ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 4 – Conclusion

After reviving ourselves again with refreshments we estimated that we had time for one last course before exhaustion would set in.  Almost at random we selected Mudd’s Women.  It was a mistake.  What we thought we were going to watch was the episode called I, Mudd.  This one is about Mudd selling women that he artificially beautifies with a drug.  It’s boring and meaningless. At the end the women are seen to be beautiful without the drug because they’re self-confident.  Yeah sure, and I’m Brad Pitt.

Anyway, this poor episode angered the delegates and disrupted the complacency that the massive junk food binge had produced.  We set to work repairing the situation with mass quantities of supplies.  Once we had re-established our equilibrium, we decided to quickly bring the ShatnerKhan to a rapid close.  But we did ramble on about what we had learned and vowed less poisonous food at ShatnerKhan 2.

So, what did we learn?

  • William Shatner is indeed a demigod of bad acting. Series television, made-for-tv movies, big studio major motion pictures, even minor awards ceremonies; none of them are proof against his patented lousy acting skills.  He is a ham for all seasons.
  • As lousy an actor as Shatner is, he is definitively the best part of the original Star Trek series. His character possesses almost the only heroic characteristics to be found on the show.  The rest of them are even bigger weirdos and losers than he is.
  • Shatner actually seems to be a decent comic actor. He is able to perform self-deprecating routines quite skillfully.  We decided not to hold this against him.
  • Much more study will be needed and a much higher grade of food supplies will be needed for future ShatnerKhan events. I personally advocated for deli, others spoke of Thai food and barbecue.  These questions will be sorted out in committee.

But all agreed that ShatnerKhan 1 was a roaring success both academically and gastronomically.

All hail William Shatner, long may you endure as a shining beacon of terrible acting.

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.

 

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 3

As stated at the end of the last post we settled on Star Trek episode “Space Seed” as our next course.  And there it all was!  Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner battling to settle the question of who could chew up the scenery faster.  Khan proves to be an even more persuasive lady’s man than Kirk.  He convinces a lady scientist to turn traitor to the Enterprise and assist Khan in taking over the ship.  Of course, the most absurd part of the story is that Kirk provides Khan with the ship’s technical manuals that allow him to figure out how to selectively flood most of the Enterprise with knock out gas.  Could there be any logical reason to provide a known megalomaniac with the details of these most sensitive technical secrets of the ship?  Of course not.  While he was at it, he might as well have given Khan his social security number and his bank account PIN.

There is a great scene near the end where Kirk and Khan are fighting mano a mano.  Khan starts out by snatching away Kirk’s phaser and twists it in half with his bare hands.  Kirk gets tossed around like a rag doll but at the critical juncture he grabs hold of a solid metal bar and clonks Khan over the head a few times with it and shows that even a super-strong super-genius should go for the quick kill instead of ending up having the tables turned on him like some kind of super villain in a James Bond movie.

Watching the final scene where Khan and his colony agree to be exiled on a world of their own is of course ironic.  We know that in the future the Wrath of Khan is awaiting Kirk and the rest of the crew.  This was discussed heatedly.  What should have been done.  Should Khan have been handed over to a re-education camp.  Should Kirk have checked to see if Ceti Alpha was a stable star that would permanently support a colony?  Should such dangerous genetically superior individuals have been liquidated, for the safety of all humanity?  What, precisely, was rich Corinthian leather?  The answers to all of these were debated endlessly and then abandoned because we got hungry again.

But certain things were agreed on.  Kirk and Khan are both hounds and neither Shatner nor Montalban believed in understated performances.  And these two things were linked with the fact that this is one of the most popular episodes of the series.  Shatner and Montalban are over the top ham actors.  The characters they are playing are out of a comic book.  But they are fun.  They are motivated by the things that men are interested in; women, adventure, honor.  This makes them about a trillion times more fun and interesting than Spock or Picard or any of the other “futuristic” characters.  Shatner taking shoulder rolls and bouncing around under pretend Khan pummeling is laughable and sophomoric but it’s still the best thing Star Trek had in this episode.

So this is the revelation.  Kirk is the best part of the show because he provides the only example of a normal man doing normal manly things.  He doesn’t do them well or convincingly but he’s all there is.  So we gave one cheer for James Tiberius Kirk and took some time out to eat some more food.

You may think that there was an inordinate amount of time taken away from the proceedings of ShatnerKhan to eat junk food.  You would be correct.  The plain truth is that all the delegates there were taking the opportunity to eat types and amounts of food that their wives would normally prevent.  In many ways it was almost as if ShatnerKhan was an excuse to pig out.  Once again, you would be correct.  But we justified this by pointing out that Shatner himself always looked like he could lose about thirty pounds and we perceived something heroic in men of a certain age throwing caution and wifely warnings to the wind and seizing the day and the Dorito (as it were).

