Sharing the Chair: Three Captains Aboard the Enterprise
Trapped in a fiercely escalating thunderstorm on an alien world, Captain James T. Kirk urges Chief Engineer of the USS Enterprise Montgomery Scott to “beam him up”; that is, to instantly transport him back to the warmth and comfort of the ship under his command. Captain Kirk, a weathered and physically imposing man in his 40s, is shocked and confused to be greeted by a 25-year-old version of himself, at the helm of a similarly aged crew. Neither willing to respect the authority of the other, a power struggle begins between the young and the elder Kirk, until a third and malevolent version of the Captain appears and both the 40 and 25-year-old Captain Kirk are forced to band together.
Those fans now scratching their heads, furiously flipping through their Star Trek episode guide in disbelief, need not worry. The scenario described above is not an unaired episode of the original series, nor the plot of an upcoming installment of the rebooted Star Trek film series. It is, in fact, the plot of This Ain’t Star Trek XXX 3, the 2013 film directed by veteran pornographer Axel Braun. With an impressive and unexpected attention to details regarding costumes, sets, and characterization, this “porn parody” interacts with its source material on a much deeper level than simply suggesting a space ship as the set for many sexual encounters.
Pornographic parodies of famous media texts, often considered a silly “cousin” of the more serious mainstream hardcore pornography of the 21st century, haven’t often been the subject of popular or scholarly study. Regardless, these parodies aren’t without merit, especially when considered as transformative products of fandom. In honor of Star Trek celebrating its 50th birthday, it would only be fair to consider all expressions of appreciation of this revered source text as equals, and approach Star Trek-themed pornographic parodies without any preconceived judgment.
Sights Set for the Stars: 50 Years of Unsurpassed Success
In 1964, former fighter pilot and Los Angeles police officer Gene Roddenberry developed a television series that would eventually capture the imaginations of millions of viewers across both the United States and the world. The first series, now referred to as Star Trek The Original Series (ST: TOS), debuted in 1966 on NBC, where it would run for three seasons. The series followed the galactic adventures of Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew during a five-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before” aboard the starship Enterprise.
Initially cancelled after the series’ second season, and finally disappearing off the air in 1969, Star Trek, in its own time, could hardly be considered a success. However, those enchanted by the show’s adventurous nature and well-developed characters were inspired to impressive feats of fan cooperation, significantly responsible for keeping the flame of the series burning during NBC’s casting aside of ST: TOS’ final season in a hopeless time slot.
After the series’ cancellation in 1969, and during the decade-long drought that followed without a single professionally produced live-action story, the unwavering passion of the show’s many fans played an indisputably large part in greenlighting 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Wise), the film’s many sequels, and the production of five new Star Trek television series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1987-1994; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 1993-1999; Star Trek: Voyager, 1995-2001; Star Trek: Enterprise, 2001-2005; and the soon to be released Star Trek: Discovery, 2017-).
A Scene Set by Star Trek: The Fledgling First Steps of Fandom
As Elizabeth Thomas states in her 2013 article “Live Long and Prosper: How Fans Made Star Trek a Cultural Phenomenon”, Gene Roddenberry and a small band of creative souls “harnessed the world’s newest telecommunications medium to attract both the geek and non-geek, and brought millions of individuals together in a decades-long movement that has forever changed the meaning of ‘fandom'”. Whilst Star Trek fans certainly didn’t invent fandom, author Bruce Drushel attributes our contemporary knowledge of fandom — “its antecedent conditions, its contexts, its practices, its attractions, and its seeming inexhaustibility” — to the scholarly examination of the Star Trek phenomenon and “its legions of devotees” in Fan Phenomena: Star Trek (University of Chicago Press, 2013), and Camille Bacon-Smith contends that media fandom as it’s now practiced originated in Star Trek fandom in her seminal 1992 book Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth (University of Pennsylvania Press).
