Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 1 – Amok Time

The first episode of the second season is notable for a couple of reasons.  It’s the first appearance of Ensign Chekov.  He is a young man with a really bad Russian accent and a Beatles haircut which differed from the rest of the crew with a more military cut.  The other distinction is that this episode features the first details of Vulcan.  Mr. Spock is going through a Vulcan physiological syndrome that requires him to return to Vulcan to perform an ancient mating ritual or else die from the suppression of the metabolic process involved.  The visible manifestations of this syndrome include clear irritability and tremors in his hands.  When the always annoying Nurse Chapel brings him a bowl of Vulcan soup Spock scream at her and throws the bowl out of his cabin into the corridor.  When the video screen on the desk in his cabin interrupts him he smashes it flat with his bare hand.

Kirk has been ordered to proceed in all haste to a diplomatic occasion on another planet but in order to save Spock from dying he disobeys his orders and brings Spock to Vulcan.  When they arrive Kirk and McCoy agree to act as Spock’s entourage during the ceremony.  There we meet the prospective bride, T’Pring.  She’s decently good looking.  We also meet the leader of Spock’s tribe, T’Pau.  She on the other hand is an old battle axe.  Now we find out that a Vulcan marriage has the potential to involve a battle to the death for the bride’s hand.  And that’s what T’Pring demands.  And as is her right she selects the challenger.  But instead of selecting her real choice, a doofus named Stonn, she picks Kirk.  Kirk is afraid that if he refuses that Stonn will kill the weakened Spock in the combat.  So, he agrees to battle Spock, unaware, at first, that it is to the death.  The first round involves a weapon that has a large semicircular razor on one side of a pole with a cudgel on the other side.  Spock immediately slices through Kirk’s shirt and chest with it and Kirk barely manages to avoid death.  In the next round the weapon is a combination bolo and garroting band.  Before they get going McCoy gets permission to inject Kirk with a medicine that will allow Kirk to breath better in the low air pressure on Vulcan.

This time the contest does not go well and Spock chokes Kirk to death.  McCoy returns to the ship with Kirk’s body.  Spock questions T’Pring as to her motive in choosing Kirk.  She explains that she was unwilling to be the wife of an absentee legendary husband and so she reasoned that if Kirk won, he would not want her and if Spock won, he would also reject her for her betrayal.  Spock commends her on her logic and warns Stonn that winning T’Pring might not be as good a deal as he currently thinks it to be.

The payoff for the show comes as Spock takes his leave of T’Pau.  They flash their Vulcan gang sign with the space between the third and fourth digits and Spock gives her the “live long and prosper” line.  She repeats it to him but his comeback is, “I shall do neither, for I have killed my captain and my friend.”  Upon meeting Dr. McCoy, Spock informs him that he intends to hand over his command to Scotty but behind Spock a visibly living James Kirk replies, “Don’t you think you better check with me first?”  Spock in surprise and then delight breaks into a broad smile and grabs Kirk by the arms and exclaims “Captain! Jim!”  McCoy explains that what he injected into Kirk was a drug that would temporarily simulate death.  When McCoy questions Spock about his apparent emotional outburst on seeing Kirk alive Spock goes into a song and dance about how it was merely logical relief to see that he had not killed Kirk.  McCoy says it is all very logical but as Kirk and Spock are leaving, he says in a loud voice, “in a pig’s eye.”

And as the final straightening out of the plot we hear that Starfleet Command retroactively agrees to a request from T’Pau to allow the Enterprise to stop over at Vulcan.  Apparently, she is indeed a very heavy hitter in the galaxy.  So, Kirk is off the hook.

Interestingly this episode was written by Theodore Sturgeon who was a very talented but erratic science fiction writer at the time.  As a tv show it has a lot going for it.  We get to watch Kirk and Spock dance around the uncomfortable dynamic of their friendship and Spock’s discomfort with addressing his Human/Vulcan emotional baggage.  I especially enjoyed Spock screaming at Nurse Chapel.  I’ve always despised the character and the chance to see her abused by Spock whom she obviously pines for was vey funny.  What can I say, I’m a monster.

