Chernobyl (2019) – A TV Series Review

A good friend sent me the DVDs for the HBO five-part-series “Chernobyl.”  Most people are relatively familiar with the 1986 nuclear power plant catastrophe in the Soviet Union (present day Ukraine) by that name and lately there has been a lot of attention paid to the exclusion zone around the plant and how the environment around the plant has begun returning to a wild state without people inhabiting it.  And the disaster at Chernobyl was a very important event both for the Soviet Union and for the world because of the amount of negative sentiment that this failure cast on both the Soviet Union and also the nuclear power industry.  In fact, Gorbachev was said to have written in his memoirs that Chernobyl was the root cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

But it is important to state that this film history is a dramatic representation of the events and deviates in several particulars from the actual events.  And in general, the producers have amplified many of the details to make the story more compelling.  Whether there is an ideological component to this amplification is of course hard to say.  But whatever the motivation the dramatic effect is definitely compelling.

The main protagonist of the series is Valery Legasov, a senior Soviet scientist who takes the lead in first convincing the Soviet administration that a terrible disaster has occurred, then advising the emergency operation on how to mitigate the ongoing catastrophe and finally to expose the actual cause of the catastrophe and force the authorities to take the steps necessary to prevent another occurrence.

Other important characters include Boris Shcherbina a central government official who is reluctantly appointed to investigate and then execute the emergency actions needed to cope with the disaster on the ground; Vasily and Lyudmilla Ignatenko, a fire fighter and his wife who are among those who are exposed directly to the results of the hellish radiation levels existing at the site of the explosion; and finally, Ulana Khomyuk, a nuclear scientist who in actuality didn’t exist.  She is a composite of all the nuclear scientists who aided Legasov in his investigation of the causes of the Chernobyl disaster.  Since most people are more or less aware of the historical event let me get down to my reactions to the series.

The first episode is as riveting as a science fiction horror film.    When the explosion occurs the nuclear plant control room staff are told by the chief engineer on duty, Anatoly Dyatlov, that they are only dealing with a small fire caused by a hydrogen explosion in an auxiliary tank.  It appears he is in denial and he orders his crew and the arriving fire fighters to battle the blaze as if it is a normal fire.  Because of this they are effectively fed into the jaws of hell.

As Dyatlov and his superiors try to convince the Soviet officials that the disaster is a small unimportant event, Legasov starts to hear the evidence and at a meeting that includes Mikhail Gorbachev he declares that what has really occurred is the unthinkable.  That the reactor core has exploded and is now strewing enriched uranium into the air, contaminating the Soviet Union and Europe for thousands of miles around and killing anyone who comes close to the source.  When Boris Shcherbina objects that Legasov is just speculating Gorbachev tells him to go with Legasov to Chernobyl and get the facts.

From there the series follows this team to Chernobyl and chronicles their efforts to solve a problem that has never been seen before by humanity.  Interweaved are the stories of the others whose lives have been destroyed by their proximity to the disaster.  Soldiers, scientists, helicopter pilots, miners, doctors and nurses, government officials and family members.  And after the action on the ground there is a trial to lay the blame for Chernobyl at someone’s feet.  And it is at this trial that we finally find out exactly what went on in the control room right before the explosion and we get to see how the Soviet Union handles the truth.

It’s a harrowing story.  And it is well acted.  None of the actors are familiar to me but they are very good.  And mixed in with the horror there are personal moments that touch the viewer.  There are even a very few moments of humor.  I found I had a good deal of empathy for even some of the less noble characters.  They were human beings confronted with inhuman force.  And some of them acquitted themselves with intelligence and bravery.  That makes for a powerful story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xulAgMNK5Jk

 

Finding the Good in Today’s World – Part 1

Going through the news and what passes for entertainment today is a pretty grim process.  It seems it’s woke wreckage and infantilism all the way down.  But if you let the mainstream media and the progressives in New York and Hollywood blind you to what else is out there then you’ve played into their hands.  Admittedly, it is work to “find the good” but it’s not an impossible task.

I’ll confess, I often fall back on complaining about how bad things have gotten and longing for the good old days.  But that doesn’t help anyone.  And in my defense, I do reviews of books, movies, tv shows and country music.  I do get a small but steady search traffic for those things and so I can claim that I do my small part for increasing the knowledge base of people interested in “finding the good.”  But I think it’s a good idea to put together information in an organized form and maybe supplement it with some comments.  After all I am what the idiot children call an “opinion leader” which I guess is a synonym for opinionated jerk.  So here goes.