An increasingly prominent and important part of media fandom has become the creating and sharing of transformative products of fandom. Ever since the original run of ST: TOS on NBC, fans have been contributing to early fan magazines dedicated to the series and its community. Similarly, fans first began sharing their own stories with each other through the mail, and with the arrival of the World Wide Web and the consequent explosion of Internet use in the ’90s, Star Trek fans took full advantage of this new globe-shrinking form of technology by creating increasingly elaborate webpages dedicated to chronicling and expanding the Star Trek universe.
As Henry Jenkins recognizes in his 1992 book Textual Poachers (Routledge, 2012), Star Trek‘s fan base is made up of large numbers of both men and women, contrary to the archetypal imagine of the nerdy young geek male. An important and recurring motif in fandom studies is the belief that more involved forms of fandom are often indicative of a lack in the fan’s personal life. In her oft-quoted 2009 text on female fandom, “A Fannish Taxonomy of Hotness” (Journal of Transformative Works, 2008), Francesca Coppa describes transformative works of fandom as a way for women to safely explore their sexuality, and engage in relationships they lack (or find lacking) in their daily lives. As Coppa states: “One of the most provocative things about the woman who reads is how her gaze is turned away from her real husband, lover, or children”.
Whilst not every account of fan fiction (or other forms of transformative works of fan production) is necessarily of a romantic or sexual nature, this motif is of particular importance in understanding the continuous popularity of pornographic parodies. The proliferation of “Kirk/Spock” erotic fan fiction and various other forms of slash-fiction writing, in which likely and unlikely media couples are imagined in situations of various explicitness (“slash” being named after the punctuation in the Kirk/Spock fan-fiction, as recognized by Paul Booth in 2013’s Star Trek Fans as Parody), predate pornographic parodies by decades. Despite pornography’s possibly tarnished reputation and bigger production budgets, the genre of pornographic parodies nonetheless deserves the same academic consideration reserved for (erotic) fan fiction.
No Such Thing as the Unknown: Studying Pornography and Media Appropriation
In his excellently curated collection of articles Pornography: Film and Culture (2006), Peter Lehman acknowledges the unusually defensive nature of scholars’ studies of pornography, as “pornography is always a special case [of scholarship] — frequently to the point of hilarity” (pg. 1). He argues, however, that pornography’s global cultural and economic impact warrants serious scholarly investigation; “as with all forms of media and popular culture, we should understand how porn impacts the life of those users, whether positively, negatively, or neutrally” (pg. 1).
As a multifaceted form of media expression, pornography has historically changed over time. This particular quality has made it difficult to come to a unitary definition of “pornography”, as this definition works within a context defined by several forces, which John Ellis describes as:
“The current form of the pornography industry and its particular attempts at legitimization; the particular form of the laws relating to obscenity and censorship; and the general mobilization of various moral and philosophical positions and themes that characterize a particular social moment.” (“On Pornography”, 1980: 27).
This difficulty in defining pornography, however, doesn’t mean that the subject shouldn’t be studied. As Lehman rightfully argues, tracking which kinds of explicit forms of sexual representation arise at any given point in time “can tell us much about sexuality at that moment” (pg. 11). For the purpose of this article, all films and scenes in which some or all characters engage in non-simulated and explicitly shown sexual encounters will be considered as pornographic, focusing in particular on hardcore pornography from the ’70s onwards.
Hardly Funny at All.: The Delicate Balance Between Sex and Humor
During the ’70s, as Linda Williams describes in 1999’s Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible”, hardcore pornography became legal, and by adopting the narrative structures popularized by Hollywood film-making these feature-length productions joined the entertainment mainstream.
“No matter how much it might still be regarded as a pariah, the new ‘porno’ was now more a genre among other genres than it was a special case. As if to insist on this fact, hard-core narratives went about imitating other Hollywood genres with a vengeance, inflecting well-known titles and genres with an X-rated difference. Films with titles such as Sexorcist Devil (1974), Beach Blanket Bango (1975), Flesh Gordon (1978), Dracula Sucks (1979), Downstairs Upstairs (1980), and Urban Cowgirls (1981) were now exhibited in movie theaters that looked-almost-like other movie theaters.” (In Pornography: Film and Culture, pg. 60).
