Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

majQa' tlhInganpu'! ("Errand of Mercy")

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Hey, is that a targ?

Or "Welcome to the Klingons!" In this, the 26th episode of the first season of Star Trek, the most iconic aliens in the history of the franchise make their debut.

However, their language doesn't, nor do the forehead ridges... more on that later.

****

When war breaks out between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire, the Enterprise is sent to the peaceful planet of Organia to prevent the latter from getting their hands on a key strategic location. However, the local leadership is completely unwilling to allow Kirk to help them and in due course, the Klingons occupy the planet.

****

I'll start by pointing out that McCoy isn't in this episode, nor is Scotty. It would have been interesting to see how Bones reacted to the bat'leth brigade here, although those weapons don't turn up until The Next Generation.

It is important to place this story in its historical context. "Errand of Mercy" aired on 23 March 1967. The Cuban crisis was 4 1/2 years previously and there would be a serious set of clashes between the USSR and China in 1969. The Six-Day War would occur that summer. It was a rather tense time in global history, to put it mildly.

So with the Federation cast as the Americans, it becomes a fairly simple case of seeing the Klingons as the Soviet Union or Red China in this series... but a bit less so in their debut.

I've previously mentioned that the Second World War was still very much in living memory for those making the show and the Klingons here are portrayed as rather akin to the Nazis, taking hostages and making the local government implement their orders. Commander Kor, the military governor here, would not be out of place in a SS uniform (the Klingons wear jackboots), calmly drinking champagne as he shoots a captured resistance fighter with a Luger P08 pistol. If this was broadcast today, you'd almost certainly have a helpline number given out at the end of the credits; there would be those watching who had encountered real life 'Klingons'.

Kirk and Spock therefore end up acting as a mini-resistance against the Klingons, blowing up a munitions dump with a 'sonic grenade', which is probably no relation to a sonic screwdriver. It's a rather enjoyable tale of 'derring-do' reminiscent of a comic book at times.

Knowing the twist in this episode actually makes it better, because you can see all the little details. That said, the twist does raise further questions related to future events in the franchise and also is notable in a prediction becoming entirely true.

Anyway, back to the Klingons. They would become the main antagonists for the Federation in TOS, mainly because it was easier to do the make-up than the Romulans. John Colicos (half Greek, half Canadian - who also played Count Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica and Mikkos Cassadine in General Hospital in a long career) who played Kor, came up with the distinctive look, intending to invoke Genghis Khan, although Khan lacked the crazy eyebrows. Many of the Klingons just look like they've used the wrong sort of bronzer to me... there are of course unfortunate racial implications, especially with the Fu Manchu style moustache of Kor, although he doesn't use a silly accent.

However, the Klingons would rise far above that (indeed many Klingons don't have dark make up in TOS, although all the key ones were played by white actors), even if it wouldn't be for a while. The forehead ridges don't come until the movies; I would also point out the Klingon ships seen here are CGI add-ins for the remastered version.

Conclusion

A classic debut for a classic race.

9/10

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

They Picked The Wrong Alternative ("The Alternative Factor")

Star Trek can be an uneven affair at times; any show with over 80 episodes is bound to have a few clunkers and sadly, this is definitely one of them.

As such, I am not going to dignify this misbegotten tale with a picture.

****

While mapping a strange new world, the Enterprise is shaken by a mysterious phenomenon... then a human is spotted on the other wise empty planet. Beaming down, Kirk encounters a gentlemen called Lazarus with a crazy beard and an equally crazy tale to tell...

****

I got bored during this one, badly bored. There are parts of this story that are, as Spock would put it, illogical. Like not believing McCoy when you've encountered a plethora of strange stuff previously and failing to adequately secure key parts of the ship when dealing with an escaped crazy person.

There's a decent potential plot out there, but it's so badly done that the story completely collapses and you lose all empathy or interest in the character of Lazarus, who sports a completely unconvincing fake beard. Producing a negative emotional reaction in an audience can be a sign of a good character if they're meant to be annoying... but producing next to none at all is a sign of a bad one.

Much of the blame has to fall on Robert Brown, who was a last minute replacement for John Drew Barrymore, father of that Drew Barrymore, who failed to show up to filming, got a six month suspension from the Screen Actor's Guild as a result and whose career never recovered; he also had major substance abuse problems, like his father and two of his children, including Drew. Brown is, if we're being honest, really poor in this. He badly overacts throughout much of the episode.

Before Brown was brought in, this episode was on the verge of being canned. It should have been.

