Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 16 – The Gamesters of Triskelion

Another iconic episode.  Alright let’s get it out of the way right at the beginning.  Ratings must have been fading so they hired a Las Vegas burlesque queen in a very revealing costume to give the show a boost.  And as I remember my adolescent self was not opposed to this aspect of the show at all.  Honestly, she was probably the best-looking babe they ever had on the show.  In terms of acting, well it was Star Trek so really, who cares?

Kirk, Chekov and Uhura (boy that’s an odd combination) are in the transporter getting ready to beam down to planet XYZ123 when suddenly they vanish without the transporter even being energized.  Scotty, Spock and McCoy jabber at each other trying to figure out what happened.

Meanwhile we see Kirk, Chekov and Uhura on a distant planet called Triskelion being assaulted by mismatched gladiators with silly weapons.  The hot looking warrior woman named Shahna is dressed in an aluminum foil bikini and armed with a giant-sized bottle opener.  A caveman in a Fred Flintstone suit is armed with a whip and a net.  A relatively ordinary looking guy in hose and doublet named Lars has a letter opener as his weapon and then there’s this really small old woman who doesn’t do very much and maybe also had a giant bottle opener but since I was watching Shahna most of the time I’m not really sure what the other woman had.

Once the Enterprise crew is subdued by the “thralls,” a weird skinny, bald headed guy in a black robe tells them what’s what.  He is the Master Thrall named Galt.  He runs the gladiatorial games for the “Providers.”  The Providers are disembodied brains living in a cavern a thousand meters below the surface of Triskelion and they spend their pathetic lives capturing beings throughout the galaxy with their powerful transporter beam and betting a currency called quatloos on the fights they organize between the captives.  But since they are disembodied brains that live in a cave what they would do with the quatloos they win is completely meaningless.

Meanwhile back on the Enterprise Spock confirms that the landing party is not on the planet below and finding an energy signature in a cloud decides to head twelve light years in that direction to find the captain and company.  McCoy and Scotty whine and complain about this decision and finally Spock has the best non-Shahna moment in the show when he tells them that since he is in command that he will do as he pleases unless (and hear he lowers his voice so that only the two of them can hear him) McCoy and Scotty intend to start a mutiny.  The two complainers immediately started hemming hawing and denying they had any such idea and fall in line with the plan.

Kirk and company learn the hard way that Galt and the Providers use collars on the necks of the thralls to train and punish disobedience.  They seem to learn that there is no escape and no way to resist.  So, Kirk quickly gets down to business and seduces Shahna with his Shatnerly charms.  He hugs and kisses her and tells her about the stars and Earth and how much he likes her.  But in the next scene he kisses her and then socks her in the jaw to get her key to his cell and make a break with Chekov and Uhura.  And since Providers are omniscient, they are quickly subdued and sentenced to die.

Kirk is now doomed to die but first he asks to meet the Providers face to face.  He is transported into the crappy cave that the Providers live in and berates them for their pathetic existence.  At this point the Enterprise reaches Triskelion and is immediately immobilized by the Providers.  Kirk appeals to the Providers’ gaming blood and proposes a wager.  If he defeats a thrall in single combat, he and his people will go free and the Providers will give freedom and training to the thralls to become independent beings on Triskelion.  If he loses then the whole crew of the Enterprise will become thralls.  The Providers decide instead that he’ll have to fight three thralls.  Take that Kirk!  Kirk dispatches the caveman and Lars but the third guy is only injured so he is replaced by Shahna who is still mad about the sucker punch Kirk gave her earlier.  Finally, Kirk takes away her bottle opener and with Lars’ letter opener at her throat she surrenders.  The Providers turn out to be good sports and keep their word and let the Enterprise go free and agree to turn the thralls into people.

There is a maudlin scene between Kirk and Shahna and after the landing party beams up Shahna gets a short monologue where she talks to the sky and thanks Jim Kirk for showing her the road to female empowerment and possibly less-revealing clothes.

So much to say.  Besides Spock’s mutiny game I think the other stand out comedy was Chekov being cornered in his cage by his selected mate, the old short weird looking woman thrall.  She’s smitten with him and he tries to be civil but he’s obviously weirded out by her appearance and overeager attentions.  It’s very creepy.

This show is just overflowing with Shatner doing his thing.  His shirt has been taken away and has been replaced with a harness that reveals his noticeable weight gain.  He’s leaping around kicking and punching everything in sight.  And of course, his amorous moments with Shahna highlight some of the very corniest acting Bill Shatner ever committed.  But I think what I like best is when Kirk is dismissing the idea of the Providers betting “trifles like quatloos” when human lives were so much more meaningful.  There we see Kirk the negotiator, Kirk the gambler.