Nonetheless, it’s important to note that the truly inspired titles cited above don’t retain a connection to their parodied text beyond their title, as Lehman recognizes in his 1996 article “Twin Cheeks, Twin Peaks and Twin Freaks: Porn’s Transgressive Remake Humor”. This trend of misleadingly titled pornographic films is indicative of the difficult relationship that exists between humor and the graphic representation of sex.
In “Never Laugh at a Man with His Pants Down: The Affective Dynamics of Comedy and Porn” (2006), Nina Martin explores “the mingling of humor and sex”, which she deems “curiously unexplored”. (In Pornography: Film and Culture, pg. 190). The main reason she finds for the often grave nature of pornographic representations, is the genre’s deep investment in seriousness, which she sees as an example of patriarchal power; “a power that is rigorously maintained by equating the sight/site of the penis with awe” (pg. 193). That isn’t to say that pornography is free of humor. Indeed, the most stereotypical examples of pornographic scenarios, such as the housewife seducing the handyman or pizza delivery guy, are typified by hilariously poor dialogue and otherworldly happenstance. However, as Martin observes:
“Porn retains its serious tone by fiercely separating any comedy or funny bits from the actual performance of the sex numbers. […] No more jokes or wisecracks are present as the actors perform the sexual number with serious intensity; the comedy is distinct from the sex, maintaining the awe and drama surrounding the representation of the penis” (pg. 193).
This clear divide between humor and sexual performances may also be explained from the perspective of comedy. As Steve Neale and Frank Krutnick explain in Popular Film and Television Comedy (1990), “it is difficult to use [jokes and quips] as a springboard for narrative development. They are instead much more suited to constructing or marking a pause or digression in the ongoing flow of the story” (pg. 48). As sexual performances typically share this lack of narrative development, it’s understandable why the two are often difficult to mix. As Martin sums it up, “despite comedy’s easy melding with other genres such as horror or the Western, comedy would appear to undermine radically the conventions that sustain porn’s emphasis on phallic superiority and control” (pg. 195).
Boldly Going Where Hollywood has Gone Before
After establishing the apparent incompatibility of comedy and pornography, Nina Martin turns her gaze to award-winning pornographic comedies produced in recent years, whose success she attributes to “their ability to parody not only Hollywood films and television but also the conventions of the porn genre themselves”. These erotic parodies work within the constraints of pornographic convention, “and reify these conventions by highlighting their ubiquitous presence” (pg. 195). Put more succinctly, pornographic parodies expect their viewer base to be well-versed in the iconography and narrative structures of pornography; to “get it”, you need to be familiar with porn.
Martin’s distinction between comedy and parody is an echo of a similar observation made by Neale and Krutnik, who considered parody as “a special case. In contrast to generic hybrids, which combine generic conventions, parodies work by drawing upon such conventions in order to make us laugh” (pg. 18). Again, more succinctly, parody isn’t simply a comedic film in a familiar setting; its humor derives from a critical interaction with the norms and values of the original medium. The structure of parody, and its knowing play with generic conventions, thus allows for a mixing of comedic and pornographic elements, which diverge from the clear and apparent separation of humor and sex common to most porn films and porn comedies.
An excellent example of this play with porn convention would be director Jim Enright’s Hung Wankenstein (2000), a parody of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein (1974). Apart from jokes on a similar level of crudeness as suggested by the feature’s title, Hung Wankenstein may be described best by a (non-pornographic) scene in Dr. Wankenstein’s (Ron Jeremy) dining hall. After some lines of expositional dialogue, all characters are quickly reminded by the Doctor that they are wasting precious screen time, and that they must hurry along to get to the next (pornographic) scene.