In the final post we will look at the concluding viewing content and then our final thoughts on ShatnerKhan 1 and the prospects for later editions.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 1 – The Man Trap

The episode opens up with Kirk dictating a “Captain’s Log” stating that Spock is in temporary command of the Enterprise while Kirk, McCoy and a crewman are beaming down to the surface of some planet to perform routine physical examinations on a scientist, Professor Robert Crater and his wife, Nancy.  The only unusual circumstance is that Nancy is McCoy’s old girlfriend.  Alright, let’s stop right there.  The commanding officer of a large, powerful, highly strategic military vessel is leaving his ship to keep his chief medical officer company while he gives routine physical exams to apparent nobodies in the middle of nowhere?  Who runs Star Fleet anyway, the Keystone Cops?  Alright, onward.

In the next scene, back on the Enterprise, we are forced to witness an exchange between Communications Officer Uhura and First Officer Spock.  Uhura is bantering with Spock trying to get him to engage in small talk.  He vulcans out and Uhura asks him if he can complement her on her beauty or tell her about how beautiful the moon is on Vulcan.  When Spock tells her that Vulcan has no moon, she replies that she is not surprised at all.  Gack!

While walking toward the Craters’ home, Bones and Kirk trade banter about the awkwardness of Bones meeting up with his former lover in the presence of her husband.  The exchange is truly awful and appears to have been written by a fifteen-year-old at best.  I was waiting for one of them to say, “I know you are but what am I?”

When we meet Nancy, she appears to McCoy to be in her twenties as he remembers her.  To Kirk she appears to be a middle-aged woman.  To the crewman she appears to be a very attractive and flirtatious girl who lures him into a secluded location away from the others.  Suddenly the three men hear Nancy’s screams and run to find out the emergency.  They find her with the body of the crewman dead on the ground.  He has a fragment of a poison fruit in his mouth.  He also has strange round blotches on his face.  The woman claims that the crewman ate the fruit before she could warn him of its deadly character.  The captain reprimands the doctor for being more concerned with the woman’s emotional state than with ascertaining the cause of death of the crewman.  The two live and one dead crewman are beamed back aboard the Enterprise.

Back on the ship Bones completes a medical examination of the dead crewman and discovers that he did not eat the poison fruit.  After further testing he discovers that the dead man’s body has somehow been drained of all sodium chloride, salt.  The captain remembers that Crater had stated that they needed their stock of salt replenished.  Sensing that something was wrong, the captain and doctor return to the planet with an escort of two crewman to help investigate the strange death.  Kirk tells Crater that something on the planet is killing humans and that the Enterprise will evacuate the Craters until the danger is past.  Crater becomes angry and runs away.  While searching for him both crewmen are killed by Nancy but we see her turn into one of the crewmen and return to the ship with the rest of the landing party.  Okay, let’s stop here.  “Nancy” has now killed three crewmen without breaking a sweat and Kirk is still aimlessly beaming up and down from the planet and seems almost nonchalant about it.  Resume.

Fake crewman now stalks victims on the Enterprise.  His first target is Yeoman Janice Rand, a hot blonde babe who is carrying a tray of food to Lieutenant Sulu, but she also has a salt shaker on the tray and the creature wants to take it.  But she escapes into a crowd.  Finally, something to praise in this episode, a pretty girl in a tight-fitting dress.

The creature kills a few more crewmen on the ship so Kirk and Spock go down to the planet to capture Crater.  Crater stands them off with a phaser and Kirk and Spock decide to split up to encircle him.  And here we get the first example of William Shatner displaying his physical prowess.  While sneaking up behind Crater, Kirk dives into a pile of sand.  Instead of a special forces warrior he looked more like an otter.  It isn’t pretty.

Kirk and Spock capture Crater and he confesses that Nancy is not really his wife but a shape-shifting creature that needs salt to live.  The creature killed the real Nancy more than a year ago but he had spared it because it was the last of its kind like the American bison.

Kirk and Spock head back to the ship and now the search is on for the creature.  It has assumed the shape of Dr. McCoy and when it gets the chance it kills Crater and attempts to kill Spock but his Vulcan blood apparently doesn’t taste good to the creature.

In the finale the creature turns back into Nancy and goes to Dr. McCoy for protection.  Kirk comes to them with a phaser in one hand and salt tablets in the other to lure the creature into revealing itself to McCoy as a monster and not his old love.  But McCoy disarms the Captain and won’t shoot her even when she begins desalinating Kirk.  Now Shatner really gets to show his stuff.  The creature places it’s suction cup fingers on his face and Kirk emotes the crap out of his pain.  He gives of his best.

