Star Trek: The Original Series Recaps Episode 41: “Obsession” and call me First Officer Spock

Kirk_and_Rizzo

There are certain plots that feel like quintessential Star Trek: powerful, near godlike aliens lack compassion, negotiating a fragile treaty with the enemy, encountering strange diseases and conditions that change the way characters see each other and, above all, those goddamn space clouds.

The gaseous entity in the depths of space is one of Star Trek’s hoariest cliches but it’s also one that can be hard to remember exactly how many times you’ve seen it. It just feels familiar, like you’ve watched it a million times. I can remember a handful of appearances of the trope in The Next Generation and the Original Series, and if I took the time, I could probably come up with another handful before I finished my drink.

“Obsession” doesn’t do a lot to differentiate itself from what comes before it but like so many of The Original Series’ less ambitious efforts, it lives and dies on the charisma and performances of its cast. In that arena, “Obsession” excels. It’s a great showcase of Will Shatner’s unique style and performances and Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley both perform ably as well.

On a routine mission, Kirk, Spock and some doomed Red-Shirts are testing some tritanium deposits before a mysterious gas makes an appearance and the captain gets paranoid. Kirk remembers a particular smell and evacuates the planet but not before all but one crew member succumbs to a deadly, semi-sentient gas.

What follows is mostly a bug hunt. Kirk wants to blow off a scheduled meeting in order to make sure the Enterprise can destroy the gas and Spock and McCoy try to gauge their captain’s sanity and whether or not they can trust him to make the right decision.

“Nemesis” is a tense but lethargic episode. A lot is made of Kirk’s first encounter with the gas cloud on his first assignment as well as his relationship with a crewman whose father died during the cloud’s previous encounter but both do little other than to expand on Kirk’s belief that he needs to redeem his former indecisiveness. The meat of the episode is in Spock and McCoy’s questioning over whether Kirk needs to be removed from command. It’s interesting stuff. Both characters vastly agree that the cloud needs to be destroyed but know that the more time spent hunting it, the more danger they put a colony in. It’s a very Star Trek moral conundrum, but not an ineffective one.

Spock_and_McCoy_Obsession

It’s easy to draw comparisons between “Obsession” and Star Trek’s marginally more memorable tale of revenge and the greater good deferred, “The Wrath of Khan” and both are playing on the same themes. Like in the film, Kirk’s desire to restore his own honor is putting thousands in jeopardy and the episode vastly acknowledges how his crew feels about the captain’s, well, obsession. They’re frightened and on edge, increasingly drawn into Kirk’s mounting hysteria in a believable way. What differentiates the two is that while “Wrath of Khan” is decidedly Kirk’s story, this is more the story of Kirk’s crew, his history as a captain and an officer, as well as the potential trauma he could inflict on the next generation of Star Fleet officers.

I don’t dislike “Obsession” by any means. It’s just Star Trek at its most rigidly formulaic and it skates by on small charms. It’s certainly not the series most memorable or distinguished episode but much like Kirk’s first impression with a certain cloud, it serves as something of a sign for greater, more important things to come.

Next up: One of the Original Series worst episodes finally rears its ugly head as we sink into the horrors of “Wolf in the Fold.”

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Episode 39 – “Friday’s Child” and the Klingon western you probably haven’t been dreaming of

One of the most important things to remember when watching many of the more action packed episodes of Star Trek is that the show was really building off of the western format. Star Trek’s opening crawly, Kirk anxiously awaiting the moment when the Federation would explore new and uncharted worlds, is an intergalactic echo of the Manifest Destiny. Yes, there will be diplomacy and peace but sometimes, Spock might have to shoot a guy with an arrow.

“Friday’s Child” is a deeply bizarre episode that only becomes less so when you realize the environment it was crafted in. In The Next Generation, this same idea would have been explored in a more diplomatic way, focusing on the way Picard would deal with the opposing force and reach a peaceable but beneficial solution. This, however, isn’t Picard’s Enterprise and Kirk is always playing a more dangerous game.

The Federation and the Klingons are competing for a mineral rich planet occupied by a tribe of violent locals. McCoy deals with them initially but Kirk and a rapidly slain red shirt set the tribe against Kirk. Its a pretty taut sequence, with the Klingons clearly manipulating the upstart chieftain and diplomacy seeming increasingly like a disappearing option. Where I was waiting for Kirk to have to find proof that the Klingons were up to no good, the whole episode becomes an elaborate western chase, with McCoy taking a pregnant local with them.

There’s really not a whole lot to say about “Friday’s Child” after that. Kirk and Spock defend McCoy and the woman, even though she eventually gives birth and betrays them. It is, however, a notably violent episode. Kirk and Spock are both shooting villagers with arrows and cutting off the requisite passes. The Klingon emissary turns on the tribes and starts wiping people out with phaser blasts. McCoy smacks a woman in the face. Its all really odd and the episode doesn’t even attempt to justify what’s going on or why the characters are behaving the way they are.

“Friday’s Child” is the kind of odd episode where the interesting parts that it presents are surrounded in dull, plodding escape sequences and fights. At this point, its kind of just the kind of episode you put up with while waiting for the really good stuff.

Random Notes

This is probably one of the funnier red shirt deaths as of yet, partially because there’s nothing really to establish why the Klingon is, y’know, a Klingon.

“Look, I’m a doctor, not an escalator.”

I thought about “Krull” a lot during this episode.

Next Up: We’re halfway through the Original Series so we’re taking a break to watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Get excited, or just, y’know, find a very comfortable place to sit for a long time.

Episode 35: “Catspaw” and horror done catastrophically wrong

One of my biggest pop culture weaknesses is sci-fi/horror. I love derelict freighters, loose killer aliens, science experiments gone wrong, unexplained phenomena, invasions, and time travel mishaps. There’s something intriguing about the way the future presents constant new situations for how the unknown is going to murder the hell out of us.

