At the 1 minute and 36 second point of the new Star Trek: Into Darkness trailer there is a genuinely out-of-nowhere 1 second shot of new cast member Alice Eve standing in what appears to be a shuttle and wearing nothing but a rather Victoria’s Secret-esque black bra and panties.
The film? Looks pretty good, even if this trailer plays like a collection of scenes we’ve already seen done elsewhere (as argued here). Alice Eve, um, looks good in what amounts to a two-piece bikini (I get tired just looking at her abs), but why is this in there?
The British-born Eve is playing Dr. Carol Marcus, a character who in the continuity of the original films had an off-screen romantic relationship with James T. Kirk which produced a son Kirk knew nothing about until his son was a young man. This is a crucial element to the plot of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and the presence of Marcus in the new movie has definitely been seen as giant, flashing-neon-light-sign hint that the villain in this film might turn out to be Khan. Beyond that, I know I hadn’t given Eve a second thought. Now, I am suddenly reminded that she is that one girl from She’s Out of My League, in which the premise of the film is entirely predicated on how almost preternaturally attractive she is. So, oh yeah, she is most likely Captain Kirk’s love interest in the new movie.
Does the film really need to show Alice Eve in her underwear? Short answer, probably not; long answer,
let’s wait until we see it in the context of the film [5/17 Update: I’ve seen the movie now. The scene with her in her underwear is incredibly brief but entirely pointless. Even one of the film’s screenwriters agrees]. Is this gratuitous partial nudity incredibly out of character for Star Trek? Well, not really.
The Original Series (1966-1969)
Star Trek has always been about boldly going where no one, man or woman, has gone before and seeking out new life and new civilizations. However, for the Original Series that mission statement might as well as have included the following addendum: to seek out new races of hot females with whom James T. Kirk can have sex or at least enjoy a solid make-out session.
Kirk was probably no more a man-whore than Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap, who similarly locked lips with many a female co-star. It is the natural by-product of an episodic show with a central male character who is both a lover and a fighter – he’s going to have a ton of love interests. The difference here is that the original Star Trek was made during the orgy-tastic heights of the sexual revolution. As such, in addition to the many Kirk-on-hot-woman make-outs, you also see a not-small amount of skin, especially for late 1960s television.
I don’t even have to go very far for an example. The show’s original, William Shatner-less pilot, “The Cage”, featured what amounted to a green-skinned Geisha girl dancing seductively for nearly two minutes:
The pilot was cut-up and aired as the first season’s 11th and 12th episodes (“The Menagerie 1 & 2”), but a truncated version of the seduction dance made it in. So, not surprisingly after such an introduction, the show was not reluctant to show some female skin.
You had your somewhat-to-very scantily clad aliens:
And your scantily clad versions of the main characters from the mirror universe:
Ordinary female crew members from the ship, when not depicted in their mirror universe incarnation, could be fully clothed in ill-fitting polyester uniforms or suffer the “well, I guess I’m not sitting down at all today” indignity of wearing the shortest skirts imaginable:
And it wasn’t just the women. Shatner was shirtless – a lot. Here he is enjoying shirtless buddies time with Leonard Nimoy:
And the classic episode “The Naked Time” forever gave us this indelible image of a deranged, shirtless George Takei displaying what we mean when we say “a dancer’s body”:
Plus, in the “Charlie X” episode, this happened.
Trek Fact: After the original series was canceled but before The Motion Picture was made, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry co-wrote and produced a sexploitation film chock full of nudity in 1971.
The Original/Next Generation Cast Films (1979, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002)
All six of the original cast films are family friendly, PG-rated fare that carries over almost none of the original TV show’s fondness for attractive women wearing remarkably little. Perhaps this was a sign of the times or a reflection of the original cast being a full decade older by the time they made their first film together. Heck, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture you see almost as much of Deforest Kelley’s chest hair as you do Persis Khambatta‘s (aka the bald woman’s) legs.
