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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.

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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: Patterns of Force

EPISODE FORTY-NINE: Patterns of Force

The strangest Das Boot remake of all time…

If there’s one thing worse than Nazis, it’s space Nazis.  And that is exactly what Kirk and Spock have to deal with in this random, but awesome episode. Upon landing on a humanoid planet where a Federation historian and cultural observer had been sent, Kirk and Spock find Nazis hunting the other resident alien culture the Zaeons in classic Nazi style.  Through a number of hijinks and disguise work, they inflitrate the Nazi base, are captured, tortured, escape using an improvised laser, join the resistance, and solve the mystery of why Kirk’s mentor became the furher.  From a plot perspective, it’s a fun World War II spy thriller episode, remincent of The Great Escape or Indiana Jones (or lately, Inglorious Basterds).  But what I think is particularly interesting is the idea about history being exploited by someone far removed from the event.

This is not the first episode to deal with the problem of interference and disregarding the Prime Directive (we got that in spades a few episodes ago),  but there’s a bit more at work here than just introducing a weapon to a culture.  The Federation historian-turned-furher knew what happened in Nazi Germany; however, when faced with a culture that was collapsing and dividing, he implemented the Nazi system in order to quickly and efficently rebuild the planet’s unity and hope (as the Nazi movement united Germany very quickly…you know, before the horror began).  He had hoped to keep it in check, but fell victim to his vice-Furher who doped him up and turned him into a mouthpiece of hate.  The Vice-Furher then began the cultural genocide of the Zaeons, even going so far as to launch a fleet full of nukes against the other planet.  What I like about this is the idea that a historian in the far future, so very far removed from the horrors of World War II could look on it with detachment and even respect.  We’ve already seen this happen with the Neo-Conservative “Pax Americana” movement during the Vietnam War and later under George W. Bush (referring to the “Pax Romana” or Roman Peace, which essentially meant: conquer everyone and make them all Romans, then they won’t have any need to fight because we’ll all be equal…ish.  The ‘ish’ was the big problem, as was the conquering, which essentially involved taking over one village and then demanding these new Romans go kill their neighbors one town over.  Not such a great plan and was instrumental in the fall of Rome.)  Despite the Roman plan’s failure, elements of the US government to this day think it can work better if they do it.

It’s also a fascinating example of the dangers of humans interacting with humanoid races.  Much like the Chicago Mobster episode, there’s a unique danger in plugging Earth ideas into other humanoid societies that almost transcends interfering with a truly alien race.  The concept of a hard-wired ability to adapt and re-purpose the ideas of Earth’s past by other cultures is a frightening one and perhaps the best argument for the Prime Directive to date.

This is also the first episode to deal with space Nazis, but not the last; as I recall both Voyager and Enterprise also explore them (Voyager through the Holodeck, Enterprise through…magic?) It will be interesting to see where those shows go with the idea, but nevertheless, I think the fact that this episode is more about the dangers of violating the Prime Directive and the mis-use of history rather than Nazis will set it a step above.

We shall see.  Oh, and also, it’s the first time we get shirtless Spock AND Kirk in the same shot, leading to mass swooning and/or online romance fan-fiction:

You’re welcome.

TREK-A-DAY: A Private Little War

EPISODE FORTY-SEVEN: A Private Little War

This is a strange little episode.  Parts of it are brilliant, parts of it are very silly, parts of it are horribly misogynist, and parts are downright out-of-place.  Roddenberry himself takes the reigns on this one, which is appropriate since it is the first time The Enterprise really failed badly at protecting a species.  Unlike the personal tragedy of City at the Edge of Forever, this is the critical failure of the Prime Directive and the aiding of a culture to slip into war and mutually assured destruction.  Unlike the previous anti-war sentiments, this episode has Kirk insisting on mutually assured destruction as a deterrent, with him arming bow and arrow armed tribe with flintlock rifles to counter the Klingon-armed rival tribe.  McCoy insists this is madness, but Kirk spends a huge amount of time justifying the madness; it’s a nice departure from our usually utopian captain and adds another angle to the man.  Ultimately, there’s nothing they can do but either give the tribe a bunch of guns, or leave.  The ending has them beam aboard and leave, ambiguously (though heavily implied they gave the tribe guns).  They failed to prevent war and instead only applied a bandage that ensures balance, but also escalation.  They also fail to properly deal with the Klingon threat, leaving potential for even quicker escalation.  For everytime I’ve wondered why they don’t simply leave when a speices insists on destroying them/themselves, there’s this episode where this is exactly the case.  They use the Garden of Eden metaphor lots here, even going so far as to have a peaceful man commit his first murder with a rock to avenge his wife and as McCoy puts it, Kirk and the Klingons are two snakes corrupting the place.  It pains Kirk, but he does it anyway.  Neat.

