Episode 8-“Dagger of the Mind” Space Christmas parties, crazed doctors and an awkwardly shoved in “Inception” reference.

I have long contested that “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is the finest piece of fiction ever published. It’s a novel that can be attacked in a variety of ways, but everything keeps going back to control. More than anything, the world that Orwell created is one where people are held, watched and examined for every second of their lives, where even rebellion, love and a desire to break free are controlled ideas under the purview of the state.

Although the most memorable part of the work may be near the conclusion when Winston is rehabilitated by O’Brien through his greatest fears, the part that always worked the best for me were much more mundane. I was always interested in how completely Winston could change history by editing pictures, changing text and deleting phrases in books, rearranging memory and leaving behind no trace of error on the part of the government. He reroutes the collective conscious and continuously secures the government’s place at the top, destroying hope, passion and people’s very lives.

Memory is a powerful thing. It’s a marketing device, a form of comfort, a mostly correct diary of our lives and many more things, but it is intrinsically mutable, changing at whims and eroding over time. It makes us uniquely us, but it is considerably harder to hold down or hold onto than any other factor of our personalities.

“Dagger of the Mind” deals with memory and control in a round about way, but it doesn’t seem like that as it begins. While dropping off supplies on the prison planet Tantalus V, an inmate sneaks aboard, knocking out crewmembers and generally trying to make his way to the bridge. He is sedated, and upon study, McCoy comes to the conclusion that the prisoner’s mad babblings about horrible experiments and mind control on the planet may have a seed of truth to them.

Kirk receives word from Dr. Adams, Tantalus’ warden and physician (I think), that the inmate is another doctor who’s experiment went totally wrong and he invites Kirk to come down to the planet to conduct an investigation on the happenings, and in this episode’s no-way-is-he-going-to-fucking-fall-for-that-again moment, he tells Kirk to come without a security detail and with a minimal number of crew members. Being the wily, unbelievably gullible captain that he is, Kirk requests that McCoy give him a psychiatrist as well, and he delivers with Dr. Noel, another beautiful space doctor who had what appears to be a brief fling with Kirk at the Space Christmas Party… in SPACE.

"There is no way anything bad can hapen to you if you continue to go on missions alone. Now check out this cool stuff!"

Of course, nothing is quite right on Tantalus V, with prisoners mostly being blank, emotionless blobs, having overly symbolic names, and playing with lasers that burn out memories. Yeah, if you can’t figure out where this is going by now, I don’t think you’ve watched television in a couple decades.

“Dagger of the Mind” isn’t bad and it manages a couple of really great moments that we’ll get to later, but there are some intrinsic problems as soon as we touch down on the planet, the first and greatest of which is Dr. Noel. After looking it up, I found that the woman who played Rand was getting ready to quit the show, and the writers scrambled to cook up foxy leads for Kirk to hit on, but this is such an odd pairing. Noel is initially so critical and antagonistic towards Kirk that I assumed she was a spy or some sort of traitor. It especially doesn’t make sense when she blatantly was flirting with him the scene before. I understand the need to have someone go to the planet with Kirk, but why did it have to be such an odd one that we almost surely will never see again? Much like Nurse Chapel, in “What Are Little Girls Made of?,” Noel really doesn’t bring much of a personality for Kirk to play off of, and he ends up just kind of blank.

The other immediate problem is the threat in the form of Dr. Adams. Adams initially appears to be almost a read herring in the grand tradition of “Scooby Doo.” He’s the only character they meet, and he’s very dismissive of Kirk’s questions, except when he needs to be overly polite and accommodating. So, it’s really no surprise when he starts torturing Kirk and rewriting his memories, but he just doesn’t really click as much of an antagonist. What is his goal in rewriting Kirk’s memories so that he loves Noel? There doesn’t seem like much of a goal, so the stakes are unbelievably low. We see the effects of what the light can do on the escaped doctor on the Enterprise and on the patients on the planet, but without much of a plan in mind, it’s hard to take Adams as much of a real threat to Kirk and his crew. I guess the writers thought that the idea of rewriting memories would be creepy or effective enough and decided to leave it at that, but it just doesn’t really work too well.

"Stay out of my mine/memory erasing penal colony, you kids!"

The thing is, most of the other stuff in this episode is just fantastic. Shatner does some great work as Kirk is tortured into getting rid of his phaser and communicator as well as when he tries to fight off the new memories. The fight scenes at the end also have a really great sense of “fuck yes,” as Kirk slaps Adams around and escapes the torture chamber. Noel also contributes to what might be the first onscreen death of the series, and there is a real genuine sense of danger to her trying to elude guards and turn off the station’s power.

And then there’s Spock and what I assume to be the fabled Vulcan Mind Meld. It’s really a great suitably weird sequence, with the mad doctor and Spock referring to themselves as “us” and McCoy’s skepticism of the practice. It’s a surreal moment, but it really sets a great counter to the torture scenes.

"Let me feel you..."

I feel like the writers had a couple of really great ideas for “Dagger of the Mind,” namely torture, memory wipes, escaped crazed doctors and Vulcan Mind Melds and then realized they had to write a story that put all of these elements together. At times, it almost feels like two episodes instead of one really interesting one. I enjoyed it well enough, but it could have really been so much better.

Random Notes

I spent a lot of time writing jokes about totems, dream levels and “Inception” to myself during this one. In case you were wondering, I am single.

This episode has a really snappy pace, thanks mainly to editing. Cutting back in forth between Kirk’s torture and McCoy and Spock trying to figure out what’s going on as well as conducting the mind meld was a really smart move.

Kirk freaking out in the elevator after they beamed in really bothered me. He said he had experience on penal colonies, I just sort of assumed that meant he wasn’t going to be a total wuss.

Still no Sulu or Scotty. Uhura is back and Rand is gone, seemingly for good. I know these people probably had other responsibilities, but come on.

For fans of space cleavage, this episode continues the grand tradition, when Dr. Noel climbs around in the ventilation shaft. I feel really dirty now.

I didn’t work an “X-Files” reference in this time, but in case you’re curious, the one I was going to use was from “Kill Switch.”

Next Up: “The Corbomite Maneuver” which sounds like an episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” presumably with more Corbomite.

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Episode 7-“Miri” and Issac meets Piggy with some super creepy cheek touching

Kids are fucking scary. Their hands are always sticky, they put things in their mouths that they pick up on the floor, and they can be cruel cruel little bastards. Fiction has mined children well to symbolize just about whatever they want, from innocence, to youth to corruptible sheep.

