Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 6 – Mudd’s Women

This episode is notable in that it introduces the character Harcourt Fenton (Harry) Mudd who returns in the much more enjoyable later episode “I, Mudd.”

The Enterprise detects a transport ship that is travelling without its identity beacon.  Pursuing it into an asteroid belt The Enterprise is forced to overload its own engines while protecting the transport ship from destruction.  Harry Mudd and his cargo of three women destined to be sold as wives to rich lonely miners are transported onto the enterprise just before the smaller ship is destroyed by an asteroid.

The women are repeatedly described as incredibly beautiful (meh) and have an hypnotic effect on the male crew.  Interestingly, other than Uhura we don’t see any of the female crew members during the episode.  The Enterprise is crippled by the destruction of its lithium crystals (apparently the term di-lithium crystals was coined later in the series) during the asteroid belt maneuver and the ship must head to a planet where lithium crystals are mined to replace them.  Mudd finds out about this and communicates with the miners and they cook up a scheme whereby the miners will refuse to provide Kirk with the crystals unless he allows Mudd and his women to go to the planet’s surface for a meet and greet with the miners.

Things move forward on the plan but one of the women, Eve, is disgusted with the whole plan because of their guilty secret.  The women are only artificially beautiful.  They take a drug that makes them attractive.  If they stop taking it, they become homely.  Anyway, the miners find out about the secret and become angry but then we see that Eve becomes beautiful again due to the placebo effect of thinking she took the drug.  Now she’s beautiful because she’s self-confident.  And the miners are happy again because she has a heart of gold.

Mudd is taken back on the Enterprise where he will be put on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors against the Federation and the Enterprise is back to just having Yeoman Rand to maintain their hormonal balance.

Other than the slightly amusing acting of Mudd and the revealing costumes of the three women the only scene that I found engaging is when Eve and her miner are shown in bickering domesticity.  She makes him breakfast and they spar about the value of female versus male housekeeping.  I detected a spark of honesty in the portrayal which is highly unusual in anything Star Trekian.

But that’s it.  Watching Bones, Scotty and Kirk salivate and gape at the women wears thin very quickly and cannot manage to fill out the hour while Mudd enacts his brilliant scheme.  Kirk doesn’t do any shoulder roles or pontificate about life.  It’s not very good.   This episode is sub-par on both a conventional dramatic scale and with respect to Shatnerific bad acting.

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – A History of Violence – David Cronenberg

I thought sci-fi fans might get a kick out of a review of this film since its source was a graphic novel and its director is David Cronenberg, who I rank with Kubrick as among the most important directors working in the genre.

The movie has a quality cast, including Viggo Mortensen as the rural Indiana restaurateur, Tom Stall; Maria Bello as his wife Edie; Ed Harris as the gangster Carl Fogarty; Ashton Holmes as Jack Stall, Tom’s son; and William Hurt as Tom’s kingpin brother from Philly. There are also a host of additional small-role actors that do an excellent job. Harris is particularly effective as the one-dimensional killer as is Holmes as the nerdy millennial.

The movie opens by following two motel guests, one in a dark button-down shirt in the middle of the desert, i.e. a bad guy, packing up to “head east” and “avoid the big cities”. The younger partner complains of the boredom and yawns his way through the rest of the scene, including when he’s asked to go back to the front desk and fetch water from the cooler for the long drive.  There he sleepily encounters the clerk and maid whose throats his partner has just slit and almost nods out as he notices that a small child is emerging from the back room and shoots her. Like I said, bad guys.

This lovely bit of business is immediately contrasted by Tom and his quiet nuclear family. In these introductory scenes of the Stalls they all speak so softly and behave so tenderly to one another that the opening scene becomes submerged by the normal impulse to separate this seemingly vulnerable family from the monsters. But we know they will come and the savagery of the two drifters is anticipated by the inevitable high school bully that humiliates Jack in gym for daring to catch a fly ball to right. Violence, large and small, is almost clumsily emphasized. Cronenberg was said to have commented in connection to the film, “I am a great believer in Darwinian evolution and that violence is baked into our genes”, presumably explaining his lack of subtly on the issue.