Then there’s the silliness.  They fight a creature called a Mugatu (hopefully the inspiration for the classic Zoolander villain of the same name…classic I tell you!) which is a white gorilla suit with a horn and spikes…

The female lead looks like Barbarella if she killed a muppet (she’s wearing a strange orange fur sports bra)

…and the only way to revive Spock from near death is to slap him silly a la Leslie Nielson Airplane! until the pain allows him to focus enough to wake up.  Naturally, Nurse Chapel (after holding his hand; yay continunity!) is the first slapper.   Good times.

And then there’s the misogyny.  This episode is kinda hard to watch at times, as the mystic wife of the main, peaceful tribesman (who is Kirk’s friend) is at times a scheming manipulator, using magic leaves to enchant him and Kirk to wage war, other times completely useless (like when, while holding a phaser and being strapped with a knife, she is almost gang raped by three rival tribesmen…just because she lets them walk up to her and grab her…)  It’s incredibly frustrating, after watching women like Uhura and that random ensign a few episodes kick ass and take names, only to this one swing back in forth in status and motivation, seduce people wantonly, and then get killed because she just kinda stood there being useless.  No dice.

And the out of place stuff: woman saves Kirk’s life with a magic plant incantation thing, may have cast a spell on him.  Never explained.  She uses leaves to seduce and control men.  Never really explained.  She steals a phaser and takes it to the other tribe, poorly explained.  There’s a lot of long scenes about magic and suggestion of its power without any real exploration or point.

Nevertheless, the fact the Enterprise failed to protect a culture is a super important one.  We love to see our heroes succeed, but if they can’t fail there’s no stakes at play and this is the first time we’ve really seen that (even with the death of Kirk’s love, they saved the human race so it’s still a win).  It also evoked a sad reality about weapons and indigenous people that would only worsen with the fall of the Soviet Union and the flooding of the illegal arms market with Soviet tech.  There is a great documentary series called Tribe (you can watch the entire series here by virtue of the magnificent internet; this is the episode about the Suri) about a journalist who goes and lives with various tribes, one of whom (The Suri) had the incredibly civil war tradition of both bands of warriors staging combat in an open field, running through each other hitting their enemies with sticks.  For each hit, they would add a notch to their stick.  The warriors with the most “kills” won the day and the victory.  The tribes settled their differences accordingly, having both resolved the dispute and earned individual pride and honour (not unlike the purpose the Olympics theoretically serve).  On the day he went to observe, the journalist noted the ‘battle’ was called off, as someone opened up with an AK-47, firing it into the air and causing everyone to scramble.  This peaceful, sane version of warfare had been polluted and the village elder warned him that this way of life was rapidly coming to an end.

As usual, Roddenberry’s observation of history serves also as a prophesy for the future, where throughout the world, old rivalries are being fought by new weapons, be they Western, Soviet, or otherwise.  Sadly, there’s no balance point in sight.

TREK-A-DAY: The Trouble with Tribbles

EPISODE FORTY-FOUR: The Trouble with Tribbles

I’ve actually had an incredibly difficult time writing this one, because I was a bit initmidated, to tell you the truth.  But after being on FailBlog for about an hour trying not to get at this, I realize it’s because this episode was my first point of contact ever with Star Trek.  As such, it holds an incredibly deep and vaguely mythical status for me and thus has seemed almost to big to tackle.

