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.

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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 38 – “Journey to Babel” and all the hobgoblins are bleeding green

“Journey to Babel” is an episode that’s considerably more interesting when looking at it as a piece of the Star Trek universe than as an individual episode in its own right. There’s some neat world building here, with hints of the Federation’s policy on accepting new planets, but the big gain is the introduction of Sarek, one of the Federation’s greatest heroes and a legend on Vulcan.

Also, he’s Spock’s dad.

The episode really blows that load a little early with an attempt at raising tension when Sarek and Amanda enter the Enterprise and we never really get much of a sense as to why Spock and his father are at odds. Sarek makes a reference to his son’s refusal to enter the Vulcan Science Academy but he’s working as an Ambassador for Vulcan and a valued member of the Federation. It doesn’t seem like he’s done too much to differentiate himself either.

In all honesty, the plot is pretty inconsequential and aimless. On a mission of diplomacy for a planet that wishes to join the Federation, one of the ambassadors is murdered and all evidence points to Sarek. Strangely, everyone pretty much forgets about this fact when the Vulcan diplomat has a really convenient heart attack and the episode suddenly becomes about a really trite situation where Spock may have to let his father die.

It all feels a bit too much like a mix between an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” and an afterschool special. We all know that Spock is going to be able to save his dad and somehow the ship will be able to defeat the Andorian ship but it just feels like we’re just waiting for Spock to go under the knife. I feel like this is the sort of episode that The Next Generation would have handled much better, milking the distrust between ambassadors for more tension than the drama between father and son.

This isn’t a bad episode but it is a dull and pretty dry one. The interesting parts are all skimmed by in order to give some overly touchy-feely exposition about Spock. If it weren’t for the host of colorful characters in the meeting room early on, this is an episode that would disappear from my memory in a week’s time.

Random Thoughts

I like that McCoy is given a lot to do in this episode. He’s operating, making sure that Kirk, Spock and Sarek all stay under his watchful eye and, what’s better, does it all with a smile. He even gets a fairly funny final joke to cap the episode off with.

Sulu’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, Chekov gets to say “wessel” several times.

In the scene where Kirk fights Teleth, he pretty clearly is stabbed in the lower back, right above the left side of his hip. Why then, does he continually touch around his nipples when indicating he is in pain? Also, the bandage is wrapped really high up on his torso.

So, Sarek’s kind of a huge dick to his wife, right?

Next Up: “Friday’s Child” draws the Enterprise into only their second meeting with the Klingons and I’ll get a song stuck in my head. Wait, which song were you thinking of?

Summer Classes – The Final: Firefly and “Serenity”

The last thing you want to do over the summer is catchup on things you’ve put off but sometimes, you need a couple of extra hours. So this summer, we’re debuting a new feature “Summer Classes,” where I explore my massive pop culture blind spots and write about my trip experiencing them. Here, we finish “Firefly” and check out the feature film finale, “Serenity.”

The fans were wrong. FOX was right. Even as a fan of the show, we don’t need more episodes of “Firefly.”

We need a sequel to “Serenity.”

I guess I should probably justify this. After running through the entire series in about 10 days, I was a little underwhelmed by the series’ final few episodes. “Heart of Gold” was the kind of episode that technically worked but isn’t anything overly memorable. It explores the relationship between Inara and Mal in a way that is both trite and overemotional and it goes back to the tradition of Mal just being a goofy killer. “Objects in Space” is a considerably better episode and one that shows a little of what Whedon clearly wanted to explore in the future of the show.

Serenity,” on the other hand, is a whole different piece of work. It manages to have all the style, scope and characterization that Whedon struggled to give his characters in the show and masterfully colors the crew with shades of morality and wonderful care. Even the show’s trademark style, a fusion of anime, spaghetti westerns and space opera, is handled considerably better and helps to create a more full and complete vision of the universe. Its certainly among the better, more complete sci-fi action films.

Its enough to make one wish it could be a standalone film and its obvious that Whedon made some concessions to try to pull in new viewers. The opening is a twisting and well done introduction to the universe and the war between the Alliance and the Independents, all while showing how River and Simon escaped from the Academy. The opening, with its dream, that twists into a torture session, that becomes the escape, that becomes a security footage being studied by The Operative is a fantastic way to set up the Universe’s backstory as well as make it engaging and exciting.

