Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 9  – Metamorphosis

Kirk, Spock and McCoy are in the shuttle craft with Federation Commissioner Nancy Hedford (played by Elinor Donahue of “Father Knows Best” fame) returning from a space treaty negotiation on Epsilon blah blah blah.  Hedford has been infected with a rare but potentially deadly disease and needs treatment on the Enterprise to restore her to health.  But the shuttlecraft is intercepted by an energy entity that tows the vessel to a planetoid that possess an earth-like environment.

Once there they discover that the shuttle engine and communication devices are inactivated and they begin to worry how they will get back to the Enterprise before Commissioner Hedford dies.

A man appears and introduces himself as Mr. Cochrane and explains that the entity rescued him when he was a very old man dying in a space ship that passed by the planetoid.  They discover that Cochrane is the famous Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive.  And his appearance convinces them that the 239-year-old Cochrane is being kept young and alive by the entity.

The entity has brought them to the planetoid to keep Cochrane company.  It turns out that the entity is female and loves Cochrane.  But now Hedford is actually dying and Kirk and Spock rig up a translator to allow them to talk to the entity.  They explain that not being a woman she can never love a man but that humans cannot live in captivity and so eventually Cochrane will die of loneliness.  When they tell the entity that Commissioner Hedford is dying the entity leaves them.

Suddenly Hedford shows up apparently healed and explains that she is both the entity and Hedford in the same body.  She saved Hedford’s life by joining her.  Now the shuttle can leave and Cochrane asks if the woman will come with him back to civilization.  But the entity reveals that her life force is fused to the planetoid and if she left, she would die.  Out of gratitude but also love Cochrane decides to stay on the planetoid with the woman.  He asks Kirk not to let the outside know that the famous Zefram Cochrane is living on the planetoid.  As they’re leaving Spock asks how the peace talks can proceed without Hedford and Kirk says, “I’m sure the Federation can find another woman, somewhere, who’ll stop that war.”

The idea of the story is kind of interesting.  A legendary historic figure made immortal by a lovestruck ion cloud.  Combining a career woman who couldn’t find love with an alien that needs a woman’s body to actualize the attraction she feels for a man is clever.

But the action we see is kind of lame.  At one point, Kirk and Spock rig up a device to disrupt the cloud’s electric field and essentially kill it.  But the entity foils their plan and then proceeds to choke them to death somehow.  As Shatner and Nimoy writhe around on the floor clutching their throats, DeForest Kelley growls out in his typical outraged way, “Stop it, your killing them!”  I mean, isn’t it obvious that’s what the entity is trying to do?  Elinor Donahue provides a sufficiently annoying bureaucrat.  All things considered, Cochrane and the entity are the only sympathetic characters in the teleplay.

I’d call this a 6.  The Shatner mockery score is significantly enhanced by the writhing strangling scene so let’s call it a 6 // 7.

Yellowstone – A Television and Country Music Review

Camera Girl is a remarkable human being but she is, foremost, a woman. And any husband worth his salt will tell you that’s not an unalloyed blessing. One of the many things that separate women from rational human beings is their love of soap operas. And this includes that bane of late 20th and early 21st century life, the nighttime soap. Luckily when we were young, we had children so we were too busy in the heyday of nighttime soaps to watch Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Melrose Place and the rest of that bilge.
But now that we are mostly empty nesters it’s no longer safe. And every once in a while, Camera Girl will reach beyond her annoying predilection for cop shows and look for something truly awful. And so it is that I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the demented saga that is Yellowstone. Kevin Costner and a mostly unknown cast (at least to me) ride horses and shoot guns up in Montana trying to preserve their Ponderosa sized cattle ranch from the real estate speculators, Indian tribes, disloyal cowboys, hedge fund pirates and other assorted lunatics who all seem to need killing. And kill them they do. Their enemies end up shot, stabbed, drowned, blown up, or pushed off cliffs more or less with impunity. And within the family, hatred and dysfunction are on full display. The daughter is a foul-mouthed man-eating lawyer. The lawyer son is her foil that she despises, berates and occasionally assaults. The cowboy brother is the hero, I guess. He’s a decorated war hero and his Indian wife and son have left the reservation and live on the ranch now.
The show truly is a ridiculous nighttime soap with egregious plots and ridiculous dialog. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised when I started hearing some of my favorite country artists on the soundtrack. Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Ryan Bingham and a bunch of other good to excellent country acts provide at least an interesting aural experience to go along with the annoying goings on at the Dutton family ranch.
One other saving grace that the show possesses are the vistas and landscapes that seem to surround you wherever you look in that magnificent big sky country. The juxtaposition of soaring snowy mountains, cascading rivers, verdant plains and technicolor blue skies can be seen sometimes all in one shot. You often find yourself wanting to yell at the actors to shut up and get out of the camera’s field of view and stop ruining the experience of just seeing and hearing the grandeur on display. But unfortunately, thy will go on yammering about whatever crime or deal they are conniving that week.
So that tells you all you need to know about the show. And honestly there is no way I can say I recommend this train wreck of a television experience. It’s a ghastly offense against story-telling. If you’re an enormous Kevin Costner fan I guess you can justify watching it to see him. He is one of the better parts of the show but even that isn’t saying much. And you can just listen to the soundtrack without watching the show. And I’m sure National Geographic has tons of documentary footage of Montana and Wyoming wilderness to watch anytime you want.
I, on the other hand, have to watch. Camera Girl is a woman and therefore barbarically cruel. I can always hope it will be cancelled soon. Damn you Costner.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 8 – I, Mudd