Luckily for Kirk, Spock shows up and proves to McCoy that the creature isn’t Nancy.  He interlaces his fingers and hammers Nancy in the face several times.  But instead of having her skull fractured by this Vulcan knuckle sandwich she grabs Spock and throws him across the room like a rag doll.  This finally registers with McCoy and he shoots the creature.  She then pretends to be Nancy again and McCoy after begging heaven’s forgiveness terminates the creature with a lethal phaser shot.  Once dead she resumes her actual shape, a sort of short, stocky, hairy creature with a sucker shaped mouth and suction cups for fingertips.

“The Man Trap” wouldn’t have been my choice as the introductory Star Trek episode.  It’s kind of odd.  But it’s interesting to see that certain roles and behaviors that we come to expect are already in place.  After the first crewman is killed Bones gets to make the inaugural, the primordial, “He’s dead Jim!”  Equally important, Uhura demonstrated just how annoying she can be.  We saw the importance of short tight dresses on Yeoman Janice Rand to add some interest for the adult male portion of the audience.  And finally, we got to see several of Jim Kirk’s signature moves.  His obliviousness in the face of obvious threats all around him.  His delight in rolling and frisking around in sand.  His embarrassing facial expressions when emoting pain or fear.  His jackassery when taunting his friends among the crew.

Even though this is the very first episode aired it actually is a fairly average example.  It is not particularly awful nor is it so bad that it comes off as hilarious, it’s just average.  I still haven’t figured out the details of my scoring for the various components of a Star Trek episode but this one will cleave pretty close to the middle.  I’ll add those in later but for now call it average.

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Introduction

Coming hard on the heels of the conclusion of my marathon review of all one hundred fifty-six episodes of the Twilight Zone series I’ve decided to handle the Star Trek series in a decidedly different manner.  Instead of providing mostly a plot synopsis followed by a short critique of the show I’ll instead tackle each episode as it relates to the series as a whole.  For instance, Star Trek consists of the personalities of the main characters interacting in whatever plot is provided that week.  And those plots have components that can include action, drama, melodrama, romance and even comedy.  And over time the characters develop predictable behaviors.  What I intend to do is compare the characteristics of a particular episode with the typical or average portrayal of these characteristics in the series.

What I think this will allow is the maximum opportunity for mockery.  And let me be clear.  I am doing this to take potshots and make fun of the awful acting and bad scripts that makes up the bulk of Star Trek.  I watched Star Trek as a child and at the time I thought it was fantastic.  I have a permanent warm spot in my heart for the show but I also recognize how extremely awful a lot of it is.  And right at the center of this awfulness is William Shatner.  His patented brand of overacting is by turns hilariously bad and embarrassingly painful to watch.  I will rate the levels of bad and may have to invent a Shatner Scale to accomplish this.

But I want to acknowledge that Shatner is also very good at certain types of humor.  There are scenes in Star Trek where he is as amusing as anything that was on television at the time.  These are relatively brief and somewhat infrequent.  But when something is done well, I’ll celebrate it.  And there are other outbursts of good acting that occasionally intrude on the dreck.  I will definitely note those too.

So that’s fair warning for really devoted fans of the show.  I have no reverence for this show but I am fond of it.  I will mock it viciously but I will also point out the good stuff that also exists in it.  I will talk about how the show uses or abuses various science fiction tropes of the time.  I will rate the plots and discuss inconsistencies that annoy the nerd in me.  I will talk about the character development (such as it is) of the lead actors and of course I will delve into the strange and frightening study of William Shatner’s acting technique.  I intend to do one episode a week.  That will give enough time to lavish all the loving attention each episode deserves.

I know that I will learn a lot about bad television and I hope I provide a faithful portrait of one of the most influential and durable science fiction franchises around.  So, I watched the first episode and was surprised to learn that “The Man Trap” was the first televised episode.  I had assumed that “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which I had understood was the second pilot, had aired first.  So here I’m learning new things about Star Trek right from the git go.

Now, I will boldly go where no sensible blogger has gone before.  Dun ta dun ta dun dun dun dun …. da dunnnn!

 

William Shatner – A Demigod of Bad Acting

Over the course of over fifty-five years of television viewing I have become jaded and much of what I once felt was entertaining has lost its thrill.  For instance, as a young kid I was convinced that “The Twilight Zone” was not only great acting and entertainment but also intellectually dazzling.  I thought that “Flipper” was top-notch adventure and “Lost in Space” was cutting edge science fiction.  Ah, youth.

But one thing has remained constant from the early sixties to the present day.  And that is the Shatner.  From my first sighting of him on the Twilight Zone as the panicked lunatic on “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” to his every close-up on the original “Star Trek” TV series to his every career iteration he has distinguished himself as the World’s Greatest Bad Actor.  No one can compare.