Its even clear that Whedon is hitting the tone that he wanted to in the show. Mal is a brutal, take no prisoners leader. He’s determined to believe that he would do anything to survive and save his crew but he’s proven again and again by The Operative, that he’s still a man, maybe not a man that’s willing to cruelly take a life. That being said, he’s never appeared scarier and more unhinged. He kicks a fleeing kid off of the hover craft, shoots the unarmed Operative in the chest and draws a brutal line in the sand as he attempts to bring the Serenity to Miranda. Whedon draws his star character as the Han Solo who shot first, a brutal and unforgiving guy who thinks he’s got all the answers.

Despite a plot that focuses mostly on River, Mal does remain the star, which lets Whedon ape “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” as hard as possible. The Operative is constantly a few steps ahead of the captain, using Inara as bait, killing the fast talking robot fetishist, Mr. Universe, and engaging Mal in a series of deadly fights. He’s a great, engaging villain, one that believes what he’s doing is for the greater good, despite the fact that he doesn’t have all the facts.

As I stated in the earlier reviews, my biggest problem with “Firefly” was always Whedon’s refusal to make many of the characters little more than archetypes. He still hasn’t done much better. Shepherd is still little more than a preacher with a past and Inara might as well be the epitome of the hooker with a heart of gold archetype but under the constraints of a film that has so much to say in two hours, its not a big problem and its one you almost have to expect. I don’t have a problem with Whedon refusing to giver deep, rich and compelling back stories to characters when he’s got a would-be blockbuster to make.

Instead of just ignoring archetypes and quick and dirty characterization, Whedon embraces it in “Serenity.” Kaylee, the smitten ship’s engineer who spent 14 episodes swooning over Simon, is brought to a character defined by that relationship. The fleeting glances, the smiles and the final embrace, give a great romantic arc to both of the characters and its one that could only be done this satisfyingly in a feature film.

Not everything is perfect, with the film really not being able to stand alone without the show, the reveal of River’s secrets being not particularly satisfying and an ending that is dangerously close to a zombie film. The emotional payoff, the characterization and the style are all great but by no means is it a perfect film.

Overall, I was satisfied, just satisfied with this excursion into the Joss Whedon oeuvre. “Firefly” was definitely a show that was messed with by FOX but by no means was it a perfect show that was destroyed. It was an intriguing and promising first season that was cut off before it was able to grow into something interesting. “Serenity” definitively proves that Whedon would have been able to make something of the show but it took a big budget and time restrictions in order to refine that idea down to something that was artistically accomplished as well as crowd pleasing.

Next Class: I explore one of my biggest pop culture blind spots by listening to The Beatles’ “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver.”

Super villainy is hard, let’s go shopping!: 9 questionable representations of women in “geek culture”

One thing the internet has done that is great is bringing fans of niche programming together. In years past, we’d all have to meet up at conventions, send letters or read specialty magazines for the information that is now available in seconds. The not so great thing this has led to is what I call “geek elitism.” As fans of science fiction, comics, videogames, anime and all sorts of nerdy content, we’ve now thought that we can band together in lording over anyone who can’t quote chapter and verse in nerdery.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in slut shaming and judging of women. Just because Joss Whedon put a whole bunch of powerful women in his shows, his acolytes view said content as intrinsically superior to any show that has, say, a sexual woman who appears in a clothing that flaunts her body. One of my favorite blogs, recently did an entire post based on the picture posted above and the phenomenon of geek culture celebrating itself which sums up the issue much better than I can but it got me thinking about the ways in which pop culture hasn’t always given us the greatest of role models, even in content that has been targeted at for lack of a better word, geeks. So, let’s do the exceedingly lazy list thing.

1. Seven of Nine – “Star Trek Voyager”

Voyager has a lot of problems. There’s no doubt about that. That being said, so many of those problems begin and end with Seven of Nine, a freed Borg that aids the crew in their many dealings with the Queen and her minions. The unfortunate thing about her wasn’t so much what the brought to the crew or the storytelling problems but more about he way she was viewed on screen. She was always in a skin tight jump suit, even after she wore a Starfleet uniform and was often shot to accentuate her body. Even worse, many characters on the ship seemed to value her more for her looks than anything else. I don’t blame Jeri Ryan or the character really, it’s more in how the writers portrayed her as little more than a sex object and not a particularly willing one at that.