This episode features the return of Harry Mudd, a character from the first season episode “Mudd’s Women” in which he played a smuggler and con-man that was trafficking in chemically enhanced mail-order brides.  This present episode is decidedly written as a comic story.

A new crewman on the Enterprise named Mr. Norman hijacks the ship by overriding the helm and engine room with a Deadman’s Switch that will explode the ship if it is tampered with.  He sends the Enterprise to a planet that cannot directly sustain human life but requires domed habitats.  When Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and Chekov beam down to the planet they discover that the planet is inhabited by two hundred thousand androids and one human, Harry Mudd.  When Kirk threatens Mudd if he does not release the Enterprise Mudd laughs at him and explains that Harry will give the orders because he is the ruler of this planet.  His status is that of an absolute king and his title is Mudd the First.  Harry tells Kirk that in escaping from a capitol crime he stole a spaceship and crashed on this planet and the androids took him in.  He has had hundreds of beautiful android women created to serve him and surround him with beauty.  And he has had one other android specially made, one that looks and acts exactly like his shrieking harpy of a wife Stella.  Whenever he approaches her shrine he only has to say, “Stella dear,” and she screams out his name, “Harcourt Fenton Mudd,” and then launches into a tirade of insults and accusations to which Harry only has to shout, “Stella shut up!,” upon which she winds down and goes dormant. Mudd draws great solace from this ritual that allows him to always have the last word.

But Harry also reveals that although he can have whatever he wants he can’t leave.  Because the androids desire to have someone to serve they keep him as a virtual prisoner.  And so, he is desperate to escape.  His plan is to use the Enterprise to sail off to life in the galaxy with some of the androids as his beautiful crew.  In exchange he will leave the Enterprise crew on the planet to give the androids someone to serve.

Kirk and his officers attempt to learn something that will allow them to regain the Enterprise before Mudd leaves.  Spock learns that there are many series of identical androids, the Allices, the Maisies, the Roberts.  But there is only one Norman.  He is the central control for the rest of the androids and he may be the key to escape.  We also learn that the androids were the servants of a race that came from the Andromeda Galaxy but was destroyed by a nova of their star.  Meanwhile the androids inform Harry that they are not going to let him have the Enterprise.  They recognize that Harry is a corrupt individual and should be kept away from civilization.  They instead will take the Enterprise and use it to contact human civilization and both serve and control humanity for its own good.  They intend to become so useful to people that they will leave all action up to the androids.  The androids hope to eliminate war and other illogical activities that humans are prone to.

Kirk and his crew and Harry Mudd devise a plan to overcome the androids.  They exhibit illogical behavior and say nonsensical things and this has the effect of shutting down the individual androids in a sort of overload condition.  Finally, Spock, Kirk and Mudd channel their efforts to overwhelm Norman.  The last step is for Kirk to state to Norman that Harry Mudd is a liar and everything he says is a lie.  Then Harry tells Norman, “I’m lying.”  The paradox of these two statements overloads Norman.  Smoke comes out of his ears and he shuts off.