That being said, there has to be a solid foundation in realism for the premise to hold true. There’s a reason people remember the “Alien” series but not the misguided and mostly terrible “Pandorum;” one features a thoroughly realized world with a loose, near unstoppable threat that picks off people in a comforting but fresh way, while the other features a bunch of poorly explained barbarians shooting poison darts at that freshly unthawed douche bag from “Six Feet Under.”

Horror only works when there’s a solid sense of place. We have to believe in the very real so that the unreal elements have impact. The world of “Terminator” is extremely familiar to our own, but the appearance of the Terminator makes him a violent and unstoppable force that feels innately foreign and wrong. This sense of world building is what separates good horror from bad.

It’s also what separates “What Little Girls are Made of?” and “Catspaw,” the two true horror one shots we’ve had so far in The Original Series. Both penned by Lovecraft acolyte Robert Bloch, “Catspaw” fails in both the realm of horror as well as creating an intriguing story for the series.

Only one of those episodes features this.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy are set to be on a rescue mission from the start, as Sulu and Scotty have gone missing on a previously charted planet. Communication is blocked, so the triumvirate is left with no choice but to beam down to the planet to hunt for their compatriots. From the landing, things are bad. Smoke seeps through the bottom of the frame, and Spock and the Enterprise are getting conflicting readings on what life forms are on the planet. There’s some conflict, but the group decides to press onto a mysterious castle in the distance, but first they have to run across a trio of what appear to be straight-out-of “Macbeth” witches who warn Kirk about a curse that’s affecting the ship.

It is all downhill from here.

The thing is, the atmosphere for all of this works pretty well. It’s a dark and shadowy opening with hints of old school horror and just the necessary expected shocks that make this kind of b-list schlock work. All of that successful atmosphere work changes when the group gets to the castle, where everything quickly turns into an interplanetary episode of Scoobie Doo.

Long story short, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are led down a trap door by a cat where they are held hostage by a space wizard named Korob who is mind controlling Sulu and Scotty and communicating psychically with his cat, who’s also a foxy shapeshifting lady demon. How much of this makes sense? Hardly any. We are told that the wizard and his familiar are recent invaders to the planet and that they are somehow projecting traditional Earth images in an attempt to frighten Kirk and McCoy, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Can they read minds? It’s hinted that they have researched Earth extensively, but their information refers to the times before star travel.

Maybe the scariest part of this episode is how odd this perspective shot is.

So, it all comes down to the ultimate writer short cut, where it all ends up being a test. Sylvia and Korob seem to have a plan of some sort and after imprisoning McCoy and Spock in the dungeon, Sylvia does what all foxy women of the Star Trek universe do and tries to seduce Kirk. There are hints of her and Korob’s service to the Old Ones (another callback to “What are Little Girls Made of?”), but the woman seems more intent on experiencing sensations, particularly love. In typical Kirk fashion, the captain manages to get her to reveal her plan, involving stealing something called the transmuter from Korob and escaping with Kirk.

In case you didn't know, this show was made in the '60s.

Knowing that Sylvia is dangerous, Korob breaks the landing party out of the prison and is immediately trampled by a giant cat. Kirk, Spock and McCoy try to escape but are stopped by the still mind controlled Sulu and Scotty. They’re stopped and once again halted by the giant cat. Kirk grabs Korob’s wand and tries to fend the animal off, when, of course, Sylvia appears. Spock warns Kirk that she wants the wand, which is probably the transmuter. Sylvia and Kirk struggle over the wand and Kirk ultimately breaks it, making the castle disappear and revealing Korob and Sylvia to be a pair of small space lobsters that quickly die in the atmosphere.

And that’s it.

Actually, I kind of liked this too.

It feels strange that Bloch was unable to pull together a horror episode for the show, particularly after how successful “What are Little Girls Made of?” was at balancing those two needs. While his first entry feels like a smart sci-fi horror story, Catspaw” would only work for Star Trek, and as such, the episode vastly begins to fall apart when the characters can’t support it. “What are Little Girls Made of?” feels universal, like it could work regardless of what show did it because the story vastly works. “Catspaw” has that sense of very specific content that when the story begins to fall apart and isn’t interesting to begin with, the whole episode suffers as a result.

Random Thoughts

So, is Sylvia also the cat? We never see the two of them together, and we know that she can shapeshift, but that just seems really silly.

“Spock, comment?” “Very bad poetry, Captain.” “A more useful comment, Mr. Spock.”

Next Up: “I, Mudd” and oh shit, he’s back.

Episode 29-“Amok Time,” Spock, Urkel and the ways of the world

Let’s talk about Spock, but more importantly, let’s talk about breakout characters of any kind. There’s little doubt that Spock rapidly became the breakout character of Star Trek. He’s the unknown made familiar. He’s maddeningly alien, but grounded in a way that allows viewers to connect and feel a common similarity. There’s something fans want in a character that doesn’t deliberately offer an opposing view but does it because he has to, it’s the way that he is. More or less, barring Shatner at his scenery chewing best, Spock ends up being the main character of the show. We watch him and want to see what he’ll do in any given situation.

This is the way of the breakout character. Their initial alieness ultimately gives way to becoming the driving force of the show. The most recent character to soar to these kind of heights is Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory. Initially little more than a straight man whose neurosis occasionally drives the plot, Sheldon has become the face of one of Thursday night’s most popular shows. In the more beloved but less publicly adored Community, Abed rose from a nostalgic movie quoting machine to the most interesting character simply because he surprises us.

Come on, name a worse character. I dare you.

What makes breakout characters appealing is also what makes them dangerous. Because viewers want to see more of them and writers want to put them in new and different situations, fans can be burnt out, or the characters can become overused and derivative. Probably the best two examples of the form would be Urkel from Family Matters and Fez from That ’70s Show.

