Episode 71 – TOS 3×16: “The Mark of Gideon”

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This week brings us to an episode is often referenced as evidence of Trek’s pro-choice, feminist foundations. The basics are thus: Kirk gets kidnapped by the government of Gideon, subjected to involuntary medical experiments in order to extract a disease from his blood, which is then given to a young woman who has apparently volunteered to be infected, and to die, in order to inspire others on Gideon to volunteer for suicide so that they may finally address their planet’s hideous overpopulation problem.

If this sounds like a flat-out insane way of dealing with overpopulation, you’re not alone! Kirk is also horrified, not only by the brutality of their methods but by the fact that this entire planet would rather subject themselves to horrible painful death by disease than, like, slow down with the baby-making.

Kirk makes an agonized face at the Gideon council head
Are you literally out of your fucking minds??










If you haven’t seen the episode before, you’ve probably seen it giffed, during the scene where Kirk pleads with the leaders of Gideon (all white men, naturally) to consider, y’know, contraception to solve their world’s catastrophic overpopulation problem, rather than killing a young woman in the interest of preserving future, potential life. Because everyone knows women are just vessels for potential male babies! The episode is… not subtle.

…so here is where I intended to include a video of the famous scene where Kirk tries to convince the Boss of Gideon to accept the Federation’s help with introducing birth control to their civilization and directly links Gideon’s claims of “loving life” and the hypocrisy of being nevertheless prepared to straight-up murder a young woman in the interest of that goal to contemporary controversies about women’s bodily autonomy and the inherent hypocrisy and misogyny of the right-wing “pro-life” movement, but some things happened when I went looking for one:

  1. In the time that I had, I couldn’t find a video that didn’t cut off right before Kirk’s most important line, which stabs Gideon’s murderous hypocrisy right in its heart: “But you can kill a young girl?” It’s the most important line of the scene??
  2. I got mad over the number of reviews I found, published not in the 1960s but in this century, whining about how the social commentary “ruined a perfectly good episode,” because apparently these dudes do not understand Star Trek at all.
  3. In case you’re confused, So-Called Internet Trekkies, here is a reminder:
    Kirk: yet you can kill a young girl?







So here, have a picture of Odona’s totally bananas outfit instead:

Odona's weird outfit
I don’t know what to even call this. Inside-out bathing suit cover-up?











Anyway, I don’t disagree that the incredibly-forced, last-minute love story between Kirk and Odona was unnecessary and weird, but there’s a really interesting message in here, about bodily autonomy (the real issue behind the pro-choice and anti-choice debate), and it’s one that’s applied both to Kirk and the female guest-star. Kirk is violated, one might even argue more directly than Odona is, because at least Odona technically gets to choose her fate, though one could also argue that her violation is more subtle, in that it’s being done by her entire society. Like, ignore the awkward makeouts, and the, uh, somewhat contradictory resolution chosen by Kirk, and you still have a story that was pretty revolutionary for its time.

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