In actual fact, it’s just an incredibly fun, incredibly well written episode about some animals that multiply like Duggars and all the problems these entirely useless little creatures cause.

But first, some context: growing up, I was always curious about stories.  My family all come from a media and communications background, so I was immersed in television from before I can remember (happily not to the detriment of other interests, it was always just there in the background-I’m watching Dexter as I write this.)  To this day, I write better with something on in the background.  Anyway, I’d caught wind of Star Trek possibly through channel flipping at an age where I didn’t have any interest in something that wasn’t animated or Ghostbusters, and as was so often the case, I asked my Mom.

My Mom had used to be able to catch the Star Trek broadcast’s audio through the PA system in her home, and after school she would basically tune into Star Trek the radio drama and enjoy it that way (quite easy to do, given how complicated the scripts were and how much dialogue and narration there is).  The episode she always remembered was The Trouble with Tribbles, which she described quite aptly as the crew being overwhelmed by fuzzy little creatures that keep multiplying.  So, long before Friday nights spent watching The Next Generation in my friend Ken’s basement, or being amazed at his sister’s ability to actually figure out Stardates (all pre-internet, kids), I knew there was a thing called Star Trek and that there was a great episode in it about little fuzzy creatures interfering with a starship.

I got into Next Generation before I happened upon the episode (thank heavens for the Space Channel) and it was the first (and only) episode of Star Trek: The Original Series I had ever seen (I caught the Khan episode by chance once as well) and that was it until I started this great voyage.  Consequently, this is the episode I think of when I think of the The Original Series and always will, thanks to my Mom.  Yet another one of the many incredible things that wonderful, wonderful lady introduced me to.

So, The Trouble with Tribbles.

A routine trip to the toupee store goes horribly awry…

The episode manages to tread a wonderful line between the light-hearted side (including a comic bar brawl, hilarious con-man/put upon barkeep duo, and the highest amount of Chekov Russian jokes to date) and the political, with another bureaucrat hijacking authority over the Enterprise, this time to protect grain needed to establish a colony on a contested planet before the Klingons.  They all end up on the same space station and are negotiating when along come the Tribbles, tiny creatures that capture everyone’s heart but also are born pregnant and multiply endlessly.

The Tribbles themselves are a lot of fun, particularly when warming the heart of Mr. Spock, but the real joy comes in the performances around them: our old friend the Squire of Gothos (one of the finest day players on the series) is back as the Klingon Captain, Scotty and Chekov get into a slapstick bar fight (old West style), leading to an amazing little scene with a guilt-ridden Scotty (already upset that he had to go ashore instead of getting to stay aboard his beloved ship) explaining to Kirk why the fight occurred (Happily available at the 1:00 mark on YouTube here).  It’s basically a perfect scene between these two and has nothing to do with Tribbles…just a lighthearted episode having fun at Kirk’s expense and Scotty’s lovable earnestness.

The Tribbles plot is a lot of fun too, ultimately being resolved by beaming all Tribbles aboard the Klingon vessel, which I can only assume was followed up with a hearty “ANIMAL HOOOOOOOOUSE!”-esque exclaimation by whatever passes in Klingon for a Dean.  And it’s fun.  The whole damn episode is fun, while not being stupid.  There’re plenty of broad moments, but at the end of the day, it’s a solid episode and a nice counterpoint to the harder sci-fi/political episodes without losing its mind (like, say, a certain episode about a wizard and a giant cat…)

And at the end of the day, I can’t help but love this episode.  All sorts of moments were familiar in a way they shouldn’t have been (having only seen it once) but even at the time, I kinda knew this was a special one for me.  It’s where Star Trek began, in my world.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go call my Mom.

TREK-A-DAY: Metamorphosis

EPISODE THIRTY-NINE: Metamorphosis

As an episode, Metamorphosis is a fun little examination about the nature of love and affection, between two different species: a man, and an electric cloud thing that loves him and has formed a symbiotic relationship with him.  The two finally come together when the cloud merges with a dying woman, thus becoming entirely healed and human, but mortal.  They live happily ever after.