There is also an enormous amount of hokey ritual on Vulcan with gongs, bells on some kind of shaking rack that looks really stupid.  There are funny weapons.  T’Pau is carried around on a litter by two attendants.  They’ve got all the funny words they use for the various parts of the ritual.  There are the silly names T’Pring and T’Pau.  It’s so much fun.  And the friendship between Kirk and Spock is actually well done.  When Spock answers T’Pau about his bleak future it hits just the right chord.  The scene where Spock realizes that Kirk isn’t dead works to great effect with Kirk’s line coming off as very comical and effective.  I give this episode a 9.

As for Shatner mockery points, what more could you ask for.  There is the sliced shirt, the rolling around and the minor tumbling moves.  Plus, Kirk gets to be strangled and play dead.  It’s great.  This is a 9 // 7.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 24 – This Side of Paradise

This episode is unique in that for the majority of the episode Spock reacts like a normal emotional human.

The Enterprise is sent to a recently colonized planet to confirm that the colonists have succumbed to the effects of deadly Berthold rays, which apparently are very bad.  But when they arrive, they find the colonists very much alive and in perfect health.  McCoy discovers that not only are they healthy but show remarkable signs of regeneration such as self-repaired lung damage and regrown organs that had been surgically removed.  In addition, one of the colonists, Leila (played by the very attractive Jill Ireland) is an acquaintance of Spock’s.  She had been in love with him when she knew him previously though he never reciprocated the feeling.  She asks Spock to go see some plant life that was important to the investigation into why the colonists had survived.  When she brings him into a field, she points to a flower shaped like a lily and when Spock approaches it, a puff of pollen blows into his face.  After exhibiting pain from the exposure, suddenly Spock began behaving as a human expressing happiness to see Leila.  He kisses her and they talk about how the plant spores protect the colonists from the Berthold rays.  And Spock agrees to stay with Leila and live on the planet.

Meanwhile Kirk has been telling the colony leader Elias Sandoval (played by talented character actor Frank Overton) that the Enterprise will be evacuating all the colonists to a nearby star base.  Sandoval placidly refuses.  When Kirk attempts to call Spock on his communicator, at first, no one answers.  This is when we cut back to Spock sitting with his head in Leila’s lap watching the clouds in the sky and acting like a man in love.  Finally, he answers the call and tells Kirk that he isn’t leaving the planet and to stop bothering him.

Kirk and several crewmen search for Spock.  When they find him, he’s swinging on a tree branch and smiling like a man without a care in the world.  When Kirk demands an explanation, he brings them to one of the lilies and all the crewmen except Kirk are sprayed with spores and begin acting like Spock.  Eventually everyone but Kirk are controlled by the spores and begin to transport down to the planet from the Enterprise.  Kirk is basically in despair because without his crew he cannot even leave the star system with the Enterprise.  Finally, a lily that is on board the ship sprays spores onto Kirk’s face and he becomes like the others.  He calls Spock and tells him that he will be joining them soon on the surface of the planet.  Kirk goes to his cabin and collects his effects (which he packs into a very recognizable samsonite carrying case) but as he is looking at one of his Star Fleet medals, he becomes angry and this has the effect of shaking off the control by the spores.  Kirk then dictates a captain’s log to let us know that his plan is to lure Spock back onto the Enterprise in order to get him angry enough to escape the control of the spores.  He adds that considering the much greater strength of a Vulcan he is taking a dangerous risk by angering the very emotional Spock.  And that’s what he does.  He calls Spock a half-breed and a traitor out of a race of traitors.  Spock flips out and throws Kirk around the transporter room.  Bu the plan works and Spock overcomes the spore control and assumes his normal Vulcan persona.  Together Spock and Kirk rig a subsonic noise that irritates the colonists and crewmen and they all start fighting and then come to their senses.  Leila says a sorrowful goodbye to Spock and everyone heads up to the Enterprise.  On board Kirk asks Spock to describe his experience and he replies, “I’ve little to say about it Captain, except that for the first time in my life, I was happy.”

