publicized and are, thus, more central to the Star Trek-identity. The one statement most central in that respect is certainly that made by Dr. Martin Luther King in conversation with Nichelle Nichols on a NAACP- fundraiser. King, whom Nichols recalls to have introduced himself as a fan of Star Trek , when hearing that the actress planned to leave the series, secured himself a lasting position in Trek-lore by the following words:
"You cannot," he replied firmly, "and you must not. Don't you realize how important your character is? [...] Men and women of all races going forth in peaceful exploration, living as equals. [...] You have opened a door that must not be allowed to close. [...] Don't you see that you're not just a role model for little Black children? You're more important for people who don't look like us. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people - as we should be. (Nichols 158-59)


The centrality of King's words is not just evidenced by the sheer frequency with which Star Trek s extra-textual discourse recounts the episode, but also by the way in which other fans' testimonials refer back to them. Dr. Mae Jemison, for example, NASA's first black woman in space, cites Lt. Uhura's presence in TOS as inspiring her to pursue a career in the space program.[52] Although she never mentions King's name, those literate in Star Trek ' s extra- textual discourse will read her statement as living proof for King's assessment of Uhura's role. Even more explicitly than that, a L.A. Times article titled "Donde Muy Pocos Latinos Han Ido"[53] specifically points to Martin Luther King when talking about the much-waited-for arrival of Latino characters in Star Trek 's spin-off Voyager:
"No less than the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once told actress Nichelle Nichols that her continuing role as Uhura was an important milestone for African Americans. ... If an actor named Beltran and a character named Torres [both on VOY] give some Latino kids the idea of having a career in space science - or even science-fiction - they will represent a breakthrough that Gene Roddenberry, who once worked as a Los Angeles cop and knew this city's tough barrios, would surely have appreciated." (qtd. in Greenwald 63)


The case of another high-profile "fan," finally, highlights the selectivity with which testimonials are incorporated into the myth of Star Trek . The present Dalai Lama is frequently pointed to as a Star Trek -ian, usually along with other celebrity names. In one instance, Jeff Greenwald was reported to have interviewed the Dalai Lama for his book on Star Trek fandom around the world. Although the interview indeed did take place, the book shows, it focused on general philosophical questions, which were - almost coincidentally, it seems - also addressed in Trek (life, non­violence, etc.). Star Trek itself is only mentioned once: "I steel myself, and ask the Dalai Lama about Star Trek . Has His Holiness ever watched the show on Indian television? Indeed he has, but only the original series. He recalls with hilarity the 'man with the big ears': Spock" (237). Clearly, then, the reports of the Dalai Lama as a "fan" are highly exaggerated. The fact of some vague connection between his name and Star Trek seems sufficient for Treks extra-textual discourse to construe a narrative of fandom and endorsement.

In conclusion, then, I hope to have shown that Star Trek 's extra- textual discourse has created an identity around the program which significantly draws on the program's supposed multiculturalism. The narratives of "Gene's Vision," on the one hand, celebrate Roddenberry's insistence on a multiracial and -gender cast and on breaking television taboos, e.g., by putting a woman in command of a spaceship or featuring a kiss between a black woman and a white man. Numerous testimonials, on the other hand, confirm that this vision indeed was groundbreaking, and that it was having an impact also and especially on those segments of its audience that are disadvantaged because of their racial or ethnic background.


As the inception of these identity-narratives took place fairly early in Star Trek 's history, their prevalence over so many years of turbulent American history is somewhat remarkable. I believe the roots of this longevity have to be sought in the identity's function in Star Trek fandom. As Tulloch and Jenkins suggest, the extra- textual narratives provide audiences with a way of working through the myriad contradictions that characterize Star Trek as well as any other popular culture artifact (186). Star Trek 's multicultural narratives, ultimately, achieve their longevity by defining a canon of episodes that are to reflect the "true" Star Trek while marginalizing and de-authorizing those that do not fit the progressive image. As evidence, Tulloch and Jenkins cite a survey conducted by Trek-magazine concerning its readers' most and least favorite TOS episodes. In the "most favorite"-category, episodes focusing on the inter-species friendship between Kirk and Spock were disproportionately represented, as well as those that foreground cross-cultural issues ("Devil in the Dark," "Space Seed"). Figuring prominently among the least favorite episodes were those in which the crew of the Enterprise violates the "Prime Directive" by imposing its values on other cultures (190).[54] By defining a canon of episodes that reflect "Gene's Vision" more accurately than others - a process of definition justified by the numerous tales of Roddenberry's battle against and occasional compromise with "network brass" - and by providing audiences with a context for reading these episodes, Star Trek 's multicultural identity thus becomes a self-perpetuating mechanism.