But what really excites me about this episode, is that it fits my original hope for this Trek-A-Day experiment wonderfully: the aforementioned man is none other than Zefram Cochrane, inventor of warp drive, otherwise known as:

James “That’ll Do, Pig” Cromwell.  Boo-yeah.

I can still remember how excited I was to see Farmer Hoggitt show up in Star Trek: First Contact (I was cool like that) as the drunken, womanizing inventor of warp drive.  It’s a fantastic role and Cromwell killed it (as usual), playing Cochrane as a relatably average guy, who just wanted to create warp drive so he could “Retire to a tropical island full of naked women.”  I was also psyched to see him return for a cameo in the first episode of Enterprise, giving the show a nice tie into Trek mythology right out of the gate (much needed, given the change in network and “surprise prequel” nature of it).  Cochrane is a character I’m quite fond of, and to find (as is so often the case) that he first appeared in the Original Series is quite a treat.  Ironically, this is his chronologically final appearance (as he was elderly when he crashed on the planet and has been kept alive for 150 years by the cloud) and he while the characterization is much more proper than the happy-go-lucky Cromwell performance, one can argue that time and age have made him a more somber man.  Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun to see where the later writers pulled their material from and makes me respect First Contact all the more for it.

Continuity pieces like this have always interested me and I love seeing them come up so often.  I have no doubt they will only increase as the mythology grows throughout the seasons and I can’t wait to find more.

TREK-A-DAY: Catspaw

EPISODE THIRTY-SEVEN: Catspaw.

Well, that was some class A wackiness.  This episode is a fun fantasy-sci fi hybrid that briefly touches on a really interesting concept about collective consciousness, particularly in reference to story (and myth).  But it’s an underlying idea, not fully explored, which is a shame.

But there is a giant cat.  Played by a regular cat…on a tiny version of the set.  Hilarity ensues.

Can haz special effects budget?

Essentially, the crew is trapped in a weird illusionary planet run by a wizard and a witch.  In a castle.  With a dungeon full of skeletons.  And the witch turns into a cat.  Also, there’s this Voldemort guy and a lot of d20s get rolled.  Joking aside, the set and characters really do look like a live-action version of old school Dungeons and Dragons illustrations, full of bizarre iconography and silly powers.  Turns out these two are actually aliens from a species that does not feel sensation…and thus are here to examine human reactions.  The cat-witch Sylvia becomes obsessed with this and determines to make Kirk her king, leaving him only one solution…HE HAS TO SEDUCE HIS WAY TO VICTORY!  And seduce he does, until she reads his mind and realizes, “You’re using me!” To which a royally disgruntled Kirk yells, “Why not?!” Awesome.

Well, after being chased by the giant hat and having to fight the mind-controlled crew, Kirk realizes he just needs to break the magic MacGuffan staff to wreck their party, so he does so and thus destroys the illusion (revealing the aliens to be marionette monsters!)

They may or may not be of the same species as Geshy from Clone High.

Anywho, a silly filler episode full of wackiness.  Good times.

TREK-A-DAY: The Apple

EPISODE THIRTY-FIVE: The Apple

First, a confession: I wasn’t blown away by this episode.  The concept at work is really neat and the point does manage to come through, but there’s a lot of stuff surrounding it that has been done better in previous episodes.

Kirk and Co transport down to an Eden-like planet with more red-shirts that normal, who all quickly die in horrific ways (except for the token “near the end of the episode” guy…who dies near the end of the episode, as his name suggests.)  For some reason, this triggers huge panic in Kirk, who takes to questioning his own command a bunch.  It’s a valid reaction to the loss of members of his crew, but comes on pretty strong here.  Eventually they find a bunch of Oompa Loompa looking fellows who serve the machine Vaal, a giant paper mache serpent’s head that was either stolen from COBRA or Hogwarts’ Chamber of Secrets.  Either way, not the most impressive enemy to date.  (Nor is it ever really explained…)

RWAR!

