The Eye of Orion


In loving memory of the hopes I had cultivated of actually doing NaNoWriMo this year, I’ll be attempting to post at least something to atypicalreview every day of November. Two things today though, to make up for yesterday.

As those of you who will have read Jackson’s Star Trek review will one day know,1 this year J.J. Abrams brought us a pretty impressive film. I was even able to rise above my childhood Doctor Who versus Star Trek rivalry to enjoy it. Perfectly paced, funny, exciting, moving.

It’s just out on DVD, Blu-Ray, and iTunes as well. May I caution you as an aside; do not just buy it on iTunes. It’ll cost you $25 there, but for an extra $5 you could get the blu-ray edition which comes with its own digital iTunes copy. Even if you don’t have a blu-ray player, one day you might. Think about it.

Anyhow, that’s not the point, as you may have guessed from the picture up in the top left hand corner.2 What people often rightly applaud Star Trek for is its agenda of social progress and togetherness and the triumph of humanity against its base urges. The first inter-racial kiss on television. The first romance between a cyborg and an artificial intelligence.3 So it surprised me somewhat to be watching the scenes deleted from Star Trek and to find a pretty ropey scene between our hero Kirk and an Orion woman. Allow me to paraphrase:

KIRK: I’m really sorry. I realise it looks like I used you shamefully but I won’t actually come out and say that I did. I’m very awkward right now. I’m even a bit reluctant to make eye contact with you but I clearly have on several occasions in this sentence.
You’re not Gaila, are you?

For those playing at home, that’s a joke about how all girls with green skin look the same and how Kirk can’t tell them apart. And we’re not talking about girls he’s barely met. We’re talking about girls he’s slept with. Take a moment to think about just how that’d play if, say, Kirk had the same issue but with Uhura and another girl of similar skin colour.

Luckily, it didn’t make it to the film. But not because it was in bad taste — in fact, J.J. and his crew still seem to think it’s really funny. It’s all a bit weird. How tragic that on the same day that I note that anti-robot stereotypes are on the decline, we see once again the ugly face of intergalactic racism. Truly, equal rights in genre movies is an ongoing battle.

  1. Patience my children. Remember the parable of the Not Fade Away review.
  2. I reserve the right to one day change the layout of this website and not update this sentence.
  3. Well, almost-romance. Curse you, Voyager!

3 Responses to “The Eye of Orion”

  1. It’s not really a joke about how all Orion Slave girls look the same. It’s about how Kirk thinks they all look the same- that is not the same thing.

    It’s not just me splitting hairs here – a character can be racially insensitive without the movie endorsing that kind of behaviour, can’t it?

    Look- I’m not defending the scene, and I don’t like the idea of Kirk not being able to tell the difference just to serve a joke and am glad they cut it, and shame on the writers for not recognising that it could be interpreted they way you have. I just take umbrage at the suggestion that the writers wilfully and intentionally made a joke that all xxx look the same – it’s clear to me they aren’t.

    On a side note – promiscuous guys not being able to recognise girls they’ve slept with certainly a joke I’ve seen in movies before. It reflects on the character – it doesn’t suggest that we all think all women look the same. You wouldn’t have got here if the girl was the same skin colour as Kirk.

  2. Re: the first point, I think it depends on the context. In The Wire, say, I would completely agree with your point. When it comes to the hero of an action-adventure story though, I feel it’s a little murkier. i.e. if the Doctor is racist in an episode of Doctor Who (which he has been) then he’d generally learn the error of his ways by the end (which he did, if I’m remembering ‘The Curse of Peladon’ correctly.


    Anyhow, as always I’m not really fussed as to why they did it, though your explanation seems plausible. I’m also not taking things too seriously here. I’m just amazed that they went with an “all you people look the same to me” joke (or at least, a joke that relies on this element).

    I bet the Orions (or however you refer to them) are up in arms.

    I agree, if the girl was the same skin colour as Kirk it wouldn’t have seemed as silly. I guess my main concern is, Kirk’s supposed to be pretty damn smart under all the horniness and arrogance, but this scene just made him seem like a douche.

  3. You make sense. All good points.

    The only thing I’m taking seriously about your blog is the fact that I can’t find any copies of the Star Trek Blu-ray in stock.