The most skin any of the films show is probably Ricardo Montalban’s impressively chiseled physique as Khan in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan:
The Next Generation cast films may have upped the ante in terms of violence and language, earning First Contact and Nemesis PG-13 ratings, but there is nothing overtly sexual in any of them other than a subtle love triangle between the Borg Queen, Data, and Picard in First Contact.
The Next Generation (1987-1994)
The Next Generation premiered in a post-AIDs world, and its depiction of sexuality reflects that. In the place of the more swashbuckling Captain Kirk is Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard, a man more likely to sit in his ready room and enjoy a good cup of Earl Gray tea than court an attractive female alien while on an away mission. Our characters, in general, are far more chaste and quicker to reject hedonism.
But, wait a minute, what about this?
Granted, it was difficult to shake old habits. The show’s second episode, “The Naked Now”, has the crew behaving like horny drunkards as the result of a ship-wide infection. So, of course, our tough as nails female Head of Security strips to a bare midriff ensemble she uses to seduce Data, an android whose explanation of his “fully functional” android penis instantly became the source of immense humor among Star Trek fans. However, even here the implication is these characters would only behave in such a manner if inebriated against their will.
Plus, the show did not completely eschew the miniskirts for the female crew members from the Original Series. Throughout the run of the show, Marina Sirtis’ Counselor Troi had a rotating series of costumes, most of which distinguished her from the rest of the crew and their standard Starfleet uniforms. However, early on they tried out a modern update of the infamous Original Series miniskirts, but the end result made her look like she was some sort of Starfleet cheer-leader:
But, for the most part The Next Generation reflected the original cast films in that we were supposed to be in a time which has moved beyond the objectification of women. The most you would get would be form-fitting outfits that were presented as ideal for utility as opposed to enhancing attractiveness.
Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
To paraphrase Marty McFly, Deep Space Nine was pretty heavy. After spending the customary-for-a-Star-Trek-show first two seasons figuring everything out, it grew into a heavily serialized WWII parable with the Federation, Klingons, and eventually Romulans the Allied Forces and the Cardassians, Dominion, and Breen as the Axis Powers. There simply was not a whole lot of time for romantic relationships, and when they did they tended not to waste time in presenting male or females in skimpy clothing for no good reason.
If there was an episode set on the pleasure planet Risa then you might see some women in somewhat standard bikinis or bathing suits, as with Chase Masterson below:
Heck, even when they did Mirror Universe episodes in which Kira’s evil, sexually aggressive and usually lesbian counterpart was bringing her milkshake to the yard she was typically covered head to toe in leather. If we were on the Holodeck, the characters might be allowed to loosen up, but still not shown in anything especially egregious as seen below:
This is where it both did and did not change. Female characters had been wearing form-fitting outfits since Deanna Troi on Next Generation. So, technically Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine, who joined Voyager in the fourth season and was almost always covered head to toe, was no different. Yet before her, the women looked like women whereas she typically looked like a comic book heroine, about which Jeri Ryan herself has even joked:
Eventually, possibly because Jeri Ryan kept fainting from the effects of the hidden corset (at least I assume she did), they granted her a new, slightly less hip-hugging costume.
The odd juxtaposition for a character whose costume meant to bring a video game body-type to life is that Seven of Nine was just as chaste, if not more so than everyone else. Seven of Nine was assimilated into the Borg while still a 6-year-old girl and freed from the collective once an adult woman. As such, she is basically constantly learning how to be an adult (or, more accurately, refusing to learn). Sexuality is considerably low on her checklist of things to learn.
The show mostly played the disconnect between her obvious attractiveness and lack of knowledge or interest in anything sexual for humor. The best examples come in the episodes “Revulsion” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” In the former, she notices a male crew member flirting with her and responds bluntly, and in the latter, she has a “My Fair Lady”-esque lesson from the ship Doctor on how to date. The below clip comes from “Revulsion” and features about as bluntly and clinically-stated an invitation for sex (“copulation”) as you’ll ever hear [the funny starts at the 1:20 mark]:
And in “Someone to Watch Over Me,” we get to see her on an actual date. Here, you can see that she is trying…and failing every step of the way:
They did have her pose nude once, but it was presented for humor. Plus, it was a holodeck version of her. Ultimately, she may have rocked a mean unitard, but her character’s actual romantic life from the entirety of her time on the show is best summed up here:
What the Jeri Ryan experience taught the Star Trek writers and producers was just how sexy Star Trek could look without ever actually being sexy. Put Jeri Ryan into a skin-tight leotard with a hidden corset underneath, but don’t write her any differently than a normal character. In fact, Seven of Nine is a rather standard Star Trek stock character type – the outsider (e.g., Vulcan, android, ex-Borg) struggling to understand humanity. So, they decided to try it again with their next spin-off.