And along the way I’ve cheered him on.  I thrilled to the scene where he agonized about “losing command” when the transporter separated him into “Good Kirk and Bad Kirk” and he knew that “Bad Kirk” was muy macho and he, “Good Kirk,” was a wimp.  I was transfixed as marooned Kirk shouted up to the sky, “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!”  And I fought back the nausea listening to his riveting rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”  It’s been a wild ride.

But his greatest role is one that few have seen or remarked on.  In 1984 he starred in a made for tv movie called “Secrets of a Married Man.”  In it he is an engineer who is going through a mid-life crisis.  His job is on the line due to a difficult project.  He’s stressed out and his wife is busy with the kids.  He starts having sex with hookers.  There are a number of hilarious Shatner overacting scenes that turn what is supposed to be serious problems into over the top comedy.  In one scene he’s in the shower and looks down and starts spazzing out and choking out the words “Oh my God!”  In the next scene his doctor is telling him he just has a rash on his genitals and he shouldn’t worry.  Another gem is Shatner driving down the main street with his wife in the car next to him and all the hookers are calling out greetings to him by his first name (Chris) and him claiming that it’s some kind of standard hooker greeting.  Ah, if only the Oscar went to the deserving.

But time is running out.  Shatner was born March 22, 1931.  In a few days he’ll be 87.  One day soon the world will wake up to the news that the Shat is no more.  And on that day, I will mourn.  But in the meantime, it’s comforting to know that in this world of relativism and revisionist propaganda the gold standard for something has stood the test of time and will be there immortalized in all its tacky splendor, the life work of William Shatner.  Well done Shatner, well done.

Shatner Links

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 7 – Nick of Time

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 3 – Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

 

Forbidden Planet – The Quintessential Sci-Fi Movie? – OCF Classic Movie Reviews

A lot of stuff has been said about what makes Forbidden Planet such an important sci-fi movie.  The ground-breaking special effects, the plot element of a human military vessel exploring space that would spawn the endless iterations of the Star Ship Enterprise.  And of course, there’s the classical angle.  Supposedly the plot is an update of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

So, there’s all that good stuff.  But to my mind the real reason can be summed up in two words, Anne Francis.  When the angelic face of Miss Francis first appears on screen I began to see the movie in the correct light.  This was an epic adventure story that rivalled the Odyssey of Homer for timelessness and meaning.  Now the fact that I was a sixteen-year old boy at the time probably colored my thought processes to some extent and the skimpiness of her costumes might even have had something to do with it.  But let’s face it, giant ants can only get you so far.  If you want to keep the natives from getting restless you have to appeal to their most powerful motivations and if a blonde-haired, blue eyed creature with a very pretty face and extremely long shapely unclad legs is brought center stage, suddenly even the acting skills of Leslie Nielsen seem greatly enhanced and worth a fair hearing.

But now that I’m in my dotage and no longer as easily swayed by a pretty face, I’ve had a chance to re-evaluate the movie.  Surprisingly, I’m still a big fan.  And this is despite the obvious weaknesses that are extremely evident in such an old film.  The dialog has some extremely cliché-ridden exchanges including:

  • The captain tells off the young woman because her uninhibited interest in the young men in his crew will be a distraction from military discipline.
  • Morbius displays the stereotypical arrogance of the academic intellectual toward the practical military authorities.
  • The banter provided by the ship’s cook is the comic relief that would seem right at home in an Abbott and Costello movie.

So what makes it good?  Well, the humans are mostly likeable and admirable.  The plot unwinds in a manner that allows for the gradual reveal of the mystery.  Of course, the who of the question is answered long before the why and how of the problem.  But the details provide reinforcement of the underlying lesson to learn.  We are reminded that smarter isn’t the same as perfect.

And the special effects are still pretty good.  The animation of the Krell infrastructure impresses the viewer with the gargantuan scope of the installation.  The humans walking through it literally look like ants at one point.

And finally, the interaction between the isolated inhabitants of this dream world and the crew of the no-nonsense military vessel is classic.  It reminds you of the stories that portray the first contact between Europeans and the South Sea Islands.  The sailors always have a feeling they have somehow discovered paradise with its idyllic climate, scantily clad, friendly women and tropical fruit. The military men are enthralled with how favorably it compares to the boring, spartan existence of their all-male naval vessel.

Are there problems with the story?  Yes.  Morbius seems a little too dense for a brilliant scientist.  The resolution of the crisis at the end is a little jarring.  The solution is quite heavy handed.  But all in all, it’s a pretty neat story.  I think it indicates why the Star Trek series was so popular.  But I think it also shows why the later tv series were less interesting.  The adventure and discovery aspects became less of a focus as the Enterprise became less of a military/exploration vessel and more of a social worker/nanny vehicle to the stars.