Conclusion

Can't say I like this one at all. It's clear why this isn't particularly well-remembered; it's not very good. Indeed, many consider it among the worst of Star Trek. I'll let you know if any worse come up.

3/10

Last edited by Silent Hunter (2016-09-02 11:47:24)

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

Mechanical Rice Picker for Sale, One Careless Owner ("The City at the Edge of Forever")

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He's just watched "The Alternative Factor". 

The penultimate episode of Season 1 of Star Trek is a lot better than the dog's breakfast of "The Alternative Factor". In fact, it won the show's second Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (the other nominees were all TOS episodes as well!) at a time when there was not a separate category for TV episodes and also a WGA award. Many consider it the best episode of the entire run... in fact of the entire franchise.

It probably has one of the most famous guest stars of the show's history as well.

****

A series of freak temporal disturbances leads to an Exploding Bridge Console (TM) going off in Sulu's face and McCoy giving himself an accidental overdose, going crazy. He beams down to the planet that is the source of the disturbances and after going through a talking time portal, ends up changing history... so the Enterprise no longer exists. Kirk and Spock have to go after him and reverse the damage...

****

We get a classic opening, involving the good old "Starship Acting" - with one extra rather out of time to everyone else - and Kelley getting a chance to chew on the scenery that hasn't already been munched by Shatner.

This is the second episode of Star Trek involving time travel and we get the tremendously fun sight of our two leads (DeForest Kelley not being in the title sequence at the time) having to go undercover in 1930 New York to await the arrival of McCoy so they can prevent him from changing history. This allows for a truly hilarious scene in which after stealing some clothes, Kirk and Spock are confronted by a policeman. Kirk passes Spock off as a Chinese man whose ears are the result of a childhood accident with a 'mechanical rice picker'. There are plenty of other great scenes, including one sad scene demonstrating why you shouldn't play with a phaser if you don't know what you're doing and Spock knocking Angus MacGyver into a cocked hat. Nimoy does great sarcasm as well.

Kirk (who brings out his Concerned Face a number of times) discovers the source of the problem, a social worker called Edith Keeler... and you guessed it, he falls in love with her. Keeler is played by Joan Collins (now 83 and Dame Joan Collins) who employs a sort of very clear American diction you don't really see with actresses from the US today.

This episode is another case of using your friendly neighbourhood back-lot - in this case, the final appearance of the 40 Acres set - signs from The Andy Griffith Show are apparently visible. It also had more money spent on it than any other episode of Season 1 and it shows.

The ending is reminiscent of the Doctor Who episode "Father's Day", but I have to admit I wasn't particularly moved by it, probably because it's been often imitated since. Another case of Trek writing the clichés and looking clichéd as a result.

Conclusion

A very strong episode of the show indeed with some vintage comedy, but I wasn't sold on all of it. I would personally consider other episodes better, but I can see the acclaim.

8/10

Last edited by Silent Hunter (2016-09-04 14:05:00)

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

Funky Mucus ("Operation -- Annihilate!")

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Remember folks - catch it, bin it, kill it! 

I am posting this on 8 September 2016, the 50th anniversary of the transmission of the first episode of Star Trek, "The Man Trap". It is a testament to the creativity of the late Gene Roddenberry and all else involved that this anniversary is being marked with a cinematic movie currently in theatres and a new TV series in pre-production.

This show has indeed lived long and prospered. Happy Anniversary, Star Trek.

****

The remote colony world of Deneva has gone out of contact (this sort of thing seems to happen a lot) and the Enterprise finds it is in the path of a group of outbreaks of civilisation-destroying insanity, evidenced by a guy flying his ship into the sun... To make things harder for Kirk, the world is home to his brother and his family.

****

I'll start with the first thought that came to my head when the away party beamed down onto the planet - "That looks like a university campus". In fact, while there was an establishing shot done at UCLA, the outside filming was done at the TRW Space and Defense Park in Redondo Beach, home to major aerospace research work, including development of US ICBMs. The company was bought by Northrop Grumman in 2002. So, it is a campus, but of a different variety.

Kirk is arguably the weak link in this episode; possibly as some of his material was cut. He could have been hit harder by what was going on in the story (it's not a great day for him), but he goes back to rather high joviality by the end. Spock and McCoy get better material, with a big role (not to mention big hair) for Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel.

There seems to have been done on the relative cheap; there's only a few non-regulars in the episode and many don't get lines. In particular, we get some rather bad over-acting from Joan Swift as Kirk's sister-in-law.

We had the huge space pizza a few weeks back and now we get flying giant lumps of snot. Unlike "Devil in the Dark", there is no attempt to communicate with this thing, the crew just decide it has to be wiped out, whatever the cost.

