Mere months away from a potential historic decision in the United States presidential election, Star Trek Continues seventh episode, Embracing the Winds, wades directly into the debate of gender, much like The Original Series did with race and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. At issue in the episode is whether or not a woman is capable of commanding a constitution class starship, something audiences could not see occur in the late 1960’s, despite Gene Roddenberry populating his bridge crew with a diverse group of characters.
Filming from an excellent script, written by James Kerwin and Vic Mignogna, the episode does not shy away from the difficult acknowledgement that individual bias towards gender as well as individual motivations may have lent a role in holding back capable female officers in the 23rd century. It is one of several nods to the TOS by the writers in this episode, in the 60’s network executives did not believe its audience would accept a woman serving as first officer on a starship. Although today, the series may seem sexist to its modern-day audience’s values, Roddenberry was limited in what parts of his agenda he could push (including the portrayal of openly LGBT characters), and yet was still able to make many social statements with the casting of his crew – most notably Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, who could also be considered a proxy for the female prejudice as he was an alien species.
Brave is the word to best describe the role in which Kerwin and Mignogna placed the episode’s protagonists, as Kirk and Spock address their own personal feelings in regards to their own bias and motivations. However, the standout and most courageous performance has to go to Clare Kramer’s portrayal of Commander Diana Garrett, who is appealing Starfleet’s decision to pass her over for command of her own starship, in favor of a man (once again highlighting the embarrassment of riches STC enjoys with its guest stars). While Commodore Gray, once again played by Erin Gray, acknowledges that decisions in regards to gender have been made in Starfleet due to its alliances, most notably the patriarchal society of the Tellarites, she offers another interesting view as a woman in a position of power as the episode proceeds.
Audiences may be quick to judge events as it unfolds, and sometimes the writing does appear to get a bit heavy handed, hitting viewers over the head with this issue. But, that is the beauty of the script, while Garrett, McKennah and even Spock all realize the issue at hand, all in the character’s decisions are not as simple as it seems, especially in the case of Garrett.
Brilliantly painting a seemingly-hostile Garrett in a corner, it is wonderful to watch the writers and Kramer wiggle out of it as the episode ultimately realizes its main theme. Sadly, Star Trek Continues is providing stronger story content than TOS did during its third and final season, which is a testament to Mignogna and his writing staff. It is interesting to consider whether or not the show would have dodged cancellation once again if the quality of writing was up to par with STC’s efforts.
Meanwhile, the episode’s “B” story, which does tie directly into the episode’s main plot itself, gives Wyatt Lenhart’s Chekov the opportunity to shine. Is it a subconscious nod to Anton Yelchin’s portrayal of the Russian whizkid? or just the ultimate evolution of the character’s arc? the audience and writers will get to decide the final motivations. Although, Chekov’s moment does come at the expense of (in a seemingly uncharacteristic moment) Scotty.
Easter eggs litter the episode like tribbles mating on K-7. First, the writing crew revisits its own past episodes, including Lolani – which would seem to be a direct prequel to this episode, as well as when Security Officer Drake lost his arm. Additional nods include the obvious to Garrett’s namesake, as well as planet references, a terrific nod to George Takei’s personal past, and more.
Any review of the episode would be remiss in not pointing out the dignified and restrained performance of Todd Haberkorn in the role of Spock. Mignogna has admitted in previous interviews that Haberkorn was looking to put his own spin on the role when he was cast. Mignogna however was adamant that the role be played consistent with Nimoy’s portrayal. Still, Haberkorn is given some terrific moments as he contemplates his own embarrassment in regards to motivation. There is also a superb exchange between he and a fellow Vulcan while the appeal trial continues that addresses Spock’s character origins.
Embracing the Winds does seem to be an excellent title, as it not only notes the potential social change Starfleet and the Federation is being forced to address, much like American society today, but also a subtle nod that STC has an expiration date. Mignogna’s stated goal of the series was to tell the stories of the fourth and fifth years of the Enterprise’s five-year mission, but also serve as a bridge between TOS and Star Trek The Motion Picture. With CBS/Paramount appearing to shut the door on fan productions that not do not meet a specific criteria, audiences will have to hold out hope that Mignogna and company will get to finish its own mission.
“Would you deny every individual’s character, judgement, strengths are in part shaped by his or her beliefs, heritage, gender?”
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