2. Yeoman Rand – “Star Trek”

That being said, the original series had many more problems with women but none stand out as much or as significantly as the ship’s most prominent yeoman and Kirk’s implied love interest Rand. Rand was another case of being more of an object than character, often targeted by enemies interested in sexually assaulting her. When she was given lines, most of them were focused on how scared she was or how she needed protection. Blame it on the writers, blame it on the time period, whatever.

3. Molotov Cocktease – “The Venture Bros.”

Yes, Molotov is supposed to be an over the top parody of James Bond-esque female spies with a dash of Black Widow thrown in and the show goes to elaborate and hysterical lengths to make her more than a sex object. That being said, you maybe wouldn’t want to buy her action figure for your daughter.

4. Harley Quinn – “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman” and “Suicide Squad”

Like pretty much everyone, I adore Harley as a character. She’s gleefully evil, unbelievably focused on creating chaos and sowing discontent and is a great partner in crime with the Joker and Poison Ivy. That being said, she’s pretty much been defined by her relationship with the Joker, often to her own detriment. In the episode “Mad Love,” Quinn is routinely beaten and abused by her lover yet goes back like a kicked dog. Her inclusion in the New 52’s Suicide Squad seemed like it could be a neat place for her before the book’s release but her costume redesign wasn’t meant to showcase her character.

5-6. Silk Spectre I and Silk Spectre II – “Watchmen” and “Before Watchmen”

When Alan Moore gets up in the morning, cracks his knuckles, sits down in front of his typewriter as he eats breakfast, fires off a couple of quick letters to movie studios calling everyone a bastard and finally starts writing comics, the first thing on his mind is how he can write more rape and sexual assault into his stories. Look, I like Moore’s work but it is hard to find a female character he’s written that isn’t defined by sexual assault. Their motivations, their powers and even their strength is tied directly to the trauma they’ve suffered. In “Watchmen,” Silk Spectre is raped by The Comedian, causing her to become a paranoid and controlling mother to Silk Spectre II, who is further defined by the knowledge of her father and the evil that men do. Not helping matters, it looks like the trend is continuing in “Before Watchmen,” where the original Silk Spectre is still a wreck although her daughter is given great definition. We’ll have to wait and see if her character is defined better by mini-series end.

7. Kara Thrace – “Battlestar Galactica”

Its a shame to put Starbuck on this list. For the first two seasons of the show, she’s the epitome of a well written character. She’s personally strong, does what she wants, has a powerful moral compass and she’s an inspiration to the rest of the Galactica. That all turns around in the last two seasons of the show, where she becomes a messianic figure who used to have mommy and daddy issues. That is, only when she’s not drinking herself to death, fucking everyone she comes across for no real reason. The failing of Starbuck was simply a writer problem but its one of the most unfortunate ones of the show.

8. Wonder Woman – David E. Kelley’s “Wonder Woman”

When a Wonder Woman TV show was announced last year, I was legitimately pretty excited. Diana is my favorite character of the DC universe and I figured everything could have worked out. Then we found out it was a David E. Kelley who was turning one of the most powerful super heroines and an icon of womanhood into a corporate attorney by day while fighting crime and just looking for the perfect guy. It was such a hackneyed take on the character and the leaked script of the pilot didn’t make her into much of a character. Even after the rewrite, it still seemed like Kelley was more interested in making a superpowered “Ally McBeal” rather than writing a character that was worth of Wonder Woman’s legacy.

9. Starfire – “Teen Titans” and “Red Hood and the Outlaws”

Like Kara Thrace, having Starfire on the list is a shame. Pre-New 52, she was a sexually liberated very well developed character with motivations, love interests and a deep rich backstory that made her a fan favorite. All of that changed when she teamed up with Jason Todd in the New 52’s “Red Hood and the Outlaws.” Suddenly, she was requisitioning everyone she came across for sex and not in a way that made her a character wanting intimacy. She was strictly an object of wish fulfillment. This rightfully caused a stir amongst critics, many putting their focus on schlocky writer Scott Lobdell. Some were gentle, others were really not so much. Comics Alliance focused on how the character was little more than a surrogate girlfriend for horny nerds, Andy Hunsaker said that the character had been reduced to little more than a “highly advanced Real Doll” and Matthew Peterson said the character’s sexual appetites reduced her to a walking punch-line, hurting a book that had such a small cast. The only thing I can say is that there’s a difference between a well written character who is interested in sex and a poorly written one who is little more than a willing wish fulfillment vessel.