However, there’s always been a sense of children secretly just wanting to murder you, and I mostly blame Steven King for that. A baby stalks a house, slitting people’s tendons in “Pet Sematary.” Psychics and ghost children encounter unimaginable horror in “The Shining.” A little girl and her possessed doll deal death in “Chinga,” in one of “The X-Files” worst episodes (I am contractually obligated to make as many “X-Files” references as possible in these blogs).

But the granddaddy of them all is “Children of the Corn,” where a group of children massacre a town and a group of unfortunate passerby’s to give sacrifice to the dark god in the cornfield. Isaac, the charismatic leader of the cult punishes those who enter the town, and even turns on his own cult when his god demands it.

“Children of the Corn” falls into the violent side of the “children running society” sub-genre of fiction, and today’s episode “Miri” borrows as much from it as it does the genre’s biggest and most prestigious contributor, “Lord of the Flies.”

The Enterprise gets a distress call from a planet that appears exactly like Earth, and when Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Rand (why?) beam down, they discover that the planet appears to be a destroyed Earth, which resembles the 1960s if the 1960s resembled the “Leave it to Beaver” set. The crew quickly comes in contact with a man/child with a debilitating infection who attacks them and promptly dies. The town is empty, but the group eventually discovers the thirteen year old, Miri, who tells them about the society of children and the death of the adults in the town.

Much of this episode is devoted to children being really antagonistic. Spock and a security detail are attacked by children throwing rocks from buildings, who run away before the half-Vulcan can get a good look at them. The children steal the landing party’s communicators, sabotage their plans, and attack Kirk when he tries to talk to their leaders. To make matters worse, the children are led by Jahn, an older child who wants to protect the children and be as fucking annoying as possible.

This is always the problem with television episodes and movies that try to establish children as an antagonist or threat. It’s generally hard to buy into kids being scary. Most of them are pretty terrible actors, given difficult dialogue and forced to deal with more established and generally intimidating characters. This is the problem with Jahn. He is supposed to be a military leader (check out his “Warriors” style jacket), but his dialogue sounds forced and terrible when he is explaining the stakes to the younger children. He’s giving it his all, but he doesn’t have the chops to pull off a legitimate threat, and the script doesn’t do him any favors.

And who wouldn't be smitten at the sight of paunchy golden boy, Jim Kirk?

The only child actor who really works is, unsurprisingly, Miri. She is legitimately smitten with Kirk, in the way that any pre-teen girl would be, and she still has some of that aw-shucks charm that makes her work as sort of a gopher for the landing party. She even manages to sell being a traitor to Kirk when she thinks that he is in love with Rand.

The threat in the episode turns out to really work as well. Disease is one of the go-to threats for just about any sci-fi show because it just works. Disease can be anything that it needs to be, can have a harsh time frame, and can bring out the worst in people. All the scenes where McCoy and Kirk get more and more impatient with each other really work out well, and although the audience knows that the crew is going to make it out alive, the situation looks pretty grim and the stakes are really high. Plus, the show manages to make a pretty good analogy to puberty and growing up that would shame some modern day television writers.

Which makes the parts with Jahn’s society even harder to watch. If the writers had just wanted the children to be as abrasive and hard to convince as possible, then they vastly succeeded. They don’t want to hear what Kirk has to say at the climax of the episode, and they don’t plan on listening, but this would have really been the time for them to do something about their situation. At least Jahn and some of the older children would have recognized the danger they were in as they ran out of food and were slowly contracting the disease.

"No seriously, this is going to happen to all of you! Stop saying 'bonk,' you little shit!"

Ultimately, everything wraps up nicely. McCoy is safe, the disease is cured, Kirk continues to not look at Rand’s non-disease ridden legs, and the kids will soon be receiving tutors and health professionals, which might be the first mention of some sort of governing body that I have heard of.

One thing that really needs mentioned before this all wraps up though, is the relationship between Kirk and Miri. I can see where people, particularly today, would see their relationship as moving pretty close to Chris Hanson asking about your plans for the evening territory, but it is simpler and more complex than that. It’s pretty obvious, as well as being clearly stated that Miri loves Kirk. She has more than a crush, and is smitten by him. At first, Kirk is just being nice, trying to comfort the distressed girl and keep his crew safe, but the relationship does take some weird turns. He touches her cheeks a lot with one hand, which I think is the universally recognized form of getting ready to engage in romantic activity, and the way he makes her sharpen pencils is kind of bizarre. Kirk is definitely taking advantage of her, but I wouldn’t say there is much of a sense of returning feelings on his part.

The reason these scenes come off as creepy or weird then is just because Shatner doesn’t have the acting chops to pull them off. He does hammy and over the top really well, but when he needs to play a character that can communicate an inner motive while manipulating a person with more overt actions, he flops around, unable to walk and chew at the same time.

"And remember, only take what you can handle, and always know your dealer."

There’s really good stuff going on in “Miri,” but the myriad problems hold it back. Children as a threat is a smart move, but for a variety of reasons, it isn’t as effective as it could be, but the landing party’s mounting frustration and paranoia is great fun to watch. Ultimately, it ends up being a mostly average episode that I’m just ok with.

Random Notes

Once again, Scotty and Sulu are both missing, and I really miss Sulu. Uhura is also, oddly enough, missing, her place being replaced by the guy who replaced Sulu in “What are Little Girls Made Of?” Really though, it’s nice to see a landing team that’s not just Kirk and a totally inconsequential character.

This was, I think, the second mention of Vulcans having green blood. The more you know…

“Whatever happens, I can’t go back on the ship, and I want to go back on the ship, Captain.”

Shatner gets to engage in some “ACTING!” in this one, mostly by just yelling at children a lot. For example,
“No blah, blah, blah!”
“No, I don’t feel alright! None of us feel alright! Don’t you see what’s going on!?!”
“Look at it, it’s in you!”

I really hate, and “Star Trek” is really bad about this, when someone says “we have X days left.” I understand that it works for disease incubation times and things like that, but most of the time, it is a totally inconsequential number that the episode will mostly ignore anyway. Just ignore the time, and let it all play out.

Next Up: “Dagger of the Mind” which I’m really hoping for some trippy mind control/brain attack or something.

Episode 6- “What are Little Girls Made of?” and Bloch’s horror hits the Enterprise

As I write this, there are a multitude of television critics debating the validity of “Mad Men” or the subtext of “True Blood,” and most of the time, this writing is shit. Television is a difficult medium to discuss, because unlike film, it is broadcast to a multitude of people. Whether a consumer watches it or not, the program is still there, and it needs to be suitable for just about anyone to consume, enjoy and understand. It needs to be watchable, but more than that, there needs to be a basic idea that a viewer can pull from the piece and understand.

