To boldly grow up

In her academic article “To boldly grow up: navigating female adolescence in Star Trek and Lost in Space,” Zara T. Wilkinson takes a close look at the TOS episode “Miri” and I wanted to share a couple of particularly thought-provoking excerpts:

Miri is quite obviously a child. The actress, who is 19, wears a shapeless outfit in order to replicate the look of a pre-pubescent female body. The character is dirty, tomboyish and has never thought of herself as pretty. 

Despite this, however, Kirk immediately identifies her as a ‘pretty young woman’, both ageing her and casting her as the object of heterosexual attraction. A few minutes later, Kirk holds her hand and tells her ‘I like you’ as the music swells in the background. As he does this, Miri smiles and looks down modestly, and Kirk reaches to hold her chin and stroke her face. 

Although the situation should be platonic based on the age of the participants, everything about the on-screen presentation is romantic. The implication is clear: Miri should want to be a woman, she should want to be pretty and she should both accept and desire the attention Kirk is paying her.

Wilkinson also looks at how Rand fits into the picture:

As with Miri, Rand’s attraction to Kirk is strongly associated with the onset of the disease. Rand herself parallels a request for Kirk to look at her legs, which are showing the symptomatic blue lesions, with her previous desire for Kirk to appreciate her as a beautiful woman: ‘Back on the ship, I used to try to get you to look at my legs…Captain, look at my legs’.

Immediately after Rand speaks her plea, the camera cuts to several shots of her body. In the first, she pulls back the top of her uniform to reveal lesions on her wrist and on her thigh, visible just below the hem of her uniform’s skirt.

Rand is the only crewmember in the episode to show or mention lesions beneath her uniform, as well as the only crewmember whose lesions only appear on the parts of the body with sexual significance. From this, it is clear that Rand’s status as a victim of the disease is linked to her sexual desire for Kirk and her physical attractiveness in general.

This powerful visual and narrative cue reminds the viewer that female sexuality is, in the context of the episode, particularly suspect and potentially dangerous – both for Miri and Rand, who are the most visibly affected, but also for their male companions.

Citation: “To boldly grow up: navigating female adolescence in Star Trek and Lost in Space” by Zara T. Wilkinson in Science Fiction Film and Television 9.3 (2016).

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