The final scene has Kirk telling Mudd that the androids have been reprogrammed to terraform the planet.  Mudd will remain there under their surveillance and will only be released when they decide he has been reformed.  Mudd looks at the beautiful androids and decides that he can live with that.  Suddenly the Stella android, no longer in a box, runs up to Harry and starts accusing him of skullduggery.  But when Harry tells her to shut up nothing happens; she continues the diatribe.  Several more Stellas show up and when Harry notices that one of them has the tag number 500 he begs Kirk to save him as the Enterprise crew walks away laughing.

This episode is for laughs and should be evaluated in that light.  The Stella gag is extremely funny and one that can be appreciated by any husband no matter how genial his wife might be, bless your heart, Camera Girl.  And the end gag with the Stellas is even funnier.  The familiarity of Kirk and the other crewman with Harry Mudd’s crimes and foibles is somewhat amusing although at some points taken a little far.  Shatner mockery points are restricted to some overacting when Kirk is belittling Mudd about his crimes and misdemeanors.  But there’s not much there.  All in all, it’s a satisfactory episode.  Call it a 7 // 3.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 7 – Catspaw

Robert Bloch, the sf&f writer who also wrote Psycho wrote this episode.  This episode aired on October 27th 1967 and back then tv shows would have a holiday episode for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  For the most part, these kinds of shows couldn’t be accommodated on a science fiction series like Star Trek but for some reason they went out of their way to make this travesty.

The Enterprise is exploring a lifeless world.  Sulu, Scotty and a red shirt have fallen out of communication on the surface.  The red shirt calls to be beamed up and when he appears on the Enterprise, he drops down dead.  Now a “spooky” voice tells the Enterprise that the planet is cursed.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down and find a silly Halloween set.  There is a castle complete with skeleton filled dungeon, black cat, witches and fog.

We meet a wizard, Korob and his familiar, a black cat who is also a “beautiful” woman named Sylvia.  They have captured Sulu and Scotty and zombified them.  Eventually they zombify McCoy.   They can play tricks like taking a little model of the Enterprise and holding it over a candle to make the real ship start to overheat.  We find out the aliens are creatures from another galaxy and of course they don’t have emotions or other fun stuff so Sylvia makes a play for Kirk.  Kirk pretends to like her but she figures out he’s faking and gets angry.  Now Korob frees them from the dungeon and nervously tells them that they must escape because Sylvia has gone nuts and will destroy them all including him.

She turns into a giant black cat and hunts down and kills Korob by smashing him under a dungeon door.  As he’s dying Korob reveals that the source of their power is a magic wand.  At the key moment Kirk smashes the wand and everything returns to reality.  No castle, no fog and Korob and Sylvia are now these little six-inch figures that look like they are made of colored pipe cleaners.  Scotty, Sulu and McCoy are unzombified and unaware of what has gone on.  Then they go back to the ship.

Even back in 1967 when I was ten years old, I knew this episode sucked.  It has nothing.  They couldn’t even give us a really good-looking woman with not much clothing.  It was all bad.  It isn’t even redeemed by Shatner mockery points.  It’s a waste of time except as an anthropological study on early television holiday tie-ins.  I give it a 3 // 1.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 6 – The Doomsday Machine

The Enterprise comes upon two adjacent inhabited solar systems that have had their planets reduced to rubble.  Heading into the next solar system they receive a garbled distress signal from the Federation Star Ship Constellation.  When they reach the solar system, they find that all the planets except for the inner two have been destroyed.

As they navigate through the debris field, they discover the badly damaged Constellation drifting in space.  Sensors determine that parts of the ship are still habitable but the warp drive and transporters are destroyed and the bridge has been depressurized.  Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and some red shirts beam aboard and discover that the crew is missing.  While investigating the auxiliary control room they discover the ship’s commander Commodore Decker (played by well known character actor William Windom) slumped over the control console in heavy shock.  McCoy revives him with a medication and Decker relates to them that some device of mammoth proportions, “miles long,” was destroying the fourth planet of the system when they arrived and so the Constellation attacked it with all it’s phaser weaponry but with the machine’s hull made of “pure neutronium” it had not effect.  The Planet Killer counterattacked with a beam of “pure antiprotons” and disabled the Constellation.  To save his crew Decker beamed them down to the third planet and stayed with the ship.  After the Constellation could no longer move the device ignored it and went back to destroying the planets.  Decker’s crew called him and begged him to help them as the machine destroyed the planet, they were on but he had no way to save them and this is what led to his breakdown.  Kirk speculates that the device is a Doomsday Machine unleashed in some long-forgotten war that destroyed both sides, leaving the machine to travel on indefinitely destroying everything in its path and using the debris from the planets it destroys as fuel.

