COVID-19 Thoughts Part 60: Killing off the Red Skirt

If it’s one thing about Freedom of Speech, there are times when it is offense.  The First Amendment is a statement to the government that they can not censor Free Speech…period.  When it comes to private groups, business etc, then they can be varying degrees of censorship like it or not.  Last week I was temporally banned from a group that talked about the classic Star Trek series only for pointing out the truth more/less regarding the way they handed killing off red shirts or in this case killing off a red skirt.

If you know your Star Trek, especially “The Original Series” then you know I am talking about the episode By Any Other Name.  The title is taken from William Shakespeare's iconic play “Romeo & Juliet.”  The line “by any other name” is quoted by Juliet regarding her dilemma; falling in love with a boy whose family is arch rivals of her family.  The quote is also referenced by Captain Kirk in this episode.

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

As many who understand Star Trek lore, the original show was best known for killing off extras/guest stars who were portrayed as mostly security officers dressed in the standard red shirt uniform…but some other colors got killed off, but not like the red shirts.  The show’s only red skirt death is featured in Name.  The guest/extras where a black security officer (Lieutenant Shea, played by Carl Byrd) and a white yeoman (Leslie Thompson, played by Julie Cobb).  The kill that was done in the episode was almost a clean kill.  Shea and Thompson were part of the landing party (later would be called an away team) that were taken prisoner by an alien race called the Kelvans.  Kelvan tech was so powerful they could use it was weapons, defense, and submission.  When Kirk attempted to escape their captors failed, the Kelvans took the security officer and yeoman aside and imposed a “death sentence” on them by turning them into porous cuboctahedron solids.  Only one of them was crushed into pieces by the hand of the Kelvan’s leader thus killing that person.   The leader decided to restore the other, and it was the black security officer that was allowed to live.  The white yeoman had to die.  Winding up as white powdery substance is technically as I said before, an almost clean kill.  Messy, but no blood spilled.  The writers of Star Trek just wanted the Kelvans to knock off people other than disintegration which was another way used to kill off red shirts through various means.

So what does this have to do with Free Speech, it’s limits and private groups and business censoring speech?  Well when I pointed out in a Star Trek group that if Lt. Shea was killed off their might have been riots of somekind.  Just one of those “can’t handle the truth” moments.  Well one of the moderators felt my statement was out of line and I was put in time out for a period of time.

Now even if the riots did not happen, their would have been some kind of backlash if Shea was killed off instead of Thompson.  It's not just red shirts that got killed off, but mostly white men in red shirts that got it in the neck.  It should be noted that were other crew members in gold and blue shirts that got killed off.  Two gold shirts were killed off in the episode The Galileo Seven and a blue skirt died due to radiation poison that caused her to age rapidly in the episode The Deadly Years.

Gene Roddenberry envisioned a future in which the people of Earth got passed their pigmentation and that was seen in Star Trek itself.  Kirk did not tolerate racism of any kind among his crew, and his core crew was truly a diverse crew…including his best friend and first officer; a logical and mostly emotionless humanoid alien, who’s ear shapes could have been mistaken to be that of a demon…but was overlooked by many characters (in spite of Dr. McCoy locking horns with Spock from time to time) and the audience.  Least we forget that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy respectfully like many in the entertainment business were both Jewish.

In reality, the race relations were still tense in the mid to late 1960’s and it would not surprise me that Roddenberry wanted to trend carefully and not kill anyone of color on screen.  I honestly think that if any characters of any minority decent, Roddenberry would gotten flack from all over the place and likely would be label racist by many special interest groups.

Yours truly tried to point this out on a Star Trek fan page on Facebook.  Either because people could not handle the truth and/or it was deeply political, I got put in their equivalent of the brig…force field and all.  Well better than overall “Facebook Jail” I say. 

Sadly, politics is always interested in all of us humans, no matter how we try to run from it.  Indeed, we will be made to care, and when we do, usually we submit to the zeitgeist.  Like the movie A Few Good Man (nothing to do with Star Trek) points out; people “can’t handle the truth.”    

But it took another writer that dabbled in Science Fiction to tell you a hard truth about human beings and the
communities they live in.

In times of universal deceit, speaking the truth is a revolutionary act.-George Orwell

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