On Captain Pike and Disability

We can see an evolution of the representations of ‘cures’ or ‘fixes’ for disability on the SF screen, for instance, with the example of Star Trek’s Captain Pike. In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode ‘The Menagerie’ (1966), Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter) is severely injured during battle, leaving him confined and dependent on a wheelchair unit…

This Original Series Captain Pike is pitiable, and Captain Kirk – the very embodiment of masculine health and vitality as played by William Shatner – struggles to gaze on Spock’s old mentor. Fast forward to 2009…

The 2009 Captain Pike is a far cry from the 1966 version – the representation of his character’s disability demonstrates the change in cultural attitudes toward people with disabilities (i.e., less monstrous, more heroic), as well as highlighting the advancement of the technological ‘fixes’ for disability to be less visible.

Despite the gains we see through the figure of Captain Pike, the desire to cure his injuries and return him to – or get him closer to – the idealized version of the perfect/normal body remains (and, it should be noted, in Star Trek: Into Darkness [2013], Pike has traded his wheelchair for a simple cane and has no visible disabling injuries)

Kathryn Allan in her introduction to Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure (2013)

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