When I read his comment, I thought of Cronenberg’s other films, like “Dead Ringers”, the story of twin gynecologists that descended into a surgical horror. And other of his films, Naked Lunch, Crash, Fly, all disturbing, but not particularly violent in any conventional sense. Rather, at their core, his films stylize death and disfigurement in a kind of grotesque eroticism. His focus, until “History”, was more in line with Poe than Peckinpah. Afterwards, however, gangsters and violence become common in his movies. One suspects the shift may be understood at least in part as commercial, but also, he seems to be trying to work out more conventional themes in more mature ways. For instance, “History” includes Bello in a frontal nude scene that seemed all too blue-blooded for the director of Naked Lunch.

In any event, when a very fickle fate sends our drifters into Tom’s diner, we are shown all the good that violence can do. For just as blue shirt instructs his youthful partner drooling at the waitress to “start on her”, mild mannered Tom dispenses with the would-be butchers faster than you can flip a flapjack. His ruthless efficiency at smashing a hot coffee pot in the face of one assailant, retrieving his gun and then dispatching both make his adversaries seem like amateurs. Even professionals like Ed Harris’ Carl and his gang can’t measure up to Tom’s lethal skill set. Carl, hearing of Tom’s heroics on the news, emerges from Tom’s past as if vomited out of hell’s mouth.  His face seems half melted, one eye is clouded, he claims his visage is a reflection of Tom’s true nature and he has come to return him to it.

I won’t belabor the obvious. I’m sure the reader knows there is only one way our genes and destiny can resolve such a history. It’s a pretty good film, especially given its source. “A History of Violence” made money and won acclaim but it was less influential than one might have guessed back in 2005. When I saw it back then, I thought that some of the film’s hokier elements like the straw man bullies and one-dimensional housewives would evolve along with the genre. I was wrong, in fact, the thinnest parts of graphic novel sources like Watchmen or Westworld, the robot/costume stuff, became the focus of their realization on the screen. We have devolved, but I’m sure that statement comes as no surprise.

 

 

 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari is the true story of the effort by Ford Motor Company, led by Carol Shelby, to build and race the first American car to win the Le Mans Gran Prix, the most prestigious road race in the world. The film was directed by James Mangold, starring Matt Damon as Carol Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles, the lead driver for the Ford team. The movie is something of a small miracle; a mostly live action Hollywood film shot on real locations. Also, there is no political agenda. All the actors are who they actually were, white men, and they fight, lie and cheat, which is to say they compete, for the purity of winning. How did this happen in 2019 America?

It is a wonderful spectacle to behold. Matt Damon as the Texan Shelby battling the soulless suits, led by Josh Lucas, who has made something of a specialty out of playing dastardly weasels. The movie is unconcerned with cultural appropriation, casting the Jewish Jon Bernthal as the Italian-American auto industry icon, Lee Iacocca. He does a fine job. Even Henry Ford II has a substantial role played by Tracy Letts. And to top it off, the film is centered on Miles’ intact heterosexual family of three, a supportive, if somewhat feisty wife and his heartbreaking 10-year-old son, who will witness his fiery death.

Now the movie aims for iconic myth-making but I’m happy to report it is at least soundly competent. I have been wondering the last few years if the industry was still capable of making a real movie. Apparently in some corners, it is. The racing scenes are fun, much of it CGI, but still enjoyable. Grown men past sixty, as were many in the audience, will have a different experience from everyone else. If you were around in the 1960’s but still too young or too working class to be in college, cars was the most important thing in life. They are the material and cultural medium that ties the suits to the cowboys and the Brits to the Italians. They hate each other in all the deplorable ways we make believe is unnatural. It is the very nature of men and it is their crafts and creations, mechanics, racing, auto making that channels their animal spirits to a higher plane. They compete, they innovate and even when they lose they tip their hats to the winner, as Enzo Ferrari does to Miles.

Bale and Damon go a little over the top now and then as does the film itself when the Ford scion is reduced to a sort of weeping orgasm at his first experience of real racing at the hands of Shelby. But these flaws are welcome and authentically quixotic in their ambition. If the film ultimately misses the mark myth-making, it doesn’t matter. It succeeds at something more important, reminding us what real movies and real men once looked like.

 

 

 

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 5 – The Enemy Within

As I delve deeper and deeper into Season One, I find myself amazed at just how much awful acting there is.  Whereas in most Star Trek episodes just one Jim Kirk is enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite for bad acting but in “The Enemy Within” we get two!  A malfunction of the transporter causes anything sent through to be divided into polar opposites.  A dog with a horn on his head and a really fake looking fur coat is split into a calm docile version and a rabid psycho version.  And when Kirk goes through the machine, he becomes polar opposite twins too.

