Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 17 – A Piece of the Action

Another comedic episode!  The Enterprise travels to a world that was visited a century earlier by an early human space vessel that never returned to Earth.  And since the world is almost a hundred light years from Earth, the radio messages from the original flight have just reached Earth.  Now Kirk must determine whether the earlier contact has had any detrimental impact on the inhabitants.

They contact the planet and are instructed by a local leader named Bela Oxmyx where to transport for a meeting.  When Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive they are taken prisoner by Oxmyx’s men who are dressed as prohibition-era gangsters and armed with Thompson machine guns.  While traveling to Oxmyx’s office they are waylaid by a carload of rival gangsters who spray machine gun fire at them.  We are shown that this world is a replica of 1920’s America and organized as a constant war of gangs fighting it out for supremacy.  When they get to Oxmyx’s headquarters we find out that the earlier ship had left a book on 1920’s gang history and the inhabitants of this world have adopted it as a textbook on how to organize their society.  Oxmyx demands that Kirk provide him with a supply of phasers to allow him to conquer all his enemies and take over the whole planet.  Kirk refuses and the three of them are taken prisoner.

After that the story is a series of escapes and captures by Kirk, Spock and McCoy from Oxmyx and his rival, Jojo Krako, as they attempt to figure out a plan to repair the damage done to this world’s culture.  Eventually by using a show of force with the Enterprise’s phaser weapon set on a wide area stun setting Kirk convinces the mob bosses that they are outmatched and must knuckle under to the Federation.  He sets up Oxmyx as the head boss with Krako as his lieutenant and ends the violence between the gangs.  And to make it seems legitimate to these criminals he demands 40% of the “action” from the mobsters that will be collected annually by a Starfleet vessel.

Alright so that’s the plot but it’s just an excuse for a costume farce.  And as that it’s enjoyable and somewhat funny.  Once Kirk figures out that he’ll have to deal with the gangsters on their own terms he adopts an awful New York accent and starts using the gangster slang.  “We’ll put the bag on Krako;” “put him on ice;” “we won’t give you the heaters;” and “we’ll give you a piece of the action.”   Once he adopts this persona, even stealing some clothes from the mobsters for himself and Spock, Kirk (Shatner) hams it up and even attempts to get Spock to talk the slang with limited success.  And, of course, these slips by Spock are for laughs which actually work.  Later on, we get Spock critiquing Kirk’s lack of skill driving a manual transmission automobile, which is also kind of funny.  And the other bit is Kirk trying to convey instructions to Scotty over the communicator in this patois.  Inevitably he has to translate it into normal English for Scotty.  But when Scotty finally has one of the mob bosses on the Enterprise, he attempts to use some computer-based research into the period slang by threatening the boss with a pair of concrete galoshes.  The mob boss looks contemptuous and asks him if he means cement overshoes.  Scotty looks crestfallen but gives him his Scottish “aye.”

As I’ve made clear previously, I consider any Star Trek episode that plays it for laughs as a welcome change.  When the characters are actually allowed to make their characters somewhat three-dimensional it provides something to keep our interest.  Nimoy playing Spock playing a gangster is probably as good as Spock is going to get.  Even the very end of the episode goes for laughs.  Back on the ship McCoy admits that he lost his communicator on the planet.  Kirk acts alarmed and says based on this race’s cleverness at reverse engineering things eventually they would come after the Federation and “want a piece of our action!”  There is a fair amount of “Bowery Boys” style fight scenes that give Shatner a chance to embarrass himself but this episode is basically rated based on the success of the comedy.

I’ll call this an 8 // 4.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 16 – The Gamesters of Triskelion

Another iconic episode.  Alright let’s get it out of the way right at the beginning.  Ratings must have been fading so they hired a Las Vegas burlesque queen in a very revealing costume to give the show a boost.  And as I remember my adolescent self was not opposed to this aspect of the show at all.  Honestly, she was probably the best-looking babe they ever had on the show.  In terms of acting, well it was Star Trek so really, who cares?

Kirk, Chekov and Uhura (boy that’s an odd combination) are in the transporter getting ready to beam down to planet XYZ123 when suddenly they vanish without the transporter even being energized.  Scotty, Spock and McCoy jabber at each other trying to figure out what happened.

Meanwhile we see Kirk, Chekov and Uhura on a distant planet called Triskelion being assaulted by mismatched gladiators with silly weapons.  The hot looking warrior woman named Shahna is dressed in an aluminum foil bikini and armed with a giant-sized bottle opener.  A caveman in a Fred Flintstone suit is armed with a whip and a net.  A relatively ordinary looking guy in hose and doublet named Lars has a letter opener as his weapon and then there’s this really small old woman who doesn’t do very much and maybe also had a giant bottle opener but since I was watching Shahna most of the time I’m not really sure what the other woman had.