So, all in all the girl is very attractive, although her eye makeup looked to be about an inch thick.  The plot was amusing and reasonably clever.  The Shatner mockery value was almost off the scale.  I’ll give this an 8 // 10.

 

A Hot Dog Program – A Movie Review

This is not a typical movie review because this is not a typical movie.  And even more unusual, this is a PBS production, which normally would repel me as wolfsbane does Dracula.  But not this time.  This movie is a celebration of one of the great American institutions, the hot dog.

A guy named Rick Sebak from Pittsburgh makes documentaries about Americana and this particular one travels around the United States looking at the multitude of ways that people make and enjoy hot dogs.  Of course, he goes to Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York to discuss the reputed birthplace of the hot dog and while there he highlights the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s, a truly disgusting spectacle.  Then he visits several hot dog lovers in Manhattan who try to pick between their favorite hot dog and papaya juice restaurants.  From there he goes to Chicago and listens to the Windy City residents declare their variety of hot dog to be the adult version of this American food.  And afterwards he brings us to Georgia, the Carolinas, Ohio, New Jersey and even Alaska where reindeer hot dogs are the standard.

Along the way you’ll meet the mom and pop shops and the industrial scale restaurants and the owners, cooks, waiters and customers who swear by the goodness and special character of whichever local variant they enjoy.  They’ll be boiled, roasted, deep fried or encased in a corn dog.  They’ll be covered in relish, sauerkraut, onions, coleslaw, peppers or baked beans.  They’ll be slathered in yellow mustard, brown mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce or horse radish.  They can be with or without skin and in Las Vegas you can even get one that’s half a pound and sixteen inches long.

This movie was made in 1999 and what struck me was that the people were from all walks of life and all ethnicities but they all agreed that the hot dog was the American food.  Not German American because it was brought here from Frankfurt or even just white Americans.  Every place they went all kinds of people loved the hot dogs and shared space enjoying them.  I was struck that the scene where the hot dogs were being sold at the Cleveland Indians game probably couldn’t get on PBS anymore because they consider the team name racist.

So, this show is a bit of Americana from before the woke movement would declare hot dogs some form of exploitation of everyone involved.  The movie highlighted the manufacturing of hot dogs and almost glories in the mystery meat status of its ingredients and the unappetizing appearance of the meat paste that makes them up.  And the bizarre sight of hot dogs being shot at high speed out of a machine that strips the temporary skins that the dogs wear while being cooked adds to their allure as a product of industrial age melting pot America.

Of course, all those mom and pop shops and even the big restaurants have now been driven out of business by COVID and the rioters.  And the various ethnicities are at each other’s throats.  And the millennials are all vegan and wouldn’t touch a hot dog if they were starving.  But this movie hearkens back to a happier time in America and celebrates the real diversity, hot dog diversity.  It celebrates the local cultures that all can embrace and enhance something as simple and wonderful as the hot dog.  You can probably rent this from a local library that carries PBS videos.  I rented it from Netflix DVD.  I’ll probably buy a DVD just because I like watching it with my kids and grandkids who have enjoyed it over the years when I had an old VHS copy.

07SEP2020 – American Greatness – Post of the Day – Michael Anton on Trump

Michael Anton worked for President Trump as the Head of Communications at the National Security Council.  In this essay he provides an eye-witness account in defense of the President’s obvious patriotism and love for the soldiers.  It’s interesting to see how someone who was present when certain comments were made can shine a light on how they can be maliciously taken out of context.

The Donald Trump I Know

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 15 – The Trouble with Tribbles

Ah, so much to say, so much to say.  The Trouble with Tribbles is a comic episode.  It allows Shatner and the rest of the regulars to ham it up outrageously.  And as it turns out that is the highest and best use of the series.  Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, McCoy, Spock and of course Kirk are provided dialog and space to flesh out their characters with some comic verve.  Finally, something to enjoy.