First things first.  I believe in owning physical copies.  I buy paper books, CDs and DVDs.  I think some of the things I like will be cancelled by the industries that own them and will disappear.  And now we see Disney putting warnings on their old movies and publishers eliminating Dr. Seuss.  Well, okay.  Of course, I’ll need to buy a good supply of DVD players.  But they’re so cheap that it’s reasonable to do.  I’ve got a few hundred DVDs and a few hundred CDs and I used to have thousands of books but I pared that back a good deal and now it’s a few hundred of those.

And owning the physical copies means if I want to watch “The Sting” or read “Huckleberry Finn” I don’t have to search for a streaming service that hasn’t cancelled these works because they use forbidden words or ideas.  That’s enormously powerful.  And convenient.  Most of the streaming services only possess a small fraction of the “good” things you might want to see or hear or read.  Just yesterday I read that the BBC is going back and expurgating the “racist” dialog that they’ve discovered in John Cleese’s “Fawlty Towers” tv show.  John Cleese is a pompous fool who now regrets the thought policing that he and his generation introduced.  But I have the DVDs for that show and if I want to be reminded of when he actually was funny, I can watch them, so-called racism and all!

The next thing that you can use when looking for the good is chronological.  Basically, anything created before 1960 is probably free from systemic cultural poisoning.  Now granted there were plenty of leftists even back then but they had not captured the arts completely.  So, for instance, if you look at the book or movie awards from those years you will note that most of the books and movies are readable or watchable.  There are of course exceptions.  But compare that to the winners of book and movie awards today.  For me an Academy Award from the last decade or so is almost a guarantee that the movie is unwatchable psychobabble or celebrates disgusting sexual deviancy.  Nowadays it takes a review from someone I trust to get me to watch a movie or read a book.

So, I’ve gone on for a page with generalities.  In the next installments of this series, I’ll pick one area and provide some recommendations on things I’ve found that are good.  But just to get the ball rolling I’ll throw out one recommendation.

Modern television show: “Justified

Here is a show that ran from 2010 to 2015 that was based on stories by Elmore Leonard, a truly great crime writer and running to almost eighty episodes and there isn’t a bad episode in the bunch.  That’s pretty rare.  Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy and Walton Goggins give highly entertaining and nuanced performances and even a racist, sexist homophobe such as myself will admit that Hollywood didn’t screw this show up somehow.  Camera Girl and I have re-watched this series every few years and we still enjoy every episode.  I hope I never wear out the fun of watching it.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 24 – The Ultimate Computer

And yet another iconic episode.  Dr. Richard Daystrom is the genius who as a very young man invented the computer systems that are currently used on all Federation star ships.  Now Daystrom has progressed to a new computer the M-5 that can run a star ship without a human captain or almost any crew at all.  Commodore Bob Wesley has selected the Enterprise to test out the new system by setting up a war game between the Enterprise and four other star ships.

Daystrom comes aboard to set up the M-5 and continuously antagonizes Kirk and McCoy by stressing the fact that the M-5 will eliminate the need for a star ship captain and most of the crew.  Spock on the other hand is very familiar with Daystrom’s work and once the testing of the system commences, he agrees that the M-5’s performance far exceeds the results expected from a human crew and captain.

But in route to the second war game trial, the M-5 randomly attacks and destroys an ore freighter that luckily had no crew.  In addition, when Scotty’s engineering staff attempts to de-energize the M-5 the machine vaporizes one of the red shirts and employs a force field to prevent any human intervention in its control of the Enterprise.  After unsuccessfully trying to outwit the machine and disconnect it from the ship’s controls they are forced to watch in horror as the M-5 attacks the four star ships with full powered weapons.  One ship is completely incapacitated and its entire crew killed.  Commodore Wesley gets permission to use his remaining ships to destroy the Enterprise.  At this point we learn that the M-5 is acting illogically because it was constructed from the “engrams” of Dr. Daystrom’s own brain who as it turns out is mentally unstable.  This explains Daystrom’s very personal relationship with the machine and his erratic behavior now reinforces the fact that M-5 is quite mad.

In a final attempt to prevent the M-5 from destroying the remaining star ships Daystrom attempts to reason with the computer.  He attempts to convince M-5 that killing humans is murder and against the laws of man and God.  But Daystrom begins to identify with his creation and begins justifying self-preservation as the M-5’s right.  He begins ranting about the unfairness of how he was treated after his initial successes and finally he starts to gloat over M-5’s superiority over its human opponents.  Finally, he has to be sedated and hauled away to sick bay.

