Not since the days of the Hitler Youth have young people been subjected to more propaganda on more politically correct issues. At one time, educators boasted that their role was not to teach students what to think but how to think. Today, their role is far too often to teach students what to think on everything from immigration to global warming to the new sacred trinity of ‘race, class and gender.’
The episode opens up with Kirk dictating a “Captain’s Log” stating that Spock is in temporary command of the Enterprise while Kirk, McCoy and a crewman are beaming down to the surface of some planet to perform routine physical examinations on a scientist, Professor Robert Crater and his wife, Nancy. The only unusual circumstance is that Nancy is McCoy’s old girlfriend. Alright, let’s stop right there. The commanding officer of a large, powerful, highly strategic military vessel is leaving his ship to keep his chief medical officer company while he gives routine physical exams to apparent nobodies in the middle of nowhere? Who runs Star Fleet anyway, the Keystone Cops? Alright, onward.
In the next scene, back on the Enterprise, we are forced to witness an exchange between Communications Officer Uhura and First Officer Spock. Uhura is bantering with Spock trying to get him to engage in small talk. He vulcans out and Uhura asks him if he can complement her on her beauty or tell her about how beautiful the moon is on Vulcan. When Spock tells her that Vulcan has no moon, she replies that she is not surprised at all. Gack!
While walking toward the Craters’ home, Bones and Kirk trade banter about the awkwardness of Bones meeting up with his former lover in the presence of her husband. The exchange is truly awful and appears to have been written by a fifteen-year-old at best. I was waiting for one of them to say, “I know you are but what am I?”
When we meet Nancy, she appears to McCoy to be in her twenties as he remembers her. To Kirk she appears to be a middle-aged woman. To the crewman she appears to be a very attractive and flirtatious girl who lures him into a secluded location away from the others. Suddenly the three men hear Nancy’s screams and run to find out the emergency. They find her with the body of the crewman dead on the ground. He has a fragment of a poison fruit in his mouth. He also has strange round blotches on his face. The woman claims that the crewman ate the fruit before she could warn him of its deadly character. The captain reprimands the doctor for being more concerned with the woman’s emotional state than with ascertaining the cause of death of the crewman. The two live and one dead crewman are beamed back aboard the Enterprise.
Back on the ship Bones completes a medical examination of the dead crewman and discovers that he did not eat the poison fruit. After further testing he discovers that the dead man’s body has somehow been drained of all sodium chloride, salt. The captain remembers that Crater had stated that they needed their stock of salt replenished. Sensing that something was wrong, the captain and doctor return to the planet with an escort of two crewman to help investigate the strange death. Kirk tells Crater that something on the planet is killing humans and that the Enterprise will evacuate the Craters until the danger is past. Crater becomes angry and runs away. While searching for him both crewmen are killed by Nancy but we see her turn into one of the crewmen and return to the ship with the rest of the landing party. Okay, let’s stop here. “Nancy” has now killed three crewmen without breaking a sweat and Kirk is still aimlessly beaming up and down from the planet and seems almost nonchalant about it. Resume.
Fake crewman now stalks victims on the Enterprise. His first target is Yeoman Janice Rand, a hot blonde babe who is carrying a tray of food to Lieutenant Sulu, but she also has a salt shaker on the tray and the creature wants to take it. But she escapes into a crowd. Finally, something to praise in this episode, a pretty girl in a tight-fitting dress.
The creature kills a few more crewmen on the ship so Kirk and Spock go down to the planet to capture Crater. Crater stands them off with a phaser and Kirk and Spock decide to split up to encircle him. And here we get the first example of William Shatner displaying his physical prowess. While sneaking up behind Crater, Kirk dives into a pile of sand. Instead of a special forces warrior he looked more like an otter. It isn’t pretty.
Kirk and Spock capture Crater and he confesses that Nancy is not really his wife but a shape-shifting creature that needs salt to live. The creature killed the real Nancy more than a year ago but he had spared it because it was the last of its kind like the American bison.
Kirk and Spock head back to the ship and now the search is on for the creature. It has assumed the shape of Dr. McCoy and when it gets the chance it kills Crater and attempts to kill Spock but his Vulcan blood apparently doesn’t taste good to the creature.
In the finale the creature turns back into Nancy and goes to Dr. McCoy for protection. Kirk comes to them with a phaser in one hand and salt tablets in the other to lure the creature into revealing itself to McCoy as a monster and not his old love. But McCoy disarms the Captain and won’t shoot her even when she begins desalinating Kirk. Now Shatner really gets to show his stuff. The creature places it’s suction cup fingers on his face and Kirk emotes the crap out of his pain. He gives of his best.
Luckily for Kirk, Spock shows up and proves to McCoy that the creature isn’t Nancy. He interlaces his fingers and hammers Nancy in the face several times. But instead of having her skull fractured by this Vulcan knuckle sandwich she grabs Spock and throws him across the room like a rag doll. This finally registers with McCoy and he shoots the creature. She then pretends to be Nancy again and McCoy after begging heaven’s forgiveness terminates the creature with a lethal phaser shot. Once dead she resumes her actual shape, a sort of short, stocky, hairy creature with a sucker shaped mouth and suction cups for fingertips.
“The Man Trap” wouldn’t have been my choice as the introductory Star Trek episode. It’s kind of odd. But it’s interesting to see that certain roles and behaviors that we come to expect are already in place. After the first crewman is killed Bones gets to make the inaugural, the primordial, “He’s dead Jim!” Equally important, Uhura demonstrated just how annoying she can be. We saw the importance of short tight dresses on Yeoman Janice Rand to add some interest for the adult male portion of the audience. And finally, we got to see several of Jim Kirk’s signature moves. His obliviousness in the face of obvious threats all around him. His delight in rolling and frisking around in sand. His embarrassing facial expressions when emoting pain or fear. His jackassery when taunting his friends among the crew.