And this pair of Kirks is very special indeed.  One of them is Castrated Kirk.  The transporter has neutered him.  He is indecisive, confused and unmanned.  He is constantly reminded by Spock that his Evil side is responsible for his ability to command the ship and therefore Good Kirk while intelligent and principled is unfit to run the ship, a capon and a big loser.  Spock really rubs it in.  It seems like he’s angling for the job.

The other Kirk is Satyr Kirk.  He attempts to rape Yeoman Rand.  I suspect given time he might have humped the entire female crew.  He berates Bones and orders him to hand over the Saurian Brandy which he wanders around swigging from the bottle.  And he beats up various members of the crew whenever the chance offers itself.  Later on, when he takes the Helm, he orders the crew to abandon Sulu and the landing party to their frozen deaths.  This did actually endear him to me.  I think they should have given him a chance.  I liked his instincts.

Watching Shatner portray the complementary fragments of Kirk is a thing of grotesque beauty.  The feral lascivious leer of Evil Kirk is wonderfully overdone.  The fretful womanish whining of Good Kirk is annoying and pathetic.

As a secondary pleasure in the episode, due to the malfunctioning transporter, the landing party is trapped on the planet as the temperature heads down into negative triple digits so we get to watch Sulu slowly freezing to death.  Very satisfying.

The climactic scene for each of our demi-heroes comes when Good and Evil Kirk have their showdown on the Bridge.  When Evil Kirk submits to Good Kirk’s leadership he cries out in a panicked voice, “I want to liiiive, I want to liiive!”  Pure schmaltz, marvelous.  Then as both Kirks are standing on the transporter plate waiting to see if the transporter can meld them back into a composite of bad acting, Good Kirk is supporting unconscious Evil Kirk and just before the mechanism is activated Good Kirk hugs his Evil half in a loving embrace.  It’s quite nauseating.  Truly wonderful.

Obviously, this is a Star Trek must-see episode.  Seeing the two polar opposite Kirks you realize that up until this episode, Shatner has been restraining his acting style.  We get to see Shatner unbound and it’s not pretty.  But it’s important for us to know his true range.  It’s good to know that there is more Shatner in there if it’s needed.  Well done Bill, well done.

 

 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review – The Terminator and Terminator Dark Fate

It is interesting to me to consider the new movie as part of two bookends to James Cameron’s strange career, while providing some comment on the evolving image that Linda Hamilton has presented in media and the almost unchanging one of Arnold.

When he made The Terminator, James Cameron had not done any of the films that built the industry position he holds today. He was a special effects guy that wrote a typical sci-fi screenplay about a murderous robot. But “The Terminator” somehow had a strangely enduring effect on American culture. The screenplay had all the stock components, with a few slight twists that would become Cameron trademarks like transforming female characters into alternate heroes. Otherwise it included the typical murderous, apocalyptic future so common, perhaps even central, to all science fiction, the obligatory arrested love interest, and a commendable combination of live action and classic stop motion animation right out of Jason and the Argonauts.

But this movie resonated with all kinds of segments, many without much taste for either conventional action or science fiction. And Cameron made both Schwarzenegger and Hamilton actual cultural icons. It’s easy to argue that neither of them surpassed their roles in the film, with Arnold literally milking it for billions in ticket sales and a governorship and Hamilton clearly chewed up by hers. How do we account for this? Can we see something in the two stars’ comparative destinies and did Dark Fate provide any clues?

The character of Sarah and the actress Linda Hamilton were perfectly matched to project the most innocuous presence, never rising above cute, until the cyborg is blasting a shotgun at her. We meet Linda working an adolescent fast food job and then going to a movie. In parallel a housewife mistaken for her is executed in her home and her roommate and boyfriend, beaten to death in her apartment. This balancing of extremes continues as her protector, Reese, and the cyborg finally meet shooting at each other in a bar over Linda’ head. The scene in a new wave disco called New Noir is one of the few that warrants the otherwise overused slow motion. While the “new wave” music plays and the young yuppies sway, the cyberpunk uncoils again from behind the bar, laser and machine guns in hand. Thus, begins the carnage. We see Sarah innocently look blandly at the camera with a red laser site on her head, about to be terminated when Reese uncorks his own assault, ending the scene by blasting the cyborg through a plate glass window.