Kirk takes over and finishes the job of convincing M-5 that it is guilty of murder.  Unfortunately, he does too good a job and the computer decides to commit suicide by deactivating itself and thereby leave the Enterprise vulnerable to destruction by the Star Fleet squadron.  Scotty is able to restore only the shields but not communications.  Kirk orders the shields to remain lowered and he gambles that Bob Wesley will break off the attack rather than destroy the defenseless ship at least until the situation can be clarified.  When this succeeds Kirk explains to Spock that he gambled on Wesley’s humanity.  McCoy then uses this human virtue to assail Spock’s seeming preference for machines over humans.  Spock reiterates his already stated preference for humans over machines but states that a computer that has McCoy’s mental makeup would spout so much illogic that it would be a great source of amusement.  The End.

Everybody loves this episode.  When the M-5 flawlessly passes the first war game against the star ships, Commodore Wesley congratulates the M-5 on its performance and also sends his greetings to Captain Dunsail.  When he hears this Kirk storms off the bridge while the rest of the bridge officers look shocked.  When McCoy asks “who the blazes is Dunsail?”  Spock explains that dunsail is a term used at Starfleet Academy to describe a part serving no useful purpose.

McCoy goes to Kirk’s cabin to give him some medicinal alcohol.  Kirk admits to feeling useless and asks McCoy whether he himself is guilty of vanity, fearing the loss of his prestige as captain  McCoy tells him to ask Jim Kirk because Jim Kirk is an honest guy.  But sixty million Americans were yelling that night at their tv’s saying, “Yes you conceited blowhard, you strutting prima donna, that’s what this is about!”

But Kirk does have one great line.  When the M-5 shuts itself off.  Kirk yells to Scotty to go down to engineering and permanently deactivate the M-5.  His final words to the engineer are to shout, “PULL THE PLUG ON IT!”

The other attraction in this episode is the characterization of Doctor Daystrom.  He has both delusions of grandeur and a persecution complex.  At one point while he was reasoning with the M-5 he attempted to salve the computer’s feelings about being in error and when the machine stated its record of achievement Daystrom concurred stating, “Yes, I am great, you are great.”  Then when he went completely bonkers, he started reciting his grievances against his colleagues, “They laughed behind my back at the boy genius and got rich on my invention, my work!”

I really like this episode.  Two blowhards sharing the stage, Daystrom and Kirk.  Wonderful.

9  //  6.

Update:  Chemist had some good feedback that I thought I’d share:

“With all due respect Photog, you missed the best line in the show. It was McCoy’s to Kirk:
“Did you see the love light in Spock’s eyes? The right computer finally came along.”
Epic.”

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 23 – The Omega Glory

In the highest circles of the Shatner-Khan hierarchy there is no more sacred text than “Eed plebnista” and “norkon forden perfectunun.”  One of my oldest acquaintances has been heard to spontaneously break out into this phrase with no visible rationale.  Because of these tendencies I tackle this review with great trepidation.  If I get it wrong there could be serious blowback.

The Enterprise is sent to planet blah,blah,blah to find out what has become of the Starship Exeter.  It’s found circling the planet and Kirk, McCoy, Spock and a redshirt fully primed for certain death beam over to the Exeter.  There they find a bunch of empty uniforms dribbling rock salt from the sleeves and pant cuffs.  Surprise, surprise, everybody’s dead and a video clip tells them that a disease brought up from the planet was the cause.  Being warned to beam down to the planet immediately they do so and find out that the lone survivor is Captain Tracey of the Exeter and he is engaged in Prime Directive defying aid to the Kohms in their war with the savage Yangs.  And unsurprisingly the Yangs are the descendants of the defeated white Yankees and the Kohms are the victorious Chinese Communists who won a biological weapons war and occupied the Yangs homeland.

But the Yangs are finishing off a long reconquest of their homeland and even with Captain Tracey’s fire boxes (phasers) the Kohms are in big trouble.  Tracey captures the Enterprise party and demands that Kirk provide him with ten more phasers with three extra power packs for each.  When the redshirt reaches for his phaser Tracey disintegrates him.  We also find out tha the disease that killed off the Exeter would have been harmless if the crew members had stayed just a short time longer on planet blah,blah,blah and now all of them could return to the Enterprise without risk to the ship or themselves.  But Tracey has discovered that the inhabitants live to be over a thousand years old and he is convinced that the secret to this amazing longevity can be discovered by McCoy and then sold by Tracey to the highest bidder once he’s beaten of the Yangs.  McCoy debunks the theory and says the longevity is just a natural byproduct of the survival after the bioweapon ordeal.

Meanwhile there is all this tuh-doing between Kirk and Tracey and a Yang prisoner who we find out is the Yang Chief Cloud Williams and his wife.  Finally Spock and Kirk escape from jail.  But eventually the Yangs attack the Kohms and we get to hear Tracey makes his horrified report of the battle, “They sacrificed hundreds just to draw us out in the open and then they came and they came.  We drained four of our phasers and they still came.  We killed thousands and they still came!”  Good times, good times.