This was a pretty good episode.  Let’s call it a 7.  As far as mockery, there were some pretty good payoffs.  When Kirk is throwing off the control of the spores, he is hunched over in a pose that I guess is supposed to be towering rage.  It looks more like constipation.  During his baiting of Spock, he taunts him in a voice that is more whiny petulance than anger.  And perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of the whole episode is the awful southern accent that Doctor McCoy affects when he is controlled by the spores.  He blathers on about mint juleps and other inane things.  Terrible.

So, I’ll call this a 7 // 6.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 16 – The Galileo Seven

The Enterprise is on a mission to deliver medical supplies to a planet that is being ravaged by a plague.  But on route they find a quasar-like object and since these are a high priority of the Enterprise, they send out a shuttle craft (the Galileo Seven of the title) with a crew that includes Spock, McCoy and Scott.  But as soon as the shuttle craft nears the object, the radiation from the quasar drives the shuttle craft off target and damages its communication and navigation controls.

Meanwhile back on the Enterprise Kirk is aware that the shuttle craft has gone missing and that locating and rescuing the crew will be extremely difficult.  On top of this they have on board, Commissioner Farris, whose mission it is to ensure that the Enterprise delivers the medical supplies on time and he has put Kirk on notice that one minute past the scheduled time Farris will assume command of the Enterprise and force it to leave the shuttle crew to perish.

Meanwhile the shuttle craft has crash landed on a planet that is inhabited by twelve-foot tall cave men who hurl equally gigantic spears with deadly force.  Within minutes of landing one of the red shirts is speared.  Spock shows no sorrow for this death and gains the animosity of most of the crew.  When a second crewman is killed by the cave men because of Spock’s ineffective leadership there is almost open revolt and Spock is almost shocked by how poorly his logical approach has fared.

And on the Enterprise the crew has been carrying out a systematic but hopeless search for the shuttle craft on the planet.  Commissioner Farris spends all of his face time badgering Kirk and performing a countdown to their departure time.  He truly is an annoying jerk.  Finally, time runs out and Kirk begins leaving the solar system at slowest speed.

After discovering that their fuel is depleted, they have Scotty repower the shuttle with the phasers they’ve been using to fight off the cave men.  They determine that the power will allow them to reach orbit.  But when the cave men start to attack the ship, they sacrifice some of the power for a high-powered lift off and now barely have enough power to reach orbit.  Based on schedule they know that the Enterprise has already left orbit but Spock decides to forfeit their ability to stay in orbit for a chance to attract the Enterprise’s attention with a rapid burn off of their fuel, basically a flare.  And of course, it works and at the very last minute as the shuttle craft is burning up in re-entry, the shuttle crew is rescued by the transporter.

The episode is centered on the shortcomings of a leader who does not have empathy in his psyche.  Spock is unable to inspire confidence in his crew and his lack of understanding of how the illogical cave men will react results in the death of one of his men.  But finally, when fiery death was staring him in the face he resorted to a desperate intuitive plan and succeeded.  All of this was slightly interesting.  But at the end of the episode when Spock and McCoy are on the bridge with Kirk and he refuses to admit that he acted illogically they accuse him of being stubborn and he agrees.  Then they all start laughing as if this was something hilarious.  This looked incredibly phony.

Alright, so what do I do with this episode?  This is one of those psychological episodes so I should probably go easy on the set up.  But the planetary scenery and the cave men and their artifacts look as incredibly hokey as anything seen on Star Trek.  Then there is the annoying Commissioner counting down the minutes and Kirk snapping back at him in frustration.  But the crew growling at Spock and his incompetent leadership are kind of amusing.  Let’s say a score of 6.  As for Shatner, his only chance for bad acting is the fake laughing at the end of the episode.  But that’s hardly a stellar performance for him.  I’ll say 6 // 4.