The solution to their problem, after some genuine peril involving Spock - attack with a giant hoop thing aside - is one of those things where the science has matched on; doing what they do is likely to cause a lot of cancer later on. Also the units of measurement have changed - McCoy uses 'candles' as a light unit, whereas we now use lumens as standard. That's lumens, not lupins, thank you.

Finally, we have a final scene on the bridge that is actually funny for a change.

Conclusion

A highly enjoyable episode, if it does seem to be done somewhat on the cheaper side and contains some fairly large flaws.

7/10

Last edited by Silent Hunter (2016-09-08 09:08:50)

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

Sex, Drugs and Strange Weapons ("Amok Time")

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She's just watched "The Alternative Factor" 

Spock starts acting very strangely indeed... he's all emotional. It turns out that he's in his 'mating period' and has to return to his native Vulcan to get married or he will die...

****

Right, let's get the 'saucy' bit out of the way first. "I have to mate or I'm going to die" is the sort of plot one commonly associates with a bad comedy or a porn film. Indeed, it was considered too adult for West German television (which was also easily receivable in East Germany) and the episode got majorly edited in the dub there... Also, 'pon farr' sounds like the sort of thing that immature teenagers would snigger at and "I'm in my 'pon farr' period" sounds like the sort of chat up line you'd use at a convention...

Leonard Nimoy spends most of the episode trying to contain his raging hormones... well, that's something every adult has experienced at some point or the other... as either the giver or the recipient. He does a great job at trying to suppress his emotion and not always succeeding, although we never entirely seem him completely lose it.

It's a credit to the writers of the show that they resist the opportunity to use Spock's predicament as fodder for jokes... or maybe they weren't allowed to by the network. Kirk comes across as a good friend understanding what Spock is going through, especially in an well-played 'awkward' scene in which Spock opens up to him about his biological urges. McCoy isn't the kind of gentleman who makes sex jokes and he has another strong performance in this - Season 2 also marks the promotion of DeForest Kelley into the opening titles of the show.

Speaking of regulars, this episode has the first appearance of Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov and it's clear from the start why he became a fan favourite. Brought in to draw younger viewers to the show and made Russian by Roddenberry after he received a complaint from the USSR that the other superpower was being ignored in his vision of the future. He's a charming character who has an enjoyable cyncism - and anticipates changes in orders - although his hair (Koening wore a wig for the first few episodes he filmed) is a bit distracting. He definitely works well with Sulu.

This episode sees the début of two of Trek's most famous bits of iconography, the Vulcan salute and their associated catchphrase, "Live long and prosper". We also get to meet plenty of other Vulcans, most notably T'Pau, who is a pretty big cheese in Vulcan society and the Federation in general. Celia Lovsky, who was born in what was then Austria-Hungary in 1897 had a thick accent that got her cast in 'exotic' dignified old lady roles after her divorce from Peter Lorre, very well known for playing sinister foreigners himself and  with a distinctive accent commonly imitated by Looney Tunes.

The Vulcan ritual is very ornate and is the sort of thing I'm sure some Trekkies have actually employed for their wedding. Mind you, Dothraki weddings are far more violent.

Conclusion

Well known for establishing a good chunk of the Vulcan backstory, this episode is far better than its plot would suggest.

8/10

Last edited by Silent Hunter (2016-09-22 20:58:50)

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

His gold leaf provider, maybe? ("Who Mourns for Adonais?")

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When I said we needed a hand, this not what I meant... 

Forgot to mention something last week - T'Pau also gave her name to a 1980s British band, best known for "China in Your Hand".

Anyway, moving on...

****

Exploring another planet (Pollux IV), the Enterprise gets grabbed by a mysterious green hand in space, which belongs to a - yep, another one - powerful being. This one, who goes by the name of Apollo, claims to be a god, who wants the crew of the ship to worship and serve him. He's also rather interested in a female member of the ship's crew...

****

Looking at this episode, it's got a couple of elements that would figure majorly in other franchises - firstly powerful aliens being treated as deities, something that would be a major part of the Stargate universe. Also, attempting to do deal with a problem by 'reversing the polarity', before Doctor Who did it, but that line actually goes back as far as 1968.

Most of the regulars do well - Uhura gets to showcase some new skills for example - but pride of place goes to Chekov, in his second episode. His character beats get established quickly (including a bit involving the Cheshire cat), he has some genuinely good observations and anyone who can answer back a 'god' with the line "And I'm the Czar of the All the Russias" gets my vote. His hair is a bit distracting though...