So the Yangs capture all of the Federation personnel.  When the Yangs break out an antique American flag and Cloud Williams starts reciting a really garbled version of the Pledge of Allegiance Kirk completes the pledge and now Cloud wants Kirk to explain how he knows their sacred words.  But whereas Kirk wants to explain that they are from another world Tracey claims that Kirk and his crew are devils.  He uses as proof the fact that Spock has pointed ears and no heart.  Cloud Williams is unclear who to believe and asks if  Kirk can complete the most sacred of their texts which only a chief would know.  He starts it with “Eed plebnista.”  But Kirk can’t figure out what it is.  So instead he claims trial by combat against Tracey to the death.  Spock uses Vulcan mind games to get one of the Yang women to trigger a communicator and an armed landing party arrives with Sulu in command just as Kirk defeats Tracey but refuses to kill him.

Now hearing a few more of the words, “norkon forden perfectunun,” Kirk figures out that it’s the preamble to the Constitution and recites it and then gives Cloud and his tribal circle a civics lesson.  And then somehow they head back to the Enterprise, even though Sulu and the others are now infected with a disease that will dehydrate them down to bath salts within minutes.  The End.

“Eed plebnista” indeed.  There’s just so much to love about this episode.  Tracey beats up Kirk several times in the episode.  Shatner’s overacting while giving the Yangs their civics lesson.  And Tracey is so great in his angry intensity.  He wants that immortality drug and the power it will give him.  He comes up with that great “He has no hearrrrt!” line about Spock and finally he has his great narration of the Yang attack.

This gets a    10   //   7.

Last Man Standing – The Final Season – A Television Review

When this show came out in 2011 it was clever, funny, and the main character Mike Baxter, played by Tim Allen, was decidedly right wing and outspoken.  When Donald Trump won the presidency, ABC cancelled the show.  Fox brought it back a few years ago but apparently the writers were either lobotomized or warned to castrate the show to make it acceptable to their woke corporate masters.

At this point it truly is unwatchable.  The two older daughters and their husbands have been infantilized into mewling morons prattling on about inanities that would embarrass a five-year-old to admit to.  The characters at Mike’s work place are not quite as imbecilic as Mike’s children but it’s close.  And I’ll have to say Tim Allen isn’t looking well.  I guess he’s getting up there because he seems weak, almost frail.  Maybe it’s just the effect of being forced to go through the motions on a show that’s been gutted and then put on display as a trophy and a warning to anyone who dares to dispute the primacy of the narrative.

Farewell Tim Allen.  You had a good run.  You should have quit while you were ahead.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 22 – By Any Other Name

We’re now deep, deep into Season 2 and the amount of “humor” employed by some of the principal characters is obvious to see.  And the costume department has obviously run out of ideas.  In this episode the aliens are dressed as if they found their clothes in a dumpster behind a second-rate department store.  The men are wearing some kind of polyester leisure suit-like apparel while the women are wearing jump suits from which the backs have been cut off from the waist up.

The Enterprise is summoned by a distress signal to an uninhabited planet.  Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and two red shirts beam down to the planet.  There they find a man and a woman, Rojan and Kelinda, who claim they are creatures from the Andromeda Galaxy seeking new worlds because their own galaxy will become uninhabitable within ten thousand years.  They announce that they will commandeer the Enterprise to return home in order to begin an invasion of our galaxy by their people, the Kelvans.  It will be a multi-generational voyage taking three hundred years even at Warp 11 speed.

And using their neural paralysis field devices they disarm and capture the landing party while the other three Kelvans beam aboard the Enterprise and take over the ship.  In addition to the paralysis field, they can also freeze dry humans down into polyhedral bricks, about the size of a softball, made of what appears to be poorly made porous Styrofoam.  When the landing party attempts to escape Rojan has one of his associates turn the two red shirts into these efficient and stackable human pellets.  Rojan then crumbles one of the blocks with his bare hands and restores the other one to inefficient but mobile form.  We then find out that the crumbled crewman was the pretty young girl.  When he realizes this Kirk appears devastated.  Apparently, he hadn’t yet had a chance to put the moves on this yeoman and now he never would!

Back on the ship, the whole crew except for Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty are freeze dried for easy storage.  It’s especially pleasurable to see Uhura and Chekov singled out for treatment.  In one scene Kirk rounds the corner in a corridor of the Enterprise and sees the blocks strewn along the floor along with the odd computer tablet and i-pod.  When Spock had unsuccessfully attempted to mind meld with Kelinda in a scene that I have left out of my plot summary he got an image of a huge hundred-tentacled creature that is the true form of the Kelvans.  Realizing that the Kelvans were unused to sensory stimulation or emotions in their original forms he speculates that if the humans can overstimulate the Kelvans’ senses and emotions they might become vulnerable to attack.  And so much hilarity ensues during this plan.

