Category Archives: Star Trek

TREK-A-DAY: The Tholian Web

EPISODE SIXTY-TWO: The Tholian Web

Look out! It’s ghost Kirk!

After encountering an interdimensional rift aboard the USS Defiant, Kirk ends up lost between dimensions and the Enterprise engages the Tholians as e search for Kirk continues.  The Tholians begin building their aforementioned web around the ship (in one of the more visually engaging space special effects to date) as Spock and McCoy clash over Spock’s new role as captain.

There’s also a tonne of space madness.  Space madness all over the place.

The episode is neat, from the ghost ship style opening to the logistics and complications of Spock as captain (which we started exploring way back in The Galileo Seven episode.) As well as giving some insight into Uhura’s personal life (we get to see her off duty in her quarters for the first time) and giving the rest of the crew time to shine as Kirk is barely featured.

The McCoy outbursts against Spock have become an increasingly frustrating feature of the show, as the writers swing between McCoy and Spock clearly being friends and McCoy genuinely seeming to dislike and perhaps even hate Spock. This is usually situational, but in this episode it was particularly heavy handed and almost constant, to set up a contrast for Kirk’s ‘watch in case I die’ video, which is actually very sweet and well played (with Kirk commending Spock and asking him to trust his emotions and telling him to seek out McCoy whenever he needs to get in touch with his human side)

It’s an interesting episode, but the pacing and characterization are a bit wonky.  

Oh, and Kirk survives.  FYI.

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TREK-A-DAY: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

EPISODE SIXTY-ONE: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

This is one of the more beautiful episodes they’ve had this season and one that ties nicely into the Superman mythology, of all things.

After discovering that Dr. McCoy is terminally ill, the crew discovers an asteroid that launches missiles and is nuclear powered.  Upon beaming down, they find a planet-like atmosphere and are ambushed by hilariously dressed soldiers wielding the swords that the prop department acquired for Doves.  Taken below the surface, to a race that worships ‘The Oracle’, a malicious tablet that likes controlling people, they quickly discover that the inhabitants believe themselves to be on a planet, not a ship, and have no idea they are traveling through space.  This is particularly unfortunate, as a programming malfunction has set them on a collision course with a heavily populated planet.  And so, Kirk and Spock set out to find out how to divert the massive ship without breaching the Prime Directive and telling these people their life has been a lie.

McCoy meanwhile falls in love with the high priestess, even going so far as to decide to stay on the ship (until the end of the episode, of course, where he determines he must continue his mission through the stars.  This is actually on of the better love stories on the series so far, as McCoy points out (after his lady asks him to marry her after one conversation) that they’re basically strangers (true of every instant romance in the show to date) to which she replies, “But isn’t that the way with all men and women? Aren’t we always strangers to each other, at first?” Point goes to the Priestess.

As to the Superman parallel; the reason they are on this ship made to look like a planet is that their sun exploded long ago and their ancestors gathered the best and brightest and launched them into space, with a tome containing all the race’s knowledge to be read upon arrival.  To prevent the madness of being stuck on a fake planet (I guess) they created a religion around this Oracle to keep them on track until at last they reached a new planet.  Unfortunately, Oracle went all dystopian on their asses and decided to electroshock or kill anyone who discovered the truth of the planet (like the awesome, crazy old seer who gets to deliver the line, “For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky” which has got to be one of the best 60’s scifi poetry titles I’ve ever heard- Bradbury in particular has a real knack for these).  In a way, this entire race is Superman…but if Ma and Pa Kent were tyrannical supercomputers.  Superman’s mythology shows what happens when the ‘jettison the race’ thing goes well, this shows what happens if it doesn’t.  Instead we get a Truman Show level of wackiness, which is all kinds of good.

Solid sci fi at work, and got me rethinking the possible outcomes of Superman’s parents’ attempt to save the race.  Awesome. 

TREK-A-DAY: Day of the Dove

EPISODE SIXTY: Day of the Dove

This episode is all kinds of good; it plays off both the greater mythology of the Trek universe while also exploring the escalation of war and how upsettingly easily people can slip into it.

