These awkward 'Star Trek' moments might be its greatest legacy.
A celebration of the little things that make the future 'Star Trek' envisioned such an inspiration to us today, on the show's 50th anniversary.
One of my favorite things about "Star Trek: The Original Series" is how unashamedly awkward and goofy it was.
I don't mean campy, though I do love that about it too. I specifically mean those moments that are just straight up awkward and goofy. Those moments where the characters were supposed to look cool and badass, but — due to a combination of the technology of the time, the low budget, and the use of stage fighting techniques — they ended up looking silly.
Yes, the secondhand embarrassment when watching these scenes is real, and for some people those moments make it impossible to suspend disbelief enough to immerse themselves in the show. But, to me, those are some of the show's most human moments, and one of the things I love most about it.
Like, Kirk thinks he's a badass — and in the world of "Star Trek" he is a badass — but when he fights, he looks like pretty much any normal human would look while trying to be cool in a fight.
And when a mission calls for spontaneous dancing — to defeat a small army of android sexbots using illogic, as it were — dancing may not be Chekov's calling but dammit if he doesn't give it his best.
When McCoy finds himself in a gladiator game, he doesn't suddenly and miraculously become a master swordsman through the magic of TV editing. He just does his best!
In "Star Trek," when something urgent happens, there's NO TIME FOR COOL RUNNING. You just gotta haul ass. Like Spock.
And when you gotta get from point A to point B without being seen, sure, there's probably a way to make it look cool, but you know what? In real life, it'd be hella awkward too.
These awkward/goofy moments weren't always deliberate, but they make "Star Trek" feel more real.
A highly produced, crisply edited version of "Star Trek" would make these scenes look cool, coordinated, and well-choreographed. There would be more close-up shots, edits would cut on the action, and McCoy would be as skilled with a sword as he is with a hypo.
But I like these moments of awkwardness. Human beings are nothing if not generally awkward, and I find it incredibly reassuring to think that even in the 23rd century, there's no graceful way to get shot in the face with happiness pollen by an alien flower.
Capt. Kirk never seems more human than when he's fighting the Gorn. It's awkward af, but I love it. If you found yourself being forced to build a makeshift cannon while simultaneously fighting a lizard monster in the desert heat and wearing polyester pants, you'd be about this graceful too.
And if you ever found yourself trapped in a real-life Halloween house, being chased by a creature that is clearly a giant house cat (that also sometimes takes the form of a human woman, but is actually an insect-slash-bird-looking alien) while carrying a magic wand and jumping on a makeshift trampoline, yeah you'd wish you were anywhere near as graceful as Kirk is here. And he's not graceful at all.
There's a moment in one episode of the show where Spock almost gets hit in the head by one of those weird futuristic hexagonal door frames while exiting a scene. I can't find a GIF of it, but I LIVE FOR THOSE MOMENTS.
Call "Star Trek" low-budget, call it campy, call it bad acting — call it whatever you want. These are the little moments that, when coupled with a grand vision for the future, allowed a franchise launched five decades ago to still resonate today.
They aren't the big philosophical moments that "Star Trek" is known for. These are the relatable moments.
They're small, human moments — some scripted, some accidental — and they're one of the unsung heroes of what makes the world of "Star Trek" seem, to me at least, possible.
Sometimes you have a day where your job sucks and you end up like Sulu — holding a dog in a unicorn costume, staring out into nothingness wondering how this is your life.
And other times you find yourself doing busy work in the background of other people's lives, while they save the day.
These moments were largely due to budget and special effects constraints of '60s sci-fi television, but even with a bigger budget, the "Star Trek" films kept those moments alive.
There was 100% a cooler-looking way to shoot this scene. Spock is wearing jet boots! Jet boots are awesome! But this scene is awkward af.
And they knew it. That's why it's there.
The first "Star Trek" reboot even had a scene that — unintentionally or not — paid homage to this classic awkwardness.
Sure, Kirk could've taken a hypo to the neck without missing a beat, but he didn't. He made a weird face. Because he's human.
50 years after "Star Trek" first aired, it's these moments that give me hope for our own 23rd century.
"Star Trek" presents a utopic vision of the future that is sleek and shiny and has jet boots and food replicators and transporters and phasers and intergalactic space travel and racial and gender equality (or '60s-era versions of it anyway), but it's also a future where people are still people (and, by "people," I'm including Trek's entire spectrum of nonhuman races) — and people are awkward, even while accomplishing great things and saving the universe time and time again.
A future in which everyone looks cool all the time might be fun to watch, but doesn't feel as tangible. The vulnerability of looking silly while achieving great things is incredibly human and makes it seem possible that we as individual people in 2016 can help bring the best parts of the future "Star Trek" envisioned to life.
One of the show's greatest legacies is the way it has inspired real change in the real world — from iPads and cell phones to saving the whales. To me, these small moments, more than anything else, make the grand vision of the future "Star Trek" presents — equality and justice for all — something that could happen, if we work hard enough to make it so.