Scotty takes one of the Kelvans, Tomar, to his cabin and starts introducing him to the wonders of grain alcohol.  Eventually Tomar becomes stupefied and collapses, as does Scotty.  McCoy takes another of the Kelvans, Hanar, aside and under the subterfuge of a medical examination starts giving him “vitamin” injections that are actually some kind of stimulant that raises his anxiety levels to monumental levels.  This has him complaining bitterly to Rojan about the incompetence of that commander’s plan.  This gets him confined to his cabin.

Meanwhile Kirk makes a beeline for Kelinda and starts pouring on the old Shatner charm.  He’s pawing her and kissing her all around the rec room.  I forgot to mention that Kelinda is played by Barbara Bouchet who is a very attractive looking actress.  She played Miss Moneypenny in one of the Bond films and is at the very high end of attractive female Star Trek guest stars.  While playing three-dimensional chess with Rojan Spock mentions that Kirk is putting the moves on Kelinda and this really ticks Rojan off.  So, he hunts them down and gets into a really spastic fistfight with Kirk.  During the fight Kirk keeps up a line of argument to the effect that by the time the three-hundred-year voyage to the Andromeda Galaxy is complete, the descendants of Rojan and his crew will no longer be Kelvans.  They will be completely human and have no desire to help the Kelvans.

He convinces Rojan to give up their voyage to Andromeda and allow the Federation to find uninhabited worlds in our galaxy for the other Kelvans to colonize while Rojan and Kelinda and the other three Kelvans will somehow form a very small colony on the uninhabited world that the Enterprise found them on.  The fact that there are only two female Kelvans and three male Kelvans is not explored further on this episode.  But to my way of thinking there is bound to be trouble in that very small paradise.

To my way of thinking the two highlights of the show are Rojan crushing the polyhedral salt lick made out of Yeoman Thompson with his fingers and Scotty hugging his empty centuries-old bottle of Scotch whiskey to his face and crooning to it, “we did it” after Tomar collapses in a drunken stupor.  And one small note, in the new enhanced graphics of the DVDs I have the Andromeda Galaxy image is very nice.

Now that nuttiness and hilarity is the order of the day on the Enterprise it’s much easier to enjoy the episodes.  Hopefully the people making the show are going along with the joke because adventure certainly isn’t the point.  Kirk wrestling with the pretty alien and McCoy and Scotty providing comic relief sort of works.

As far as Shatner mockery points, he gives some of his patented pathos when the yeoman is crumbled but it isn’t very extreme.  I’ll give this episode an     8  //  5.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 21 – Patterns of Force

Space Nazis!  In the immortal words of Dr. Zachary Smith, “Oh the pain, the pain.”

The Enterprise is headed for stellar system blah, blah, blah where there are two planets with humanoid life.  One planet, Zeon, is more advanced and peaceful.  The other, Ekos, is less advanced and warlike.  The Federation sent an observer ten years earlier name John Gill who was an historian that Kirk knew from back at the Academy.  Nothing has been heard from him for years.  Their mission is to establish communications with Gill and find out how conditions on Ekos are progressing.  As the Enterprise nears Ekos a missile with an H-bomb approaches and has to be destroyed.  Ekos should not have that level of technology so Spock and Kirk go down to the planet expecting trouble.

When they beam down they find that the Ekosians are dressed as Nazi soldiers and they are treating the Zeonians as the Nazis treated the Jews during their time in power.  We get several episodes of Kirk and Spock dressed as Nazis trying to infiltrate the Nazi headquarters to reach John Gill who they learn is the Führer of the Ekosian Nazi state.

They are captured, jailed, whipped and threatened.  Eventually they escape by manufacturing a laser out of the transponders that were subcutaneously emplaced under Kirk and Spock’s skin as a way to locate and rescue them if their communicators were lost.  They escape to the sewers where they join up with the underground resistance of Ekosians and Zeonians.  Eventually they reach John Gill.  They find he’s been drugged and he eventually explains that he used the Nazi model as one that could overcome the disorganized nature of Ekosian society.  It worked but then Melakon, his deputy, drugged him and seized power with the intent of going full tilt Nazi.  At this point the final solution is about to be unleashed on the Zeonians.  Kirk rouses Gill and forces him to make a speech denouncing the treatment of the Zeonians and blaming Melakon.  Melakon shoots Gill and is himself shot by the soldiers present.  The Ekosians renounce Nazism and focus on manufacturing high end automobiles.

What can I say?  What can anyone say?  Space Nazis!