The problem comes when elite critics have to discuss what is broadcast. There is always a sense that we may miss something, and with a multitude of words that need written, critics are likely to draw connections where none exist. When they read too much into a show and claim that “True Blood” is a scathing indictment on the War on Drugs or that Chelsea Handler is a poet of condom wrappers and cosmopolitan induced vomit. Television generally presents a simple theme, and then critics have to make up their own to distinguish themselves or to further theories and conjecture. In a way, many critics try to complicate and validate television at the same time, trying to make deep art out of what is often nothing more than entertainment.

That’s not to say that there aren’t shows that juggle themes and ideas. “Breaking Bad” deftly combines the idea of “how far would you go” with “what would you do if you were going to die” with “break from expectation,” to masterful results. “The Sopranos” dealt with honor, responsibility, power and money while asking much tougher questions as well, that all could really be used to examine a single dark, deadly character..

At its best, “Star Trek” would be capable of asking more questions. “What are Little Girls Made of?” is the first to do just that.

It’s kind of a silly premise. While cruising the galaxy, the Enterprise gets a message from Exo III, from Roger Korby, a scientist who has been missing for five years. He is very enthusiastic about having Kirk come down to the planet alone to check out all this cool stuff he found, but he better come without any security or it will get broken or something. However, when he finds out that his ex-fiancé, Nurse Chapel (lover of Spock, in “The Naked Time), is on board, he cordially invites her to come down to the planet as well. The crew is suspicious, but Kirk and Chapel head down anyway, along with a pair of security officers who are quickly snuffed out by a tall menacing man in the caves.

This is as good a time as any to talk about the tone. “What are Little Girls Made of?” maintains an undeniable creepiness throughout the first few minutes and refuses to let go as the truth begins to be revealed. The android, Ruk is killing Kirk’s crew effortlessly, Kolby’s assistant doesn’t recognize Chapel and declares security dead pretty early on, and there’s a sexy android.

Everything is wrong, plus there's pointy android nipples.

That actually isn’t terribly weird, but Andrea deserves mention both for being a sexy android, and having the first and perhaps only documented case of extremely stiff nipples tearing up her oddly colored pair of overalls.

What was I talking about? Well, Kolby initially just wants Kirk to see the process of making androids and after a particularly tense Kirk replicant creation process, he wants the captain to help him spread his androids around to key parts of the galaxy, but this idea is pretty half baked and pointless. It’s pretty clear that this is a small story, and it’s hard to watch it without kind-of knowing that Kolby and his creations aren’t going to make it out of there alive, but it’s ok. This is a small story with larger implications, and H.P. Lovecraft acolyte Robert Bloch was more than willing to bring these themes into the open.

There are three primary themes going on in “What are Little Girls Made of?” The first is the place of emotion, and it naturally brings depth to the episode. Kolby says that the androids are different from humans due to their inability to create emotional bonds. Having Andrea kiss and strike Kirk drives the idea that she is a controllable item, a tool for the scientist. While Chapel shows disgust for Kolby and asks if he has ever used his tool for…less professional uses, he scoffs, saying that she is just an object. All of the androids are logical and pragmatic, and only Kolby’s kiss with Chapel shows any emotion (although he may have been able to rationalize it as necessary in order to ensnare Kirk), and it really helps create a cold and detached mood that contrasts sharply with the more manic Kirk and despondent Chapel. The only way Kirk can get over the situation is by having Ruk deal with his hatred of the emotions of the Old Ones (how very Lovecraftian) and deem Kolby’s actions to be too emotionally driven. Emotion also deals heavily into Kirk’s whip smart message to Spock in the form of some out-of-character racism. Even the true finale, when Roger says “It’s still me Christine, It’s still Roger. I’m in here,” is a grand statement about how emotions define people, that is further driven home when Roger continually repeats, “I am not a computer,” trying to convince only himself.

The second is the idea of myth vs. truth. Kolby is convinced that Kirk would not believe him because the story of the Old Ones creating Androids seems so far fetched, so he has to show him the chamber where he creates androids as well as try to convince him to help get his creations into the galaxy. This theme once again crops up when Ruk explains how he killed the old ones when they started demonstrating emotions. Expectations are subverted when the characters are faced with the truth and have to face the inherent problems in their long held beliefs. This theme originally appeared in “Charlie X” with the Thasians, but this episode explores this theme much more fully.

Andrea and Ruk begin making the Kirk-droid.

The final theme is the failings of logic and the need for balance. Arguably, the whole episode focuses on the idea of characters behaving under strict logical programming, with Kirk’s brashness being used as a contrast among the androids. It vastly works, just because the androids are so pragmatic and make all their choices based on collective good as well as orders and plans. This theme crops up again in Kirk’s conversation with Ruk when the captain simply has to convince the android that killing Kolby is the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter that Kolby and Ruk have a relationship that is mostly friendly. All Kirk had to do was convince the android that murder was the only acceptable action to preserve its life. Emotions never factored into Ruk’s decision to attack Kolby or Kolby’s murder of the android.

There’s certainly more to each of these themes, but they provide as much of a groundwork as possible to what Bloch built around them. He masterfully fused his knowledge of sci-fi know-how with some of the Lovecraftian weirdness he was trained on (pink caves, strange doors, ancient master races) to make what may be the most satisfying episode yet.

That’s not to mention some of the truly standout scenes. Kolby using the machine to make an android Kirk starts off kind of goofy, but quickly gets serious, showing just what the scientist is capable of. The big reveal with Kolby is played really well, and I thought it was pretty shocking, inspiring that same sense of wanting to watch the episode over to see clues earlier (ala “Fight Club” and “The Sixth Sense”).

The machine helps Kolby turn Play Dough into Androids. Also, it's kind of great.

There are problems, of course. In an episode that’s so fully devoted to the necessity of emotion and the use of logic, it’s pretty disappointing that Spock didn’t get more to do. Without him or McCoy there for Kirk to play off of, we lose some of the ballsiness and emotional contrast we get when he is with another member of his inner circle. By the end of the episode, Andrea’s actions are pretty silly. Kirk asking for the phaser doesn’t really seem to prove anything, and her sudden realization that she loves Kolby is pretty odd. Their suicide even seems strange to me.

Either way, the episode is a roaring success. “What are Little Girls Made Of?” shows off the idea that “Star Trek” could be more than just “The Twilight Zone” with more action, and rolls themes together to create a cohesive and totally satisfying whole.

