Little Girls are Made of Sex Droids: Star Trek asks the Android Question

Trek Through Trek – Part X

Clearly a sex bot.

Clearly a sex bot.

Extremites, what are little girls made of?

That is the central question at the core of today’s Trek Through Trek. According to the episode, that uses this question as a title, little girls are made of sex droids.

….. What?

Original Series episodes fall into three categories: culturally important, charming sixties camp and bat shit terrible. What Are Little Girls Made Of? falls somewhere in between the latter two.

The Enterprise is on a mission to discover the whereabouts of Nurse Chapel’s scientist husband Dr. Korby. Korby has been kept alive in the tunnels of the planet  by androids left over from an extinct race that used to populate the planet’s surface. These androids don’t wish to leave the planet when the rescue team, headed by Kirk, arrives. Instead, their intent is to kill off human Kirk and replace him with an android. Why they wish to do this is unclear, but this is the 1960s and in the Sixties androids were evil by virtue.

Androids have always been a favourite ‘go to’ in science fiction. Questions like “what constitutes individual thought?” and “what does it mean to be a human?” have shaped this genre since its conception. This episode begins Star Trek’s storied legacy of discussing these most frightening of inventions.

Even though this episode was the beginning of a legacy that would drive story lines right up to Next Gen, it almost never happened. Unlike the others in the first season, the final script seen on-screen had very little similarities with the first draft. Gene Roddenberry read the first submitted script and tossed it in the garbage. He claimed that androids capturing Kirk and replacing him with an android version was so cliché that it bordered on copyright infringement. Gene’s answer was to rewrite the whole thing. Instead of capturing Kirk and taking over the Enterprise, the androids would talk about doing that but never get there.

Roddenberry is a brilliant idea man, but he’s a terrible writer. He enjoys lofty conversations rather than heightened action. Sometimes this pays off, but most of the time a Roddenberry story becomes a meandering directionless mess, full of philosophical speeches and civil dinners.In this episode there are tons of those. A debate over the nature of intelligence occupies a full act while each character tries and fails at distracting the audience from the obvious coloured blocks of painted wood they are pretending to eat.

Am I the only one that sees a styrofoam penis? Is that odd?

Am I the only one that sees a styrofoam penis? Is that odd?

Ignoring all the nepotism and pedantic dialogue, this episode does present some compelling ideas. Andrea, an underused character, is a creation of Korby’s for the single purpose of companionship. One of the inevitable reasons we will create androids in the future is to use them as sex toys. What will this do to relationships? How will human interaction change? This is an underlying powerful discussion of the episode but it is never touched on beyond passing reference.

The passive ignorance of the female characters in this episode upsets me. They become watchers of the plot rather than participators in it. There are so many questions they could pose as women that are ignored because of zeitgeist misogyny.

…Little Girls… was written fast. It was also rewritten during filming to the point the show went over deadline and budget.

Sometimes poor execution can destroy any good ideas.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain Julian Munds.

The Episode We Are Watching: What Are Little Girls Made Of? (Episode 9 of Season 1 of The Original Series: October 20th, 1966)

My Rating Out of 5 Tribbles: 2 Android Tribbles That Are There To Serve You.

My After Episode Thoughts: “So much eating and talking…. eating and talking.”

Pros: Some wonderful philosophical conversation. Charmingly cliché ending.

Cons: The sexism. The nepotism. The boringism.

<— PART IX

—> PART XI

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About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on May 9, 2014, in Star Trek, The Original Series and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Very interesting observations about Gene Roddenberry. I happen to agree with them, actually. His concept for Star Trek was really amazing & groundbreaking, and you have to give him credit both for devising it and getting the show made. But the majority of the really great, classic Trek episodes were written by people other than Roddenberry. It’s sort of like he knew exactly what was needed to lay down the foundation, but he was never especially good at constructing an actual house.

    This became even more obvious with the movies and then with The Next Generation. The first film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, has a lot of great ideas, but in execution it just does not work particularly well. As you said, it’s all philosophical speeches and intellectual pondering. Then we get to The Wrath of Khan, and Nicholas Meyer co-write & directs a story that tackles many deep, age-old questions (growing old, life and death, the potential of the future, the morality of science, etc) yet at the same time is also incredibly dramatic, action-packed, and riveting.

    Then with Next Gen, Roddenberry was pretty much the final authority for the first two seasons, and it was just dull & sluggish. His argument was that this was a future peaceful utopia, so every problem would be solved by everyone sitting down and forming a committee to calmly debate the issues. Y’know, I do wish real life was like that, I really do. But for a fictional weekly television series it was just dull & boring. Then you get to the third year, Roddenberry is pushed to the side, and suddenly Next Gen is almost an entirely different show. It’s exciting and engaging and you actually care for the characters. The philosophical & ethical debates are still there, but now they’re engaging, part of some really dramatic narratives.

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on about this long enough. Thanks for reading.

    • As I say Gene is an idea man. Now, I love philosophical chats as much as the next guy, but there are ways that you can make it interesting like Undiscovered Country, and ways you make it preachy like the worst moments of Roddenberyism in Motion Picture. You have your finger on the show. You can also go too far the other way though and you get the Orci, Abrams redux of recent years. All boom and no substance. It was a shame he was not like Stan Lee in the later 60s at Marvel. Put an idea out there, have better writers write it.

  2. Science fiction is supposed to be precisely that, stories about the social consequences of intellectual inquiry and technological innovation. One of the best actual science fiction films I can think of is The Andromeda Strain, which also has lots of sitting around eating Playskool blocks while talking about how aliens could indicate their existence by creating an interstellar virus. But then Lucas rolled out Star Wars, made a billion dollars, and now there is hardly any science at all in our science fiction. The first Star Trek film was well under development when Star Wars hit, which is why it looked like that. The second one somehow found a perfect balance of action and ideas, and there have been diminishing returns ever since. The Abrams films are almost purely in the Star Wars vein.

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