Kirk sends McCoy and Decker back to the Enterprise and stays along with Scotty and the engineering team to reactivate the Constellation.  Scotty is tasked with getting the impulse engines working and the rest of the team attempts to get the main view screen of the auxiliary control room functional.

Meanwhile back at the Enterprise Spock is towing the Constellation along and intends to head away from the subspace interference associated with the Planet Killer and warn Starfleet that the device is headed for the most populous area of the galaxy.  Communication with the Constellation is cut off by interference and when Commodore Decker reaches the bridge, he relieves Spock of command and orders the Enterprise to attack the Planet Killer.  And of course, this goes very badly.  In the course of delivering a series of totally ineffective phaser blasts to the hull of the device the Enterprise is caught by a tractor beam and is slowly pulled toward the maw of the Planet Killer.

At this point Kirk gets visual sensors back on line in time to see the Enterprise heading for annihilation.  Scotty provides Kirk with impulse power and some phaser capability.  Kirk attacks the Planet Killer and this gives the Enterprise the chance to escape.  Kirk contacts Spock and orders him to relieve Decker.  Decker escapes from an escort and steals a shuttle craft and despite pleading by Kirk flies it directly into the maw of the device.  The explosion of the shuttle craft’s small engine damages the Planet Killer by a small but definite amount.  Kirk theorizes that exploding the impulse engines of the Constellation inside the device might destroy the Doomsday Machine.

Scotty rigs a 30 second delay to provide Kirk with time to escape the Constellation before detonation.  As the Constellation comes within a few hundred miles of the device Kirk pushes the timer and calls to be beamed out.  But the transporter was damaged during the battle with the Planet Killer and we get the comical scene of Kirk getting closer and closer to destruction and anxiously reminding Spock he needs to be saved.  Spock provides monotonous reminders to Scotty of the imminent demise of Kirk while the engineer works feverishly to repair the transporter’s something or other.  And of course, Kirk makes it out with nothing to spare and his atoms scrambling in the air as the transporter manages to collect him together out of the hellish nuclear inferno set off inside the Doomsday Machine by the Constellation’s self destruction.  We get some prattle between Kirk and Spock about the Constellation’s detonation which is like a hydrogen bomb, the 20th century’s doomsday device, being used to destroy a different doomsday device.

This is a great episode.  The writer, Norman Spinrad, although not an author I preferred was a competent science fiction writer so he has crafted an interesting science fiction story.  The Decker character is given a good part as the Captain Ahab trying to get his White Whale.  Kirk gets to add a little humor to the situation of his transporter malfunction problem and he actually does this admirably.  He even gets to tell Scotty he earned his pay.  There really isn’t too much Shatner acting to mock but this episode doesn’t need it.  I’ll call it a 10 // 0.   This is as good as it gets for Star Trek.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 5 – The Apple

Kirk beams down to Gamma Trianguli VI with Dr. McCoy, Ensign Chekov, Spock, Yeoman Martha Landon (a pretty blonde named Celeste Yarnall) and several expendable red shirts.  We’re really not sure why the hell they’re there but we find out it resembles a tropical paradise that contains plants that shoot poisonous darts and rocks that explode if you step on them.  In fact, three red shirts die in these fashions and one of the plants almost gets Kirk but Spock pushes him aside and gets the darts in himself.  Of course, Spock survives but while attempting to beam back to the ship to help him, we find out that some force on the planet has neutralized the transporter and is also pulling the Enterprise toward the planet with a tractor beam.

We now meet the inhabitants of the planet.  They look like some combination of non-violent sheep with surfer dudes sporting platinum blond hairdos and wearing towels around their waists.  They work for a godlike idol named Vaal that inhabits a rock formation in the shape of a dragon’s head.  It has a force field around it and seems to be the power that is attacking the Enterprise.  Spock states that is some kind of machine.  The People of Vaal feed it the exploding rocks once a day and that seems to be the source of Vaal’s power.  Vaal controls the people and forbids them to procreate but feeds them and controls the environment so that they virtually live forever.  They are childlike and annoying.

When Yeoman Landon finds out that they don’t have sex she wonders how they would replace someone who dies by accident.  And the male members of the landing party look around sheepishly at each other until Spock hems and haws through a statement that Vaal will provide some kind of instructions.  McCoy makes a sarcastic comment to the effect that he’d like to see a machine try to provide those instructions.