I have mixed feelings about you, dad!: 35 fathers to think twice about celebrating

I get sick of seeing the lists that come out every year about “great TV” dads or “WORST TV DADS” (the capital letters say that this is both funny and original). I’m a man who likes moral ambiguity, who enjoys the fact that no one lives in absolutes. I also abhor really dull lists. Hopefully, this isn’t one of them.

1. John Marston – “Red Dead Redemption”

Rockstar finally created their best game and one of the best games of this console generation with Red Dead Redemption and wrote their most well developed character with father, rancher and bounty hunter John Marston. The former outlaw turned government blackmailed killer is a complex man looking for redemption but the amount of blood on his hands is ultimately what damns him to his fate. John’s not a good man, just one trying to do his best.

2. Walter White – “Breaking Bad”

The great debate that will rage years after Breaking Bad goes off the air will be what Walt’s motive was by the time the show entered its third and fourth season. Was Walt motivated by continually protecting his family and providing for his daughter or was his moral corruption all in the name of giving himself even more control and power in a life where he once thought he had none?

3. Wayne Malloy – “The Riches”

Eddie Izzard’s fast talking, sarcastic ass kicker was the driving force of the somewhat hit-and-miss FX comedy-drama “The Riches” and his motivation to have his own life constantly puts his own goals before the best of his family. He steals, fights, lies and gambles, solely to escape the fate he thinks has been decreed for him yet the feelings he has for his children and wife are the only bit of earnestness and truth he ever shows.

4. Reed Richards – Fantastic Four and FF

Reed and Sue Richards may be some of the most respected scientists and heroes of the Marvel Universe but great parents they are not. Whether its accidentally letting a witch babysit their Omega-level son, abandoning Franklin to deal with Norman Osbourne and Venom during Dark Reign or just sort of letting The Thing deal with their kid rather than parent him, Reed Richards might be a great scientist but he may be the epitome of the absentee parent.

5. Admiral James T. Kirk – “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

Speaking of absentee fathers, Kirk isn’t exactly the worst. It appears that he didn’t exactly know about his son but in the race to hold onto genesis and fight off his archenemy, Kirk finds out that he still has value both as a man, a soldier, a friend and a father.

6. Captain Walker – The Who’s “Tommy”

The father of the album’s eponymous messianic figure, the Captain returns home only to murder his wife’s lover and cause his son’s deafness, dumbness and blindness. Making matters worse, he leaves his son to be bullied by his cousin and molested by his uncle. The captain disappears from the record after “Tommy, Can You Hear Me” so the best we can really say about him is that he’s not quite as awful as Uncle Ernie.

7-12. The dads of the Pride – Runaways

Whether they’re homicidal mob bosses, turn of the century time travelers turned gang leaders, alien traitors, black magicians, child abusing inventors or telepathic mind-meddling mutants, the fathers of the children who would become the Runaways were willing to kill billions in order to save their children. The twist that concludes Brian Vaughn’s first run of Runaways finally gives the Pride the characterization that deeply enriches the characters and makes the villains just as sympathetic as their heroic children.

13. The protagonist – Cursive’s “The Ugly Organ”

Admittedly, the way that Cursive presents the protagonist from their landmark album “The Ugly Organ” marks him as a man who is a victim of the infidelities and minor tragedies that people inflict on him. That being said, there’s a sense of self pity, a sense that he knows that somewhere in the past, he knows he may be serving pittance for his crimes. On “Sierra,” he faces the life that another man has in his place, taking care of a daughter that doesn’t even know who her father is. Things might be looking up by the end, where he does step away from the edge rather than end it all.

14. Darth Vader – Star Wars

He’s a dark lord of the Sith who has tried off and on to kill or corrupt his son and ignore his daughter. He does have his moment of redemption a second too late to save his own life and succumbs to his injuries in his sons arms but ultimately, he’s another absentee dad who killed probably a few too many younglings.

