Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about the classic Star Trek Gorn fight scene.

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Star Trek’s “Worst Fight Scene Ever”

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Star Trek’s “Worst Fight Scene Ever”

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 3 2015 2:26 PM

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Star Trek’s “Worst Fight Scene Ever”

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On Monday, CBS announced that it is working on a new Star Trek series for release in January 2017. It's been 10 years since Enterprise, the most recent Star Trek television show, went off the air. But the success of J.J. Abrams’ two films (with one still on the way) has sustained and revitalized the brand. As the canon evolves, it's more important than ever to revisit the original Star Trek and consider its goals. Luckily that's something Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to do!

Tyson has often said that he prefers classic Star Trek to The Next Generation because he feels that James Kirk is a better captain than Jean-Luc Picard. Kirk is willing to get in fights, take risks, and bluff his way through sticky situations, where Picard typically favors a more measured and dispassionate approach. So Slate decided to bring a classic Trek scene—Kirk's fight with the captain of an alien Gorn ship—to Tyson's office at the Hayden Planetarium.

Star Trek would explore the expression of human traits [that] maybe we even take for granted but aliens might find intriguing,” he explained. “The morality tale that so many Star Trek episodes represented I think was its greatest strength.”

The scene in question has the distinction, though, of being known around the Internet as the “worst fight scene ever,” because of its utterly dopey choreography. (The Gorn costume severely limited stuntman Bobby Clark's range of motion.) But Tyson has a different criticism of the scene. “My great disappointment with the Gorn fight is I thought even by then they could have been more creative in what they imagined an alien to look like,” he told Slate.

Hopefully there will be more information about the shape and direction of the upcoming CBS Star Trek soon. But Tyson knows what he likes. “To me your captain is somebody who you know will put himself at risk for you,” he said. “That's the person who you follow.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is a security reporter for Wired.

Daniel Hubbard is a writer, editor, and director living in New York City.