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Fantasy Races vs Sci Fi Species. Different or not?

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Well-written sci-fi should probably not offer single-culture sentient species . . .

Well, Star Trek isn't just science fiction. It is also modern morality play - and the requirements there call for a bit of simplification.

but that level of thoughtfulness and detail easily gets left out when cramming episode after episode of a series, or even for a movie script.

More importantly, Star Trek (and any media) is a product of its time - it can be thoughtful for its time but will only lead the times by so much. By modern standards, Original Series Trek is at best quaint in its thoughfulness. Women had a place on the bridge, but you didn't see a woman captain in TOS, and the women all still wore short skirts.

Same goes for depictions of other cultures. In the time of TOS, we could bear that some people of other cultures were okay, but strange - so you could get Checkov and Spock on the bridge. But enemies? We were not ready for the idea that our heroes would wage war on complex, nuanced enemies who might not be entirely wrong - they were violent Klingons and scheming Romulans, and so on.
 

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Haiku Elvis

Explorer
I think races and/or species conflating the biological and the cultural crosses the boundaries between fantasy and sci-fi all the time. Klingons were an empire consisting of one species with one culture, until fairly recently in Trek when the writers have tried to show more diversity. Same with the Romulans and other Trek species.

Well-written sci-fi should probably not offer single-culture sentient species . . . but that level of thoughtfulness and detail easily gets left out when cramming episode after episode of a series, or even for a movie script.

Broadly though, I do think we're more accepting of one species = one culture in the fantasy genre. Having dozens of elf "subraces" (hate that term) is more a result of splat then thoughtfully created multicultural species. It just happens a lot in sci-fi, or sci-fantasy, too.
I wouldn't get my hopes up too quickly about Science Fiction abandoning one species = one culture when it still can't leave behind one planet = one climate.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Well, Star Trek isn't just science fiction. It is also modern morality play - and the requirements there call for a bit of simplification.



More importantly, Star Trek (and any media) is a product of its time - it can be thoughtful for its time but will only lead the times by so much. By modern standards, Original Series Trek is at best quaint in its thoughfulness. Women had a place on the bridge, but you didn't see a woman captain in TOS, and the women all still wore short skirts.

Same goes for depictions of other cultures. In the time of TOS, we could bear that some people of other cultures were okay, but strange - so you could get Checkov and Spock on the bridge. But enemies? We were not ready for the idea that our heroes would wage war on complex, nuanced enemies who might not be entirely wrong - they were violent Klingons and scheming Romulans, and so on.
Though you DID see female leaders & rulers in alien cultures, so they had that going for them. T’Pau. The unnamed Romulan commander in “The Enterprise Incident” (I think)- so even if the FEDERATION was still sexist, the aliens were a bit less so. (And lest we forget, Number One in the original rejected pilot was a woman!)

Tangent: I took my aunt to breakfast at the Denny’s that just opened up near us while I was driving her to various medical appointments today. Among the nostalgic photos hung about the place, some depicted the female waitstaff wearing uniforms that were close enough to the female unis in TOS that I had to do a double take. Ditto the up-do hairstyles.
 
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Women had a place on the bridge, but you didn't see a woman captain in TOS, and the women all still wore short skirts.
Dr. Dehner did NOT wear a skirt. She was in trousers the whole episode. And there's another female in trousers in command green in the same episode. (Where No Man Has Gone Before) Same with Yeoman Colt Number One in The Menagerie (flashbacks). Both pilots had women in trousers. I suspect Theiss got notes from the producers to sexy up the run.
Several guest stars were in full length dresses. One guest star woman was in farm coveralls - in This Side of Paradise.
TOS wasn't quite as "women are eye candy" as many would claim. (I'm not saying the women weren't dressed to be attractive and even sexy, but I'm saying that the stereotypical view of it is mild hyperbole. And wasn't what was originally intended by Roddenberry)
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I tend to treat my SF aliens as, well, more alien. Fantasy races need to live in the same environments, mostly eat the same food, and have an overlap of needs. But giant bags of sentient gas that swim in the upper atmospheres of gas giants will have a lot less common touchstones, shared experiences, nor even similar needs or ways of communicating that -- they can be a lot less relatable.

In addition, non-space faring aliens may tend to be a lot more xenophobic when first encountering other sophonts, while fantasy races know that there are other sentient races around.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Dr. Dehner did NOT wear a skirt. She was in trousers the whole episode. And there's another female in trousers in command green in the same episode. (Where No Man Has Gone Before) Same with Yeoman Colt Number One in The Menagerie (flashbacks). Both pilots had women in trousers. I suspect Theiss got notes from the producers to sexy up the run.
Several guest stars were in full length dresses. One guest star woman was in farm coveralls - in This Side of Paradise.
TOS wasn't quite as "women are eye candy" as many would claim. (I'm not saying the women weren't dressed to be attractive and even sexy, but I'm saying that the stereotypical view of it is mild hyperbole. And wasn't what was originally intended by Roddenberry)
My understanding is Roddenbury pushed for sexier.

From Theiss Titillation Theory:
Though Theiss was a costume designer, according to Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Herb Solow and Robert Justman, most of the costumes following this theory were actually somewhat more modest before being "improved" by Gene Roddenberry. According to the Art of Star Trek book, Theiss preferred to design costumes that only appeared to be in danger of slipping or coming off, through the use of strategically-placed sheer or skin-tone fabric.
...
Theiss was further able (forced?) to add to the effect by the censorship rules of the time in terms of what parts of the body could or could not be shown (the navel being the most well-known restriction of the era). He found he could get a surprisingly erotic effect from the carefully arranged display of areas of skin not generally considered erogenous.
 

Haiku Elvis

Explorer
I had heard that Roddenberry pushed for the sexiness too. Not into Trek enough to know if this is true but I read somewhere that when they were casting TNG he pushed for actresses with shall we say ample talents to fit into the regulation Space Onesies of the show.
 

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