Essentially, the crew arrives at the site of an outpost to find it no longer exists, then are met by Klingons whose ship is damaged and blame the Enterprise for it.  They demand the Enterprise as payment, Kirk objects and Chekov goes nuts about how the Klingons killed his brother (which according to Sulu is impossible as Chekov is an only child).  Through trickery Kirk brings the Klingons aboard under guard, but when swords appear in all their hands, they start to realize something’s not right.

Basically, there is an alien that is fanning the flames of war throughout the ship, escalating race relations and even driving Chekov to almost rape a Klingon woman.  These ideas of an alien targeting weaknesses and exploiting them isn’t new, but it is very well executed here.  The added difficulty of having to negotiate with Klingons in the midst of all of this complicates matters nicely and raises the stakes appropriately.  It’s good stuff.  Much like the salt vampire of the first episode, the alien feeds off of hatred and bloodlust and thus has turned the crew into and Klingons into fast healing, eternal combatants.  There’s a cool concept here about turning the Enterprise into a kind of ghost ship, flying throughout the galaxy full of damned crewmen, which is all kinds of creepy and fun.  We even get an awesome ‘everyone on the crew fights’ scene with swords in the bowels of the ship, which is nifty.

We also get a deeper look into the Klingon mindset, as Kang’s wife describes the need for expansion, not necessarily warlike, but out for necessity for the survival of the species.  Kirk suggests that this is possible through friendship as well as conquest, which is a nice allusion to the coming peace in Next Generation.

That said, the episode isn’t without it’s problems; this is the worst of the ‘blackface Klingons’ episode to date, and while I don’t think it was their intention, it is particularly ridiculous when applied to women, who are still dolled up in the ‘Star Trek conception of beauty’ mode.  Also, as is the way with Trek and sword play, the combat is rather silly at times.  There’s also one of the best narration moments by Kirk ever:

“Captain’s log, Stardate…Armageddon.”

And Kirk don’t want to miss a thing…

The episode ends with an awesome solution of mocking the creature right off the ship, which leads to greater than average Kirk laughter, with Kang joining in heartily…the creature leaves and in classic Original Series style the episode just ends.

Wacky.

TREK-A-DAY: Spectre of the Gun

EPISODE FIFTY NINE: Spectre of the Gun

Here’s yet another thing we can blame Val Kilmer for: he ruined this episode.  I was once bashing Kilmer when a friend insisted I watch Tombstone to get a sense of what the dude is actually capable of.  He plays a swaggering, awesome Doc Holiday in a kick ass western about the shoot out the OK Corral.  Awesome.

Here’s the problem: in this episode, Kirk and Co get sentenced to ironic death by an alien that looks like a budget Halloween decoration and thus find themselves as the cattle rustlers who were terrorizing the town until Holliday and Wyatt Earp wrecked them.  Tombstone has Earp and Holiday immortalized as ass kicking heroes…but Kirk and Co are there to be executed by them…so our heroes are the villains, which would be fine if everyone in town didn’t constantly talk about how much they like the rustlers and how the historical heroes of the town are jerks.  It’s just weird, and while granted Tombstone hadn’t come out and these characters weren’t as established in pop culture (though certainly present in American mythology), it’s very hard as an audience member to reconcile the clear villains of the situation being presented as well loved because we love the people playing them.  Odd.

Anyway, there’s fun to be had here, it boils down to a mind-over-matter solution (involving our heroes shrugging off a firing squad) and Kirk gets to irrationally yell at a guy and shake him until he gives him some info, which is always fun.  Also, Chekov gets lucky, then dies, but it was all an illusion…sort of…

Not the best genre episode, but a neat premise.  Now I’m going to go watch Tombstone.

TREK-A-DAY: Is There Truth in No Beauty?

EPISODE FIFTY EIGHT: Is There Truth in No Beauty?

This episode is all kinds of strange.  The premise is neat, there’s a cool twist, but there’s also waaaaaay too much space madness and a lot of vaguely unnecessary subplots, but hey such is life.