[37]  I am using the term "extra-textual discourse" along the same lines as Tulloch and Jenkins (186 ff.) to refer to the official as well as unofficial output connected with Star Trek besides the actual television episodes, feature films or novels, covering a range from Paramount-endorsed books and websites to fan-debates and campaigns.
[38]  See, e.g., Bemd Schmitt and Alex Simonson, Marketing Aesthetics: The Strategic Management of Brands, Identity and Image (New York: Free P, 1997).
[39] Widespread syndication and VCR-technology would solve that problem for later generations.
[40]  Although some authors like Engel suggest that Gene Roddenberry was the sole originator of the Star Trek -myXb. and that it was to serve his ego more than the franchise - a question which, after all, will never be resolved - it is more than obvious that the other players involved, including the production 
company Desilu/Paramount and the network station NBC, were at least supportive of a marketing tool that could significantly boost their profit margin.
[41]     For a more thorough discussion of gaytrek.com, see chapter 6.
[42]  more specifically, the petition I will be quoting from pertains to Star Trek: Voyager.
[43]  In amazon.com's sales, for example, Solow and Justman's Star Trek: The Real Story has been considerably more successful than The Making of Star Trek (sales ranks 71,069 and 100,936, respectively, in April 1999; the figures apply to the paperback versions of both books).
[44] See, e.g., Poe or Reeves-Stevens as well as the gaytrek-campaign quoted above as examples of "post-revelation" writings.
[45]  My sample includes texts on all four incarnation of Star Trek, ranging from the 1968 ur-text The Making of Star Trek to publications up to 1998, and it draws on texts authorized by Paramount as well as on un-authorized ones.
[46]  This fact provides Treks extra-textual discourse with a distinct structure: as some quotes of the people most central to Star Trek 's creation - Gene Roddenberry, but also some of the actors - occur in publication after publication, they form a core vocabulary the knowledge of which is just as important in fandom as knowledge about the program's characters, central episodes, etc (see, e.g., Tulloch/Jenkins about fans quizzing each other on the content of the Whitfield/Roddenberry book; 5).
[47]  Among these biographies as well as among the "Behind the Scenes" reports, there is a further differentiation between authorized and un-authorized texts. However, contrary to the expectation that authorized publications might by more supportive of the Star Trek mythos, my reading showed that this distinction is of no consequence to my present line of inquiry.
[48]  Based on my discussion of the terminology in chapter 2.1., I will count as "multicultural" any evocation of Star Treks depiction of ethno-racial or gender equality, or of its celebration of difference and tolerance.
[49] As of now, only TOS-actors have published their memoirs.
[50]    A similar notion has been put forth by Abdul R. Jan Mohamed in his introduction to the special issue of Cultural Critique 6 (1987) on "Minority Discourse."
[51]  However, "Rejoined" never quite reached the iconic status of "Plato's Stechildren" within mainstream Star Trek fandom, possibly because, generally, cultural taboos have considerably weakened since the 1960s, and because the taboo of the lesbian kiss, in particular, had been challenged before. For a discussion of "Rejoined," see chapter 5.2.3.
[52]  It is rather unusual that an already established movie star and soon-to-be Academy Award Winner would seek out a recurring role in a television series. It is even more unusual that Goldberg aggressively lobbied the Star Trek producers to write a role for her rather than vice versa. As a consequence, Goldberg's joining the show received considerable publicity, thus also giving her statements a high exposure.
[53]  Similar to the way in which virtually only producers and actors of color refer to Star Trek s multicultural aspects in their testimonials, the statements by fans-outsiders are also highly varied in the meaning they attribute the program. I selected only those who had something to say about multiculturalism, and, again, the non-WASP background of these testifiers is striking.
[54]  Out of gratitude and as a sign of her fandom, she would accept a cameo in the STNG-episode "Second Chances" - an episode which also marks LeVar Burton's directorial debut. (Radio Times 131)
[55] "Where Very Few Latinos Have Gone Before"
[56]  The survey also shows, however, that Star Trek viewers are far from the "passive dupes" that would uncritically internalize anything the program's extra-textual discourse exposed them to: figuring prominently among the least favorite episodes were also those like "Plato's Stepchildren" or "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" which, for one aspect of their narratives, have become central to Star Trek s multicultural myth, but which are, otherwise, rather reactionary or simply bad television.

In: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations: The Multicultural Evolution of Star Trek (American Studies - a Monograph Series). Volume 115. Heidelberg, 2004, pp. 67-86.

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