Both outsiders from the traditional structure of the show’s primary characters, they end up seeming bizarrely alien. What they don’t understand or how their perspective influences their interaction ultimately draws viewers in, only to encourage the writers to put them in worse and worse situation. By Family Matters’ end, Urkel had cloned himself and gone into space. By That ’70s Show’s finale, Fez had bizarrely ended up with the show’s only real star, Jackie. Viewers remember these characters because they began iconic but ended wrong. By then end, the whole show would revolve around them to the detriment of everyone else.

There’s a danger with this happening to Spock and by today’s “Amok Time,” they had already dodged it once. Season 1’s “The Galileo Seven” has its share of flaws but it manages to create an episode putting everyone’s favorite Vulcan at the forefront without doing damage to the rest of the show’s dynamic. However, “Amok Time” has more in common with episodes like “What are Little Girls Made of?” and “Dagger of the Mind”; it’s essentially all Spock all the time.

"Excellent."

Without getting a head of myself, I’ll declare “Amok Time” one of the best episodes of the series and it does so by making a few incredibly bold moves, namely creating Spock as something damn close to the antagonist of the episode and presenting Vulcan culture as something alienating and strange. It’s weird, frightening but just familiar enough that we all have to hoe that Spock makes it through in the end.

As the episode begins, Spock is on edge. He’s not eating and people begin to notice. He’s loaded up on adrenaline, putting the ship on  a course to Vulcan despite Starfleet orders and is openly admitting his insubordination. The problem is that he’s not revealing what the problem is. McCoy has an inkling of what’s happening after seeing his adrenaline readings, but both the crew and we as an audience are watching as a friend definitely needs help, but can’t or won’t ask for it. Kirk has had enough and confronts his first lieutenant who after a fair share of embarrassment admits that it is time for pon farr, a Vulcan ritual of mating that must be completed by traveling home every 7 years.

Also, this woman gets to watch.

In a true shock to the established character we know and love, Kirk totally doesn’t follow Starfleet’s orders and brings his friend to Vulcan. Beaming down with Spock and McCoy, Kirk intends to see the ritual through. It’s a little creepy when you think about it, but it’s all too the episode’s benefit. When you explore the unknown in any creative medium you almost always have to have an audience surrogate in the mix to help the viewers out. One of the chief complaints with the Star Wars prequels was that this never happened. Everyone sits and talks about complicated laws, pacts and treaties and viewers sit, bored and wanting to have some idea of what’s happening. Compare this to A New Hope, where Luke, who has no knowledge of the Force, is slowly educated in the system, first by Obi Wan and then by Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. We learn about the Force as he does and we’re never thrown in over our heads.

Somebody in the costume department liked women in silver everything.

Having Kirk and McCoy on the planet gives us this working base and it also helps to reinforce how odd Vulcan is, both in its rituals as well as its society. The planet is hot, with very thin air that its residents have to get used to. It’s nice to have characters noting the alieness all around them and its not long until things get stranger when T’Pau shows up. A matronly apparently very important Vulcan, she shows off the first appearance of the Vulcan salute before Spock’s mate T’Pring appears. The whole thing has a sense of bizarre mystique and even considering that, canny viewers will note that something’s wrong and it only gets wronger when T’Pring states that she has chosen “the challenge,” in which two people will fight for her hand. Naturally, Spock decides to fight for his bride and T’Pring decides for him to battle Kirk.

Pretty much exactly like this.

So, things aren’t looking good and the Vulcans are appearing stranger and more threatening all the time. Kirk doesn’t want to fight his friend and knows he’s at a disadvantage on the harsh planet. The adrenaline junky Spock isn’t letting down either, as the rite has become a biological imperative. McCoy and Spock know that this is a ploy on T’Pring’s part, as her doltish looking guardian seems to be her actual choice for a mate. Kirk doesn’t think Spock can take him so he agrees to enter battle, of course he doesn’t realize that the fight is to the death.

And Spock isn't shitting around.

Spock quickly takes the upper hand in the battle and McCoy knows that both of his friends are in danger. He asks T’Pau if he can administer a neuro-shot to Kirk in order to help him deal with the thin air and heat on the planet. She agrees and Kirk is injected before Spock really goes medieval on the Captain, ultimately appearing to choke him to death. His lust sated, Spock returns to T’Pring only for her to reveal her ploy, which could lead to her staying with the guardian instead of being wed to Spock, who has become something of a legend to their people. Spock leaves the planet with McCoy and the apparently dead Kirk to face his fate in front of Starfleet.

I don't know if I want to say that skipping out on Spock for this guy is woman empowerment, but sure.

Of couse, Kirk is alright, having been injected by McCoy with a sort of only-in-Shakespeare toxin that made him appear dead and allowed him to cede the fight. Spock’s spirits return to normal and everyone is able to head off on more space adventures.

I’m sick to death of writing about expanding a universe in a episodic show, but “Amok Time” ultimately is the episode to show how to do it masterfully. The unknown is alien and strange and it manages to cast our hero Spock into a strange light, even if he’s still the star of the show. This is an episode that boldly goes where we haven’t been, while showing the effects of this lingering strangeness on the characters that we care so much about.

Random Thoughts

Spock is a pretty huge dick at the beginning of the episode, particularly to Nurse Chapel. Nobody’s still making fun of Sulu for running around shirtless and almost stabbing everyone.

This is the first appearance of Chekov and in a show full of characters with bad wigs, he might be the worst.

Next Up: “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and let’s face it, it’ll probably be me.

