Women in early Star Trek

So, in the original pilot for Start Trek, “The Cage”, the female crew members of the Enterprise wear pants, basically in the same uniforms as the men, and Capt. Pike’s second-in-command (“Number One”) is a woman (Majel Barrett, who would go on to play Nurse Chapel in TOS).

Apparently, NBC called B.S. on this and in the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, while women do continue to wear pants, they are not command officers. Still, we have Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman), who is an officer and holds an important position (ship’s psychiatrist).

Once we get into production, this is apparently still too much. and by “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”, we have the now-iconic TOS mini-skirts, and — with Uhura the sole exception — the women we see are Yeoman who mostly serve men food. (Seriously, the first time we meet Yeoman Rand, she is delivering a plate of food to Lt. Sulu in the botany lab. Later we see another female Yeoman bring Kirk a snack on the bridge.)

I think it will take us until 1979 (The Motion Picture) to see Starfleet women wear pants again.

Anyway, I’ve just begun to re-watch TOS, and it’s still amazing for its time (so many brown people on the crew!), but this observation jumped out at me. Props to Roddenberry for trying, I suppose. Having Barrett as “Number One” in 1966 would have been awesome, though.

Fun fact: It’ll take us until 1986 to see a woman captain a federation starship (Capt. Madge Sinclair of the USS Saratoga in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).

11 thoughts on “Women in early Star Trek

  1. Partially it.

    Also partially because Roddenberry couldn’t keep it in his pants and ran afoul of the studio for regularly putting his latest squeeze into his projects. That was the big reason Majel got bounced.

    Also most of the sexifying of the uniforms and alien costumes came right from Gene. He actively attempted to get away with as much flesh as he could.

    For all of his greatness, he was also fairly far on the creepy side.

  2. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0989238105/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1443211309&sr=1-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=Marc+Cushman&dpPl=1&dpID=61S1%2Bo4e5dL&ref=plSrch

    I have the three volume set. Pretty amazing bit of forensic reporting.

    Apparently back in the day people used office memos like we use email or texts…and it was standard practice to file all of them.

    Cushman went through everything. Memos, scripts, script edits, casting calls, production reports, accounting, old magazine and newspaper interviews.

    It’s a day by day month by month history of Star Trek organized by episode.

  3. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0989238105/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1443211309&sr=1-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=Marc+Cushman&dpPl=1&dpID=61S1%2Bo4e5dL&ref=plSrch I have the three volume set. Pretty amazing bit of forensic reporting. Apparently back in the day people used office memos like we use email or texts…and it was standard practice to file all of them. Cushman went through everything. Memos, scripts, script edits, casting calls, production reports, accounting, old magazine and newspaper interviews. It’s a day by day month by month history of Star Trek organized by episode.]]>

  4. Sweet. Since you seem to be interested I would definitely read volume 1. Volume 2 gets a bit repetitive, although it has some of my favorite episodes, and three got plain depressing.

    But 1 is pure gold. Full of interesting stuff…like…wow…Harlan Ellison is really a pretty big jerk…and the City on the Edge of Forever…mostly wasn’t his work…

    The book generally doesn’t take sides, but it provides such a vast trove of details that you can really get a portrait of how it all came together.

  5. Oh, and the interviews with the guest stars are pretty great. Some of them had no idea and still have no real idea what the show was. They just showed up and did a thing. Some were repurposed stuntmen who were just clocking in and doing a job. Some are still astonished that the thing they get recognized most for was an episode of a TV show from 40+ here ago…some kind of resent that…

    Also the description of how scripts get created and how writing credit gets awarded…never knew the process was so chaotically iterative.

  6. In the context of the topic, I can’t help thinking about how around the same times in England Jerry and Sylvia Anderson put a woman as the Lunar Base Commander (even if liutenant Ellis was the most unlikely commander ever, nobody complained) and to show how women were advanced in 1980,  she has A MAN making her coffee!