So let’s get down to it.  Shatner has moments where he embraces his Kirkian magnificence.  At the beginning when McCoy is rambling on about what could have happened to Professor Gill Kirk very good naturedly reminds him that that is exactly what he and Spock are heading down to the planet to find out.  Later on when he is being whipped in the Gestapo dungeon he does a great Shatner pain face.  Not full intensity, but more as if an annoying hemorrhoid were flaring up.  Later on Spock has to climb on Kirk’s recently whipped back to reach a light bulb placed high on the prison cell wall to work his Rube Goldberg laser device.  Kirk reminds him very pointedly about the high quality of the whipping he had received and stresses that time is of the essence to finish the maneuver before Kirk collapses in pain.  The exchange may actually be the humorous high point of the episode.  A few funny non-Shatner lines are thrown in.  When Kirk and Spock are first disguising themselves in Nazi uniforms Spock notes that Kirk will make a very convincing Nazi.  Later on when Spock is brought before the deputy Führer, he has to stand passively by as the high ranking official gives a very insulting description of Spock’s physiognomy in pseudo-scientific terms that highlight the supposedly degenerate aspects of his distinctive ears and eyes.  Spock’s expressions while listening to the lecture are amusing.

Space Nazis!

I give this episode 4 // 7.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 20 – Return to Tomorrow

Okay let’s get through the plot outline really quick.  Three survivors of a god-like race that destroyed itself a half a million years ago and who now exist as disembodied energy fields inside of spherical containers that allow them to survive for hundreds of millennia have summoned Captain Kirk to loan them three human bodies to allow them to manufacture android bodies by means of their advanced science.  While the bodies are on loan the human minds of the volunteers will reside in the spheres.  With these android bodies the ancient beings would be available to guide humanity around the pitfalls that had eventually destroyed their own advanced race.  The head alien is Sargon.  The second is his wife Thalassa and the third is, ridiculously enough, Sargon’s mortal enemy Henoch.  Sargon gets Kirk’s body.  Thallassa gets the body of Dr. Ann Mulhall (played by Diana Muldaur who might have the prettiest face of any actress to appear on the Star Trek series).  And Henoch gets Spock’s carcass.  When the aliens inhabit the bodies of their human hosts, they cause the bodies to run hot.  Their temperature rises to 104 degrees F and their heartbeat is dangerously high.  For this reason, Henoch formulates a metabolic depressant to bring their readings back to human normal levels.  But Henoch wants to kill Sargon and keep Spock’s body permanently so he uses a poison to kill Sargon while he is inhabiting Kirk’s body.  McCoy manages to stabilize Kirk’s body but Sargon is gone.  Now Thallassa decides that she wants to keep Ann Mulhall’s body and bargains with McCoy to cure Kirk’s body of the poison and put his mind back in place in exchange for keeping the body she currently resides in.  McCoy refuses and Thallassa tortures him for a while then relents and apologizes for allowing temptation to overcome her moral sense.  Once she realizes her mistake Sargon’s voice praises her for recognizing her mistake and then explains that he isn’t dead (duh) but has taken up residence in the Enterprise (Where?  The computer?  The ventilation system?  The plumbing?).  He assures them that he will save Kirk himself and stop Henoch from taking over the Enterprise.  McCoy is locked out of the sick bay and when he is let back in Kirk and Mulhall are back in their bodies, all three energy spheres are destroyed and Nurse Chapel looks like a zombie.  McCoy laments that they destroyed Spock’s mind when they destroyed the sphere he was in, but Kirk says it had to be done.  McCoy is told to fill a syringe with enough poison to kill ten Vulcans and head to the bridge with Kirk, Mulhall and Chapel to kill Henoch.

Henoch is on the bridge torturing Uhura and is just getting ready to start on Sulu when the good guys show up.  But Henoch can read their minds and after freezing them in place he orders Nurse Chapel to inject McCoy with the poison.  She starts to comply then injects Henoch instead.  Registering surprise Henoch pleads with Sargon to allow him to switch bodies then collapses to the deck.

The resolution is provided by the voice of Sargon.  The poison wasn’t a lethal dose.  But since McCoy thought it was Henoch thought so too and thus fled Spock’s body.  At that point Sargon destroyed him.  Suddenly Spock’s body awakens and we find out that Spock’s mind was sharing Nurse Chapel’s body with her.  Sargon informs Kirk that before Thallassa and Sargon allow themselves to fade into oblivion and be happy together forever (huh?) they’d like to borrow Kirk’s and Mulhall’s bodies for a last hug and kiss.  Permission is granted and after the clinch Kirk and Mulhall regain consciousness rapped in each-others’ arms.  Throat clearing and uniform straightening ensues.