Episode 27- “The City on the Edge of Forever” and defining perfection

Greatness is incalculable. In a medium like television that depends so heavily on context, prejudices and taste, it is difficult to qualify any one moment as legitimately great. Mediums such as music, film and theater are more capable of being classified as great because they occupy a moment in time, a brief pass through an artistic endeavor. Television doesn’t have that luxury. Viewers become connected to different characters or situations, and as such, what one viewer may love another may claim is near blasphemous. Even some of the most critically lauded shows of all time, such as The Sopranos, Mad Men, The Wire, Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica, Seinfeld and M*A*S*H*, are heavily debated on what the greatest moments are due to the way viewers manufacture relationships with the characters.

It seems strange then that “The City on the Edge of Forever” is generally regarded as the greatest episode of Star Trek. Entertainment Weekly, IGN.com and IMDB all rank it as the best episode of the series. TV Guide ranks it as the #68 TV Moment of All Time. All time. Of all the episodes the series has done, of all the planets we have explored and aliens we have met, the critical consensus is that nothing compares to “The City on the Edge of Forever.” I’m not trying to say that its a bad episode. Far from it, there is a genuine sense of brilliance throughout the episode but this is a nearly singularly uncommon incident for any show, especially for a series that maintains as intense of a fan base as Star Trek does.

It’s strange to actually review “The City on the Edge of Forever,” and I choose not to quite do that. Rather, I intend to both attempt to explain why the episode has developed the reputation it has, and also try to critique the notion of vaunting an episode to such a level of prestige.

Its hard to discuss the episode itself without getting into the history of the piece. The original version of the episode was written by vaunted sci-fi author Harlan Ellison. His first script was a story about drug dealers on the Enterprise overdosing themselves back in time, with Kirk and Spock going back to chase them down and fix the effects of their influence on the timeline. Roddenberry wouldn’t have that, saying that there were no drug dealers on his Enterprise, and that the script would need to be rewritten. A couple or rewrites later and a little manipulation from the contracted writers table, and we finally have the version of “The City on the Edge of Forever” that made it to the screen. Naturally, Ellison was furious, believing that he had been screwed by everyone except Leonard Nimoy and he shuffled off.

The early writing problems pretty much set up why the cold open to this episode is so fucking terrible. That may be a bit harsh, but its just really weird. While coming in contact with some sort of time related anomaly, the Enterprise gets knocked around a bit, causing Sulu to fall unconscious. McCoy shows up with a shot of cordrazine, a sort of unexplained wonder drug, and gets Sulu back on his feet, but when the Enterprise takes another hit, Bones ends up injecting himself with the rest of the meds, sending him on a violent bender and insane bender. It looks really awkward and it seems like this was a last minute rewrite that was doing little more than trying to keep Roddenberry’s utopian dreams alive for another day. It works and it still takes the action to the same place that we were headed to but it needlessly complicates itself in an accident that could have been something that had a much deeper context.

McCoy makes his way to the transporter room and beams down to the planet that is causing the anomaly with the landing party (strangely including Scotty and Uhura) close behind. There, they come across a strange doorway and after a rhetorical “what is it,” the Guardian of Forever springs to life, demonstrating its power in riddles and putting Spock’s “primitive” scientific knowledge to shame. There’s some neat humor with Spock being put to shame, and Kirk has fun with it, but everything gets serious when the Guardian shows its ability, projecting a black and white video reel of human history. Seeing a chance to escape, drugged out McCoy leaps through the portal and back into time. Suddenly, everything changes. The Enterprise is gone, the communicators aren’t working and there is a sense that McCoy has really Butterfly-Effected everything. Kirk and Spock decide they are going to jump backwards two weeks before McCoy’s arrival in the time stream and stop him from doing whatever he does that alters the time flow.

There’s a general sense of near operatic grandness to tragedy in “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Even before Kirk and Spock jump back to the nostalgic grandeur of Mayberry, the stakes are huge and slightly tragic. Everything could change, and the remains of the crew could be left on the planet with no way to escape other than projecting themselves back in time. Before we’ve even made it to the doomed pacifists, there is already a sense of dread and tragedy.

This is all reinforced when we make it into the city with Spock and Kirk. Everything they do, up to and including meeting Edith at the mission has a sense of golden age working-man grandeur. They need to steal clothes, and they get some working man flannel and coats. Spock wears a dark stocking cap. They break into a basement and immediately start working at the mission, being fed for the sweat from their brow. I don’t want to romanticize this, but its a mood that we haven’t really seen from the show, and I personally am not a huge fan of it. Generally this sort of mood is reserved for shows that do little but say “oh man, those were the days, without your cell phones and internet pornography.” Its generally used as an intellectual short hand, and I’m always a little put off by it, but it works for the episode.

What doesn’t work is Edith. The manager of a mission in this unnamed city, she’s an optimist and a pacifist that sees the most in everyone and has eerily correct hopes for a future of paunchy middle aged men fighting the Gorn. She’s a pure Harlan Ellison character, right down to her dreamy ideas of the future, but she’s awfully out of place, particularly being cast as an almost too fashion forward beauty. Seriously, she looks like a mod. I half expected we were on Brighton Beach.

So, being an impossibly beautiful woman with lofty hopes for humanity, she and Kirk fall for one another. They go out, and once again she has some wonderfully overstated moments with Kirk when he talks about future novels written on planets orbiting around Orion’s Belt, but it seems sort of romantic if you have a thing for people who babble nonsensically. Meanwhile, Spock works on a makeshift computer and comes to a startling discovery. One newspaper states that Edith will die in the near future, but after a fluctuation, it reads that she will meet with President Roosevelt about the peace movement. After concurring with Kirk, the effects of McCoy’s future meddling becomes clear: McCoy will save Edith from a car accident and her beliefs on pacifism will continue to gain traction until Roosevelt invites her to the White House. Meanwhile, Nazi Germany will have been able to continue researching the atomic bomb without the interference of the invading Americans and will develop nuclear power first, as well as the V2 rockets required to wield it efficiently. This leads the Nazis to winning World War II, preventing the development of Starfleet or the exploration of the galaxy as planned.