With Enterprise, they took the Jeri Ryan experiment and multiplied it by 2. They found their own Jeri Ryan in Jolene Blalock as the Vulcan T’Pol and reached into sci-fi past to find a male heartthrob to play Captain Archer – Scott Bakula, prior man-whore for Quantum Leap. They then devised a method to consistently strip the characters, not just T’Pol and Archer mind you, down to their underwear and have them think nothing of it. Basically, characters took partially nude, group water-less showers together, and would often have to rub each other down with some sort of oil.
And you thought they were shameless with Jeri Ryan’s costume?
In the logic of the show, characters on away missions would have to go through a decontamination process before rejoining the crew. This meant stripping to their underwear and entering a small room together for a set period of time. It sure looked sexual, but to the actual characters, it was the most mundane thing imaginable. It may, in reality, be a ratings-starved show pandering to viewers, but in the reality of the show, it was a logical precautionary method with which the characters had long since been accustomed. You’d be right to guess that T’Pol was featured in such scenes quite often, with the below being of the more wholesome variety even though it involves two girls, a guy, and a dog:
Seven of Nine – Former borg with an emotionless veneer that belies an on-going effort to become more human-like, fondness for form-fitting unitards, and played by an extremely attractive actress.
T’Pol – A Vulcan, a race who suppresses their emotions, who ultimately begins exploring human emotions, fond of wearing form-fitting unitards, and played by an extremely attractive actress more willing to show more skin than the last one.
Yeah, it was obvious what they were up to. However, T’Pol proved to be one of the most compelling characters on the show, and her romantic relationship with the human Trip (Connor Trenier) is among the best attempts at such relationship in the TNG/DSN/Voyager/Enterprise era. Plus, there was a sexual element to their relationship that was more honest than it was exploitative, although they probably showed just a little bit more of Blalock than they really needed to for the story. You can see a hint of it toward the end of the below trailer:
It wasn’t all Blalock, though. As a prequel to all Star Trek that had come before, they were able to re-introduce the O’Rion Slave Girls:
And they had a lot of fun hiding Bakula’s shirt and watching him look for it:
They even did an homage to the Original Series’ Mirror universe with “In a Mirror Darkly 1 & 2” from the final season, which featured the cast wearing replica Original Series uniforms and acting on replica Original Series sets. This allowed them to shamelessly show off Jolene Blalock’s abs just as the Original Series had done with Nichelle Nichols in “Mirror, Mirror”:
J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009)
But that was all before J.J. Abrams’ take on the Star Trek story. He can do whatever he wants, and Alice Eve is not the first actress he has stripped down to her underwear lest we forget Rachel Nichols’ O’rion girl Gaila from the first Star Trek:
So, with Alice Eve they appear to again be doing the “sexy look without being sexy “thing. She’s half-naked, sure, but she’s also wearing a facial expression that says, “Don’t tell me you have something against nudity!” It may be jarring, but Star Trek started out with a dancing Geisha girl and in its recent history they are not above taking advantage of the appeal of the female (or male) form. This may or may not be a good thing, but it’s nothing new.
What do you think? Did you not even notice Alice Eve and her underwear in the trailer until now? Are there other examples you’re surprised I didn’t point out?
For a comedic analysis of sexuality in the Star Trek shows with a more in-depth focus on a select few individual episodes, look here.
- Star Trek: Now With Half Naked Chicks (optimuscook.wordpress.com)
- Beam me up hottie! Alice Eve strips off to her bra and pants in new Star Trek trailer (mirror.co.uk)