When he rises, Michael Myers-like, Reese and Sarah alternately flee and shoot at the bot in every possible venue until Sarah/Linda is told that she is the mother of the future resistance, a legendary warrior whose son will defeat the future. She cries out for us all, “What”? The chase scene ends when the terminator drives straight into a brick wall with the cops chasing both of them.  Suddenly, Linda finally becoming partially aware of her surroundings and knows to grab Reese as he reaches for his shotgun to confront the cops. She yells, “No Reese, No, they’ll kill you”, in a voice we don’t hear again until she is does some terminating of her own.

Arnold gets the opposite treatment. We meet him emerging in a spherical electric storm naked in a crouch and watch him straighten up into the Hulk. He then walks through the park to murder and kill some punk rockers for their clothes, thus, cyberpunk. He is a comic figure We see his ass; he reads visual algorithms to select pre-coded responses like, “Fuck You, Asshole” in what became America’s definition of a slightly fascistic cyber/Germanic voice. His hair gets cropped and he wears cool ray bands to hide the eyeball he plucks out. He looks like Brando on his bike. Best of all, because he is a robot, he is not morally responsible for any of this, so we can enjoy his antics. This is no trivial accomplishment; Cameron creates a character Arnold will play for the next three or four decades. Remorseless, brutally violent, but cool and funny.

So, by the movie’s end, when Sarah punches the steel press on his steel skull, and he takes a last look straight into the camera, as if winking, with his laser red eye shining as the press crushes it dark, Sarah has gone from cute to terminator, and Arnold, the reverse.  Society, however, won’t let Linda be a terminator, but Arnold can be anything. He’s a protector, then he’s Danny DeVito’s genetically perfect twin, JL Curtis’ lucky husband, Sharon Stone’s even luckier boyfriend, a predator’s predator, a Kennedy, a Governor, even an expendable, and finally a terminator husband/father in Dark Fate. In the subsequent films, she will become a Rambet, permanently.

But a Rambet is denied even the righteous orgies of violence Stallone formulated for John Rambo. Sarah must become the separatist feminist, gaunt, cut, unsmiling, long suffering, ideologically pure. Most importantly, she is always angry. She invented the Hollywood version of the resting bitch face. She’s pissed about the apocalypse and having to bear the messiah and she’s going to do something about it. This may make for good doctrine, but it’s a bad career choice. It’s a classic Hollywood scam, make a “feminist” sci-fi cyberpunk movie that destroys the female lead’s career. Message, stick to cute.

That’s why The Terminator was so memorable and the rest, I don’t remember. Because at the end of the film with Linda Hamilton driving off into the stormy Mexican desert with her revolver, dog and headband, Sarah is still cute. There was still a Soviet Union. The apocalypse was coming, as it really is for all of us, but she came through the realization, as we all can. Later all this is revised as her ideology requires. We can’t be left with our faith, only her ideology. And therein lies the rub for Linda and even Arnold when it comes to the rest of their lives till Dark Fate.

I read that James Cameron, after years without contact, reached out to Linda Hamilton, his former wife, to ask her to make a new sequel. She claims that it took her years away from the industry living in Louisiana to finally build a stable life in a community away from Hollywood with real connections. But, for some reason, could it be money, she agreed to play Sarah again. The results are exactly as you would expect; it’s a disaster. Arnold’s body is gone, and his face looks like a parkinsonian mask. Linda’s voice sounds like she speaking through a tracheotomy. Now, with the right screenplay and if there had been no other sequels, these physical transformations could have made for interesting material. But given their respective ideological “careers” there was no way out. They went through the joyless, soulless motions until time, thankfully, ran out and Arnold was dead and burned next to the latest, multicultural terminator.

We had to suffer it all in Dark Fate. A tanned wrinkled, aging second wave feminist Sarah croaking out lines like “they want your womb”. A dumpy, younger, millennial feminist protector constantly signaling her sacrificial virtue. A Mexican virgin 2.0 screaming about her right to choose. Finally, a constantly transitioning multicultural killer cyborg. An identity maelstrom. I came to the conclusion that both Arnold and Linda got screwed by their roles, although Arnold a little more lucratively. They are left having lived out the superficial script written for them by Cameron. His hollow successes after The Terminator, with the exception of Aliens, have condemned him to the same lucrative irrelevance. It’s fitting that the Avengers franchise, sourced from dime store children’s comic books, is eclipsing his pretentious achievements, Titanic and Avatar. Stan Lee must be rolling in his grave.