Even though this is the very first episode aired it actually is a fairly average example. It is not particularly awful nor is it so bad that it comes off as hilarious, it’s just average. I still haven’t figured out the details of my scoring for the various components of a Star Trek episode but this one will cleave pretty close to the middle. I’ll add those in later but for now call it average.
Coming hard on the heels of the conclusion of my marathon review of all one hundred fifty-six episodes of the Twilight Zone series I’ve decided to handle the Star Trek series in a decidedly different manner. Instead of providing mostly a plot synopsis followed by a short critique of the show I’ll instead tackle each episode as it relates to the series as a whole. For instance, Star Trek consists of the personalities of the main characters interacting in whatever plot is provided that week. And those plots have components that can include action, drama, melodrama, romance and even comedy. And over time the characters develop predictable behaviors. What I intend to do is compare the characteristics of a particular episode with the typical or average portrayal of these characteristics in the series.
What I think this will allow is the maximum opportunity for mockery. And let me be clear. I am doing this to take potshots and make fun of the awful acting and bad scripts that makes up the bulk of Star Trek. I watched Star Trek as a child and at the time I thought it was fantastic. I have a permanent warm spot in my heart for the show but I also recognize how extremely awful a lot of it is. And right at the center of this awfulness is William Shatner. His patented brand of overacting is by turns hilariously bad and embarrassingly painful to watch. I will rate the levels of bad and may have to invent a Shatner Scale to accomplish this.
But I want to acknowledge that Shatner is also very good at certain types of humor. There are scenes in Star Trek where he is as amusing as anything that was on television at the time. These are relatively brief and somewhat infrequent. But when something is done well, I’ll celebrate it. And there are other outbursts of good acting that occasionally intrude on the dreck. I will definitely note those too.
So that’s fair warning for really devoted fans of the show. I have no reverence for this show but I am fond of it. I will mock it viciously but I will also point out the good stuff that also exists in it. I will talk about how the show uses or abuses various science fiction tropes of the time. I will rate the plots and discuss inconsistencies that annoy the nerd in me. I will talk about the character development (such as it is) of the lead actors and of course I will delve into the strange and frightening study of William Shatner’s acting technique. I intend to do one episode a week. That will give enough time to lavish all the loving attention each episode deserves.
I know that I will learn a lot about bad television and I hope I provide a faithful portrait of one of the most influential and durable science fiction franchises around. So, I watched the first episode and was surprised to learn that “The Man Trap” was the first televised episode. I had assumed that “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which I had understood was the second pilot, had aired first. So here I’m learning new things about Star Trek right from the git go.
Now, I will boldly go where no sensible blogger has gone before. Dun ta dun ta dun dun dun dun …. da dunnnn!
I tuned into about forty-five minutes of the fourth debate tonight. Fauxcahantas smoked her cracked brain competition. And she did it with a populist message that will resonate a lot more with the general public than the goofball bleating of her fellow liars. Granted she’s just as dishonest and dangerous to the health and wealth of this country but she can at least sound coherent when she describes the globalist corporate madness that has bankrupted this nation. She will be dangerous in the general election.
Creepy Uncle Joe gaffed his way through a number of talking points that in a way was impressive. He combined short term memory failures with a certain folksy glibness that’s almost remarkable. And based on the incoherence of the other mental midgets around him it was somewhat entertaining.
Bernie was his old irascible self. He did not appear weak or ill or confused. He gave of his best and that best is the promise of more and more socialism until even Stalin would say uncle. One thing he was vehement about was that billionaires are going to get it in the neck. Billionaire Tom Steyer agreed and promised to tax himself out of existence.
And all of the rest of the dwarves agreed. Now if they could guarantee that Amazon, Facebook and Twitter were at the front of that line I think I could come around to agreeing to that campaign plank. But honestly, I’d much prefer we just broke up those lefty monopolies altogether.
When healthcare was being discussed Harris and Spartacus reminded us that pro-life legislature was curtailing the activities of Planned Parenthood and she claimed that meant women of color would die. She never mentioned that it might mean a lot of babies of color might live. But there was nobody there who cared about that.
Pete Butt actually said a few sensible things. When the talk about bringing jobs back from Mexico had Fauxcahantas and Beto waxing poetic Mayor Pete reminded everybody that President Trump was elected in part because he said he would do something about lost jobs that everybody else said were gone forever. Honesty at a Democratic Primary Debate? Well he claims he’s very religious, maybe that was a Gay Christian Hail Mary Pass. Might get him to three percent.
Andrew Yang says he’ll give everyone a thousand bucks a month to quit the jobs they don’t like. Tulsi Gabbard acted worried and empathetic about everything. Damned if I can remember what Amy Klobuchar and Julián Castro said. I doubt even they know or care.
So, my take away from this debate is that Granny Clampett is a dangerous opponent in the general election. She has decent debate skills and she will spout a populist message that has many attractive points. Luckily, she has a track record of lying about her intentions. And that is where I think she needs to be attacked. Fauxcahantas and Liarwatha are the perfect names to use when attacking her on the screen. Her use of deceit for personal gain is documented and is sure to alienate the minority vote that she will so desperately need in the general election.
President Trump, invite Massachusetts journalist Howie Carr up to the White House and let him give you his fifty favorite Fake Indian stories and then pick the best of the best for the 2020 campaign commercials. That should be about right.