The plot has the Enterprise summoned by an emergency distress call to Deep Space Station blah blah blah  where they find that there is no emergency but that a space bureaucrat is worried that his space wheat seeds will be sabotaged before it can be delivered to a planet in dispute between Klingons and the Federation.  Kirk is outraged by this high-handed use of a distress call and insults the Under-Secretary of Wheat.  Then Kirk is called up by his boss and told to do what the bureaucrat tells him to do.  Kirk obeys with bad grace and assigns guards to protect the wheat from the Klingons who are on board the space station for rest and relaxation.  The Klingon commander is played by the actor who showed up on the episode, “The Squire of Gothos” as the titular character Trelane.  So Kirk uses the opportunity of the stay at the space station to allow his whole crew to take shore leave on the space station.  Scotty is the only crewman who doesn’t want to take leave but Kirk forces him to go and keep an eye on the rest of the crew and avoid trouble with the Klingons.

A space trader named Cyrano Jones shows up at the space station and among the things he is selling are tribbles.  These are fur balls that purr around humans and hate Klingons.  Jones gives one to Uhura while she is seated at the bar in the space station lounge.  She takes it back to the ship and we find out that tribbles are prolific breeders and within a few days the Enterprise and the space station are both becoming overrun with the fuzzy creatures.

Meanwhile, Scotty, Chekov and some red shirts are having drinks in the lounge when one of the Klingons starts insulting Kirk.  Chekov is incensed and wants to start a brawl with the Klingons but Scotty restrains him explaining that it isn’t important and everyone is entitled to his opinion.  But when the Klingon starts insulting the Enterprise as a ship Scotty punches him in the head and a huge brawl breaks out.  The fight alarms the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and he rants and raves at Kirk about dangerous Klingons and rowdy Federation spacemen and tribbles.  Kirk is annoyed and promises to discipline his crew.

At this point the tribble infestation on the Enterprise becomes a catastrophe.  The tribbles have managed to infiltrate the food production systems and we see the spectacle of Kirk staring at his lunch tray covered with tribbles muttering “my chicken sandwich and coffee” to anyone who will listen.  When Scotty explains that the tribbles have managed to get into the air ducts, Kirk immediately realizes that the space wheat storage bins have air ducts too.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy rush over to the space station and when the storage bins doors don’t open easily Kirk fiddles with it and the overhead bin opens up and pours down hundreds of tribbles onto Kirk.  They’ve eaten all the space wheat and the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat, who was there to witness this debacle, blows a space-gasket and starts heaping abuse and threats on Kirk.  Meanwhile Spock, after first estimating the number of tribbles as something north of a million, observes that many of the tribbles are dead.  Bones then diagnoses the cause of death as a poison that the wheat contains.  A virus has been added to the wheat which renders the eater unable to ingest nutrition and therefore subject to death by starvation.

Using the tribbles’ hatred of Klingons Kirk is able to discover that the  Under-Under-Secretary of Space Wheat is a disguised Klingon and poisoned the space wheat.  This of course shuts up the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and allows Kirk to walk away as the hero.

Finally Kirk returns to the ship and finds it cleared of tribbles and after a lot of hemming and hawing we find out that with the approval of Spock and McCoy, Scotty beamed all the tribbles onto the Klingon battleship just as it was about to warp out of orbit.  His words were, “I beamed them into the engineering section where they’ll be no tribble at all.”

Other than the fact that writer David Gerrold stole the concept of the tribble from Heinlein’s martian flat cats as they appeared in the novel “The Rolling Stones” I wholly approve of this episode.  It is obvious that a comical take on the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise is the only good purpose the show can be put to.

Kirk spends the whole episode outraged about everything.  The Under-Secretary is a truly annoying character.  For once you actually sympathize with Kirk.  The Klingons mock Kirk in front of his crew describing him as a strutting autocrat.  When Scotty tells Kirk about it and further admits that he didn’t bother to defend Kirk from the insults but did become enraged when the ship was insulted Kirk is cut to the quick.  And when the tribbles start discomfiting Kirk at every turn he is irritable and petulant.  This was indeed Shatner’s finest hour on Star Trek.

And Uhura, Scotty, Chekov get much more screen time than on any other episode I can remember.  Uhura gets to play with the tribble and converse with the rest of the crew.  Scotty and Chekov get a barroom brawl scene.  Even Spock gets to ham it up a little.

I won’t quibble about the tribbles.  I’m just going to give this episode a 10  //  10.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 14 – Wolf in the Fold

This is Star Trek in all its cheesy glory.  It starts with Kirk, McCoy and Scotty sitting in a bar leering at a belly dancer.  Apparently, the Enterprise is in orbit around an interstellar red-light district.  Kirk and McCoy are slobbering over each other talking about other dives they want to visit.  Scotty goes for a walk in the foggy night with the belly dancer.