Random Notes

A lot of the cast seems to be missing from this one. There’s no Scotty, Sulu, Rand or McCoy in this episode. It’s not like these characters always have a lot to do (I mean, Jesus Christ, Uhura pretty much just swivels her chair and talks about not making contact in just about every episode), but it’s nice to have these characters just around.

The part where Chapel asks Kolby about having sex with Andrea is really well handled. Bloch gives it enough emotional depth and ambiguity, while not really dwelling on the innate weirdness of the thing. He’s frank, but not disgustingly so. There’s evens some nice squabbles about sexual roles between Chapel and Andrea that I really appreciated.

Kirk’s quote “mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference,” leads to both one of the best moments (with the android), and the best joke (at the very end) of the episode.

Next up: “Miri” which I assume is someone’s name. Hey, it’s Tuesday morning. Do you expect a witty joke out of me?

Episode 5- “Mudd’s Women” and inconsistencies, illogical steps and breaking my arm beating this dead horse.

Sometimes, I try to be clever and write up an intro paragraph that shows that I appreciate the medium of television and have a wide knowledge of different programs. This is not one of those paragraphs. And like this paragraph, there is nothing clever about “Mudd’s Women.”
That’s not quite right, there’s nothing redeeming about “Mudd’s Women.” Well, that’s not quite right either. “Mudd’s Women” is just fucked up. We’ll get into it, but for now, just kind of hold on.
Kirk and company spot a ship flying into an asteroid field and pursue it, burning out their lithium crystals in their attempt to cover the craft while they beam their crew aboard. What they get is a man who is soon revealed to be Harry Mudd, a con man who’s rap sheet seems to mostly consist of smuggling and driving without a space license, and a trio of beautiful women that knock McCoy and Scotty on their asses.

Hot enough to make characters forget who the fuck they're playing.

This is a good time to get into the first main problem of the episode, which leads to all of the problems of the episode. Here we go:

1) The Tone.
Mudd comes over with the most ridiculous accent and a moustache-twirling persona that was outdated and hoary in 1964. There’s a lot of odd back and forth banter early on and it is pretty clear that “Mudd’s Women” is supposed to be a little light hearted. We’re supposed to giggle when McCoy seizes up and just babbles or when the computer tells us at the trial that Scotty is sweating and sporting a chubby. It’s supposed to be funny when Mudd puts gays and Vulcans into the same camp. That’s supposed to be comedy. I guess.
I’m not trying to trot out an argument that this is offensive in any way (yet), but it plays really weird, and doesn’t really help that Shatner just sounds fucking drunk. Scotty and Kirk make comments about Mudd being a “jackass” and it is definitely supposed to be light hearted and funny, but it doesn’t feel right out of the all business Scotty and the paternalistic perpetually hammy Shatner. Some of it does work. Spock gets some really good reaction shots, but past that, it’s all really muddled.

2) The Plot
I have no idea what the driving plot of the episode is really supposed to be. It is probably Kirk retrieving the lithium crystals from Rigel XII, but Mudd is the one pushing the plot forward, but nothing he says makes any fucking sense. After the trial, he is sitting with the girls and the guards and he makes a vague comment about taking over the Enterprise. There’s not a lot of thought behind it, because it mostly seems like he’s going to use the girls to do it but that doesn’t make sense. Also, the Enterprise is going to crash without those crystals and Mudd wouldn’t have the girls or the money to get crystals then. He would just die.

It's ok. He doesn't know what he's trying to do either.

So, Mudd gives up on that and then just decides to trade the girls to the miners in exchange for the crystals and him getting away for his crimes which seems reasonable enough except for him getting stuck on a desolate mining planet, but whatever, fuck it. So he trades off the girls, things go to shit, and he stays with the Enterprise and gets fucked over at the end, I guess. I don’t get the game plan, but whatever, fuck it.

3) The Characters
I know that it’s a pretty hoary television cliché that there will be an episode where all the characters are seduced and act oddly. It just happens, and if you’re not prepared for some forced awkward humor, then it’s going to be pretty painful. The problem is that the story doesn’t do McCoy or Scotty any favors as far as turning them both into insufferable horn-dogs.
I know that McCoy is a pretty humanistic guy. He is driven strongly by emotion and is used as a foil for the logical Spock. No part of being emotional though ended up with him shirking duty or just becoming an ignorant lout after coming in contact with a foxy lady. He just stumbles around the bridge mooning over the one in green and talking about how weird the machines are, but not really looking into it beyond “huh, that was strange.” He wonders, mostly correctly, if the women area actually any prettier than normal women, but it still seems weird out of the man who runs extensive tests on everything and proves to have enough will power that if he wanted to know the truth, he would just make one of the women take a medical test.
Much the same can be said for Scotty, although we don’t really know him as well, beyond the fact that he’s all business, but he also falls hard for the girls and becomes a totally different character, not a character changed by something new that he has encountered.
The problem with pulling the seduction device in an episode like this is that writers have to make sure that the characters actions are believable after they have been affected. This goes for all emotion-changers, but seduction is a big one. Think about the episode of “The X-Files” called “First Person Shooter.” Not a great one, but it features a scene where Mulder, Scully and the Lone Gunmen talk to a stripper whose likeness is killing people in a video game. Mulder is clearly entranced and he flirts a little, but he gets some answers and leaves. The Lone Gunmen are smitten, particularly the lovelorn Frohike. It’s perfect for the characters, because this is what we know they are going to do. They’re affected but they’re still themselves. In “Mudd’s Women,” it’s like they read the script and then just played totally different characters.

4) Sexual Politics, Gender Roles and Expectations
It’s all really fucked up in classic “Star Trek” fashion, but it feels even worse than normal due to the attempted theme of the episode (we’re getting to it). All of the girls seem really excited to be wed to a man, and they can’t wait to meet up with these lonely miners, or alternatively, Captain Kirk. All of the problems will go away, only they can meet up with a random guy they’ve never met, who has been independent for years and whose only interest in a woman is someone to have sex with. Yeah, it’s every girl’s dream.
Of course, the miners on Rigel XII are no better. It seems like they’ve all been taking lessons from Frank Reynolds and decided they need a bang-maid, just minus the maid part, or something (once again, we’re getting to it).

Not a bang-maid, but the Snail is just as gross. Now, stop mashing it.