We have only a few guest stars in this episode. Pride of place goes Michael Forest as Apollo and Leslie Parrish as Lieutenant Carolyn Palamis.

Apollo first appears as a disembodied headshot in space in a scene that reminded me of a 1980s Doctor Who title sequence and then spends the rest of the episode being pretentious while dressed in a chest-baring gold toga. He throws about lightning bolts and can hold a ship in place, but the guy is lacking in menace. Mid-Atlantic accents are probably not the best choice for ancient 'gods', not without vocal treatment at any rate. There are frankly better super beings in the show.

Palamis is not so much remembered for her character (who is pretty but far too 'airy'), but the outfit that Apollo magically puts on her... or the distinct lack of one. The pink dress she wears - and a modern female character would hopefully complain about it (if I was magically undressed without my consent, I'd deem that sexual assault) - is basically draped over her breasts, looking like a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen... which is almost certainly what William Theiss, a man who seems to have designed costumes using his male urges, was thinking. Parrish (who had chunks of skin torn off by the sheer amounts of double-sided tape used) was apparently completely fine in the outfit... it was everyone else who had concerns about it! Also, 1960s US television had a strange hang-up over showing the female navel... I will also comment that "woman falling in love with a clearly dodgy guy" (and not dodgy in a good way) is the sort of thing that riles feminists and I like to think of myself as well.

Another quick point - Pollux or Beta Geminorum is only 33.72 light years from Sol... that seems rather close for an exploration mission. Did they know it was that 'close' back then?

****

Conclusion

There's some decent stuff in this episode, but it's overly pretentious and drags something awful at times.

4/10

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

I, Skynet ("The Changeling")

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Sorry, mate, she doesn't know either!

As we wait for news as to who on Sol 3 has been cast as 'Number One' in Star Trek: Discovery, I find myself imagining various actresses that I am familiar with in the TOS setting - as we know, the show will be set 10 years before that. One of them is Sarah Shahi, known to me as the 'grumpy commando' Sameen Shaw in Person of Interest.

And this episode did remind me a bit of that show...

****

Responding to another distress signal (they don't do a lot of 'exploring strange new worlds' at the moment...), the NCC-1701 Posse are attacked by a powerful source of energy. They discover it belongs to a lost Earth space probe called Nomad that has developed a rather dim view of biological life... and also believes that Kirk is its creator.

****

Artificial intelligence that decides it's so good that it can rather do without humanity is not entirely a new thing and this episode was indeed inspired by the last episode of the original run of the anthology series The Outer Limits, which also would provide a number of props. In that episode, a group of plane crash survivors are captured by an alien space probe on Earth. In this story, the probe is from Earth... but has been altered by an encounter with alien life.

A decade later, Star Trek: The Motion Picture would feature V'Ger... which does exactly the same thing. Well, you can't plagiarise yourself...

Nomad is a floating metal object about a metre tall that hovers about the whole time and talks by means of flashing lights. It is also rather Dalek like, both in voice and a quest to purify the galaxy of everything that does not match up to its ideal of perfection. Of course it isn't perfect, something that Kirk uses to his advantage to defeat it in a superb climax. Yes, he logic bombs the thing to death, an old trick, but he does it so well that it still seems great. When he's not getting his shirt ripped, Kirk is an excellent operator. The plot is strong all round, although one plot isn't that great, even if it does allow McCoy to say "He's dead, Jim"...

This is a strong episode for all the regulars bar Chekov, who isn't in it, but particular credit goes to Uhura, who gets her memory wiped and has to go back to school to learn everything again. The sight of a child-like Nyota Uhura struggling her way around basic reading is a well played scene by Nichelle Nichols, who gets to do a considerable bit more than being the lady who answers the phones, so to speak.

As a final point, the episode takes place pretty much entirely on ship, which spares us from alien worlds clearly in a studio, but doesn't spare us from some effects errors where phaser beams appear to stop in empty space... Well, at least the four redshirts had a go before being disintegrated.

Conclusion

I have to say that I found this one an exceptional episode of the show... but it loses points for the 'comedy' ending, which I really don't like.

A definite classic in my view... and a sight better than the later movie it inspired.

9/10

****

Next up, "Mirror, Mirror". The evil beards are in the house...

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

Cliché City via Beards, Scars and Crop Tops ("Mirror, Mirror")

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Here to make this post better... 