While the situation of the Enterprise becomes more critical Kirk and Spock try to figure out a way to neutralize Vaal.  Spock warns that destroying Vaal would violate the prime directive.  Kirk indicates that he’s not concerned about that.  Meanwhile Chekov and Yeoman Landon are observed kissing by a couple of the People of Vaal.  Luckily, it’s 1967 so they are a man and a woman and when they experiment with this new behavior, I don’t have to turn the tv off.  But Vaal is not equally as happy about this behavior as I am and instructs his people to kill all the Enterprise personnel.  When the male People of Vaal attack the crew, they manage to kill one red shirt from behind by bashing his head in with a big stick.  But without the element of surprise these lame losers are quickly pummeled and disarmed by the Enterprise crew.  Even Yeoman Landon is able to kick the butts of these feeble skirt wearing sissies.

Now Kirk comes up with a plan.  He imprisons the People of Vaal thus preventing them from feeding Vaal while simultaneously he instructs Scotty back on the Enterprise to fire its phasers continuously at the force field of Vaal.  Sure enough Vaal quickly runs out of reserve power and is destroyed by the phasers.  Kirk tells the People of Vaal that they will learn to enjoy life without Vaal and will learn to take care of themselves and have their own lives and families as men and women are supposed to.

The final scene on the Enterprise has Spock trying to make the point that destroying Vaal is equivalent to forcing the People of Vaal out of the Garden of Eden.  Kirk counters by saying that essentially Spock is equating Kirk with Satan.  Kirk follows up by asking Spock if anyone on the Enterprise even remotely resembles Satan to which Spock guardedly says there is not.

This is sort of a companion piece to “Who Mourns for Adonais.”  Once again, a godlike creature holds a group of humanoids in thrall to serve it while providing the people with a life of ease.  And in both cases the Enterprise destroys the alien power source with its phasers.  There are definitely more humorous passages in this episode than usual including the first time that Kirk has to “fire” Scotty when he can’t perform the impossible.  And of course, he rehires him when he performs some other technical miracle instead.

There are a few scenes where Kirk displays anxiety over the death of some of the red shirts.  He whines about how he should have seen the dangers coming.  This is the extant of the Shatner mockery points.  Also, he gives Spock some grief for saving his life and there is the Satan shtick at the end.  There is a pretty girl in the episode and Chekov manages to get a few jokes about Russia into the script.  But it’s a relatively silly plot and the People of Vaal are like wimpy pajama boys so it does have a certain annoying quality.

Taken all in all I’ll call it a 7  //  5.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 4 – Mirror, Mirror

Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura go down to a planet whose inhabitants are called Halkans.  Maybe the planet is called Halka, but who knows?  The Halkans are lame looking pacifists who refuse to let the Federation mine dilithium crystals on their planet because they might use it for violence.  The guy who plays the head of the Halkan Council had a strange looking head and is dressed like a girl as far as I could tell.

Kirk tells them to think it over and he calls the enterprise to beam them up.  There is an ion storm (of course) raging in space and as the party is beaming up, they first appear in the Enterprise transporter room then disappear again.  Immediately afterward we see the landing party materialize in the transporter room but something is wrong.  The landing party is wearing uniforms that differ from normal.  Uhura has a bare midriff and the men have different shirts and all of them have daggers on their thighs.  Also, the ship has some kind of strange insignia and Mr. Spock is sporting a beard.

Kirk figures out that they aren’t on their own Enterprise and plays along with Spock concerning their apparent surprise.  He claims that the transporter malfunction has shaken them up and they need to go to sickbay for Bones to examine them.  Meanwhile we observe that on this Enterprise any mistakes are punished by means of a torture device called an “agonizer.”  Using the computer Kirk discovers that in this universe the Federation is an Empire and Halkans will have to be massacred to pay for their refusal to allow mining of their dilithium crytals.

When the crew find out that Kirk declines to wipe out the Halkans they see their chance to overthrow him.  Chekov and his followers attack Kirk as he heads for his cabin.  Luckily one of Chekov’s men turns on the conspirators and disintegrates them with his phaser leaving Chekov to be hauled off to the “Agony Booth” where he should have been allowed to die but Kirk eventually spares him and sends him to confinement in his cabin.