15. Cancer Man – “The X-Files”

Let’s run down some of Cancer Man’s crimes real quick: killing JFK, killing MLK, fixing the NBA finals, ordering the kill on the first EBE the world comes in contact with, ordering the hit on Mulder’s father, ordering the hit on X, ordering the hit on Deep Throat, using the alien rebels to kill off the rest of the Syndicate,  attempting to kill both of his sons on multiple occasions, attempting to kill Krycek on about 45 different occasions, blackmailing Scully, blackmailing Skinner, controlling AD Kersh, surrendering the planet to the Aliens and writing really bad novels. That being said, he thinks he’s helping to save the human race, helps save Scully’s life and gives the best speech about boxes of chocolates ever. Cancer Man is an appallingly bad father but as a man, he’s wonderfully focused on the greater good and he’s so broken and personally ruined that its hard not to sympathize with him.

16-35. Every Disney Father

Everyone of these guys are near incompetent single fathers who are alternatively unable to control their children or offer them any usable advice. Its not so much that they’re irresponsible, its just that they’re barely functional as people, much less ones who should be raising others, yet they’re heaped with praise and unearned affection by their children.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 2 – “They’re nothing compared to what’s waiting.”

When I wrote about the first season of “The Next Generation,” I even knew at the time that I was burying those episodes not celebrating them. The first season of TNG is wildly recognized as one of the worst seasons of any 0f Star Trek’s various series and rightfully so. The first season is trivial, not memorable and has so few decent episodes that its almost a shame.

There’s no doubt that not only were the fans the only one’s to notice how terrible the first season was. By all observations, things changed between seasons. There’s more of a focus on intergalactic politics over the introduction of new races, way less sort of disgusting sexual content that robs the characters of their dignity and a lot less “its magic because its magic” solutions to storytelling problems. Also, there’s no Tasha Yar and now Whoopi Goldberg is playing an intergalactic bartender. Things sound perfect. That being said, there’s a huge problem that holds the second season back from being more celebrated or memorable despite a handful of great episodes.

That problem’s name is Katherine Pulaski and she’s so much worse than Yar for so many reasons. We do have to work our way up to Pulaski though. After the first season, Gates McFadden felt the same need to jump ship that Dennise Crosby felt and she left the role of Beverly Crusher, leaving the Enterprise in need of a chief medical officer. Trying to bring something new to the table, the producers looked to the past and decided to write a character that was closer to the humanistic, conservative Bones McCoy than to the more accessible and modern Crusher.

Now, I would never argue against Bones. I adore the character and love  the dynamic he brought to Kirk’s ship but he simply doesn’t work on a more contemporary ship. McCoy was a relic and Crusher worked much better for a bridge that wasn’t predominantly filled with humans. Crusher understood the needs of an alien crew and that was just something that made Crusher feel so wrong on TNG.

Pulaski was definitely designed with a character arc in mind. We’re meant to watch her grow and evolve from where she enters the season as a skeptic of Picard’s multi-ethnic crew in “The Child,” to where she actively distrusts Data and thinks he’s irresponsible in “Elementary, Dear Data,” to her acceptance of Data as someone who may have the same chance at life as a person or being in “Measure of a Man” and finally to her seeing her place and the place of the rest of the crew in “The Emmissary.”

For me, that’s not enough. Diana Muldaur’s performance is uninspired at best and often catty, over the top or snoozy at worst. It doesn’t help that we’re supposed to grow to like a racist, technophobic killjoy who is further slowing down a crew that is already extremely focused on asking lots of questions first and shooting last. That being said, while the name of Tasha Yar brings bile to any Trek fan’s throat, opinions of Pulaski are more mixed. Some people generally like the evolution of her character and the season she’s stuck in is so much more palatable that it makes her failings something that can be a little harder to point to. While Yar was a particularly noticeable failing of the first season, it is hard to blame Pulaski for doing much other than sucking.

I mean, we could complain about this.

And why would you ever want to just blame Pulaski for the problems when there are so many other things to point to? This season has some downright terrible episodes, maybe episodes that are among the worst that the series ever did. Season 2 is bookended by these awful episodes, starting with the rapist-alien-Tinkerbell of “The Child” and ending with the unfathomably lazy clip show, “Shades of Grey.”

Most of the problem with the second season of the show is one entirely dealing with just exceedingly lazy writing. More so than the first season, now we’re stuck with the rough disparity between episodes that are really good and episodes that are on the entire other side of the scale. For every “A Matter of Honor,” there’s a “The Royale,” for every “Where Silence Has Lease” a “Pen Pals” and for every “Q Who” there’s an “Up the Long Ladder.”