“Let’s dance,” coos one of the girls and the lusty dancing commences. Of course their only interest is sex, but they still treat the girl’s as just willing vessels rather than people. Even when one of the miners rescues Eve, he is still more likely to yell that he didn’t touch her and that she is a bitch for playing fancy space card games. Then, naturally, he’s going to claim that he didn’t touch her, because he totally wasn’t solely interested in sex earlier or ‘nothin, but this sort of rolls into my next problem with this episode which is…

5) What’s the fucking point?
So, the big “more you know” minute comes at the end of the episode as Kirk and Mudd descend to the cabin to confront the head miner and Eve about getting the crystals and exposing Eve for not actually being beautiful and that’s when I thought we would get the big reveal, that Rodenberry would pull away the curtain and say that women can do whatever they want. And it even looks like that’s what direction it’s going for. Eve claims that she doesn’t need to take the pill and that she can do whatever she wants and I’m so fucking proud for the show doing this. I’m ready to write about how “Star Trek” had redeemed itself and given women a role that wasn’t just damsel in distress or spurned lover or salt vampire, but no, fuck no. Eve takes the placebo and becomes beautiful, but she’s not actually beautiful? That part didn’t make sense. Apparently, if you think that you think you are beautiful, then you’re beautiful and a heartwarming lesson is learned by all.
I sighed a breath of dejection. It didn’t escape the cancerous gender politics, but it’s better than normal, but that wasn’t fucking enough and that’s when the whole thing really blows up. Eve plops into the miner’s lap and asks him if he wants a wife who would do everything he wants, not just the dirty sexy parts. She asks him if he wants the maid part of the bangmaid. She doesn’t want to be a partner, a companion or a friend. She wants to do his will, but not his sexual will. Yeah, ew gross. She’ll be his slave, but not like that. Of course, he begrudgingly accepts, Kirk and Mudd make a terrible joke and it’s over, with everyone learning another totally indecipherable real lesson or something. Never mind, fuck it.

So, is there anything redeeming about this? Yeah, I guess. Spock is in top form, and it’s nice to see him not transform into a mindless zombie as soon as the women beam in. Kirk is pretty subdued for most of it, but that’s partially because he looks pretty understated in front of the ham dinner that is Harry Mudd. Riley isn’t in this episode, so that’s a plus. Also, Uhura doesn’t sing and Rand isn’t put into danger by a big bad man.
The only thing I can say is that the episode is almost too weird to take at face value. Maybe they were experimenting in the first season while they still had room to find they’re face, but that really doesn’t excuse all the meandering and weirdness of the episode. Maybe I’m taking Mudd way too seriously and should just embrace the goofiness of the character. However, the main problems are still there. “Mudd’s Women” is the first truly resounding failure of the series, but the glimmers of promise in the show are still enough to bring me back again.

Random Notes

I spent an absurd amount of my notes trying to figure out if Mudd’s neck hair was in fact oddly groomed neck hair or just really, really oddly groomed chest hair.

Best line of the episode: “I don’t like you, and I’m not very happy with myself either.” Thanks, Eve for speaking your thoughts directly to the camera, being a weak woman and not standing up for yourself.

I had a variety of theories going as to what was going on with the women throwing off the scanner and seducing everyone, with the best theory being, and I quote “So, they’re devil women, with electric hair and radioactive nipples. Never mind, fuck this episode.”

Next Up: “What Are Little Girls Made Of” and if it’s about backwards gender politics, I’m probably going to fucking cry.

Episode 4- “The Enemy Within” and duality done well

I have a dog that is generally very gentle, good tempered and sweet. She sleeps a lot and enjoys playing Frisbee. The other day, I walked downstairs to see her playing with something in the back yard. She was tossing a brown and white sack up and down in the air. As I looked closer, it wasn’t a brown and white sack; it was a rabbit. Blood covered the dead animal and my dog’s face had a look of gleeful pride and suddenly my young pet was a killer.

It’s not as if this is some kind of uncommon occurrence for everyone. We are aware of the potential duality of man. We know that there are many impulses and actions that float beneath the surface of all people and anyone has the capacity to take part in horrifying actions if given the opportunity.

So, I guess that’s what makes “The Enemy Within” a relatable piece of television. Excellent genre writer Richard Matheson makes the duality of man painfully literal in the form of Kirk and, as I called him, Rage Kirk. The episode is good throughout, although they may hold onto the story a little too long after the climax, but overall, “The Enemy Within” serves as just as solid of a piece of television as “The Naked Time.”

The plot starts up with a transporter error creating a second Kirk and a second horned costumed dog, both exhibiting violent tendencies and some health problems. The transporter error has also probed that the system is unsafe and that Sulu and the rest of the landing party are going to have to stay on Alpha 177 until repairs are made. Meanwhile, the crew is stranded on a planet that’s temperature will descend to deadly levels by night.

Once again, a pair of objectives creates the tension and the writers are quickly realizing how effective this is. There needs to be a resolution, fast. However, this sort of story structure also allows Kirk to shine as a character, showing his relentless pursuit of correcting problems and his loyalty to his crew.

The difference between the two Kirks is made frank and immediately. Rage Kirk pounds brandy, treats McCoy like shit and brutally attacks Yeoman Rand, continuously telling her to give him what he wants (PS: It’s sexual). The attempted rape scene is once again, surprisingly brutal, and Rage Kirk is caught by one of the crewmen, but he incapacitates him and manages to escape to the engine room. Even after he is caught, Rage Kirk is violent, attacking Kirk when he is let go. Good Kirk, meanwhile, has lost most of his will to lead the crew and is operating solely on goodwill. The differences between the two are brought to the forefront, but the common thread is their mutual weakness. Without some sort of way to reverse the effects of the error, both Kirks will die.

Rage Kirk makes his move on Perpetually-In-Distress Rand

Of course, there is a moral quandary to be addressed in the form of studying the two Kirks. Spock wants to see what is it that makes Kirk such an effective leader and he thinks studying the difference between the two personas will net some sort of finding. McCoy believes that this sort of experimentation on a human, particularly one that both outranks them and stands as one of their friends is not only unethical and thinks that the two should simply respect Kirk’s struggle. Spock explains that he has to deal with his human and Vulcan sides constantly, and it would be useful to examine the way a human works in regard to emotions by saying, “I have a human half and an alien half at war with each other. Personal experience, Doctor. I survive because my intelligence wins, makes them live together. Your intelligence would enable you to survive, as well,” which sort of make sense, except for the part where when Spock loses control he doesn’t end up trying to rape Yeoman Rand. He just cries. Loyalty to the captain wins out, and they perform no experiments, but the interesting relationship between McCoy and Spock continues to grow.