So, I'm watching Westworld at the moment and must admit to finding it a bit confusing at times. The show is created by Jonathan Nolan, who also created the now concluded Person of Interest. So, I find myself thinking that what Westworld needs is a gun toting Amy Acker... Because Joss Whedon's favourite actor (have you seen how many of his works she's been in?!) makes nearly anything better.

Indeed, I thought at the early part of this episode that the only thing stopping this episode from getting a ten was the lack of Amy Acker... and she hadn't even been born in 1967, so they had a good reason, allowing me to give it maximum marks... That wasn't quite the case at the end of this.

****
After diplomatic negotiations to obtain dilithium crystals from a peace-loving planet go badly, Kirk and his landing party, made up of McCoy, Uhura and Scotty, beam back to the Enterprise... during an ion storm.

This ion storm results in them not going to their intended destination, but to a rather different universe in which the Federation is instead an Empire with a generally ruthless approach to obtaining resources. As well as a command structure in which promotion is attained by assassination...

Kirk and his team must make their way back to their own universe before time runs out or someone kills them. Also, their evil counterparts have ended up in their own universe...

****

It's fair to say that has been a highly influential episode of the show; the 'Mirror Universe' appeared in no less than five episodes of Deep Space Nine and one of Enterprise. Mirror Universe uniforms are a purchasable costume choice in Star Trek Online, also featuring in three missions there. AJJE used to have a Mirror Universe-set sim itself as well...

This Mirror Universe - inspired by episode writer Jerome Bixby's own 1954 short story - has also been the source of much homage (Doctor Who did it in "Inferno" way back in 1970, Fringe made a major arc of it and Buffy naturally had a go as well) and much parody; when you're the subject of a skit on Mystery Science Theater 3000, you know you've made it. The list of these references is very long...

One particular element that is much parodied is Mirror Spock's goatee - there is even a band called Spock's Beard. Having a beard be a sign that you're a bad guy (rarely a bad girl) is a long standing trope of the genre going back into the 16th century; Satan has long been depicted with facial hair. That said, this version of Spock actually proves to be one of the nicer characters on the ISS Enterprise. Less forgiveable, however, is having the sexual deviant Mirror Sulu have a massive scar down his face.

Another common plot device is that when characters turn evil, they wear less clothing, especially if they're a red-headed female Canadian with a body that can pull off a cropped green camisole/print shorts combo. The landing party not only swap places with their counterparts... they also end up in their clothing. Scotty and McCoy, being not exactly sex symbols by conventional definition, just wear their regular uniforms with different badges. Kirk, as leading man, ends up in a sleveless top showing off his muscles... and Uhura wears a midriff baring outfit. To cap the latter off, she later does the whole 'sexy distraction' shtick on Mirror Sulu.

All that said, the Mirror Universe is a very interesting place - although I wouldn't want to live there - with plot elements that would inspire many works. Particularly notable is the 'agonizer', used to punish wayward crew with pain. In its hand-held form, it rather prefigures Root's favourite weapon, the Taser, which hadn't even started development at this point!

(Have I mentioned that I'd really like Acker to make an appearance in Star Trek: Discovery?)

This episode is a tour de force for all the regulars; many of whom get to play against their regular types. 'Our' Kirk is brilliant - realising very quickly that he is going to act different enough to avoid suspicion while still trying to save a planet from destruction by his counterparts. However, McCoy is also great, deciding to save Mirror Spock from death in the climax despite the fact it would put him in peril.

Mirror Kirk also has a mistress, a female officer we've never seen before... and who Prime Kirk (sounds like a brand of beef that) doesn't recognise, although he does snog her. It turns out in the (actually fairly good) final scene that she's a freshly assigned officer arrived a week before... shouldn't the Captain meet his new officers on day one?

Conclusion

Star Trek can be accused of cliché in many cases when in fact it wrote them. Unfortunately in this case, there are some pretty unoriginal plot devices in this episode.

However, that does not detract from what is a very good tale and one that continues to have a major influence.

Just a pity it couldn't have a gun toting Amy Acker in it.

8/10

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

Show me more of this Earth thing called kissing...  ("The Apple")

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Spray it with flowers... 

Red Dwarf, that superb science fiction comedy show, has naturally had a pop or two at Star Trek over the years.

I can't help wonder if this is one of the episodes that influenced them...

****

While exploring a planet that reminds them of the Garden of Eden, which is just outside Moscow according to Chekov (although I think that's a joke on his part), one of Kirk's crew is killed by a poison thorn shooting flower. Unable to beam back up, they discover this isn't really paradise after all.