The aforementioned neat premise revolves around the ambassador of a race dubbed by Earthlings as ‘Medussans,’ beings so hideous, that to look upon them encites madness (very Lovecraftian) however, they have evolved to be the most pleasant thinkers in the galaxy and thus are quite highly regarded, if regulated to transport boxes.  The only two people who can interact with the ambassador are Spock (wearing a nifty red visor) and a beautiful doctor with telepathic abilities who trained on Vulcan.  We discover that she is mad jealous of Spock, her rival for the posting of liaison to the ambassador and later discover additional jealousy as she is blind and thus can’t see the madness enducing creature she has fallen in love with.  What’s neat about this plotline is her reluctance to reveal her blindness (only revealed halfway through the episode and well hidden until then, as she has a sensor laced dress; the fashionista precursor to Geordi’s visor).  It implies an interesting (though unexplored) facet of the future: that stigma still exists regarding disability, even in a time when sensors completely make up for her lack of sight.

Beyond this, the badness begins: there’s an extended discussion of the nature of beauty that is frankly annoying and belittling to women, as McCoy argues repeatedly that someone as beautiful as her shouldn’t waste her beauty on something so hideous.  There’s a nod to Greek conceptions of beauty, but it’s fleeting and thrown away.  Then there’s some random liason who is in love with her, looks at the ambassador to spite her, gets space madness, and treats us to our first ‘trippy vision first person fist fight’ (but not our last, we get one from Spock too) Crazy pants flies the Enterprise into an anomaly, leading to a Spock merges with alien adventure ending in space madness and Kirk yelling a lot.  It’s a bit of a mess.

But again, the attention paid to handicaps is interesting and Nimoy gets to act with personality for a bit, which is always fun.  Nevertheless, a weird little episode.  Also gets bonus points for the Medussan pointing out that humans labelled it as such and that it’s race has a different name.  That always bugs me and I’m glad they acknowledged it.

TREK-A-DAY: And the Children Shall Lead

EPISODE FIFTY-SEVEN: And The Children Shall Lead

Pop quiz: what’s the only thing than an omnipotent being testing the Enterprise?  Omnipotent CHILDREN testing the Enterprise. Arrrrgghhhhh.

When the Enterprise finds a bunch of colonists dead of suicide, their children then run out and start playing amongst the bodies.  After standing in a “bad feeling cave” they go back to the ship, where the children summon a green ghost in vaugely “bad space Shakespeare” garb, a remanent of a long-dead warrior species.  The ghost is empowering and corrupting the kids, and is described is basically (and described as) evil incarnate, sort of.  He proves this by speaking in a monotone and glowing green.  There’s legend and myth that provide the key to realizing there’s a ghost, not before it has given the kids the power to mess with and control everyone, by waving a “rock paper scissors” fist.  Dumb.  The kids also summon the ghost by singing an incredibly stupid song.  Ugh.

There is, however, an absolutely awesome moment: the crew has been fooled into thinking they are still in orbit, so Kirk orders two security guards beamed down…to no planet.  He literally just beams two red-shirts into space, killing them.  AWESOME.

Some other wackiness as the omnipotent kids mess with everyone’s fears:

-The kids make Sulu see swords on the monitor, flying at the ship which apparently scares the hell out of him (me too, now that I think of it.  SPACE SWORDS!)

-Uhura sees herself covered in ‘old and dying’ make-up and has a panic attack (not understanding just how glamorous older Nichelle Nichols would look)

-Spock disobeys orders…still pales in comparison to space swords.

-Kirk gets really scared he’s losing command, but plays it like he needs to pee…for all the many times we’ve had sentiments like this expressed, it seems like they told Kirk to just go for broke on this one as he throws himself around and exclaims that he’s losing command and alone…it’s a cheap rehash.  And lame, compared to space swords.

-Spock suggests the best thing ever: evil children are the problem?  Kill them.  Vulcan logic=the best.

-Chekov is really bummed about disregarding an order…so he gets kung-fu’d.  Bit of a call back to Mirror Mirror, here as Chekov leads a minor mutiny.

-Kirk solves the problem by showing them footage of themselves happy and playing with their parents…THEN IMAGES OF THEIR DEAD PARENTS.  They cry and Kirk wins.

Moral of the story?

Space daggers are a navigator’s greatest fear.