As Nina Martin acknowledges, Hung Wankenstein indicates that porn films “can transgress the rigid rules and generic conventions required that separate sex and humor”, as the films satirizes, while simultaneously acknowledging, its necessary conventions; that is, “no changes are made in the fundamental structure of porn” (pg. 198).
Other than engaging with mainstream television shows or feature films, pornography parody film has grown into a subgenre of the pornography film industry that can extend to parodying video games or literary works, as well as poking fun at historical or contemporary events, such as political scandals. The subgenre has an extensive history, as Porn Parody (a website dedicated to chronicling, reviewing, and popularizing pornographic parodies) cites the 1973 parody Bat Pussy based, of course, on the famous comic book character created by Bob Kane in 1939, and its equally famous adaptation as a 1966 television series (created by William Dozier, starring Adam West as the titular caped crusader), as the earliest known pornographic parody film. A film of such abhorrent ineptitude it becomes laughable, this masterpiece of bad film-making inspired a movement within pornography that, especially in the ’90s, would gain mainstream popularity.
In the 2002 retrospective documentary Shaving Ryan’s Privates, director Simon George documents pornographic parodies based on classic Hollywood films and similarly prominent pop culture phenomenon. Able to select his clips from a vast pool of parodies, George can’t help but express his admiration for the often wildly creative pornographic reimaginings of characters such as Edward Scissorhands (Burton, 1990) in Edward Penishands (Norman, 1991). It wasn’t until the late 2000s and the 2010s that pornographic parodies would experience a popular resurgence.
Parodies have been produced of an impressively wide range of media source, from sitcoms such as Who’s the Boss? (Hunter, 1984) to science fiction tent poles such as The Avengers (Whedon, 2012) and reality series such as Duck Dynasty (Robertson, 2012). Even event specific productions, such as the several parodies that feature a Sarah Palin-like character, have been released with much mainstream media coverage as 2008’s Who’s Nailin’ Paylin?, the pornographic parody lampooning the aspiring vice president of the United States and other contemporary prominent political figures during the 2008 election. Spanning both heterosexual and homosexual orientations, pornographic parodies have never been more diverse than they are today.
A continuously recurring name in pornographic parodies is the aforementioned Axel Braun. Born as Alessandro Ferro, he is the son of Lasse Braun, who was among the first to successfully campaign for the legalization of pornography in Europe. Having directed more than 500 adult films since 1990, Braun struck gold in 2009 with This Ain’t Star Trek XXX, his first pornographic film based on an existing intellectual property. In cooperation with Hustler Video, an American pornographic film studio owned by Larry Flynt, Axel Braun created the “This Ain’t-” and the “Not The-” series of pornographic films, which parody various mainstream TV series and films. The series of pornography parody films were originally proposed as a joke by Braun, after which Hustler published a press release with a series of fake parody films. When the producers were met with overwhelmingly positive feedback from eager fans, Hustler and Braun began serious discussions, resulting in the aforementioned Star Trek XXX parody.
Apart from two direct sequels to Star Trek XXX, to which we’ll return later, the series would quickly branch out, with increasing ambition, to other intellectual properties. The film This Ain’t Avatar XXX, a spoof of Avatar (Cameron, 2009), would become the most expensive film Hustler has ever produced. The film was shot, edited, written, and directed by Axel Braun in impressive 3D, a very unlikely feature in pornography. The pornographer would continue to push his boundaries with 2010’s This Ain’t Glee XXX, a pornographic musical comedy film based on the television series Glee (Murphy, 2009). With an original score of double entendre-filled songs written by director Braun, the film proved no genre is beyond the scope of his parodying lens.
Despite these not-inconsiderable successes, the very recent cultural prominence of pornographic parodies can in very large part be attributed to the success of one video: 2010’s Batman XXX: A Porn Parody. This pornographic superhero parody, again directed by Axel Braun, is based on the aforementioned ’60s-era Batman TV series, and reproduces many of the recurring characters, settings, and production elements of the series with an eerie accuracy. As a fan of the original television series, director Braun spent years developing the erotic feature film, believing the source material to be a perfect candidate for parody due to its campy and tongue-in-cheek nature.