So, looking at two films separated by 35 years, and two actors with seemingly opposite careers that ended in the same place, and the director responsible for the whole mess, what can we say about any of this. Only that the tenuous string that used to barely connect what passes as popular culture to at least a modicum of genuine craft has, over the course of one director’s career, entirely disappeared, leaving in its wake a trail of cultural victim/collaborators in various states of wealth and debasement. And nothing whatsoever for us.

 

 

Guest Contributor – The Fat Man – Movie Review – The Irishman

The Fat Man is a learned critic of cinema.  I welcome his contributions and hope to see him on a regular basis.

 

There are many ways to consider The Irishman, Scorsese’s’ latest, and hopefully last, gangster pic. We can try to at least mention them all but it may be best to see it as another allegorical mock epic. Almost the entirety of post-war US history not only acts as a backdrop to the film, but the movie suggests its main characters were central players in such events as the Kennedy assassination, the Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crises, perhaps even Watergate. The baby boomers can’t get over their all but irrelevant history of air conditioned atavism and faux passivism. They have no epic story to tell, so they are continually painting up their cowardice in the face of a minor war or their alternating deification and denunciation of their fallen non-hero, JFK.

It is no shame that Scorsese reveals himself as sentimental and self-deluding in The Irishman. Many great films begin with cherished delusions, like the tradition of the Ronin or the hooker-with- a-heart-of-gold. Marty and Paul Schrader did wonders with that last fantasy in Taxi Driver, with the whore/Madonna duo played by Cybil Shepard and Jodie Foster. The fact that poor Jodie was still prepubescent was just a cute detail, like attending college to avoid the draft and then going on to graduate studies to learn to justify it to the memory of the poor guys that got killed. But at least Taxi was, in its dysfunctional characters and their infantile motivations, funny. “He’s not a murderer, he’s a Sagittarius” (or was it an Aquarius), protests Jodie Foster’s character, Iris, to Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle for criticizing her pimp, Sport. That may be the funniest line to come out of Hollywood in the 1970’s.

 

I guess it’s time to address the details of The Irishman and justify all this scorn I’m heaping. Let’s start with funny. It’s not. The cheap laughs squeezed out by mocking the blue-collar naivety of the regular-guy-come-psychopath, Frank Sheeran, the movies protagonist played by De Niro, are so hackneyed they will make you squirm. The rest is humorless. How Scorsese managed to get one of the most naturally funny actors of the 1970’s and 80’s, Joe Pesci, to turn in a joyless performance will remain a mystery.

But, you may ask, why is funny so important. This is big stuff, Pacino, De Niro, Pesci, Keitel, the all-stars, it’s an epic, remember?

It’s true Scorsese swung for the fences on this one, as he did with The Aviator, The Age of Innocence and The Gangs of New York. You’d think he’d learn. Not satisfied with his one true contribution to American cinema, Raging Bull, a small movie perfectly drawn, he continues to balk at the big canvas. He can’t do it. All of his attempts, whether he juices them with amazing sets as in Gangs, or beautiful costumes like in Age, or a remarkable profile like Howard Hughes, fail for the same reason. He can’t tell that story. He can scare us and make us laugh, but he can’t move us. His work can be natural or abstract but never profound. He knows it, as all directors do that pile on the violence. They’re impotent so they pour on the blood.

And Scorsese, as usual, does pour on the blood. We make our way through Frank’s mournful decent from hard working family man to prolific serial killer. We are told the war was to blame where he was asked to unofficially execute German prisoners. His wonders why these prisoners were so compliant in digging their own graves. He asks himself maybe they thought they would get a break if they did a good job? It never occurs to him they were just taking more orders, the same process that dehumanized them in the camps and him.

The Irishman is quiet for a Scorsese movie, without any of the Eric Clapton that accompanied the mayhem in Goodfellars. A number of times, in the background score and in shots of empty rooms through partially open doors we see references to that most quiet of directors, Yasujiro Ozu. Ozu, who directed Tokyo Story, is of course admired by Scorsese but unlike the Italian neo realists that he loves, Ozu and his peaceful style is wholly unsuited to a gangster movie. It’s a clue of what Scorsese is trying to do. Make peace. It explains the unfunny Pesci performance and the banality of De Niro’s narration. Scorsese never had the hand to paint the kind of movie that his contemporaries Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola did. He could never shoot a scene like Brando in his office listening to the undertaker or like John Huston and Jack Nicholson discussing broiled fish. So he made up for it with rotating camera’s in the ring and forensic dialog ripped from FBI files.