Where to start, where to start?  Okay, so I’m giving extra points because looking at Diana Muldaur’s face is quite pleasant.  Secondly, Nimoy portraying Henoch as a chuckling villain is kind of fun.  I’m deducting points because we didn’t get to see Sulu tortured.  But really the episode is mostly Shatner.  And he gives generously of some of his hammiest best.  When Sargon first takes over Kirk’s body Shatner does a bunch of his spastic face and body contortions that only he can do so hilariously.  Then in the reverb voice used for Sargon he tallies up the experiences of being in a body again for the first time in 500,000 years.  “Lungs filling with oxygen, heart pumping, blood racing through arteries, eyes seeing.”  I was half expecting, “hair follicles receding on forehead, gall stones blocking bile duct, gastric ulcer tingling.”  Later on, Kirk calls a meeting of his officers to ask their opinion on allowing the body loan.  When Scotty and McCoy object Shatner gives a version of his impassioned “to boldly go where no man has gone before” speech.  What I noticed in the close up is that Shatner’s head had gotten a lot fatter than it used to be earlier in the series.  There must have been a lot of booze and cheeseburgers for Captain James T. Kirk over that first season and a half.  And finally, Nurse Chapel had some kind of wig that was almost like a blond skull cap and made her look truly ghastly.  I’ve got to take some points off for that.  So you can see this was a complex calculation.

I’m going to say   7 // 9.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 19 – A Private Little War

Let me just start by saying that this episode is so awful that you must see it.  It’s marvelously bad.

When first join our heroes, McCoy is rooting around on his knees in the foothills of Los Angeles.  Spock and Kirk were nearby discussing the peaceful inhabitants of the planet (I suppose Angelinos) and Kirk’s earlier visit to the planet as a young officer.  Suddenly they notice that one tribe with fake black hair is ambushing with another tribe with fake blond hair.  And the attackers have flintlock rifles while the rest of the planet is still using bows and arrows.  And most importantly the man about to be shot is Kirk’s old friend Tyree.  Rather than use his phaser (and disobey the prime directive) Kirk throws a rock at the rifleman and spoils his shot.

Hilarity ensues as Kirk and Spock flee back to McCoy while being pursued by the tribesmen.  Finally, one manages to shoot Spock in the back and they barely have time to beam up to the Enterprise before being finished off by the black wig guys.  Back on the ship McCoy and his esteemed colleague Dr. M’Benga who luckily is an expert at Vulcan physiology, are able to stabilize Spock’s vital signs but his life hangs in the balance as space age medicine is reduced to watching as the self-healing capabilities of Spock’s mind are left to repair the damage.

Kirk wisely decides not to hang around for that snooze fest and instead beams down to the planet with McCoy and determine if the Klingons that have been seen in orbit are responsible for the advanced weaponry (primitive firearm) that Kirk observed earlier.  Kirk’s plan is to speak to his old friend Tyree who is chief of the blond wig tribe and also an embarrassing pacifist.  But when they approach the village they are attacked by, and I kid you not, a man in a gorilla suit that’s been bleached white.  And if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, they glued a horn on its head and put a row of huge spines running down its back.  The gorilla man tosses McCoy away and then starts gnawing on Kirk’s shoulder while he writhes in pain.  Eventually McCoy comes to and blasts the gorilla with his phaser.

But now we find out that this is no ordinary albino, horned gorilla but the much more dangerous albino, horned, venomous gorilla.  Now here is the first Shatner Mockery bonanza.  Kirk is dying of the venom and he starts shivering and generally spassing out in an hilarious manner.  This is some serious bad acting.  Then we get to the village and find that Tyree’s wife, Nona, is a witch woman and can cure the deadly bite of the albino, horned, venomous, gorilla.  Nona is played by Nancy Kovack, a highly attractive young actress who has been squeezed into a pair of skin tight, leather hip huggers and the traditional gorilla fur bodice.

Meanwhile back on the ship Spock is in a coma.  Dr. M’Benga tells Nurse Chapel that at a certain point Spock would begin to awaken and whatever he asked her to do she must do it.  When Spock wakes, he tells Chapel to slap him in the face hard, over and over again.  At first reluctant, but after additional demands from Spock she starts slapping him ringingly and seems to warm to her work.  Scotty walks in and restrains her bodily but just then Dr. M’Benga arrives and finishes off the face slapping.  Successfully slapped silly Spock makes a full recovery.

Anyway, Nona is disillusioned with the pacifism of her husband Tyree and wants him to get Kirk to provide phasers to allow Tyree to become the great leader of the blond wig nation.  In exchange for the promise of advanced weapons she agrees to cure Kirk.  This involves her cutting her hand and placing it on the bite while gyrating and undulating on top of Kirk in a highly humorous display.  Kirk is cured and later on Nona drugs Kirk to get his phaser.  But another albino, horned, venomous gorilla shows up and to save herself from the gorilla she rolls around on the ground screaming for Kirk to help.  But the drug has doofed him out and it takes almost two minutes of rolling on the ground before he gets around to disintegrating the gorilla.  But for his trouble all he gets is a large jagged rock smashed against his skull by Nona as she steals his phaser.