Anyway, the plot, such as it is, revolves around Scotty being found several different times with a woman with a knife sticking in her.  In each case Scotty claims to have amnesia at the moment of the murder.  The police administrator is played by John Fiedler, the little bald mousey character actor known for his work in the movie “Twelve Angry Men” and as the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Piglet.  In order to get to the bottom of the murders the leader of the planet has his wife perform a séance.  She starts moaning and whining about some monstrous deathless evil that kills women and lives off their fear.  But suddenly the lights go out and she screams.  When the lights come back up Scotty is, of course, holding the woman with a knife in her back and her blood on Scotty’s hands.

Eventually we find out that the evil entity was Jack the Ripper and he travelled out into the galaxy as humanity expanded out from Earth.  Based on the clues it is determined that the police administrator is the monster and when discovered he attempts to stab Kirk.  Kirk flips him and disarms him and then punches him in the jaw.  McCoy checks the killer and declares, “He’s dead Jim!”  But the entity leaves the human body and invades the ship computer.  Once in the computer the entity attempts to frighten the crew prior to murdering them.  But Spock sets the computer to figuring the exact value of pi.  Since pi is a transcendental number apparently the futuristic computer can’t handle the chore and malfunctions.  This drives the entity out of the computer and back into his body.  Spock injects the creature with a tranquilizer and then transports him into open space with a wide dispersion thus rendering it harmless.

This episode is wonderfully tacky and even the small touches add to its hokey atmosphere.  When the crew is being tranquilized to avoid feeding the creature on their fear Sulu gets this drunken expression that makes you think he’s about to drool on himself.  And I think the episode set a record for McCoy saying, He’s/She’s dead Jim!”  I counted three.  By the third one he should just have said, “Ditto.”  But above all, Kirk and McCoy in the belly dancing den of iniquity, slavering over the depravity they plan at the next dive they intend to visit is the high point.

I give this a score of   6 // 10.  Shatner’s bad acting lifts this episode to new heights of awful.

The Great Escape – A Movie Review

The Great Escape came out in 1963.  It’s based on an actual World War II large scale escape by British Commonwealth soldiers from a German POW camp during World War II.  Some American actors were added in to increase the interest for American audiences but for the most part the details of the story are true.

There’s an all-star cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.  On the British side there’s Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence and a bunch of Brits I never heard of.

The plan is to build a tunnel out of the camp and provide clothes and identification papers for 250 men to scatter over the countryside and escape out of Germany.  Each of the men has a particular skill; tunnellers, scroungers of supplies, document forgers, tailors, etc.  The ingenuity they use to perform this seemingly impossible series of operations is remarkable.  They begin building three tunnels (Tom, Dick and Harry) and accumulating their supplies.  There are setbacks and delays.  The first tunnel is discovered and one of the men despairs and is shot down rushing the fence in broad daylight.  Stress builds up and some of the men crack.  Finally, the escape is run and disaster occurs.  Seventy-six men get out of the camp and we follow them as they attempt the escape from Germany.  Some make it, some are caught and some are killed.

It is an amazing story.  Even if it were just fiction it would be entertaining.  But knowing it actually happened is mind-boggling.  And the movie is well done.  The plot and dialog are good and sometimes quite compelling.  The actors are sympathetic characters and even some of the Germans come across as interesting humans.

If you like war stories and especially if you like history this is a movie you might want to see.  Highly recommended.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 13 – Obsession

Kirk, Spock and some red-shirts are on a planet searching for unobtanium.  Suddenly Kirk starts smelling gas.  Apparently, he recognizes a sickly-sweet smell from eleven years earlier when he was on the USS Farragut and it was attacked by a hemoglobin drinking gas cloud.  During this present mission the cloud kills off all the red-shirts.

This smelly gas cloud is Kirk’s white whale.  He is feeling guilt over having hesitated firing a phaser that might have saved his Captain’s life back eleven years ago.  By coincidence, the son of the late captain, Ensign Garrovick, is in the Enterprise’s crew and Kirk takes this young man down to the planet’s surface for another chance to kill the cloud.  Garrovick hesitates for two seconds when surprised by the cloud and more red-shirts are killed.  Kirk blames Ensign Garrovick for the death of the men.  Now the creature flees the planet and the Enterprise pursues at Warp 8.  Eventually the creature turns to fight.  Phasers and photon torpedoes do nothing and the creature manages to enter the Enterprise where it kills a few more men.  The creature attacks Spock but his copper-based globin is inedible.  Suddenly the creature leaves and heads off at Warp speed.  Kirk figures it’s going back to where it attacked the Farragut and that it’s going to spawn a multitude of offspring.  Spock tells Kirk to use an “ounce of anti-matter” to destroy the creature.  Kirk and Garrovick become bait for the creature and at the last second, they are transported away and the anti-matter is unleashed.  The blast interferes with the transporter and Spock and Scotty barely get the two men to rematerialize.