Kirk and his landing party figure out that an ion storm has somehow cause a rift between parallel universes (of course) and their only chance to return is to trigger the same phenomenon artificially.  To set this up Scotty and McCoy go to the engineering area and at the critical moment Uhura will have to throw herself at Sulu to distract him from his security board so he won’t notice the engineering changes.  As soon as it is clear she then slaps Sulu across the face and pulls a knife on him to escape his very un-Takei-like behavior.

Meanwhile Spock has informed Kirk that even though he would prefer not being Captain he will be forced to assassinate Kirk if he does not comply with the Empire’s order to annihilate the Halkans.  When Kirk reaches his cabin, he finds the Captain’s Woman, Marlena lounging on his bed and acting very familiar.  She demonstrates the Tantalus Field device that Kirk uses to disintegrate his enemies at a distance.  Kirk fences words and wrestles with her a little to show her he is still interested in her as a partner.

When Kirk and his group meet up in sickbay prior to going to the transporter Spock shows up and attempts to arrest the Captain but a fight ensues and eventually Kirk smashes a sculpture of a human skull over Spock’s head and knocks him unconscious.  While McCoy stays in sickbay to save Spock’s life the rest of the group heads to the transporter room there they are met by Sulu and his hit squad who intend to kill Kirk and Spock and take over the ship.  Marlena uses the Tantalus field and kills all the assassins except Sulu whom Kirk knocks out.

Meanwhile back in sickbay Spock regains consciousness and overpowers McCoy and uses the Vulcan mind meld to find out what is going on.  Back at the transporter Marlena shows up and tries to force the landing party to take her along.  Uhura overpowers her and takes away her phaser.  Spock and McCoy show up and Kirk tells Spock that he should use the Tantalus Field to take over the ship and work to turn the Empire into a more logical and benign Federation.  Spock allows the landing party to leave and they end up on the Federation Enterprise.

In the final scene on the bridge Bones tells Spock that he thought the beard was a distinct improvement for Spock.  Spock informs them that the naked aggression and open dishonesty of the other landing party was distinctly refreshing.  Finally, a new officer Marlena shows up and after an obvious look of recognition by Kirk that Spock notes, Kirk dissembles and says that she seems like a “nice, likeable girl.”  And he thinks they might become friends.

Here was a chance for Chekov and Sulu to have some fun and be bad guys.  Even Uhura was able to get some screen time playing around with Sulu and even getting tossed around during the fight with Spock.  Kirk and Spock got to wrestle and tumble around sickbay and Scotty and McCoy also were given a few scenes.  There was one scene on the real Enterprise where Spock is having the fake landing party tossed into the brig and fake Kirk is trying to bargain with Spock for his release, promising him power and threatening to string him up by his “Vulcan ears” if he doesn’t.

All in all, it’s kind of a fun episode.  Let’s call it a 7.  As far as Shatner mockery points, Kirk does swagger around in his sportier more swashbuckling uniform and he does act goofier than usual but I wouldn’t say more than a 5.  That makes this a   7 // 5.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 3 – The Changeling

The Enterprise is responding to a signal from the Malurian system.  But upon scanning the solar system they find that all of the four billion people there are dead.  They are attacked by an incredibly potent enemy that drains the ship’s deflector shield in a few blasts.  Kirk attempts to reason with the unseen enemy.  He names himself James Kirk in his address and the enemy seems to break off the attack at this mention.  We find out that a small three-foot-long robotic device that calls itself Nomad is the attacker.  It agrees to break off the attack and come aboard the ship.  We learn that Nomad was an Earth probe from the 21st century.  Nomad has mistaken James Kirk for its creator, Dr. Jackson Roykirk.  We eventually learn that the original Nomad was a probe designed and programmed to seek out interstellar life.  It was damaged and somehow merged with an alien probe called Tan Ru that was also damaged.  Tan Ru was enormously powerful and had as its mission to sterilize soil samples for planetary colony evaluation.  Once the two probes were integrated, their new mission was to seek out biological life and if it was imperfect, which it always was, to sterilize it.  This explained what had happened to the Malurian system.

Nomad starts exploring the Enterprise with unsurprisingly dire results.  He hears Lt Uhura singing and he analyzes her mind and finds it irrational so he erases her memory.  When Scotty attempts to come to her aid Nomad strikes him with an energy bolt that kills the engineer.  When Kirk complains that Nomad has destroyed on of the creator’s “units” Nomad agrees to repair the dead human.  And he does, much to the amazement of Dr. McCoy.  Kirk attempts to immobilize Nomad in a containment cell but Nomad leaves and when his two guards attempt to stop him, he disintegrates them.  Nomad repeats this action once again in another scene.

