A long-running series like Star Trek will not leave the media-conscious anytime soon, even when it’s off the air. A cherished series, influential in the fields of entertainment, science, and even medicine, but a little-discussed fact is that the series won it’s first Emmy thanks to an episode of it’s highly unappreciated animated 1974 Star Trek series…
A script pitched and co-written by Russell Bates, Native American Sci-fi writer of the Kiowa tribe.
The episode in question is a unique venture given its release date. Native Americans have never been truly included into sci-fi stories, especially involving space travel. The episode Mr. Bates co-wrote with David Wise titled “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”, won Star Trek’s first Emmy for “Outstanding Entertainment Children’s Series” and Mr. Bates won a Peabody for best writing in an animated series.
Its plot? The animated crew of the Enterprise comes across a being who once visited ancient Earth, being revered as a god across multiple cultures. An observation made by Ensign Dawson Walking Bear, the first Native American Star Trek character.
Walking Bear was descended from the Comanche Native American tribe played an important part as the ship’s crew defended against Kukulkan, an ancient being who visited earth’s early people leaving an imprint of itself on the planets first peoples such as the stories of the Quetzalcoatl. It is through Walking Bear’s academic studies and fortitude he is able to reason what Kukulkan’s motives and how he could be stopped.
The episode was fun, gripping mysterious and much loved by fans and critics. fan art, cosplay, and even portrayals of Dawson Walking Bear appeared across the fan spectrum fan.
Russell Bates and Dawson Walking Bear paved the way and broke ground for Native American roles and characters in media that some might not expect them in.
Congratulations Mr. Bates.