But in The Irishman he tries Ozu and we get a whispering Joe Pesci saying “I chose us” to De Niro at the movies end to explain Hoffa’s betrayal. And Hoffa was betrayed, by Scorsese, by Pacino, by everyone who might be interested in what he did build into his union. It must be a curse to try to do a film about the union boss. Nicholson’s Hoffa was terrible, but at least he wasn’t transformed by an aging Italian actor and his friend’s pathetic confession into a one-dimensional stooge. Nothing is examined, nothing explained, just gossip.

And that is the reason the Irishman is a terrible movie. You can’t attempt to depict the sweep of a generation without saying something about why it matters. But because his generation still lies about the meaning of Kennedys and Castro and war, Scorsese has to lie as well. And so he does for the three hours of The Irishman.

 

 

 

Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 4 – The Naked Time

This episode leaves me very conflicted.  Because of the enormous amount of awful acting by a plethora of characters this should be and is a highly rated episode on the mockery index.  But having to sit through it is challenging.  There really is a limit to how much insipid tv you can watch before your skin starts to crawl.

Let’s dispose of the plot, such as it is, first and then look over this train wreck.  The Enterprise has been sent to Psi 2000, a planet whose star has “gone dark” and is now apparently collapsing in on itself from the cold.  They are tasked with rescuing a crew of four scientists that, for some inexplicable reason, were left in a highly dangerous and unstable environment and after the rescue they are to observe the collapse of the planet at extremely close range in a highly unstable and dangerous orbit.  Sure.

Spock and Lt. Joe Tormolen (hint, hint, dead man walking) beam down to the surface in isolation suits and find that the scientists seem to have died violently from the effects of insanity.  Tormolen’s nose is itchy so of course he takes off his glove and immediately becomes infected with what ever strange infection killed off the scientists.  Tormolen spreads the infection to the ship and for the rest of the episode the whole cast except McCoy engage in random acts of imbecility that somewhat mimic drunkenness.  Of course, the ship ends up in great danger of crashing into the unstable planet and a last minute “Hail Mary” by Spock and Scotty saves the ship but hurls the ship three days back into the past and then the show ends.  That’s not much of a plot.

Okay, so this is kind of a stupid plot but what is truly notable is how many creepy behaviors are on view by the crew.  Sulu takes off his shirt and swash buckles around the ship menacing the crew with a fencing sword.  Nurse Chapel starts whining at Spock declaring her empathy and love for his poor neglected emotional life as a half-Vulcan.  She even starts pawing at him and infects him whereupon he also starts blubbering and whining about how sad he was as a child.  Spock infects Kirk during a fist fight and then Kirk starts describing his unrequited love for the Enterprise.  All in all, it’s a nauseating spectacle but Spock and Nurse Chapel crying together and then Spock crying by himself in his cabin has got to be the low point.  It has to be seen to be believed.

There is an important scientific moment.  When the shut down engines won’t be available soon enough to save the ship if a normal start up is used, Kirk orders Scotty to engage in a full power restart, to which Scotty exclaims apoplectically, “ye canna mix matter and anti-matter cold!”  I fully expected him to preface it with an exclamation like, “Are ye daft man?”

Majel Barrett, who played Nurse Chapel was Gene Roddenberry’s main squeeze and soon to be wife.  But she is just such an annoying character that she comes close to making the episode unwatchable.  The hair style or wig she has in this episode is weird and off-putting.  The hair on the back of her head is dark and the front is grey and the whole thing is sort of swirled around.  It looks like something went terribly wrong during the hair and make-up prep.

So, my verdict is this is a must see because of just how heinous the acting is.  But at the same time make sure you aren’t in a weakened state during the viewing.  It will lower your vitality and it’s entirely possible you will break out in hives.  And it is completely out of the question for the mentally unstable.

 

Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 3 – Where No Man Has Gone Before

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” is that rarest of Star Trek episodes, a good science fiction short story.  And interestingly, it has only a few moments of Shatner awful acting.

The Enterprise is cruising close to the edge of the galaxy.  A damaged ship’s recorder from a star ship, the Valiant, that disappeared two hundred years earlier is recovered and it is determined that traveling through the negative energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy had something to do with it.  They determine that the Captain of the old ship had self-destructed the ship because of some threat that had to do with a survivor of the negative energy effect.