Kirk becomes exasperated with Nomad’s casual destruction of biological units and tells Nomad that Kirk himself is a biological unit.  This is a big mistake.  Nomad decides that he should sterilize the Enterprise and then head back to the point of origin, Earth, to decide how to eliminate imperfection there too.  Kirk hits on a plan and tells his men to stand by with anti-grav units to transport Nomad when Kirk gives his command.

Kirk tells Nomad that he is not the creator.  That he has mistaken James Kirk for Jackson Roykirk.  And since that is an error, Nomad is himself imperfect.  And since all imperfection must be sterilized Nomad must sterilize himself.  As Nomad’s processor attempts to reconcile this fact.  Kirk has his crew use the anti-grav units to carry Nomad to the transporter and right before he gives to signal to beam Nomad off the ship, he says to Nomad, sterilize the imperfection.  Kirk watches through a view screen as an intense flash signals that Nomad has sterilized himself right out of existence.

While Mr. Spock bemoans the loss of such an amazing creation Kirk observes that the machine thought Kirk was its mother.  He adds, “You saw what it did for Scott.  What a doctor it would have made.  My son, the doctor.  Kind of gets you right here, doesn’t it?”

I really like this episode.  The plot is a well thought up science fiction story that provides the Enterprise crew with something different from the usual human dramas that typically develop.  The plot device of Kirk outsmarting a machine is one that is repeated several times in the series but in this episode, it is used to good effect and the humorous ending is especially well done.  There is no Shatner mockery points to be found in this episode so I’ll give this a  9 // 0.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 2 – Who Mourns for Adonais?

In this episode the Enterprise is surveying an uninhabited planet when a force field in the shape of a giant hand grabs hold of the ship.  Then an image of a man with laurel leaves around his head contacts the ship and tells them that they will follow in the footsteps of their ancestors Agamemnon, Odysseus and worship him.  He proves that he can crush the ship if they defy him and so Kirk, Scotty, Bones, Chekov and a pretty blonde-haired anthropology officer named Carolyn beam down.  The image orders Spock to stay aboard because his demeanor reminds him of Pan whom he always found boring.  Kirk tells Spock to investigate Apollo and figure out a way to escape from him.

On the planet they find a small Greek temple with a stone seat on which is sitting the god Apollo.  He tells them that he has been waiting five thousand years for humans to reach his home.  He wants the crew of the Enterprise to migrate to the surface after which he’ll destroy the ship and turn them into a tribe of pastoralists who will worship him as their god.  He also wants Carolyn to bear a family of young gods by him and to show her his interest he dresses her in a revealing ancient Greek costume.  Carolyn is very receptive and seems to be in love with Apollo.  Meanwhile Kirk and the rest of the men try to convince Apollo that they’ve outgrown the Olympian gods and won’t become his devotees.  Scotty who is in love with Carolyn several times tries to interfere with Apollo’s attention to her and each time he gets punished a little more painfully.  Apollo tells Carolyn that he has been waiting alone because the other gods, Hera, Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena and the rest, gave up and dematerialized.

Meanwhile Spock has been working out a plan.  He has figured out a way to poke holes in the force field that the ship can communicate through and fire phasers through.  He tells Kirk that he has located the source of power as the temple.  Bones identifies an organ in Apollo’s chest that could be the conduit for the power from the temple to be wielded by Apollo.  Kirk convinces Carolyn to spurn Apollo and while he is distracted by her he has the Enterprise attack the temple.  After a short battle between Apollo and the ship, the temple is disintegrated.  Apollo now mourns for universe that no longer needs gods and calls to his comrades, Hera, Zeus, Aphrodite and Athena and asks them to take him away to their abode out of the normal universe.  He disappears from the world and Kirk muses whether it would’ve been so bad to gather a few laurel leaves.

This is a silly episode that has some things going for it.  First off there is the pretty girl in the slinky dress.  That can’t be bad.  Secondly the discussion about the classical Greek gods adds some interest.  Thirdly the actor playing Apollo has some presence and in the end dialog where he bemoans his fate, he does a good job.  The banter between Kirk, Bones and Chekov has its moments.  I’ll be kind and give this an 8.