****

This is very much a Trek-by-the-numbers episode. Explore unusual planet, meet strange and unusual people who are being subjected by an unusual force, defeat said force, then go home, rinse and repeat. Apart from what seems to me a metaphor about 'rugged individualism' versus state provision - a common theme in American political discourse - there is very little original overall in the plot. It's also got a couple of rather big plot holes - most notably how the Enterprise is able to conduct an orbital phaser bombardment after 'frying nearly all its systems'.

However, what keeps this episode from being dull is the fact that is it very, very camp. Some of the highlights:

  • No less than four redshirts dying, all in different ways - including when one steps on an exploding rock. That appears to have seriously injured the stuntman doing it; this show seems to like abusing its actors.

  • A planet blatantly mocked up in a studio with a red sky... but with stock footage of thunder clouds in a blue sky.

  • A red-skinned alien species who have no idea about physical romance (leading to some awkward questions) and wear what are basically bath towels for clothing. Oh and the blokes wear giant white toupees.

  • A fight scene involving these creatures and a high kicking lady in a red mini-dress that must have required careful editing to avoid showing anyone's 'Florida' (TM Carrie Fisher, discussing that slave-girl outfit from Return of the Jedi). At any rate, it looks ridiculous.

  • Alien food that is essentially spray painted fruit.

  • Chekov deciding to take a break mid-mission to snog his new girlfriend, who we will likely never see again.

  • An alien machine represented by a cave entrance shaped like a dragon head.

We get a very angst-ridden Kirk in this episode who feels guilt over the deaths of his men, some earnest discussions over whether the Prime Directive applies and some great one liners all round.


We even get two 'comedy endings'; although only the second is actually any good.

Conclusion

This is a very kitsch episode of Star Trek and arguably very stereotypical of the show. While flawed in a good number of parts and with particularly dodgy effects, it's still an enjoyable 50 minutes, even if not exactly for the right reasons.

7/10

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

The Shippy, Shippy Shake ("The Doomsday Machine")

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That's no moon... 

I watched this episode on my Samsung tablet and even with the smaller screen size, the high detail of the remastered effects, including the title sequence is clear to see. For this Hugo-nominated episode is entirely space bound and it needed 105 remastered shots as compared to the normal 20 to 30.

****
The Enterprise discovers the wreck of its sister ship, the USS Constellation, victim to a giant robotic vessel that eats entire planets for breakfast. There is only one survivor of the Constellation and he's gone a bit mad, which is going to make dealing with this thing a bit harder.

****
This episode apparently owes a considerable amount to the classic novel Moby Dick, although  having never read it, I didn't spot it. At any rate, dealing with a mass killing entity that can't be reasoned with - although there isn't exactly an attempt to try - is a classic staple of science-fiction and horror. We've even got a blonde lady in a short dress...

The Captain of Constellation (incidentally there was a real US carrier of that name in service at the time - it would remain in commission until 2003, seeing action in the invasion of Iraq that year) is one Commodore Matt Decker, an "all ahead full and [expletive deleted] the torpedoes" officer who is determined to avenge the death of his crew by destroying the Planet Killer, acting rather recklessly indeed. He's clearly someone who is dire need of a sedative and some serious counselling; yet ends up making things worse. William Windom (himself a Second World War veteran) patterned his portrayal on Captain Queeg from The Caine Mutiny and if we're being honest, occasionally overdoes it. In particular, one scene sees facial expressions that remind me of 'gurning' from Doctor Who.

No Uhura or Chekov in this one, but everyone else is great. Spock may take a while to act, but when does he's highly effective. Kirk is willing to sacrifice his life for the greater good and there is a genuinely tense scene near the end when he comes rather close indeed to doing just that. You know he's going to survive, but they really run it close... although there is a rather flexible definition of '30 seconds'.
 
The spaceship action is very intense, with lots of phaser action (no photon torpedoes?) sweeping turns and a considerable amount of the old 'Star Trek shake', with at one point characters jiggling in their chairs to simulate turbulence. This does get a bit silly at some points. It's worth noting this was written as a 'bottle episode' to maximise the use of existing sets to save costs; a common device for TV shows in general, but when done right capable of producing some cracking good stories. This is most certainly done right.

It's worth noting that there are a number of references to the hydrogen bomb (which was possessed by the US, UK, France and China at this point in time) in the context of that being a doomsday device. Certainly the development of a fusion powered nuke was pretty controversial partly due to fears that if you built one large enough or had enough of them you could destroy the world or at least cover it in a globally lethal level of fallout - see Doctor Strangelove for an example. Six years prior to this episode airing, the USSR had tested a 50 megaton bomb that, being the biggest nuke test of all time, had managed to break windows in Norway, however it was far too large to be practical for military use and much of the energy was 'wasted' by going out into open space. Today, no-one really makes the A-Bomb/H-Bomb distinction in popular culture.