Loyalty is one of the main themes keeping the story alive. While Rage Kirk wants to pull the Enterprise out of orbit at the conclusion, the crew is able to realize the imposter pretty rapidly and Kirk returns to retake command. It’s a solid moment for Kirk, as viewers see the emotional side of him that will do whatever it takes to keep his crew alive.

There are stunningly few flaws in “The Enemy Within.” It’s a little disappointing to have another episode about competing personalities so soon after “The Naked Time” and some of the core idea is not that different, but the writing and action in “The Enemy Within” is so sharp that this can vastly be forgiven. Shatner is a little hammy as Rage Kirk, but the concern and uncertainty he embodies, as Kirk is pretty strong stuff. Really, the whole episode is Shatner’s playground and he manages to deliver a pretty tight performance on both sides.

“The Enemy Within” is an excellent episode that manages to drive home Kirk’s responsibility to the Enterprise as well as what makes him work as a leader. It’s as close as we’ve gotten to a truly effective character-building episode, and thank Jebus it works.

Random Notes

My biggest problem with the episode is Sulu’s stuff on Alpha 177. Apparently, all it takes to survive is wrapping up in blankets and heating up rocks. I think you’d have a little more than frostbite after getting up on the ship. It’s a pretty minor gripe that I’ll mostly just suspend my disbelief and ignore.

The dog-unicorn-cat-thing is really awesome.

Like in “The Naked Time,” the show really benefits from showing actions taking place rather than just saying that it took place off camera. We see Rage Kirk take the phaser and we see the dangers on the planet as Sulu freezes. It raises the stakes in a way that episodes like “The Man Trap” really failed to do.

Next Up: “Mudd’s Woman” which I assume will be too literal of an episode title to make a joke about.

Episode 3-“The Naked Time,” freaking the fuck out and figuring out why everyone should love Spock

 I love television that strands its characters in a small location and makes them deal with an immediate problem. Both “Ice” and “Road Runners” from “The X-Files” immediately leap to mind, although it was a show that played with variants on this formula constantly. “4 Days Out” stands as one of the most relentlessly tense and bleak episodes of “Breaking Bad.” “The Gang Gets Held Hostage” is one of my favorite episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” This sort of storytelling forces the characters into instant decisions and rapidly leads to paranoia, insanity, and often death. And sometimes, somebody has to go to Charlie’s angry room.

This is mostly why “The Naked Time” works. The entirety of the crew of the Enterprise is infected by some breed of “space madness” that the galaxy’s dumbest hazmat worker picked up when he and Spock investigated the death of some researchers on a frozen planet that was prepped for disintegration. The threat is immediate: if the rapidly going insane crew does not deal with their irrational actions, the Enterprise will be destroyed. There’s no salt vampire, no gods, no psychic kids. Its fix the ship or everyone dies.

It really works. For the most part. We’re shoved into the danger with the crew and it starts off kind of odd. Sulu and Riley both begin behaving irrationally, with Sulu becoming a swashbuckler and the just introduced Riley delving into his fiercely Irish heritage. Sulu causes some immediate problems, but it is Riley who really puts the crew in danger when he seizes control of the communication systems and shuts down the engine, leaving Scotty trying to restart the ship and the bridge in clear and present danger.

The episode is slow, but there’s a fair amount of tension. McCoy is trying to figure out what is affecting the crew and Kirk is growing increasingly frustrated with having to hear another warbling rendition of “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen,” and he snaps on Uhura in a moment that feels genuine and well played.

But breakdown is inevitable, Kirk succumbs to the madness and begins babbling about his repressed feelings for Rand, and Uhura mostly just kind of disappears, but Spock becomes the center, facing attention from a nurse who claims to love him, the half-Vulcan loses control and retreats to a private room to try to get control of himself. It’s an odd moment, particularly for a character that has been nothing but cold as he wrestles with his long suppressed feelings, forcing himself to recite his mission as well as try to count. Ultimately, Spock is the last hope for getting the ship out of is potentially fatal orbit, so he has to get it together and mix cold matter and anti-matter to get the ship out of there.

And once again the crew is safe, having somehow jetted back three days in time. I had a problem with this, mostly because I had to sit around wondering if there was another Enterprise that was coming closer to observing the disintegration of the planet, but I think the episode wants us to just sort of embrace the whole time jump without thinking to hard about it.

Ultimately, “The Naked Time” is probably the best episode yet, but there are inevitably a couple of problems. The main thing about the episode is the sense of surprise. We don’t really know the characters that well and suddenly we are supposed to just deal with the fact that the quiet guy who takes Kirk’s orders wants to be a Three Musketeers-esque sword fighter. It just seems really odd. I know most of Sulu’s scenes once he is infected are played somewhat for laughs, but I can’t really buy into his leap with nothing but his earlier conversation with Riley about fencing to hold onto. Likewise, Riley, who I don’t think we had even gotten a name from up to this point, thinking he was an Irish commander, makes for good drama, but not a whole lot of actual sense. If this episode had come later in the series, this device could have been really effective but as it stands, it’s just really jarring.

The same could be said of Spock’s breakdown. We really know very little about Spock. We know he’s a half Vulcan and that his mother is human. We know his people are very logical and shun emotion. We know that Vulcan has no moon. I think that covers it. Spock is an enigma we are supposed to love, and vastly we do, but it is hard to understand his motivations and turmoil when we don’t know how they work or why. He mentions a conflict between what he wants to think and how he actually thinks, and he talks about struggling with his two halves, but we don’t have much of a reason as to why he has chosen to condition himself into an emotionless character. We can’t have the full payoff of his emotional transformation without knowing why such a shift is important to begin with.

That being said, the glimpses into Spock’s mind do a great job setting up the character. When he talks to Scotty in engineering, we see the mentality of jobs needing done, regardless of risk or extraneous factors, but we can actually see the conflict he refers to when he mentions to Kirk “When I feel friendship for you, I feel ashamed.” Although this rapidly turns into a slap-fight of vaudeville proportions, Spock’s moment is great. Through sheer force of will, that pointy-eared bastard powers through and manages to save the ship.

In standard fashion, the ridiculous parts are ridiculous, and the great parts are really great, and “The Naked Time” is another fantastic episode in a bottle that manages to show that the crew alone can carry an entire episode of “Star Trek.”

Random Notes

I think this was the first appearance of what I assume to be the Vulcan neck pinch. Well done, Spock. Well done.

Kirk on the endless song: “Please, not again.”

I’m glad that the Enterprise also has a set of 3-D checkers on board for the less strategically minded members of the crew.

Those hazmat suits that feature a mask that doesn’t connect to the chest portion seem like they would be really handy at fighting off pathogens and contaminants in a dangerous or unknown environment. Also, the red and gold pattern is really easy on the eyes.