Its a well thought out rewrite of history, although I suppose that the peace movement would have had to have some serious clout to prevent the United States from entering the war after Pearl Harbor, but it mostly works and has a grand sense of doom to it. Kirk and Spock must prevent McCoy from interfering, but that means one thing. The woman that Kirk loves must die for history as we know it to survive.

I wrote about the struggles Kirk has to go through when making big decisions in “The Alternative Factor,” and the same vastly applies here. He knows what he has to do to preserve history, but there is a sense that he could have the other way. He could let McCoy save Edith and live the rest of his life in the newly created history. When he meets Edith on the stairwell and catches her as she almost falls, we see the pain even more accutely. Kirk is used to always being the hero, being able to save every maiden and protect his ship at every turn. This is a decision that is even more difficult than what he had to do to Lazarus. In order to pull the trigger on this one, he has to unlearn everything he ever had to learn about being a hero, he has to let someone die when he has the chance to save her. He must look the other way and for Kirk, inaction is even worse than the wrong action.

In the end, Kirk both abandons Edith to her fate, and prevents McCoy from saving her. As the three of them leap back through the Guardian of Forever, their mission complete, there is a moment of silence. Kirk looks up and whispers “lets get the hell out of here.” Its a line that’s been played for laughs, primarily by Mustordayonaise Abe Lincoln, or in testosterone fueled action movies, like every movie that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been in, but Kirk sells it with nothing but remorse. The Guardian is a sign of the life that Kirk could have had, a life that he had to abandon. Its a moment where we have to wonder how comfortable Kirk really is with this. Is the Enterprise really worth the love of a woman who truly cared for him? Is the lonely life he’s chosen really worth what he has to give up? 

The answer is mostly arbitrary mainly because Star Trek is stoically episodic in nature. We’re never going to hear about Edith again and although we’ll see Kirk have to make hard decisions, there won’t be a moment when he considers what happened here and work from his actions. This is a benefit and a detriment to shows from the period, but particularly grander television, like Star Trek. It stunts our ability to associate with Kirk as a constantly growing character and it stops us from being able to see the consequences of actions from the past. However, an episodic nature allows us to have wild shifts in style and tone from episode to episode. If Star Trek played out more like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos, we never would have had off kilter episodes like “Shore Leave,” “The Conscience of the King” or “The City on the Edge of Forever.” They simply don’t fit the themes and ideas of the show.

This really brings me to the primary question I have on the relative greatness of “The City on the Edge of Forever.” The episode, particularly as Ellison originally intended it, really isn’t Star Trek. Roddenberry was right in that regard, but for the entirely wrong reasons. In all regards, this episode could have been made for just about any show. This could be an episode of The Twilight Zone, or The Outer Limits or even a supernatural episode of just about any show you could think of. There’s no discovery, no final frontiers, no exploration; its a grand operatic play with high ambitions, but not necessarily one fitting with the established universe.

Is that a bad thing? No, but its a very strange thing. My favorite episodes of Star Trek so far could vastly be used on just about any television series with a science fiction bent, but it seems unique that the most popular and most critically beloved episode of Trek doesn’t feature phaser fire, Klingons, Vulcans, naked green women, Kirk karate chopping things, gods/godlike beings, personality shifts, new species or people not prepared for the power they hold. All the hallmarks of Star Trek are barely there. If I had to show a person an episode of Star Trek and say “this is what the show is. This is the clearest product of the mission statement of the show,” there’s no way I’d pick “The City on the Edge of Forever.” I’d probably pick “Devil in the Dark” or “Errand of Mercy,” but that’s just me. These are episodes that could only be Star Trek. They fit comfortably in the mythology and offer stories that work well within the created boundaries.

Once again, I’m not disputing that “The City on the Edge of Forever,” isn’t great. It is. But what does “The Greatest Episode” mean when it just barely fits into the shows oeurve? Is the success of “The City on the Edge of Forever” a fluke, little more than an episode that was lucky enough to be sold to Roddenberry rather than Rod Sterling?  Does it even really belong to us?

Random Thoughts

“I’m a surgeon, not a psychiatrist!”

“My friend is obviously Chinese. I see you’ve noticed the ears. They’re actually easy to explain.”

Next Up: “Operation–Annihilate!” and holy shit, its the finale.

Episode 20- “The Return of the Archons” and this episode should have started with Roddenberry smoking a cigarette and telling me about morality and machines.

I will forever claim that “The Twilight Zone” is the single most influential television show of all time. The mix of surreal weirdness, Rod Serling’s moral posturing and an obsession with creating startling imagery that managed to fit perfectly in an self-contained mythology. Every genre pushing series that has created owes a debt to “The Twilight Zone” but none owe more than Star Trek.

“The Return of the Archons” shows this debt more prevalently than many others. We once again open not on the Enterprise, but rather with Sulu and one of the crewmembers fleeing through a turn of the century Old West city. Sulu is cornered and before he can beam to safety, he is sparked by a cloak wearing figure and when he makes it to the transporter room, the crewmen starts babbling about “The Body,” and a mysterious “Landru.”

It's go time, bitches.

 

That means it’s go time for Kirk and a really large landing party beam down to Beta III (looking suspiciously/exactly like the town from “Miri”) to take a look around on the planet, and it’s naturally all really weird. People are wondering around tipping their hats to each other and one of them believes they are “from the valley” before inviting them to the festival. It’s all suitably weird, particularly when people start talking about “the Red Hour” and as the clock strikes six, all hell breaks loose. There’s people lighting fires, running around with planks as well as dancing and kissing in the streets. Did you hear that? Just wait until John Lithgow hears about this.