Now I've gone on about these a lot, but I really must say that while the final scene was good, it didn't need Kirk cracking a smile at the end of it. That seemed tonally very off.

Conclusion

Occasional overacting aside, this is a rollicking space adventure with times of high tension.

9/10

Last edited by Silent Hunter (2016-11-25 18:23:51)

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

We got TV sign! ("Catspaw")

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She's just watched "The Alternative Factor" 

A long while back, I was thinking about an imaginary horror movie in which the heroine is menaced by a giant spider that's realised on screen by use of a real spider blown up in size...

As I have come to realise, however, this is a bad idea, because using green (or blue) screen technology to realise a giant spider tends to look more than a bit awful.

So much so, that it's the sort of thing that gets mocked by the characters of Mystery Science Theater 3000...

I'd imagine that Jonah, Servo and Crow would have a lot of fun with this episode...

****

Scotty and Sulu go missing while on a survey mission, with the other member of their landing party dropping dead on his return to the ship.

Then Kirk hears a mysterious voice telling him to leave as there is a curse on his ship. Of course, Kirk doesn't listen to strange voices in his head.

****
This episode marks Star Trek's only 'holiday special'; it aired during the week of Halloween 1967 and naturally has a bit of spooky film. However, it was actually filmed first in Season 2's production, with the result that Walter Koenig, who had yet to grow out his hair, is wearing a wig worse than the one worn by Megan Boone in the first season of The Blacklist.

And there's no foetid swamp to consign it to... although there are three witches that reminded me of something out of The Muppets (they were intended to be severed heads, but the black turtleneck jumpers show up on screen, something surprisingly not fixed for the remastered version), the use of a considerable amount of dry ice, a big gloomy castle and an scary wizard type with a black cat that seems remarkably well trained. Oh and the black cat can turn into a woman with a big hair do.

The owners of this castle are called Korob and Sylvia. Firstly, who on Earth names an alien 'Sylvia'? Secondly, that is very much a name of its time; you don't exactly get many kids of that name today. Thirdly, you get a couple of scenes where these two basically have a rather overacted argument like they're a married couple. Maybe they are.

Our leads get chained up in a dungeon with a skeleton, resulting in a reasonably good 'Bones' joke. Unfortunately, this dungeon is far too well lit, far too clean and to this Westerner, put him rather in mind of the modern use of a dungeon, if you know what I mean...

Speaking of nudge, nudge, wink, wink... Kirk decides to seduce Sylvia to get more information about their situation and to find a way out. I found myself wondering how people would react if a female character did this to a male one... It is also at this point that things start getting hilarious in the wrong way.

The climax involves the cat getting super-sized; something not too bad when it is done in shadows, but when projected growling through a door, it gets very silly indeed. Just as a fight scene involving a considerable amount of  'Kirk Fu'.

The reveal at the end is good idea, but hilariously bad in concept. As a bonus, however, we are spared the 'comedy scene'. For one thing, there were enough actual laughs in the episode itself.

****

Conclusion

Enjoyable, but not exactly for the right reasons...

7/10

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

Less Westworld, More Pestworld ("I, Mudd")

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The disco at the 'Orphan Black' convention wasn't as busy as hoped

Now while I generally wish violence on few real human beings, there are a good number of fictional characters that I would merrily punch in the mouth. This episode contains the unwelcome return of one of them... but is surprisingly rather good in spite of it.

****

A new crew member turns out to be an android and takes control of the Enterprise, sending it to an uncharted planet. The planet is filled with androids and under the rule of an old acquaintance of the crew... who would rather like to have the Federation starship for his own.

****

Harry Mudd is back. Yes, the campest conman in the Alpha Quadrant, a man who a Ferengi would find over the top, has ended up in control of an entire planet populated with over two hundred thousand human facsimiles. Dressed in a very loud uniform more associated with petty tyrants who think they have a grand army when in reality it would crumble at the first sign of a US Marine Expeditionary Force.