Speaking of, “Q Who” is by far the most essential episode of the season. For almost all purposes, it may be the only episode of this season that’s worth actually watching. After the hints of a galaxy wide conspiracy filled up the end of the first season, we finally meet the mysterious force when Q beams appears on the ship and shows Picard a world that men were never meant to go.

“Q Who” is the kind of episode that people like me love to think about.  Its an episode that moves the series forward admirably in so many effective ways but, more importantly, it undercuts many of the show’s themes and ideas to show the weakness of Picard and his crew when they come face to face with the unknown. After taking advantage of Picard’s arrogance, Q whisks the Enterprise to the Delta Quadrant, leaving them exposed to the Borg, the tyrannical all consuming cyborg race that now has a taste for humanity. Picard may have been able to escape for now but Guinan is sure to remind him that the Borg remember and they are coming. Its one of the best threats of the series and it is a blade that hangs over the show until their reappearance in Season 3

Season 2 of “The Next Generation” opens everything up further, giving the characters a consistent new enemy to bump up against, new allies to work with and more hints that the world outside of Federation space is increasingly becoming more and more controlled. More importantly, Season 2 is where TNG manages to work out most of its kinks, jettisoning what never worked about the series and filling it back in with the parts that would help the show through its highest seasons.

As of last time, here are the handful of awards we’re giving out for the season, rather than the standard “Random Observations.” Enjoy.

Most Improved Character: William Riker

The rise of the beard essentially seals Riker’s place at the top. That being said, here he feels like more of a partner to Picard rather than just “Number One.” That being said, he still gets mired in some problems.

Most Troublesome Character: Deanna Troi

We can’t give Pulaski this award with her leaving at the end of the season but Troi still causes all sorts of trouble. Whether its another episode with her mother, generally being a sex object or being strangely attached to a mutant child solely for story reasons, she’s still a huge problem the writers don’t know how to solve.

Best Non-Borg Moment – Playing a Dangerous Game, “A Matter of Honor”

As the Enterprise prepares to engage with a Klingon ship, Riker bluffs hard and hopes Picard’s on board to save both the ship he’s on, as well as the one that he loves. I know that I love Klingon shit but this is one of the best moments for the race of the series.

Worst Reminder of Tasha Yarr – So, this one time…, “The Measure of a Man”

Yep, you have to relive that horrible moment from the horribly named “The Naked Now” when Data and Yar had sex. So, that’s something.

Worst Episode – “Up The Long Ladder”/”Unnatural Selection”/”Shades of Grey”

Three episodes so bad I couldn’t pick the worst one. The first is essentially one long joke about how terrible Irish people are, the second features nothing but terrible aging makeup and one of the most sluggish plots to ever make it to air and the last is a clip show. Pick your fucking poison. Also, all of these episodes beat out a episode with Lwaxana Troi.

Best Episode Not Considering “Q Who” – “Where Silence Has Lease”

All problems aside, The Original Series is my favorite Star Trek. “Where Silence Has Lease” takes all of the charm of the first series and updates it. Things are more dangerous, the god like being is more callous and the stakes are unbelievably high. Its a charmingly dark episode with a fun villain and an even better resolution.

This is the bad guy. Its delightful.

Next Up: We make our way back into TOS with the return of Harry Mudd in the android filled “I, Mudd.”

An Introduction: The Original Series, and the reasons why I’m not fucking

The only galaxy I’ve ever known was one that existed a long time ago, far far away.

As a child, I was a Star Wars devotee. I owned hundreds of action figures, scores of Micromachine replicas, and VHS tapes of the original series. I was a fan unlike few I knew at the time.

Of course, I have met others who surpassed me, writing fan fiction and attending conventions and talking to me about other sci-fi.

Namely, “Star Trek.”

I don’t know how I’ve ignored “Star Trek” for 20 years of my life. “The Next Generation” was on when I was growing up, and the original series was still on in syndication. I certainly had an interest in science fiction and television of the past. I had the time to watch it when I wasn’t thinking about boobs and robots punching each other. Even as I got older, I had an affinity for long running dramas and sci-fi. I watch a lot of television, and it’s not like I didn’t occasionally come across reruns of the original series or the multitude of spin-offs.