So, the oompa loompas feed this thing and it controls the weather, food, and keeps them immortal.  Consequently, they all live in blissful ignorance of everything, including sex and violence…so, in true blatantly disregarding the Prime Directive style, the crew introduces the aliens to sex…when Mr. Chekov makes out with a lady.

This greatly angers Vaal, who sends the aliens to kill the crew (thus inventing violence).  This in turn leads to a massive, species-wide ass-kicking (with Chekov’s lady friend wrecking several of them and Kirk inexplicably rolling at their feet to knock them over) and then they manage to drain Vaal’s energy enough to blow him up.  And then Apollo-oh, wait.  Sorry, got my “omnipotent-being-that-has-limited-power-that-can-be-destroyed-by-overloading-said-power-through-trickery-long-enough-for-The Enterprise-to-blow-it-to-hell-with-orbital-weapons” episodes confused for a second there.  My bad.

And with Vaal dead, the aliens are left to their own devices “wink wink” that thing called freedom.  Which Kirk insists they’ll like.

Kudos go out to Mr. Spock for repeatedly pointing out that all of this is in direct violation of the Prime Directive.  Like, a lot.

And special thanks to Bones for getting a good hearty laugh out of me with his observation upon learning the aliens don’t have a conception of sex:

“Well, there goes paradise.”

McCoy FTW.  This episode…not so much.

TREK-A-DAY: Mirror, Mirror

EPISODE THIRTY-FOUR: Mirror, Mirror

This was yet another Trek episode I was eagerly awaiting and I would argue is one of the most attractive concepts to come out of The Original Series: so much so, that it captured the imaginations of future generations of Trek writers, by creating an amazing playground to work in.

The premise: due to a transporter failure, Kirk, Uhura, Scotty, and Bones end up in a fascist mirror dimension’s version of the Enterprise.  Where Earth in an Empire and more importantly Spock has a beard.

BEHOLD!!!!

(This is actually commented on an absurd amount: when Mirror Kirk arrives in our world and is being dragged to a jail cell he yells, “What is all this? What is with these uniforms?  Where is your beard? Where is my personal securty detail?!”  Yep, Spock’s beard takes precedence over a personal security detail.)

Needless to say, bearded Mirror Spock is also directly responsible for this recent TV gem:

“Evil Troy and Evil Abed in the Trek-A-Day blog!”

So, bearded Spock aside, The Enterprise is a much more brutal place; the Federation logo is Earth with a sword through it, Sulu is pretty intent on sexually harassing Uhura, Checkov attempts a coup within the first few minutes, everyone does the Roman Centurion salute (a predecessor of the Nazi heil) and everyone on board gains rank through murder.  Kirk himself got his commission by murdering Captain Pike and obtaining a machine that lets him kill anyone on board the ship anytime.  Badass.  Our crew has to work quickly to get back to their own world, all the while playing the game of thrones with the new crew.  Eventually, Mirror Spock figures it out, but is convinced by Kirk to instead seize control of the Enterprise from Evil Kirk and begin a revolution (since a fascist, expansionist empire is unsustainable and thus illogical).  Cool.

But aside from the entertaining storyline, what we really get here is a fascinating character study.  While there is intrinsic fun in watching the cast play evil/alternate/robot versions of themselves, the real magic is in watching them play slightly altered versions.  Sulu is a ruthless careerman, playing by the strange rules of the universe but operating within his duty (twisted though it may be).  The harassment of Uhura is a bit out of step, unless we take the swashbuckler analysis from Spock back in The Naked Time and apply it here.  A good person with that attitude falls into a Three Muskateer vein, living with honour and integrity, whereas the darker side is a Don Juan, taking what he wants with a flourish.  It’s a neat take, and gives Sulu some much needed screen time.  Chekov, meanwhile gets his chance to be the evil Russian.  “Calm down, conservative US audience base of the 1960s!  The Russians can still be bad guys!  Only Chekov isn’t, in our world.  But here’s that thing you expect and kinda demand.  Got it?  Cool, let’s move along.”  (I can’t tell whether this was really a nationality-based or rank based choice, as an ensign would naturally want to advance through treachery, but it makes sense to me that it might have been a sign of the times; like how we still need evil Russians in spy movies…or video games, like both Call of Duty and Red Alert)