So, of course, Kirk decides to bring his ship through the barrier.  Several crew members are killed but two of those affected but not killed, Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell and psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner are changed by the experience.  Mitchell now has silvery eyes that glow and appears to have inexplicable mental powers.  A careful analysis of the Valiant’s recordings shows that the captain was interested in information about extra sensory perception (ESP).  Comparing health records of the crew members killed and Mitchell and Dehner shows that they all had high rating for ESP with Mitchell being exceedingly high.

Now Mitchell begins to exhibit alarming abilities.  He can control parts of the ship remotely using only his thoughts.  He also starts to talk about himself as being almost a god.  At this point, Spock concludes that the Valiant was destroyed because one of its crew must have developed powers in the same way as Mitchell and self-destructing the ship was the only way to prevent him from taking it over and going back to conquer the human race.  Spock recommends that Kirk kill Gary Mitchell before he becomes too powerful to stop.  Kirk rejects this but after proof of Mitchell’s power and hostility toward humanity, he decides to maroon Mitchell on a refueling planet that they are headed for.

Mitchell reads their thoughts and strikes out at them.  By luck they manage to knock him out with a tranquilizer and bring him down to the planet.  But eventually Mitchell’s increasing powers allow him to break loose and kill one of the Enterprise crew before escaping with Dehner into the desert.  At this juncture Dehner also has silver eyes and is talking about godhood.

Kirk sends the rest of the crew back to the ship and goes after Mitchell and Dehner with a phaser rifle.  Mitchell knows he’s coming and sends Dehner to talk to Kirk.  Kirk tries to reason with her and tells her to use her training as a psychiatrist to diagnose Mitchell as a psychotic.  Mitchell is easily able to capture Kirk and attempts to get Kirk to pray to him like a god for a merciful death.  Kirk refuses and uses the situation to convince Dehner that Mitchell is completely mad.

Dehner is convinced and before Mitchell has a chance to kill Kirk she attacks Mitchell with her energy weapon.  They battle back and forth.  Dehner is mortally wounded but Mitchell at least temporarily is weakened which is signified by his eyes returning to normal.  Dehner warns Kirk that his chance is brief.  Kirk attacks Mitchell and they have a fist fight.  But pretty soon Mitchell begins to recover his powers and pummels Kirk.  In a last desperate attempt Kirk knocks Mitchell into the grave meant for Kirk and recovering his phaser rifle he blasts a boulder that then falls and crushes Mitchell to death.  Kirk returns to Dehner in time to see her die.

This is a fun episode.  Gary Lockwood who plays Gary Mitchell does an outstanding job of showcasing the transformation from Jim Kirk’s best friend to megalomaniacal monster.  Sally Kellerman as Dr. Dehner is good and even William Shatner portrays the part as conflicted friend and foe of the monster with more range than he usually musters.  In fact the only mockable scene is when Mitchell is forcing Kirk into an involuntary kneeling posture with his hands joined in prayer.  He uses his usual spastic facial expressions to indicate his battle against the alien will.  It’s awful but it’s only a brief moment.

Some notable casting details.  In this pilot episode McCoy isn’t the Medical Officer but Scotty is the Engineer.  Sulu is still a “physicist.”  And interestingly we have a different cute blonde as Kirk’s yeoman instead of Janice Rand.  Andrea Dromm plays this Yeoman Smith.

So, here I am in an odd position.  I have to give this episode the highest marks for dramatic and storytelling qualities and lowest marks for Shatner mockability.  If you haven’t seen this episode I highly recommend seeing it.  If most of the episodes were close to this quality this would have been a great science fiction series.

 

 

Galaxy’s Edge – Tyrus Rechs – Contracts and Terminations – Book 1- Requiem for Medusa

By the title you can see that the Galaxy’s Edge franchise has branched out.  This book is the first installment of a spin off series that follow the adventures of quasi-immortal bounty hunter, Tyrus Rechs.  Tyrus was a component in Book 2 -Galactic Outlaws of the main sequence of the Galaxy’s Edge series.  This series is a prequel to that time line and gives us the back story for Rechs and several other important components of the ancient history of the Galaxy’s Edge universe.

Requiem for Medusa is a standalone story.  It’s a revenge story that involves Tyrus tracking down the murderers of the only woman that still had any connection to his weary soul.  The story reads like a noir but ends up as a military assault against desperate odds to take down the criminal gangs and the corrupt security apparatus that flourishes in the lawless depths of the Reach, the section of the Edge that had been abandoned for centuries to outlaw operations that even the Republic’s Legion left alone.