Kirk and company flee into one building and are confronted with Reger, a resistance fighter, as well as a group of people who alternatively worship and fear Landru. After a night of sleep, Landru’s monks attack one member of the safehouse, try to take Kirk away, and eventually leave, but now we have a plot hook.

There’s a lot to love about “The Return of the Archons” but it’s an episode that has the same problems that similar ambitious episodes (“Shore Leave,” “The Man Trap,” “Dagger of the Mind”) where not enough explanation is given to really drive home the threat. Sure, Landru’s holgram shows up and makes the crew pass out, and yes, the scene with all the villagers picking up weapons to come after the convoy is well done, but the information that we need to know is missing. It’s never addressed why a completely controlled society would have twelve hours of chaos every once in a while. It’s not really revealed how things have gotten this bad. It’s not really revealed why Starfleet wants the Enterprise to investigate a crash that happened a fucking century ago. Without any sort of explanation to the really odd shenanigans, it is much harder to buy into the idea that Kirk, Spock and McCoy are in any real danger.

Things do pick up when the guards turn McCoy into a member of the Body. DeForest Kelley really sells the idea of being brainwashed into the kindly old man, and it is creepy enough to give the story a sense of urgency that the B-story about heat rays doesn’t really manage. It’s even effective enough to make the guard’s attempt to brainwash Kirk and Spock into a suitably tense few minutes. Also, any time people yell at a computer until it starts smoking is going to be pretty awesome.

Now talk it out, talk it out...

 

My big selling point on this episode also ends up turning into one of my biggest problems with the episode. At one point, Kirk and Spock bring up the idea of the Prime Directive. I had heard long ago about the Prime Directive by way of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and I had a vague understanding of its’ idea of noninterference in the affairs of a developing planet’s culture. Kirk and Spock argue whether they can rightfully affect a planet that has been ruled by a faux-god-like-benefactor-computer for what appears to be at least a century. It presents interesting questions that are certainly relevant to our culture as a whole, and Kirk agrees with Spock’s initial statement of noninterference, but when it comes time to go kick in the door on Landru, the good captain is willing to sacrifice all of that in what he personally believes is right for the planet as a whole. It is a pretty odd moment, mainly because they start blowing up computers and installing Enterprise crew members as leaders like 15 fucking minutes after they mention the Prime Directive.

It ends up all just being a problem of editing and rewrites. I feel like there was probably a point when “the Red Hour” was explained and there was probably more thought put into putting one random guy on a planet and hoping that he can straighten a century long mess out, but that just isn’t the way it turned out. Instead, “The Return of the Archons” all turns into a visually striking and intrinsically interesting episode of Star Trek, that has unbelievably deep plot holes riddling the whole thing.

Random Notes

More than all the other characters, Spock has the worst costume. Apparently, he’s the Alien-Nun or something. He also sleeps with his eyes open.

One of the crewmen gets hit in the head with a prop rock while running away from the Body. He keeps going. Way to go, crewmember of the week.

Sulu. That is all.

Next Up: “Space Seed which I assum…”KHAAAAN!”

Episode 15- “The Galileo Seven” and the big what-if we’ve been waiting for

 

I understand the love for Spock. Kirk’s desire to do the best for the crew, regardless of the danger or the cost is sort of an old-school television cliché. On a serialized show now, Kirk would have been crushed by his decisions. Spock turns out to be the one we trust more in comparison. He makes decisions based on what is good for the crew, but he makes sacrifices based on what is rational. He works because he has to justify his actions to himself. Spock can do pretty much whatever the script needs him to do, but it has to make sense to him. It seems like an out, but watching Spock work is one of the great pleasures of the series.

With that, “The Galileo Seven” is an episode that equates to little more than a what-if scenario. When Spock takes a crew to explore a mostly uncharted area, disaster quickly befalls the craft and they crash on a foreign planet, without the ability to contact the Enterprise. The Enterprise, however, is also unable to get in contact with the shuttle and has only two days to search for Spock and the remaining crewmembers before they have to make an important rendezvous.

It's the landing party, I mean the complication.

 

Unlike “Balance of Terror,” “The Conscience of the King” or “Shore Leave,” “The Galileo Seven” is more about reactions than it is about actions. The way that Spock and the rest of the crewmates end up on the planet is less important than how Spock handles the situation once he is put in command of the situation. We’re mainly watching people react to trying to survive in a situation without Kirk. The way that Spock is going to handle the situation is drastically different than they were expecting and problems quickly come about when human lives are translated into pounds of dead weight.

I’ve liked Spock since I started watching the series, and moments like this really help to drive why the character is likable. In a series that’s mostly about people exploring the universe, Spock is just about the only alien, and in no way does he really behave like a human. It seems reasonable that this sort of decision would have to come up to really distinguish Spock’s logical approach to be flawed in matters of life and death.

Some of the planet actually looks pretty good for being built on a set.

 

To me, “The Galileo Seven” is an episode that a show would do in about the third or fourth season. It’s the kind of episode that happens when a writer is saddled with an episode and wants to say something profound about a character in a different way. Darin Morgan of “The X-Files” wrote three episodes that took down Mulder in just about every way possible. This seems to be a pretty calculated way to force the viewer to confront Spock’s various failings. It’s odd that this sort of episode would come before one that would confront, say, the captain’s failings, but it seems pretty clear that Spock was rapidly becoming the breakout character of the series, but for the most part it is an interesting examination of one character’s process and failings.

That’s not to say that Spock is the only character that is really looked at. McCoy returns to put a human face on what has happened on Taurus II, and he is certainly less antagonistic than Boma, but he manages to continue to represent the ethical side of the problem and seeks alternative solutions to the deadlier ones that Spock advocates. Scotty is mostly there to do nothing but fix the gas lines as best he can and kind-of-sort-of defend Spock from the increasingly antagonistic crew.