She has decided to switch sides and take up with the more aggressive and obviously more manly chief of the black wig tribe.  She finds a few black wigs wandering around and tells them to take her to their leader.  But they are so excited by the tight pants that they start pawing at her.  Just then Kirk, McCoy and Tyree show up.  Thinking that Nona had led them into a trap they stab her to death and then proceed to get their clocks cleaned by Kirk and to a small extent Tyree.  Now that Nona is dead Tyree sees the light of day and tells Kirk to get him a bunch of rifles.  This fits in with Kirk’s plan to supply the blond wig guys with exactly the same weapons as the Klingons provide to the black wig guys.  He explains that his theory is based on the balance of power that existed between the East and West during the cold war and how that prevented total war.  He tells a skeptical McCoy that he doesn’t like the solution but that it is the only way to prevent catastrophic defeat by one side.  Then it mercifully ends.

What a mess.  The wigs, the monster suit, Shatner’s bad acting, the embarrassing scenes with the monster, the embarrassing scenes with Nona, the embarrassing scenes with Nurse Chapel, Dr. M’Benga’s name.  Really the only positive thing the episode has is Nona’s outfit.  But this is a Shatner mockery bonanza.  I score this episode 4 // 10.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 18 – The Immunity Syndrome

This is the one about the planet sized amoeba that wants to eat the Enterprise.  When we come in the Enterprise is heading for an R&R shore leave to compensate them for some extreme duty they’ve been performing.  Kirk gives a lecherous leer at one of his female yeomen who is passing by.

But suddenly Spock suffers a spasm and upon being interrogated by Kirk he tells the bridge onlookers that he telepathically experienced the death of the four hundred plus Vulcans aboard the Star Fleet ship blah blah blah.  Kirk sends Spock to sick bay for McCoy to harass Spock over his inexplicable extra sensory perception across light years of distance.

Meanwhile Star Fleet preempts the shore leave and tells Kirk to investigate the loss of the Vulcan star ship and the mysterious silence of a solar system nearby.  So, the Enterprise investigates and finds that the solar system is dead.  And in the path of the missing Vulcan ship they find an inexplicable black zone in space.  And of course, since they’re idiots, they fly into it.  Now they’re trapped in the zone and can’t get out.  They’re pulled toward the center of the zone and just for good measure, the zone is a negative energy field where both the ship’s energy and the humans’ life force are being slowly depleted.  Kirk becomes irritable and fatigued and starts snapping at Spock and Scotty because they can’t provide much information on what is happening or how to escape.  Finally, they see what is at the center of the black zone.  There is an 11,000-mile long amoeba that Spock informs them is made of protoplasm.  Oh, come on!

So now Spock and McCoy bicker over which of the two of them should be sent in a shuttle craft into the nucleus of the cell to provide scientific info on the organism and then die tragically as the creature absorbs him.  Kirk agonizes embarrassingly then picks Spock to go.  Spock sends a garbled transmission in which the key word to describe how to destroy the creature is unintelligible.  Now Spock is dying in the amoeba and Kirk is inspired by McCoy’s maunderings about how the Enterprise is like a germ inside the cell to think of the word antibody which for some reason makes him believe that Spock had said antimatter would destroy the cell.

They put an antimatter bomb inside the nucleus and as the timer is running, they beat a pathetically slow retreat due to their low power reserves.  They detect Spock’s shuttle craft and grab it with a tractor beam.  Spock calls them and warns them that wasting power to save him is too risky.  McCoy tells him to shut up and allow them to rescue him.  Spock replies, “Thank you Captain McCoy.”  They run out of power right before they escape the cell membrane but the bomb throws them clear including Spock’s shuttle craft.  Kirk breathes a sigh of relief and begins to contemplate the debauches he will commit on his shore leave.

Okay, a planet sized blob of protoplasm.  I could be wrong but wouldn’t gravity render all but an outer layer of such a mass into nothing but steam and some trace elements?  Couldn’t it have been something like a cell but compounded of materials that could possibly have existed on such a scale?  Ah, who am I kidding, this is Star Trek, anything goes.

So, peevish low-energy Kirk is mildly amusing.  Spock and McCoy bickering over who is the likelier sacrifice in the shuttle craft is sort of fun.  And there is a giant amoeba on the screen for part of the show.  Let’s be kind and call this a 7 // 3.