(Speaking of the US military, Sulu's time in this episode is limited and he won't be back for a while as George Takei was on the other side of the US filming John Wayne's The Green Berets in which he played a South Vietnamese officer, one of the very few examples of a Vietnam war film that was in favour of the US involvement there)

Mudd, to absolutely no-one's surprise, has used his desire to create a very large number of attractive female robots; many of them identical and capable of functioning as 'human females do'. That's right, he's built an army of sex robots. Unfortunately/fortunately, none of them have full self-awareness and certainly nothing like the range of emotions as portrayed in the Westworld series. Mudd in himself is greatly irritating and the episode is better when he is not

The androids were played by pairs of twins and the use of split screen to get as many of them as possible on screen at once. Of particular note is the Alice series (played by Alyce and Rhae Andrece) who resembles Zooey Deschanel, although that lady had of course not even been born yet. Well, if that's you like..

The 'robots' are pretty robotic and intentionally so; they in fact have their own agenda, predating Skynet by over a decade.

In order to defeat them, the regulars (Chekov and Spock stand out here) decide to engage in one of the strangest ways to drive a bunch of androids insane I have ever seen. It involves imaginary explosive, the crew making phaser noises and crazy dancing. It makes a recent episode of The Librarians, in which a bad guy is defeated by a group rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" look sane.

Mudd gets his comeuppance and suffers a fate that you wouldn't wish on your own worst enemy... let's just say that I am sure some people would sympathise with him.

****

Conclusion

Despite having one of the most irritating characters in the whole of Trek by a country mile, this actually ends up being a very good episode. Completely crazy at times mind you, but nonetheless, very good.

8/10

Last edited by Silent Hunter (2016-12-07 22:26:29)

Re: Star Trek: The Original Series

Planet of the Really Bad Subtext ("Metamorphosis")

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She's just watched "The Alternative Factor" 

Stockholm Syndrome hadn't been identified at the time this episode had made... which is a pity, because this would have been a much better episode if it had been. Because frankly, its moral compass is broken.

[This review contains major spoilers]

****

Kirk, Spock and McCoy (quite why you put your top two officers and your medical guy on this mission, I don't know) are flying the shuttle Galileo - they've got a replacement after the previous one was lost - back to the Enterprise. Aside from those three, they are carrying a diplomat by the name of Assistant Commissioner Hedford, who has attracted a very rare illness and needs urgent medical treatment back on the starship.

However, they are then taken off course by a mysterious space cloud that looks like Donald Trump's hair and end on an Earth-like asteroid. With a rather unusual inhabitant...

****

This is a rather 'compact' episode; with action limited to the planet, the shuttle and a couple of scenes on the bridge; Chekov is not present in this one.

None of the regulars really stand out in this story sadly. They do get the chance to do some electric shock dancing, but there is very little of the great character moments here.

Nancy Hedford (her first name is only given in the credits) is a headscarf wearing woman who starts off doing grumpy and ends up engaging in sweaty overacting. Played by Elinor Donahue - who is still alive and turns 80 in April - I couldn't help but be reminded of Alison Brie; who you might cast to play this sort of role - the latter dressed similarly in Mad Men.

The inhabitant on the planet turns out to be none other than Zefram Cochrane; the man who invented the warp drive! He went missing 150 years previously and was presumed dead. He in fact has lived on the planet, been rejuvenated by an alien companion who provides for all his needs to appear 35... and hasn't aged since. This is something he isn't entirely happy about. Played by Glen Corbett, he looks like a rather stereotypical sort of character for this period, a rather cynical space traveller; he also has a rather 'standard' haircut.

Cochrane's companion is a big glowing ball of animation on optical matte and looks very much of the period; many of the shots appear to be the same as in original transmission. Therefore, from the perspective of 50 years on, it doesn't pass muster. This said, its creator, Richard Edlund would later become a founding member of Industrial Light and Magic.

The massive issue that hits this episode in the middle is the revelation that the Companion is in fact female, deeply in love with Cochrane and that their relationship has basically been sexual. Cochrane feels violated by this... and the rest of the crew aren't, seeing his reaction as primitive.

Then the Companion, instead of curing Hedford, merges with her (did she ask?) and makes herself human... but can't leave the asteroid. So Cochrane decides to stay with her, because he's fallen in love with her...

To which my response is:

She imprisoned him and basically got her jollies via mind meld under false pretences for150 years! He's only in love with her because he's well and truly got Stockholm Syndrome! What a stupid, stupid, insulting twist!

Before that, however, the episode starts badly dragging. It's very talky and is arguably at least 10 minutes too long.

When being long and boring is one of the smaller faults in a work, then you have a problem.

****

Conclusion

What started off as an interesting affair involving unusual alien life began to increasingly drag... then turned very sour for me with the reveal about the creature and its purposes.

I have to judge this episode by modern standards and the morality I subscribe to, so I have to knock this down several notches.

This is the worst episode I've watched to date.

2/10