TREK-A-DAY: The Paradise Syndrome

EPISODE FIFTY-SEVEN: The Paradise Syndrome

Hooo boy.  What happens when Kirk and Co. find themselves on another planet that looks an awful lot like Earth (aside from yet another character incredulously mentioning “What are the odds of another planet that looks just like Earth?”…VERY HIGH.  Like, every few weeks high.) and find Native Americans living there?

The only logical thing…Kirk falls in love with one of their women AND is declared a god.

*Sigh*

In this remarkably ‘less-insensitive-than-Avatar-but-only-just’ episode, we get all sorts of culturally touchy adventures as Kirk loses his memory, becomes hailed as a god, gets married, runs through the woods a bit, gets his new wife pregnant, then gets mind-melded back into consciousness just in time to see his new wife die from being stoned to death for marrying a false god.

Oy.

Ultimately, this episode serves as yet another explanation as to why there are so many humaniods (there’s a race of observers that abduct cultures in danger of being absorbed or destroyed and transplant them to other planets, hence all the humanoids.)  We also get some bizarre Kirk moments, particularly when they give Shatner a voice-over internal monologue that he gets to pantomime over (“I’ve found paradise!” he hugs himself…awful)

The hills are alive with the sound of WTF

It’s full of ridiculous coincidences (“Kirk to Enterprise” is the exact sonic frequency to open a passage into the obelisk that is also an anti-meteor shield…and Jacob lives there with Ben Linus).

There is exactly one redeeming quality to this gong show of an episode, and that is that it plays on Kirk’s deepest fear/desire as established waaaaaaay back in The Naked Time; that by becoming a starship captain, he has given up any hope of love or companionship.  He finds it here, it is paradise for him and he is actually happy.  It’s short lived, of course, but a nice call back.  He is on the planet for some time (shown by his growing of sideburns!) and we get yet another Original Series analogue for The Next Generation‘s The Inner Light where Picard lives out a lifetime in an coma of sorts.  It’s neat seeing the kind of life these characters could have…it’s just a shame it has to be wrapped in so much weirdness.

TREK-A-DAY: The Enterprise Incident

EPISODE FIFTY-SIX: The Enterprise Incident

This one is a tonne of fun, packed full of wacky hijinks, screaming Kirk, and Spock almost gets laid by a Romulan commander.  Good times.

Under super top secret orders, Kirk feigns exhaustion and irritation (laying groundwork for accusations of acting as a maverick to protect the Federation from war), Kirk invades the Neutral Zone and gets beamed aboard a Romulan vessel.  Spock is a surprise to the lady commander, who didn’t know tall, dark Vulcans worked on the Enterprise.  She immediately sets her sights on him and the Enterprise, while Kirk is to stand trial for breaking the peace.  This all turns out to be a ruse to get Spock closer to the commander; to this end he fake kills Kirk with a non-existent “Vulcan Death Grip” (not to be confused with the Vulcan nerve pinch).

Then things get wacky.  Spock attempts to seduce the commander (and succeeds in spades) and Kirk gets surgery to look like a Romulan.

BEHOLD!

Together, they pull off an epic scheme to steal the secret Romulan cloaking device aboard the ship and everyone walks away a winner (aside from Spock, who is kinda bummed that he didn’t get some…and the Romulans, who lose lots.)

It’s a packed episode, but a good one.  Romulan Kirk is silly, Kirk being a dick to the crew is fun, and who can resist the charms of Mr. Spock?  It’s fun watching his very logical game at work.  Just an enjoyable space romp making good use of the characters and the political atmosphere of the series.

TREK-A-DAY: Spock’s Brain

EPISODE FIFTY-FIVE: Spock’s Brain

Well, season three is off to an awesome start with an episode about a race so dependent on being controlled by SOMEONE they steal Spock’s brain and get it to run their society.

There’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity amid the crew now, Scotty’s got a new, brushed back haircut and everyone is trim and in fighting fit.  The budget has gone up, meaning all the special effects are now cleaner, especially the ship vs. space thing scenes; also, strangely, the text in the credits has been changed to the baby blue of “The Next Generation.”  Neat.

