Sunday, May 3, 2009

Star Trek & 1960s Design, 12: Innovation and Undulation

Innovative designers ask the same central question sci-fi writers and other visionaries do:
How might this look otherwise or be or act differently?

Looking for something else, I serendipped into Finnish architect Alvar Aalto's famous Savoy Vase (his sketch, below, and with fish--from 1936, thirty years before ST; but Aalto is considered the Scandinavian father of modernism). With its revolutionary undulating form, it reminded me of one of my favorite life forms on Star Trek: the energy cloud called the Companion (top row, left), from the 1967 episode "Metamorphosis".

One of the show's most interesting relationships was between the Companion and the Earth man Zefram Cochrane, who has been stranded on the Companion's planet for 150 years. The Companion kept the man alive and would envelope and commune lovingly with him (bottom row, right).





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When Spock points out to Zefram that he is essentially the Companion's lover, however, Zefram freaks out, saying it's disgusting that he let something alien "crawl around inside me".
Spock comments, "Fascinating – a totally parochial attitude."

Rather ridiculously, it is established that the Companion is female, but still this is one of Star Trek's best moments, clearly stating that the containers of life--and love--in the Universe won't necessarily conform to the Human shapes of mid-20th century planet Earth.
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“This cloud imagines us and all that our story
Was ever going to be, and we catch up
To ourselves, but they are the selves of others”

--from "Riddle Me," by John Ashbery
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As always, Star Trek screencaps from TrekCore.com.

2 comments:

Nancy said...

It surprises me that I remember so well the episodes you mention -- but probably couldn't call up many episodes on my own.

I loved the Companion -- who wouldn't want a womb to go back into? Zefram fell considerably in my estimation when he shows such a caddish attitude. Ungrateful lout!

fresca said...

Other people have told me they are surprised how well they remember the show from childhood too--recognizing episodes they had no idea they knew!

Good point, Nancy, about the Companion being womblike. And yes, Zefram was a lout! The whole episode shows up how blind Star Trek's creators were to sexism, even as they tried to be progressive.
Always makes me wonder what blind spots *I* have....
But we get credit for trying! If we are.