This episode features Kirk obsessed with destroying the creature that killed the captain that he admired coming out of the Academy.  Bones and Spock get to question Kirk’s judgement but eventually understand the danger of this creature.  There is a scene where Ensign Garrovick and Kirk fight over who would stay last while the creature is lured to the anti-matter.  Several times in the episode Kirk loses his temper.  This is a so-so episode.  Let’s call it a 5  //  4.

Will Durham Do Anything?

Less than a month left for Durham to take action on Russiagate before the 60-day election cutoff.  Apparently, there is a rule against an administration interfering in an election (the October surprise strategy) within that period so if Durham doesn’t want to run the risk of sending his report to President Biden, he will have to do it before Labor Day.  Here’s a link to an article that basically says he will release his report and includes a supposed expert opinion that says he’ll hand down indictments.

Well, I gave up on all this months ago but I will admit I’m curious to see what happens between now and Labor Day.  Even my short attention span can concentrate for that long.  But I’d be lying if I said my expectations are very high for something explosive.  I’m expecting a sort of dressing down by the teacher and a slap on the wrist for being sloppy and over eager and maybe someone loses his law license.

If anyone thinks differently, I’d love to hear an opinion and the basis for it.  Because this whole cabal is surely one of the most damning pieces of evidence to prove that the Deep State really does run things behind the scenes and can’t be touched.

Warbound – Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles – by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction-Fantasy Book Review

Warbound is the third and the (currently) final volume of Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series.  And as such it ties together the threads from the earlier volumes, Hard Magic and Spellbound and provides the resolution of the story lines for the main characters Jake Sullivan and Faye Vierra.  These two are powerful “actives,” possessors of magic abilities in one or several categories working for the Grimnoir Society.  Jake is a Gravity Spiker with the ability to alter gravity at will while Faye is a Traveler, someone who can teleport from one location to another.  Both have been tested during the crises in the earlier books when they faced off first against the Iron Guard actives of the Japanese Imperium and afterward against rogue actives in the US intelligence agencies that were attempting to blame the Grimnoir Society for magical attacks by other forces.

But now the whole planet is threatened by an alien creature that preys on the entity that produces the magic.  The knowledge of what is at stake produces some strange alliances that alter the dynamic that the earlier books portrayed.  And despite the war footing that the book details Correia is able to mix just enough humor and other character driven interest to allow the pleasant juggling of a large number of characters.  One of the features of this historical fantasy world is the introduction of historical figures often possessing magic themselves.  Blackjack Pershing, J. Edgar Hoover, Buckminster Fuller, even FDR make longer or shorter appearances in the books.

I won’t go into a detailed plot summary because I don’t want to spoil the story.  Suffice it to say I’m giving it a very good rating.  And I’ll finish off by saying a few things about Correia’s story writing.  Without a doubt Correia is one of the best sf&f authors around today.  Going beyond that I’ll say he compares well with the older authors back in the heyday of the genres.  He writes good heroes and good villains.  He has a good ear for dialog and he can even inject humor into the story in a natural way.  One of his favorite types is a variant of the competent man but instead of Heinlein’s omnicompetent type Correia’s hero is usually a working- or middle-class guy who is good with his fists and guns and adheres to a code of conventional morality.  And as an added bonus his heroes are actually likable.  Even his villains are interesting.

And there’s one final bonus with Correia that is refreshing to see in today’s social justice infused entertainment industry.  There won’t be a single character thrown in just to earn intersectional social justice brownie points from the pink science fiction crowd.  Just regular people with super powers fighting super villains without having to worry if any of them is being oppressed by the really evil cis-het white man.

So far, I’ve read all Correia’s Monster Hunter books and now the Grimmoir books.  I’ve also enjoyed his comical Tom Stranger audiobooks and I follow his website for his take on the latest outrages by the pink science fiction scolds.  Next, I’ll start his epic fantasy series “Saga of the Forgotten Warrior” without bothering to check reviews because I’m already sure it’ll be excellent.  And in today’s science fiction and fantasy environment that’s pretty rare.