I originally noted the sense of grimness to this episode with Spock finding actual bodies at the research station instead of just reporting on death. It’s amazing how much showing violence instead of just telling about implied violence does to increase the sense of dread and the presence of a threat on a show like this.

Next Up: “The Enemy Within” which I assume will have nothing to do with a character overcoming contrasting sides of their personality. No, that definitely won’t factor in.

Episode 2- “Charlie X” and last second redemption

I really don’t want to write about “Charlie X.” It’s not that it’s a terrible episode, although it’s certainly not a great one, but there is so much here that is just weird or fucked up, and it makes me look at this whole endeavor and see “Star Trek” for what it is.

Which, I guess was the whole point.

So, Charlie, the lone survivor of a transport crash is brought onto the Enterprise to make the journey to see his remaining family on Earth Colony V. He knows little of modern customs and is almost immediately smitten with Yeoman Rand.

Of course, Charlie quickly begins to reveal minor powers, but first we have to hear Uhura sing two of the most bizarre songs ever recorded onto network television. Nonetheless, Charlie acts really weird, Spock is suspicious, Rand is uncomfortable and Kirk acts like a father figure. It’s all so formulaic and this is only the third episode.

Things start getting weird all over the ship, with Charlie’s power manifesting in places that make absolutely no goddamn sense, namely when all the meatloaf turns into turkeys despite the fact that Kirk finds out about the meatloaf when Charlie is mostly off screen. Eventually we find out that Charlie’s power is directly tied to mostly adolescent bursts of emotion. He becomes frustrated and he lashes out, he is hurt and he lashes out, he is horny and he lashes out. It’s pretty standard and it’s a fair enough idea that has worked for multitudes of other works of fiction, namely episodes of “The X-Files,” tons of super-hero comics and to a lesser degree, “Ginger Snaps.”

The thing is though, it just doesn’t really work. Charlie’s powers never really get much of an explanation beyond the fact that he lived with the Thasians, and that he can control the whole ship. Its nuts. Ultimately, its another episode that boils down to a random person receiving unbelievable power and not having the maturity to deal with the responsibility that is required of his gift.

There are some interesting moments. Charlie and Spock playing chess is an intriguing moment, particularly when Charlie is frustrated and Shatner gives a suitably hammy heart to heart with Charlie that kind of works, but for the most part, the episode just isn’t a lot of fun.

Much like “The Man Trap,” “Charlie X” really comes together in the last few minutes, but unlike the previous episode, “Charlie X” utterly redeems itself in the last fifteen minutes or so. With Charlie in control of the Enterprise, Kirk is forced to try to make the teen surrender control, while he harasses and attacks Rand. There is a natural sense of danger to the proceedings and Charlie losing faith in Kirk when the captain attacks him is handled well.

Ultimately, this leads to the finale on the bridge, with an awkwardly staged wrestling match and an attempt to overload Charlie’s power. However, the Thasians arrive in their Space Glob and demand that Charlie return to them. Charlie is frantic, and wants to go to his family in the colony, and Kirk wants to take him there. The Thasian however proves to have more power and whisks Charlie back to a world where he will never know love or touch. It’s a dark ending, but one that is definitely suitable for the episode.

Once again, the main problem seems to be intent. “Charlie X” struggles with the idea of a teenager dealing with the changes of growing up and no longer being a child, but it’s not handled particularly well and the message is a little muddled by making said teenager all-powerful.

Like I said, other fiction has done this sort of story well. In the “X-Files” episode, “D.P.O.,” a teenager is gifted with the ability to call lighting from the sky and a variety of other electricity based powers. He struggles to make his teacher love him, and he wants to have everything, but he can’t handle it. He is captured and goes to jail. His powers are unique, but he can’t do anything and he is stopped by a couple of people with guns.

Arguably, this can’t happen in “Star Trek.” With a higher level of technology and more resources, the threat has to be bigger and the powers that are brought to bear have to be more formidable, but they don’t have to be utterly ridiculous.

If it weren’t for the ending, “Charlie X” would be a failure. Nothing in the episode is interesting enough or looked into enough to warrant anything more than a cursory watch, but the writers surprise again in creating an ending with emotional depth and an unexpected conclusion that shows the stakes of dealing with the unknown.

 Random Notes:

How the hell do you win a game of chess with an illogical move?

The sexual politics here are still pretty bad, but Rand has more power here than she did in “The Man Trap.” Also, no women are punched in the face.

The scene with Charlie turning one crewmember into an old woman and stealing the faces from other ones is a really neat effect.

I like how there’s no way Spock’s instrument could make that kind of sound. Also, Uhura’s song about Vulcan love and how Spock looks like the devil is a huge hit among the crew, because nothing beats making fun of how the superior officer looks.

Next Up: “The Naked Time” which will surely not be as dirty as I think it will be.

Episode 1-“The Man Trap” and signs of the times

There’s a scene in the ‘80s not-quite classic “Airplane!” when a hysterical woman begins to descend into hysterics as the plane goes into some turbulence. Her husband tries to comfort her by grabbing onto her shoulders and trying to shake her out of it. A man pushes the husband aside and tries to calm the woman by shaking her and slapping her face. Another man pushes her aside, throwing some punches at the woman for good measure. This goes on and on with everyone from nuns to jive-talking brothers trying to calm the woman by any means necessary.

Is it funny? Yeah, kind of, but only because the scene is played as silly as possible. Gags like this don’t work when there’s a hint of realism because no one wants to see a woman violently restrained for having emotions. As such, women very rarely are seen being struck or hit on TV or in films. The risk of the show being criticized or characters appearing to be brutal and unfeeling is too great. You especially don’t want to have your half-Vulcan character pummeling a woman with slaps and punches to the face while the ship’s captain baits her like an animal.

Sadly, this is the climax of “The Man Trap.”

“The Man Trap” is a hard episode to write about because it so desperately wants to have a topical social message about the preservation of nature, but does so by having the crew of the Enterprise beat the hell out of a woman. The issue is that, to a modern audience, “The Man Trap” is an episode that inadvertently becomes about feminism and women’s rights, but it is obvious that the writers had no intent to make an episode about that issue, choosing instead a message of preservation and the danger of extinction.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. The episode begins with Kirk and McCoy, in his first appearance, touch down on the mostly deserted planet of M-113 to give yearly medical exams to the Craters, Professor Robert and his wife Nancy, who used to be in a relationship with McCoy 10 years ago. All the men see Nancy differently, and as Kirk and McCoy wait for Robert to come back to the house, Nancy kills one of the crew members by sucking the salt from his body, leaving a series of red rings around his face, leaves a piece of the Borgia root in his mouth, and Nancy claims that he accidentally poisoned himself.