Star Ship Intercourse
In an interview with IESB.net, Braun explains the strenuous effort of getting as many details as possible correct. The production, which at $100,000 was particularly expensive for a pornographic film, included era-authentic costumes, custom sets, and the rental of one of the original Batmobile cars used in the original series. In an act of rare dedication, performer Randy Spears (who plays the Joker in the film) even went as far as to grow a moustache, only to then cover it in whiteface, as a visual nod to the character’s original actor. The film, produced by Vivid Entertainment, garnered nearly unanimous praise from the leading critics of pornography, leading the production company to announce plans for an entire line of similarly parodying films, to be released under the new Axel Braun-chaired imprint Vivid Superhero.
Apart from critical and popular praise, the subgenre of pornographic parodies has also gained acceptance by the adult industry, exemplified by organizations such as Adult Video News (AVN, an American trade journal covering the adult video industry) and the X-Rated Critics Organization (XRCO), awarding parodies during their annual awards ceremonies. The XRCO Awards added the Best Parody category as early as 2003, and the AVN Awards added the categories “Best Parody — Comedy” and “Best Parody — Drama” in 2009.
With both popular and critical attention, pornographic parodies have never found themselves further at the forefront of popular culture. This brings forth an interesting question of legality. Or, to put it more succinctly: how do they get away with it? The aforementioned fidelity for which pornographers such as Braun strive extend beyond the admittedly impressive attention to detail when it comes to sets and costuming, delving into the realm of identical dialogue and shot-for-shot reshoots of iconic film scenes. Star Wars XXX: A Porn Parody, released in 2012 by Vivid Entertainment and Braun, is a pornographic parody of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Lucas, 1977). Intriguingly, the film’s non-explicit trailer is nearly indistinguishable from the original, prompting us to ask where parody ends and copy begins.
To date, there’s no clear law of precedent case to which to refer when it comes to pornographic parodies. Whilst the owners of the intellectual property might argue that the adult nature of pornography will tarnish the brand name of their property, it would be difficult to disprove a defendant’s claim to fair use, which protects producers of “criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research”, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder. CBS, which owns the rights to Star Trek, thus has seemingly little legal foothold to forbid pornographic films “inspired” by their intellectual property.
A second, quite intriguing, answer to “how do they get away with it?” is the possibility of private agreements between the pornographic production companies and the owners of intellectual properties. Entities such as CBS, Disney Studios (The Avengers), or Lucasfilm (Star Wars) may have entered into a deal with a production company such as Vivid Entertainment, and share their intellectual properties for a cut of the profit. For some, the apparent absence of lawsuits against pornographic parodies may be indicative of that, although until a concrete example is discovered, this is mere speculation.
A more likely explanation would be legal precedent being in favor of the pornographic production companies. In 2002, Star Wars creator George Lucas sued Media Market Group, which had produced an animated porn parody of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope called Starballz (Penava, 2001). Lucasfilm tried to sue the producers of the film for copyright and trademark infringement, but the federal judge refused, saying that the Star Wars films are so famous that it’d be extremely unlikely that consumers would believe that Starballz is associated with Star Wars or Lucasfilm.
“These are the voyages of the starship Intercourse…”
As Bruce Drushel recognizes, Star Trek fans are a remarkably resilient breed, “considering their continual berating and mimicry in the media and popular conversation”. This sentiment is shared by Paul Booth, whose article “Star Trek Fans as Parody: Fans Mocking Other Fans” (2013) examines Star Trek fans’ reputation within popular culture and within the world of fandom. Booth identifies the fans as, with little doubt, “the most famous fans of all time”, as they’re “the de facto fans in terms of intensity and emotional connection to the text”. Whilst fandom has become a more accepted mode of spectatorship during the fairly recent surge in popularity of “geek culture”, exemplified by the sustained success of media such as The Big Bang Theory (Lorre, 2007), many depictions of fandom tend to be negative. Fan shaming persists across gender lines, yet media portrayals of (female) fans still tend to lean toward a focus on bizarrely overinvested people who engage in strange practices. As stated in Fan Culture (Larsen & Zuberis, 2012), “the stereotype persists that fangirls are overweight cat ladies with unhealthy fixations on the male leads of their favorite television shows” (pg. 9).
