Long Ago and Far Away: Star Trek and Race (1968)

In Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek a common social issue that is regularly commented on is the issue of racial equality in 1960’s America. Having a white man and a black woman in the same workplace was so incredibly taboo that the only appropriate setting would be the deck of a Starship. This allowed the breaking of barriers, both physical and metaphorical.

The scene comments on the contemporary social issue of racial equality. The setting of the scene consists of the two of the main characters acting in a play, where Willliam Shatner’s character must kiss Nichelle Nichols’. This episode was aired at a time when interracial relationships of any kind were often frowned upon by the majority of Americans. Laws called anti-miscegenation laws that banned relationships and more importantly marriages between interracial couples still existed in dozens of states, mainly in the southern and mid-western states. This scene directly and intentionally challenged the very fabric of these laws and the building blocks of racist society. The push to help dismantle the complex issue of racially equality and systematic oppression in the United States took many hits in the year 1968 with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, but took a step in the right direction with the inclusion of this cultural milestone.

In comparison to the play “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles both use the theater as a medium to address complicated topics that would be too dark or be considered to sinister or inappropriate to be discussed in an open setting. An example of terrible and perverse topics in “Oedipus Rex” are acts committed by Oedipus which include patricide and incest which were frowned upon by the society. The parallels that are shared between both Star Trek and Oedipus Rex are not the messages they share but the use of similar mediums that are used to display their individual messages.