As far as a Shatner mockery score, there is one scene where Kirk defies Apollo and in return Apollo remotely chokes the breath out of Kirk so we get Shatner making a goofy face while clutching at his throat as if he can’t breathe.  So, let’s call the whole thing 8 // 6.

Need A Laugh?

In the classic movie “The Caine Mutiny” the petty tyrant Captain Queeg assigns the deceptive title of morale officer to one of his unfortunate junior officers.  His responsibility in this position was to ruthlessly enforce the dress code down to the buttoning of shirts and the length of hair on the enlisted men.  Whereas this was a mockery of the concept of morale I believe that a morale officer is exactly what the country needs right now.  And to a large extent that is what President Trump has been attempting to do with his COVID-19 press conferences.  He’s trying to provide helpful information and an optimistic assessment of the progress we’re making in the dreary business of navigating through the pandemic swamp.  But we need more than that.  Trapped in our homes and deprived of even the opportunity to work we need some distractions.  We need some entertainment.

In a happier time, even just a short generation ago we could turn on the television and we would find on every network at least one show that was funny enough to distract us.  Back in the early 1990s you could watch Home Improvement with Tim Allen as a tv dad with his wife and three boys stumbling through the foibles of American family life with gentle humor and a very muted take on the battle of the sexes and the revolt of the young against their parents.  Later on, you could still laugh at the misanthropic but relatively harmless antics of Seinfeld and his neurotic associates.  Even during the 2000s you could see a show like King of Queens where the humor was more like a pitched battle between the husband and wife and the dysfunctionality of the older generation was on full display with Jerry Stiller’s portrayal of Arthur Spooner more resembling a mental patient than a normal adult.  But it was funny and the characters somewhat resembled real people.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.  The loss of any originality on network television seems to have killed off the sitcom.  The stupidity of the writing and the restrictions on the plot dictated by political correctness have rendered these shows unwatchable.  Maybe the better writers have moved over to cable stations like HBO and Netflix but the darkness of most of what passes for comedy on cable is pretty extreme.

And that is where we are.  As a society we are surrounded by joyless dysfunctional productions that are supposed to be entertainment.  The action shows aren’t good but they’re just supposed to tell a simple story of good versus evil.  That’s easy enough to do.  Comedy is harder.  It takes intelligence and an actual sense of humor.  Those two things are mostly absent now.  But that’s what we need.  A good laugh.

Luckily, there is a lot of old comedy available.  And there is probably something there for all tastes.  Everything from the tame antics of the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello and the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, to the early modern comedy of George Carlin, Mel Brooks and Rodney Dangerfield, to the outrageous Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, right up to the current rants of Dave Chappelle.  Of course, the definition of funny varies enormously depending on the audience.  It’s probably safe to say that generational tastes will divide the audience into several camps.  But what is undeniable is that the modern entertainment industry has destroyed comedy.

But we still need a laugh.  So, go looking for something that is funny and put it on and have a good laugh.  You need it and the rest of us do too.

What I would recommend is do a search online for what movies, tv shows and comedy recordings are considered the funniest for the time periods when your concept of comedy was formed and see if you agree with the opinion.  Look at general lists of comedies for these time periods and make a list of your own favorites.  Then rent or buy or stream a few of these comedies together in your own film festival.  Make sure you have your favorite popcorn or other snacks and enjoy.  Maybe tell a friend or two and have a virtual movie festival in separate homes.  You can make a deal to swap favorites and compare notes after the fact.

Just to show that my heart is in the right place I’ll throw a few out.  Now mind you, I’ll start off by saying my tastes are peculiar.  But there they are.  I’ll go with two W. C. Fields movies, “It’s a Gift” and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”  I always enjoy his henpecked husband routine and the melodramatic actress who plays his wife in both these movies is perfect.  I love telling Camera Girl that she treats me just as badly as Field’s wife in the movies.

Add in the first installment of the “Thin Man” series.  And finish off the early movies with the Marx Brother’s “A Night at the Opera.”  For the later decades we could take a couple of Bill Murray movies, say “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day.”  Maybe add a Jim Carrey movie, say the “Mask.”  And finish off with a cartoon that’s mostly a comedy like “The Incredibles.”  For a classic tv series I’d go with Jackie Gleason’s, “The Honeymooners.”

If you have any picks you’d like to volunteer leave them in the comments and share the wealth.