For the faithful readers of the Galaxy’s Edge series, this is not required reading.  This is a personal story of Tyrus Rechs and although it will answer some questions about Rechs, it won’t matter if you skip it from the point of view of the main narrative.  And this story differs from the other stories in that it contains a love interest component.  Whether this would distract the reader from the story is of course a personal preference.  But it should be mentioned in my opinion.

Now my opinion.  This is a separate story from the Galaxy’s Edge narrative but the characters are interesting and the character development for Tyrus Rechs doesn’t hurt him at all.  He performs his murderous rampage without any loss of skill due to the emotional component of his motivation.  There is a very clever plot device called the nano-plague that is probably linked to some of the other important ancient history for the Galaxy’s Edge universe but in this story, it is used to advance a plot element in the revenge story.

All in all, I liked this story and recommend it.  As with all the Galaxy’s Edge books it is well written, holds your interest and contains exciting combat action.  However, if you do not want to explore the periphery of the Galaxy’s Edge fictional universe it can easily be omitted without sacrificing your knowledge of the series.  Highly recommended.

 

 

Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 2 – Charlie X

This is a relatively straight forward plot.  The Enterprise meets a ship, the Antares, that has rescued the survivor of a spaceship wreck.  Seventeen-year-old Charlie Evans survived for fourteen years on the planet Thasus alone.  The Antares crew is anxious to leave and Captain Kirk takes the boy under his wing and tries to introduce him to how people live.

Soon we find out that the boy has extreme psychic powers that allow him to dematerialize members of the crew and destroy items across stellar distances.  Apparently, he was raised by the legendary Thasians who gave him these extraordinary powers.  Unfortunately, teen aged Charlie isn’t able to control his emotional insecurity and so his powers become a threat to the Enterprise and all aboard, especially Yeoman Janice Rand whom he immediately falls in love with.  When the crew of the Antares attempt to warn Kirk of Charlie’s powers he destroys the distant ship using only his thoughts.  When things start spinning out of control Kirk uses his dominant personality to try and rein the boy in but in the climactic battle for control of the ship Charlie rebels against his father figure, Kirk, and comes close to killing him.  Luckily at the appropriate moment the Thasians show up and take Charlie back to Thasus where they will take care of him and he will be prevented from destroying humanity.

This episode is a gold mine of goofiness.  We are regaled by Spock playing some kind of Vulcan lyre-like stringed instrument accompanied by Uhura singing extempore lyrics about Spock’s appearance and alleged romantic proclivities.  It must be seen and heard to be believed.

Later on, Kirk takes Charlie to the gym to teach him to fight.  Now we have our first viewing of Kirk without a shirt.  It’s not pretty.  He really needed to lose about twenty pounds.  And he demonstrates for Charlie his patented shoulder roll move.  Very athletic.  He also demonstrates his ability fall backward onto a mat.  Apparently, this is a skill that needs to be learned.  Well, it looked so awkward and unathletic that I judge it to be the highlight of the episode.

Here are other scenes that deserve mention.

Charlie sees one of the crewmen slapping his friend on the back after some work accomplishment.  When Charlie is walking away from Yeoman Rand, he says goodbye by slapping her on the butt.  She tries to control her outrage and tells Charlie to ask Captain Kirk why he shouldn’t have slapped her like that.  Kirk sputters and equivocates and dodges out.

Later on, Charlie goes to see Rand in her cabin.  She’s wearing some kind of one shoulder strapped dress that accentuates her figure.  Charlie pours out his adolescent hunger for her in incoherent monosyllables and when she rejects him, he dematerializes her.  This definitely reduced the interest I had in the rest of the show.

In this episode we see more of Mr. Spock’s stoic Vulcan personality and see kirk interact with him on a personal level while they play a game of three-dimensional chess.

The Charlie character was purposefully neurotic but I still found him very annoying.  This episode may have been the inspiration for a later episode called the Squire of Gothos which has a similar character who has superhuman powers but a very immature nature.  But in that episode the characterization is much more entertaining.

But as mentioned the highlight of the episode is Bill Shatner rolling around on the floor of the gym.  His embarrassing and awkward athletics are marvelous.  Putting aside the uninspiring plot the other aspects mentioned rate this episode very high in the pantheon of bad Star Trek specialness.  Highly recommended for connoisseurs of awful Shatner athletics.  Special mention for Yeoman Rand getting smacked on the butt.