And it wasn’t like I wasn’t doing other cultish-nerdy things. My all time favorite show is the admittedly, overly complex, rarely cohesive and maddeningly frustrating “The X-Files.” I played tore through fantasy novels and sci-fi novels before graduating to cult reading like Burroughs and Thompson. I read H.P. Lovecraft religiously. I devoted about a year of my junior high life to playing “Starcraft” against Koreans and losing. I dip in and out of Batman comics and have maintained a passive interest in debating the validity of the works of Alan Moore (he’s an overrated lout).

Somehow, “Star Trek” just slipped through the cracks.

And then a funny thing happened. “Star Trek” became culturally relevant again.

A lot of this is because of J.J. Abrams, and not only in the most obvious of ways. The success of serialized TV that attracted a cult audience wasn’t his invention, but it harked back to the Trekkie ideal. So when he rebooted the franchise for a blockbuster film, it seemed only natural that not only would long time fans see the film, but anyone turned on by the new era of television would be interested in what was marketed as a fun, action packed, safely geeky movie.

And of course, I didn’t see it.

Like I said, if anything, my pop culture consuming past is one that is focused on completion. If I was going to see “Star Trek” I was going to have to revisit “Star Trek,” the mother and see how it all started. And frankly, I wasn’t that interested in going back to the source. I was a fan of the new age of science fiction, one that had keenly combined the ideas of social commentary, violence and technology in a digestible way that not only was entertaining, but was designed to hook audiences and continue to bring them back to a show week after week. I didn’t know if I was going to find that in a show that was nearly 45 years old.

But for no reason, all that has seemed to change.

I have suddenly developed more than just a passing interest in a show I have never watched. I want to watch it. I want to look at a show that inspired a cult that is still going strong. I want to see what made William Shatner a star. I want to see why Leonard Nimoy can just kind of show up on “Fringe.” I want to know who the fuck Sulu is.

So that’s where this comes along. I plan on writing about every episode of the first season of the original series, with continuing to the other seasons if it proves interesting. I’m walking into the series blind. However, this is a series that has sunk into the world of pop culture better than most series can ever hope to, and certain assumptions need to be made now about what I know walking in.

1.    I have never watched an episode of “Star Trek,” watched an episode of any of the spin-offs of the series, or seen any of the movies, so most trivial details are totally unknown. I may have seen about 10 minutes of “Nemesis” once, but it could have been something else. I don’t know the ranks of any of the characters beyond Kirk, nor do I have any knowledge on how the ships or teleporters or any manor of other technology works.

2.    I have only a basic understanding of the characters. I know that the ship is called the Enterprise and that Kirk is played by Shatner and is the captain. I know that Spock is a half (?) alien and is second and command and that he dies in “Wrath of Khan.” I’m pretty sure someone on board drinks regularly and that there is a robot named Data, but that might be a different series. Pretty much, I know what has seeped into the general pop-culture consciousness.

3.    I know that there is a governing body that rules the galaxy or maybe just the humans. Phasers are used as weapons.

4.    Someone once explained the Primary Directive to me and acted like this might make me interested in the show. I think the basics are that ships can’t influence developing civilizations and that humanity’s role is mainly as an observer.

5.    There are shitloads of hammy Shakespeare references in most of the movies.

6.    There are several species of aliens that are featured in the series but all I know of are the Vulcans and the Klingons. I know there is Borg, but I think that they don’t make an appearance until “The Next Generation.”

7.    There are creatures known as Tribbles and they can be troublesome.

8.    “The Big Bang Theory” has given me a working knowledge of Spock’s cool-headed rationalism, and I can only assume that he is used as a counter to brash action on the part of other characters.

9.    I think the show follows a sort of “Twilight Zone”-everybody-learns-a-semi-topical-lesson logic, but that might be totally off base. I thought there were lessons learned, but I’m pretty sure there are still episodes solely focused on blowing shit up.

So what is this going to be? I’m not sure yet. I’ve become a big fan of serialized television of all kinds, so I can’t help but think that all of the posts are going to be me analyzing story and character development, but I don’t know if that’s quite fair to the series. I plan on looking at “Star Trek” critically, but knowing that it is a product of another time. Also, I really want to look at the series and try to find what drove people crazy for it. What is it about “Star Trek” that created culture’s most devoted and abiding fan base?

In the coming days, I will buy the box set. I will watch an episode. And this will all begin. I’m sure there is a quote I could use about courageously moving into unexplored territory that has never been analyzed by another person, but I am unable to think of what it might be.