We also get to see an extraordinarily similar Spock, which is an awesome choice.  I mean, he DOES have a beard, which is different.  But his behaviour, though much more viscious, is still logical in its execution (part of the reason why Kirk can reach him) to the point that Bones risks staying in the Mirror Universe to save Mirror Spock because he reminds him so much of his friend.  We also see Kirk get his first, real lothario moment with Mirror Kirk’s ambitious ladyfriend…where Kirk basically shrugs and romances her for a bit.  Because he can.  His meeting of the regular universe version of her at the end is a neat touch as he clearly retained the feelings for her though she’s never met him.  

It’s also a neat episode because EVERYONE gets some time to shine.  Uhura kicks a tonne of ass in this episode, from fending off Sulu with a knife, to disarming Mirror Kirk’s lady in the grand finale (a classic “take me with you” stick up).  Scotty gets to rock some hardcore science (yeah!), McCoy gets to ruminate on human life (yeah!), Spock gets to be the least altered (aside from the beard) and thus the most interesting as all his changes are subtle, Sulu gets to be an evil sketchbag, Chekov gets to be an evil Russian, and Kirk gets some love as well as engaging Spock in some good ol’ fashioned impassioned logic speeches.

Also, there’s a four-on-one brawl with Scotty, Uhura, Bones, and Kirk fighting Mirror Spock.  Epic.

There’s also a nice touch about the Mirror Kirk, Uhura, Bones, and Scotty’s quick imprisonment (we get one scene where Spock bascially has them arrested, labels them “fascinating” and walks away.)  Namely, that it is easy for civilized people to feign barbariansim, but almost impossible for barbarians to feign civilization.  It’s a good point and well used, as the raving, evil Kirk is clearly both raving and evil.  I’d have caught them too (plus they presumably learned their lesson after the LAST time there was a teleporter problem involving the captain…)

By clearly establishing this harsh Mirror Universe that runs parallel to ours, Trek opened quite a few doors.  Various episodes (and books; the only Next Generation book I ever bought was the Mirror, Mirror book about Picard.  Which I now intend to read) either touch on this universe or create a new one, but now have the freedom to (for better or often worse) play with alternate dimensions.  And most significantly for the modern Star Trek fan, this episode clarifies J.J. Abram’s intent quite a bit: I remember as I watched the film (which I quite like) that part of my brain was struggling with the whole “wait, if the timeline is changed, how does this affect my Next Generation?” But Abrams and Co. never intended to erase the universe (Spock mentions this a bunch in the film) but rather explore a new parallel version (which I wholeheartedly support).  Much like time travel, there are some terrible alternate reality episodes to come; but when done like this they’re a brilliant way to explore sides of the heroes we don’t get to see.

Like Spock, with a beard.

TREK-A-DAY: The Changeling

EPISODE THIRTY-THREE: The Changeling

Well, there’s not really a whole lot to say about this episode.  The ship encounters an Earth probe that has merged with an alien probe and crossed their programming.  The Earth probe was sent to seek out new life, the alien probe to destroy imperfect soil samples.  The result is a murderous satellie that seeks out new life and destroys it if it is “imperfect.”

The action of the episode revolves around the probe Nomad acting as a logic puzzle for Spock and Kirk, who ultimately outsmart the probe and convince it to destroy itself.  But not before it kills Scotty (whose stuntman has been getting a tonne of work this season) and revives him, as well as COMPLETELY WIPING UHURA’S BRAIN.  But it’s okay, they re-taught her everything she needed to know in a week.  Yep.

It’s just not a great episode.  The final logic challenge between the probe and Kirk is fun and there’s a cute ending line about how it thought Kirk was its mother, but ultimately it is yet another “something immensely powerful fucks with the crew and kills a bunch of red shirts until they get rid of it” episode.  But its not handled as well as Charlie X and thus is just kinda there.

It did, however, lead to one of the greatest Clone High moments of all time, so we can thank it for that. (It happens at 3.38 in the video)