So, Spock’s brain; a fun, though convoluted, adventure about the entire crew having to work together to solve the mystery of where Spock’s brain went, leading them to find a planet where males live like cavemen on the inhospitable surface of the planet, while the women live in an abandoned high tech facility underground.  They need a brain to run the place and Spock’s seemed ideal.  To gain this knowledge, they wear a magical helmet which gives them tonnes of info and looks like Cerebro from X-Men.  There’s a great scene where McCoy uses it to dial up his medical abilities but, ultimately has to go it alone.  There’s some great character stuff here and a true ensemble feel.  Good stuff.

Also, it’s just a fun sci-fi premise, well executed and bodes well for the season.

TREK-A-DAY: Assignment: Earth

EPISODE FIFTY-FOUR: Assignment: Earth

What a fascinating ending to Season Two.  Frustrating, but fascinating.  Beginning with the laziest (though canonically accurate) time travel plot device to date (Hey, remember how we figured out how to time travel?  Yeah, so, we did that.  And now we’re observing conflict resolution in 1968.  So yeah, we’re in the past.) when a stern guy in a suit holding a cat beams aboard.  It’s got a great, vaguely ominous feel to it and reminded me of all manner of “Mysterious Suit” guys from video games and science fiction, from the Agent in Half-Life to the Cancer Man in X-Files, in large part because of the disharmonious inclusion of a black cat.  It’s just an odd detail that makes him instantly more interesting.

From there, the plot moves to this guy, Mister Seven attempting to stop an American nuclear missile platform from launching and thus moving Earth away from World War III.  Kirk and Spock don’t know whether to trust him or not, but finally have to and he saves the day.  As a new character, he’s very interesting.  Well written, well acted, and mysterious.  Also, he has that interesting cat about.  He also wields a Sonic Screwdriver (no joke) and meets a wacky Earth sidekick.  We find out, as the episode progresses, that an ancient alien civilization decided that rather than try and save Earth from itself by appearing as aliens, they would instead abduct humans (thousands of years in the past) and train their offspring over the generations to be secret agents.  Mr. Seven is one of these agents, sent to Earth to help fix problems, a delightful inverse of the Prime Directive (to hell with not tampering…I’M GOING TO TAMPER!)  It’s fun watching The Enterprise crew try and move to counter another time traveller and holder of advanced technology on Earth.

But here’s where the problems set in.  I like Seven a lot, he’s a really neat character and I certainly don’t mind that he’s the central focus (with Kirk and Spock literally standing around doing nothing for most of the episode).  However, we only get a taste of a greater idea at work and from this (even before confirming it on the internet) you can taste the spin-off.  This episode was intended as a back-door pilot for a series about Seven and the Earth-girl sidekick (and his “human in only one scene” cat) and the result is kind of a half finished episode.   While I throughly enjoyed it, I also felt like I was watching half an episode and that the Star Trek element, including the commentary on facing another time traveller and the Prime Directive, were lost to introducing the new guy.  Shows now tend to run two episodes, one in the original series and one in the new to introduce a spin-off (CSI did this a lot) and I really needed that, with this one (The “Assignment: Earth” show was never picked up, though the fans and books put the character to much use AND I have wacky theory I’ll get to in a second about how relevant this guy may soon become).  It felt like watching the Assignment: Earth episode of a two-parter, without the Star Trek episode to balance it out.  Nevertheless, even though I wanted more depth and commentary on both sides, it was a fun, engaging episode.

Now, here’s the thought that occurred to me watching it: Mr. Seven makes a hell of an entrance; he’s a time traveler backed by a Federation-esque planet that has trained generations of humans to produce him; he’s smart, fast, and an equal match for Starfleet’s best…if he was evil and was instead tinkering with the timeline for his planet’s own nefarious purposes…could he be the villain in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek II?  Abrams has mentioned that the character is of existing Star Trek lore and while obscure, he does seem an Abrams friendly character.  Also, Benedict Cumberbatch would rock this role and I could see parallels between him and the actor playing Seven.  Obscure, but possible.  We’ll have to wait and see, but I could definitely see the potential, particularly since he is a directly Roddenberry-invented character.

So, all-in-all, a good if frustrating end to a fantastic season.  And while the pilot for the new show never flew, it did give us one hell of an interesting episode…even if it didn’t quite feel like Star Trek.