In “Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten” Henry Jenkins argues that Star Trek fans often rework and rewrite the Star Trek program into their own fan fiction in order to either protect it from those who created it or to integrate their own social experience within it thereby responding to their personal needs. For instance, female fan writers consider themselves to be “‘repairing the damage’ caused by the program’s inconsistent and often demeaning treatment of its female characters” (479).
Jenkins asserts, “Fan writing is an almost exclusively feminine response to mass media texts” (476). He explains that women are the majority of Star Trek fan fiction writers because science fiction needs more reworking and feminist reconstruction than traditional feminine texts, such as the soap opera or popular romance (478). Jenkins adds “Another explanation might be that these so-called feminine texts [popular romance, soap opera] satisfy, at least partially, the desires of traditional women yet fail to meet the needs of more professionally oriented women” (478). This need for more professionally oriented women reminded me of the spin-off series -- Star Trek: The Next Generation, which aired from 1987-1994, 18 years after the original. Although the series is still dominated by white males, like Captain Jean-Luc Picard and First-Officer (and womanizer) William Riker, the female characters are placed into more professional roles such as lead doctor and chief of security/lieutenant.
I am not familiar with the original Star Trek (1966-1969), but from watching the “Amok Time” episode I was able to distinguish progressions from the original Star Trek and the later spin-off Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). In The Next Generation spin-off series, Dr. Beverly Crusher replaces the original series’ chief medical officer Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Rather than being relegated to a traditionally viewed feminine occupation, like Nurse Christine Chapel in the original, Beverly Crusher fulfills the role of chief medical officer. She is presented as a smart, independent single mother and professional. The same can be said about Tasha Yar, who carries the rank of lieutenant and is chief of security, a role typically considered male-oriented.
Dr. Beverly Crusher
Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
However, it is not to say that the later series of Star Trek is completely progressive and that all women are depicted as independent from male authority (i.e. Captain Picard is still a white male and Counselor Deanna Troi is often portrayed as a sensitive ‘damsel in distress’). But perhaps the newer series are responding to the old Star Trek series in the same way that the female fan fiction writers have been -- to challenge a world dominated by male authority by reshaping the female characters “into full-blooded feminist role models” (480).