Delightfully, Sulu also has things to do in this episode. I’ve talked about how much I sort of appreciate Sulu’s presence. He’s a very visible character on the bridge. Despite Roddenberry’s hopes for a post race starship, really the only non-Caucasians are Uhura and Sulu. Uhura hasn’t really gotten much to do since about “Charlie X” but Sulu consistently gets to at least play with some ship controls and have a line. What appeals to me about his character is that he’s very similar to Spock in his actions. Sulu has a firm grasp on what needs to be done and does his job without fail. He keeps his emotions out of the bridge, follows orders and acts without a seconds thought. He does have a brief line when Kirk calls off the search, but for the most part, Sulu is a lot like Spock, and he manages to be one of the finer characters on the Enterprise.

Anthropoid smash for equal opportunities on Enterprise!

 

One could probably say that “The Galileo Seven” is one of the weaker episodes of the series. It’s pretty static, a little dull at times and kind of goes over some of the standard Star Trek plots, but I enjoyed it immensely. It’s nice to see the writers really place one character under the microscope so much and manage a question of lives so well.

Random Notes

It’s pretty easy to tell, but there’s only one creature running around all episode. Those Styrofoam rocks eat up a lot of the budget.

I wasn’t aware seven phasers had enough fuel to launch a small space pod. More useful information that just doesn’t seem that true.

Spock gets the best lines of the episode, namely “I am not interested in the opinions of the majority, Mr. Gaetano.”

There’s some pretty terrible fake laughs after Kirk’s joke on the bridge at the end.

A joke that is approximately as bad as one of Uhura's songs.

 

Next Up: “The Squire of Gothos” and stuff like that.

Episode 14- “Shore Leave” and flights of fancy without safety.

I had become pretty wary of comedy on Star Trek after “Mudd’s Women,” which still stands as the series’ only unmitigated disaster, so I was pretty hesitant when “Shore Leave” started going. There’s not a lot of ways to interpret a cold open that includes a man in a rabbit suit as anything but another comedy episode.

Not a very safe way to start a serious episode, but it really works as a comedy.

 

“Shore Leave” mostly works for the reasons that “Mudd’s Women” failed. The characters manage to stay pretty true to their constructed personas, there is a mostly tangible and understandable threat, and there isn’t a super bizarre big reveal that undoes and recontextualizes most of the episode. There are problems, but what episode of Star Trek doesn’t have those “hey, we should have actually read the script through once or twice” moments.

The crew of the Enterprise is exhausted and Kirk commissions a scouting party to investigate a planet to see if it is safe for shore leave. While the scans turn up no life on the planet, McCoy encounters Alice and the March Hair, two crew men are held at bay by a tiger and Sulu finds a revolver. When Kirk arrives, things start getting really dangerous, with one of the captain’s Academy tormentors appearing, a samurai appearing to threaten Sulu and McCoy trying to get some from his seduced assistant, Yeoman Barrows.

Yes, she loves McCoy. Him?

 

So it’s all a little weird. The hallucinations are interesting, although not particularly threatening. It’s all fun to watch, but the attacking fighter plane and the tiger seem like pretty passive threats that can just be ignored. Even when Kirk is getting the shit kicked out of him by Finnegan, the threat isn’t there, but there is a sense of comedy and wonder. The samurai presents a little bit of a threat, but he pretty much just gets pushed out of the way or run away from.

I’m not saying that this doesn’t make the episode not work or something. It manages to keep a pretty light tone, but there’s not much danger. It’s funny, but I never felt that involved with the plot. Maybe that’s just a problem coming off of “Balance of Terror” and “The Conscience of the King,” but the lack of danger was a little bit of a turn off.

That being said, the humor really works. By no means would I have picked McCoy to be the womanizing character, but he manages some mostly meaningful moments, and he gets plenty of good jokes, namely “I’m a doctor. When I peek, it’s in the line of duty.” Sulu randomly firing a revolver also has it’s own weird source of humor.

Also, this establishing shot. Hilarious, let me tell ya'.

 

Besides the general goofiness, the episode is really strikingly shot. Up till now, the entirety of the series has taken place in shell like cabins, on enclosed bridges and on some of the most poorly constructed sets known to man. It does wonders to see the characters sprinting through the woods, touching actual flowers, and climbing rocks that are delightfully not made of Styrofoam. There are a couple of really striking moments of characters running towards danger with a camera placed low and shot at the oncoming actors. It communicates danger in a way that cannot be managed on small sets with tiny rooms and tight hallways.

McCoy’s death also manages to up the threat in the episode, but it is mostly spoiled by having Kirk just fistfight bullies for about ten fucking minutes, but that moment is pretty well done. The characters are sad, Kirk tries to figure out a way to solve it, Barrows cries and wails and Spock figures out the facts. The characters do what we know what they should do and it is true without betraying the weight of the situation. It’s not like we think that McCoy is dead, but it is important to know that the characters take the danger seriously.

But c'mon, how awesome would it be if he died from getting gored by a lance?

 

The ending is a little sketchy, but it works as well as a plot like this can. It seems like the characters would have been able to figure out what was going on a little bit earlier than they did, but having the god-like caretaker just sort of appear and explain the whole thing as a super dangerous misunderstanding where you could live out your greatest memories, or you-know, just sort of accidentally kill yourself, really seems like a bit of a dues-ex-machina. That being said, without it, how else could we have had the moment with McCoy coming out with the two Rigel chorus girls that is the highlight of the episode?

I like “Shore Leave.” I really do. It’s not the greatest episode ever, but it’s funny and it works and I don’t walk away feeling like I got totally got shat on by the ending. There’s little else that I can ask for.