The Professor wants Kirk and McCoy to leave them alone, but both he and Nancy insist they need salt tablets. As Kirk and McCoy analyze the body, they realize that the crewmember died by having all the salt in his body removed and that the Borgia root could not have killed him. They return to the planet to investigate, and after Nancy kills another crewmember, she takes his form, and returns to the Enterprise with McCoy and Kirk.

The episode picks up a bit from there. The shapeshifter acts oddly aboard the ship, following around anyone that has salt and generally behaving strangely around other people. It’s intriguing, but not exactly fun to watch. It follows Yeoman Rand (I think someone called her that) as she gives Sulu a meal in Botany and eventually takes the form of a black man to harass Uhura.

Eventually, the crew starts to figure out that there is something aboard the Enterprise, when Kirk and Spock do battle with the Professor and find out that the shapeshifter is the last of its kind, comparable to the buffalo of “Earth History.” Kirk orders a lockdown on the ship to figure out what is going on.
The episode picks up quite a bit in the last fifteen minutes. The battle with the professor is fun, and there is a genuine tenseness to Kirk asking Robert if he could identify the shapeshifter when it is sitting right next to him. The reveal of the creature is great as well, with a green alien covered in hair, standing menacingly over Kirk.

However, the episode devolves. The climax in McCoy’s room is in my eyes, shockingly offensive, and some of the work getting up to it is really strange. Also, the final scene on the bridge really seemed odd to me when Kirk reminisces “Oh, the water buffalo,” and McCoy just sort of smirks. For McCoy, killing the last remaining member of the green-shapeshifter-salt-eater-race is a joke along the lines of “Ha, yes I did cause that extinction. That was droll.” It undercuts the attempted sadness of the message of preservation and really makes much of the point of the episode moot.

It doesn’t help that the message of the episode is almost muddled beyond belief. From what I can gather, the lesson of “The Man Trap” is “preserve nature or that fucker will come after you, transform into your ex, hypnotize you and suck all the salt from your body.” It’s something we all can learn from.

Like I said at the beginning, for me, as a humanistic liberal who has always been sensitive to race issues and sex issues, the idea of beating the hell out of Nancy, who I guess is technically a salt-suckered-alien, is just too difficult to ignore for “The Man Trap” to be a success, but that brings about a special issue that I’m sure will come up again as the series progresses; at what level do we stop judging “Star Trek” as a product of a different social time, and judge its politics as is?

I’m ok with a certain degree of different sexual politics in a show that was created in 1966. When Rand walks by in the hall and one of the crewmen says “how’d you like to have her as your own personal yeoman,” it’s easy to toss it up to the standards of a different time. The scene with the shapeshifter talking to Uhura about being lonely is a little less excusable, but it still can be mostly chalked up to this being a different era. The fact that most of the female crew isn’t wearing pants is easily part of the return to old science fiction, but it seems odd that men have full outfits while the women wear short skirts and hose, despite Dehner getting to wear pants in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” This can mostly be chalked up to gender politics and genre conventions, but it’s still there and it’s still vaguely out of place for a modern audience.

And maybe I’m looking at the climax too critically. The alien shapeshifter has taken the form of McCoy’s former lover and to try to convince the doctor to shoot her, Spock repeatedly strikes her face with brutal overhead punches. McCoy is obviously distressed, but doesn’t see the truth until she knocks Spock across the room and hypnotizes Kirk. It’s not really a woman, just like it wasn’t really a man earlier, but the implications are all there. The shapeshifter looks like a woman being beaten to the audience and to McCoy. In that sense, the scene is hard to tolerate.

What’s more, the threat is really clumsy. It’s an extremely convincing shapeshifter that uses it’s unlimited power to essentially go about procuring as much of one of the most common chemical compounds by using one of the most violent and overt ways possible. I would have really liked to have been at the pitch meeting for this one.

Overall, the combination of an absolute lack of a compelling and well thought out threat coupled with the sexism really derails much of the episode. If it wasn’t “Star Trek,” a multi-cultural ship filled with humans of a variety of backgrounds and a half-Vulcan, the idea of women being treated poorly could more easily be looked over, but stylistically the show has been moving in the direction of an idealized world where everyone is represented. Everyone, except women.

It’s really hard to describe how I feel about this episode. On one hand, the climax is disgusting and the threat seems not quite there. On the other hand, I love seeing the inner workings of the Enterprise. Sulu’s quarters are really interesting, and I liked just seeing something on the ship that wasn’t the bridge. The alien is cool, Spock and Kirk working together to take down the professor is fun to watch and the conversation among the crew about what to do about the shapeshifter is just as great as all of these are.

If it weren’t for the attack on the shapeshifter, this would probably be a better, albeit slower, episode than “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” However, a multitude of problems derail the effort, and “The Man Trap” suffers. Where “Where No Man Has Gone Before” made me excited to jump into the next episode, “The Man Trap” shows that there are some darker parts of the past that are hard to ignore.

Random Notes

I have really come to like Spock, and his conversation with Uhura at the beginning of the episode is great, but I don’t think the series had really figured out how to use him. He’s mostly there to be really cold in a scene or two and that’s about it.

When the landing party first meets Nancy, there seems to be some problems. Has she hypnotized them? Does she just appear different in their minds? How does that little power work?

Favorite line of the episode: “It’s a mystery and I don’t like mysteries. It’ll give you a bellyache and I’ve got a beauty of one right now.” Thanks, Kirk.

Close Runner Up for favorite line of the episode: “Stop thinking with your glands.” Once again, thanks, Kirk.

The sound that the scanner makes when Kirk tells Spock to expand the search is really ridiculous.

The sets on M-113 are even more flimsy and ridiculous than the ones in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” It doesn’t detract from anything and it helps add a little bit of fun camp to the series, but I really couldn’t tell what a vaguely round pile of rocks was supposed to represent.

Now I know that Spock is half-Vulcan, and that the planet Vulcan has no moon. Nice work, Spock and Uhura.

Swahili seems to be a dying language now, but I’m glad a going-extinct-space-shapeshifter has enough of a working knowledge of it to talk to Uhura with it.

Kirk is such a dick in front of McCoy and Robert for calling out Nancy’s grey hairs.

Next up: “Charlie X” which I assume is about an alien who rises up, discovers Space Islam, promotes violent resistance and is murdered by other radicals as well as by a Spike Lee movie.