Faced with systemic and persistent adversity, it’s understandable that fans of media properties seek a “scapegoat”; a type of fan “more geeky” than they are. Because of the series’ five-decade long history, Star Trek is both the earliest example of modern fandom, as well as continuously relevant due to the rebooted film series (which began in 2009 with J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek, now on its third installment). This means that Star Trek and its many fans remain the butt of even the most fannish of jokes. When discussing Star Trek-inspired pornographic parodies, it’ll be interesting to analyze the nature of the parodic elements of the films’ plot, and see if these films can be considered as pieces of transformative art by or mocking fans.
“Oh my”: Star Trek Pornography as Participatory Fandom
To understand the place of Star Trek-inspired pornographic parodies within the fandom, I’ll consider two series of films: the Sex Trek trilogy, comprising of Sex Trek (1990), Sex Trek II: The Search for Sperm (1991), and Sex Trek III: The Wrath of Bob (1992) by Moonlight Entertainment. Sex Trek IV: The Next Orgasm (1994), and Sex Trek V: Deep Space Sex (1995) are later additions, technically extending the series into a pentalogy; however, the first three installments parody ST: TOS, whilst The Next Orgasm is an adaptation of The Next Generation, and Deep Space Sex adapts Deep Space Nine. Despite some intriguing choices made in the latter two films, for clarity’s sake I’ll focus on pornographic parodies of Captain Kirk and his crew. To provide a comparison for the Sex Trek series, I’ll also look at the This Ain’t Star Trek series, comprising of This Ain’t Star Trek: Star Trek XXX (2009), This Ain’t Star Trek XXX 2: The Butterfly Effect (2010), and This Ain’t Star Trek XXX 3 (2013) by Hustler Video.
The Sex Trek trilogy interestingly features one loosely continuing storyline throughout its installments. In Sex Trek, Captain Jim Quirk (Randy Spears) and his crew aboard the starship Intercourse set out for Uranus. Arriving at the planet, they quickly discover that it is inhabited by a species of female humanoids with particularly uncontrollable libidos. Taking it upon themselves to represent the human race, Captain Quick enlists the help of his First Officer Mr. Sperm (Mike Horner) and Doctor Boner McJoy (Joey Silvera) to instill these savages with basic values. The men are overwhelmed, however, and Mr. Sperm gets abducted by the ravenous race of females, eager to worship him as a god. Sex Trek II: The Search for Sperm chronicles the crew of the Intercourse in their pursuit of the taken First Officer.
During the rescue operation, however, a red-shirted member of the crew named Bob (J. B.) is seemingly killed and left for dead in the putrid soil of Uranus. Sex Trek III: The Wrath of Bob concludes the trilogy with the unexpected return of Bob, mutated by his burial in the fertile soil of Uranus and transformed into a being of particular sexual prowess with a murderous vendetta against the crew that left him to die.
The This Ain’t Star Trek series is comprised of three stand-alone stories, although with all principle characters portrayed by returning actors and actresses. In This Ain’t Star Trek: Star Trek XXX, the crew of the Enterprise encounters the starship Botany Bay, aboard which they find humans from the 21st century. One of these humans is the villainous Khan (Nick Manning), who ventures to take over the Enterprise by releasing a biological weapon. This virus causes uncontrollable sexual urges in anyone it contacts, which can only be remedied by achieving an orgasm.