Random Notes

“I’ve got a personal grudge against that rabbit, Jim.”

“I don’t know how or why, the dress is here. I’d like to see you in it.”

Sulu is in this episode! And he has a gun! And I mentioned him already! Sadly, he does not get a big enough role to warrant my long gestating Sulu theory.

As usual, Spock’s reaction shots are moments of surreal comic genius. Sort of.

Apparently, there were some problems in the writer’s room on this one. Roddenberry thought that the episode was too goofy and had someone rewrite it. A misunderstanding led to the episode having even more fantastic elements in it. Roddenberry was rewriting most of the episode as production went on, which definitely makes the lack of a threat make sense.

Next Up: “The Galileo Seven” which I assume will be about a group of philosopher/scientists who recreate “Seven Samurai.”

PS: I’m moving in the next few days. Posts should be back to normal after a few days. Not like there’s much of a pattern really, but things might be a little abnormal for a while.

Episode 12- “The Conscience of the King” and a bit of Shakespeare’s melodrama brings madness to the Enterprise

There’s been quite a bit of experimentation on Star Trek since the start. “Mudd’s Women” is obstensibly a comedy. “Miri” is a little bit of a social commentary. “What Are Little Girls Made of?” is something like a horror story. Strangely enough, it takes “The Conscience of the King” to really embrace the series first real root, the space opera, or more importantly, melodrama.

Is it foreshadowing or FORESHADOWING? You be the judge.

 

It comes across immediately, both in the title (a reference to the play scene in “Hamlet”) and the cold open, where viewers are introduced to Anton Karidian, an actor in an adaptation of “Macbeth,” appearing to us during one of the climactic murders of the work. Even though the references are stunningly overt, there is nothing pandering about the usage of Shakespeare, and the story of the episode rises to the challenge of the referenced material.

After viewing the play, a friend of Kirk’s claims that Anton Karidian is actually Kodos the Executioner, a former dictator who violently massacred his starving people on Tarsus IV. Although Kirk plans to investigate the claims, he is smitten by Anton’s beautiful glitter stocking wearing daughter Lenore. The two discover the body of Kirk’s friend while walking in the desert, launching an investigation as to who may be killing the last witnesses to Kodos’ bloody actions.

You can't see the glitter stockings, but believe me, they are there.

 

I’ll say this now; I’m no fan of Shakespeare’s dramas. I think they are overwrought, archaic and valued mostly for their antiquity. However, the influence of his works drives the story of episode in a way that few other writers would have been able to inspire, and it results in the best episode that the series has done yet.

There is a lot going on that just works, but most of it falls on the shoulders of Kirk and, to some degree, Lenore. Their relationship creates the conflict and the crux of the story. We have seen Kirk as a swaggering ladies man before, but this is the first time we have seen him really fall in love. He is initially blown away from Lenore, but his infatuation believably becomes something more, and Shatner really makes this work. It’s easy to hate on him for his hammy scenery chewing ways, but he really delivers in a subtle way in this episode. Lenore also works as more than just a pretty space-face, and manages to be a suitable love, rather than lust, interest.

There’s another strange relationship that really works in this episode, and it just happens to be the conflicting interests of Spock and McCoy. They’ve been at odds for most of the series, with their ribbing being somewhat of a comedic highlight of the series, but for once, they have to work together, without the help of Captain Kirk. Spock is clearly in command between the two, but the scene in the hallway where he attempts to explain his theory to the doctor manages to speak a lot to his character and the way that both characters have the fate of the ship and their friendship with the captain at the front of their minds. It’s a little disappointing that the two don’t end up showing up that much by episode’s end, but the moments they are together really click.

Relationships really set up the plot and the conflicts, but as soon as there is a base to work on, writer Barry Trivers really hands the episode over to Shakespeare. There are a pair of star-crossed lovers, a pair of worried advisors, a guilty brooding king, a misguided-would-be-assassin and a host of lies and false identities. It becomes less of a piece of fiction inspired by Shakespeare, to a full-fledged homage and against all odds, it really pays off.

One of the factors that really help the episode is the use of language. Characters spout out soliloquies about the stars, the place of women, murder and memory at a regular clip throughout the episode, but it all clicks. The whole episode nearly slips when Kirk confronts Anton about his past and the whole thing reverts to mostly silly incoherent and off topic babblings and some of Lenore’s direct “Hamlet” quotes at the end, don’t quite work but it all really sets the drama well. The only piece that comes to mind that has managed this sort of balancing act even close to as well is Rian Johnson’s superb “Brick,” a hardboiled high school noir that creates it’s own language that neatly mashes “The Maltese Falcon” with “A Clockwork Orange.”

By the end, everything is really working together well. Riley’s kinda-sorta misunderstanding of the situation works well as a Shakespearean homage, and Lenore’s reveal mostly works. Like in any Shakespearean play, there’s really no illusion that Lenore was the killer the whole time, particularly in all those scenes with Anton when the only other character that we have met all episode is shot in shadow, but her insanity is believable and her motives put the episode in an even darker place. Anton has some not quite as hammy lines, as he expresses his grief that people continue to die in his name, and his death is handled well.

You don't want to mess with a crazy blonde thespian with a gun.

 

Like I said, this is without a doubt the best episode that the series has managed. There are some great character moments, the action is really great, and the cast and writers manage homage to Shakespeare that never devolves into parody or self-awareness.

Random Notes

“Even in this corner of the galaxy, captain, two plus two equals four.

I’m not too sure if the writers caught it, but there are a bunch of really dumb penis jokes when Lenore talks to Kirk in the green soft light room.

Sulu isn’t in this episode. Surprise, surprise.

Uhura sings in this one, and it didn’t inspire enough rage for me to lose any appreciation here. Well done?

Next Up: “Balance of Terror” which I’ve heard is fucking awesome.

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.