This Ain’t Star Trek XXX 2: The Butterfly Effect finds Captain Kirk (Evan Stone) and his crew captured by a band of butterfly-like female aliens, which imprison the Captain, his First Officer Spock (Tony De Sergio), and ship’s doctor McCoy (Cheyne Collins) in order to extract information from them. Able to seduce the men, yet unable to make them talk, the aliens transport the trio back in time, where they are forced to witness an encounter between icon of cinema Marilyn Monroe (Alexis Texas) and the late US President John F. Kennedy (Johnny Castle). Rescued by Lieutenant Sulu (Keni Styles) and Ensign Chekov (Joey Brass), the butterfly baddies are finally beaten when Captain Kirk seduces and incapacitates their leader. Finally, the aforementioned This Ain’t Star Trek XXX 3 sees three Captains sharing a star ship, as a young Kirk (Michael Vegas), an older Kirk, and a villainous Kirk strive for dominance. When the younger and elder Kirk band together to fight their villainous alter ego, both men are saved by Lieutenant Uhura (Ann Foxx).
Impressed by the spunk of this younger crew, the elder Kirk finally conspires with Mr. Spock (Richie Calhoun) to lure his younger self into a transporter and beam him to an undisclosed world, leaving only the elder Kirk to pick up the mantle.
Parody works because it both subverts and supports the system that it parodies. That is, one has to necessarily use enough of the parodied material to make the parody obvious. As the parody must also mock the system, it consequently has to subvert the characteristics that it upholds. Thus, using a comparative analysis of both the Sex Trek and the This Ain’t Star Trek series, in which particular attention will be paid to the films’ dialogue, art direction, and themes, allows me to determine the intention of both trilogies, and to see if these films can be considered as pieces of transformative art by fans or mocking fans.
Structurally, both pornographic trilogies seem to adhere to the Film Maker’s Guide to Pornography (Drake, 1977). In this extremely functional guide for the would-be pornographer, author Stephen Ziplow provides a checklist of the various sexual acts that should be included in a pornographic film, along with the best ways to film them. His list distinguishes between masturbation, heterosexual intercourse, lesbian intercourse, oral sex, threesomes — including one or two men — sexual intercourse by a group of individuals, and finally anal intercourse. These are the sexual acts that Ziplow deems essential to a hard-core feature circa 1977; in neither 1990 nor 2009 do filmmakers stray from this pornographic make-up. Ziplow adamantly states that narrative should exist; specifically, it should occupy approximately 40 percent of the screen time, and serve as a set-up for the sexual numbers represented in the remaining 60 percent. As both the Sex Trek and the This Ain’t Star Trek series adhere to these rules, the two-decade difference in release date between the trilogies doesn’t exclude them from comparison.
From the very first shot of Sex Trek, it becomes apparent that this isn’t a high-budget production. Star Ship Intercourse, represented by a golden “back massager” on a string, can be observed being maneuvered around by a hand the filmmakers didn’t deem necessary to exclude from the shot. A narrator gleefully explains the Intercourse’s mission to Uranus, before the film cuts to the ships control room, fittingly portrayed by an array of blinking lights. About to beam down to Uranus, the crew inexplicably changes out of their hot-glued costume-approximations into shorts and Hawaiian shirts. When we do finally see the planet Uranus, it’s disappointingly portrayed as a uniformly black room; a “dark crevice”.
As neither the sets nor the costumes seem to be based on any part of the vast and expansive Star Trek mythos, we can only turn to the dialogue and characterization to find any practical similarities with ST: TOS. Sadly, one would be hard-pressed to find any dialogue catering (or even pandering) to Star Trek fans. Favoring puns and sexual innuendo over expositional dialogue, the closest the film comes to authenticity is in the stilted line delivery of actor Randy Spears (portraying Captain Jim Quirk).
This harkening back to the acting of William Shatner (Captain Kirk in ST: TOS) is immediately nullified by the appalling character Lieutenant Uwhore (Patricia Kennedy, a gross perversion of Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Uhura, famously portrayed by Nichelle Nichols in ST: TOS, is rightfully remembered as one of the great female characters of entertainment history and, most importantly, an equal aboard the Enterprise, regardless of her race. In the Sex Trek series, not only is Uwhore portrayed by a Caucasian actress, matters are made worse by the vulgar way she speaks: in an exaggerated “ghetto” vernacular. As neither the sets nor the films’ dialogue, art direction, and themes seem to improve in the next two installments of the Sex Trek series, it becomes painfully clear that this series of films may not have been produced as a labor of love.
The filmmakers’ apparent willingness to create a film of such disputable quality, in the hope that Star Trek fans will buy anything bearing the series’ name, is insulting, and can be considered as a mockery of Star Trek fans’ tastes and sensibilities.
Luckily, not all hope is lost for all Star Trek fans clamoring for a pornographic parody of their favorite television series that respect them, the source material, and the fandom it’s inspired: the This Ain’t Star Trek series. Director Axel Braun is known for his painstaking attention to detail, and his doesn’t disappoint in this trilogy. From the era-authentic costumes, to an impressively recreated Enterprise control room, a passing fan could be forgiven for mistaking these pornographic parodies for the real thing.
Perhaps even more inspired are the stories that make up the plot of these films. As an example, the threat posed by Khan in This Ain’t Star Trek: Star Trek XXX isn’t far from the character’s characterization in either the original Star Trek film, or the recent reboot. Despite the overtly sexual implications of the virus he releases, this act of terrorism isn’t unbelievable as an action of the series’ most iconic villain.
Axel Braun goes to similar lengths to set up a scene of sexual intercourse elsewhere in the film. A female Vulcan, beamed aboard the ship with information regarding Khan, succumbs to pon farr: a part of the reproductive cycle of Vulcans that leaves them violently aroused until they mate. As in the Sex Trek series, a sexual encounter is reached, yet the way to get there is through story elements introduced in ST: TOS, rather than the will of the screenwriter. This may rightfully be regarded as a sign of respect towards the parody’s source material, and as indicative of advanced knowledge of Star Trek‘s lore.
A final example of note is the very last scene in This Ain’t Star Trek XXX 3. Having taken control over the Enterprise, the elder Captain Kirk uses his communicator to contact Lieutenant Sulu. When Sulu announces warp factor 1 as the star ship’s speed, Kirk (expletively) corrects him, commanding warp factor 6. To this command, Sulu responds with a mere two words: “Oh my…”.
To understand the significance of this response, it’s imperative to be familiar with the career of George Takei, the actor who portrayed Lieutenant Sulu in ST: TOS. Having fostered an impressive online presence in recent years, Takei has used his fame to champion a variety of causes and charities, most pertaining to LGBTQ-issues. The “Oh my” used in the pornographic parody is a sound clip from Howard Stern’s radio show, which sampled the clip from an episode of the Disney Channel show Cory in the House (Poryes, 2007), on which Takei guest-starred in a 2007 episode. Stern used the sound clip as an indication of risqué or sexually inappropriate content during his show; Takei has since adopted it as his catchphrase of sorts, using it often when referring to imagined or implied elements of the relationships between his and other Star Trek characters. The use of this particular catch-phrase as the very final words spoken in a trilogy of pornographic Star Trek parodies is a less-than-covert wink at the Star Trek fandom; an outreached hand that’s as much an acknowledgment as a show of credentials.
Pornographic parodies inspired by Star Trek occupy an interesting position within both pornography as a genre, and within fandom as a community fostered by both mass and individual involvement. Despite their often poor reputations, not all Star Trek porn parodies are shamelessly offensive cash-grabs, eager to parasitically profit off of a popular intellectual property. Pornographic productions created with mindful attention to the television series, and the fandom it’s inspired, may very well be considered as transformative works of fan art, deserving as much respect as went into making it.