Once the Enterprise crew is subdued by the “thralls,” a weird skinny, bald headed guy in a black robe tells them what’s what.  He is the Master Thrall named Galt.  He runs the gladiatorial games for the “Providers.”  The Providers are disembodied brains living in a cavern a thousand meters below the surface of Triskelion and they spend their pathetic lives capturing beings throughout the galaxy with their powerful transporter beam and betting a currency called quatloos on the fights they organize between the captives.  But since they are disembodied brains that live in a cave what they would do with the quatloos they win is completely meaningless.

Meanwhile back on the Enterprise Spock confirms that the landing party is not on the planet below and finding an energy signature in a cloud decides to head twelve light years in that direction to find the captain and company.  McCoy and Scotty whine and complain about this decision and finally Spock has the best non-Shahna moment in the show when he tells them that since he is in command that he will do as he pleases unless (and hear he lowers his voice so that only the two of them can hear him) McCoy and Scotty intend to start a mutiny.  The two complainers immediately started hemming hawing and denying they had any such idea and fall in line with the plan.

Kirk and company learn the hard way that Galt and the Providers use collars on the necks of the thralls to train and punish disobedience.  They seem to learn that there is no escape and no way to resist.  So, Kirk quickly gets down to business and seduces Shahna with his Shatnerly charms.  He hugs and kisses her and tells her about the stars and Earth and how much he likes her.  But in the next scene he kisses her and then socks her in the jaw to get her key to his cell and make a break with Chekov and Uhura.  And since Providers are omniscient, they are quickly subdued and sentenced to die.

Kirk is now doomed to die but first he asks to meet the Providers face to face.  He is transported into the crappy cave that the Providers live in and berates them for their pathetic existence.  At this point the Enterprise reaches Triskelion and is immediately immobilized by the Providers.  Kirk appeals to the Providers’ gaming blood and proposes a wager.  If he defeats a thrall in single combat, he and his people will go free and the Providers will give freedom and training to the thralls to become independent beings on Triskelion.  If he loses then the whole crew of the Enterprise will become thralls.  The Providers decide instead that he’ll have to fight three thralls.  Take that Kirk!  Kirk dispatches the caveman and Lars but the third guy is only injured so he is replaced by Shahna who is still mad about the sucker punch Kirk gave her earlier.  Finally, Kirk takes away her bottle opener and with Lars’ letter opener at her throat she surrenders.  The Providers turn out to be good sports and keep their word and let the Enterprise go free and agree to turn the thralls into people.

There is a maudlin scene between Kirk and Shahna and after the landing party beams up Shahna gets a short monologue where she talks to the sky and thanks Jim Kirk for showing her the road to female empowerment and possibly less-revealing clothes.

So much to say.  Besides Spock’s mutiny game I think the other stand out comedy was Chekov being cornered in his cage by his selected mate, the old short weird looking woman thrall.  She’s smitten with him and he tries to be civil but he’s obviously weirded out by her appearance and overeager attentions.  It’s very creepy.

This show is just overflowing with Shatner doing his thing.  His shirt has been taken away and has been replaced with a harness that reveals his noticeable weight gain.  He’s leaping around kicking and punching everything in sight.  And of course, his amorous moments with Shahna highlight some of the very corniest acting Bill Shatner ever committed.  But I think what I like best is when Kirk is dismissing the idea of the Providers betting “trifles like quatloos” when human lives were so much more meaningful.  There we see Kirk the negotiator, Kirk the gambler.

So, all in all the girl is very attractive, although her eye makeup looked to be about an inch thick.  The plot was amusing and reasonably clever.  The Shatner mockery value was almost off the scale.  I’ll give this an 8 // 10.

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 15 – The Trouble with Tribbles

Ah, so much to say, so much to say.  The Trouble with Tribbles is a comic episode.  It allows Shatner and the rest of the regulars to ham it up outrageously.  And as it turns out that is the highest and best use of the series.  Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, McCoy, Spock and of course Kirk are provided dialog and space to flesh out their characters with some comic verve.  Finally, something to enjoy.

The plot has the Enterprise summoned by an emergency distress call to Deep Space Station blah blah blah  where they find that there is no emergency but that a space bureaucrat is worried that his space wheat seeds will be sabotaged before it can be delivered to a planet in dispute between Klingons and the Federation.  Kirk is outraged by this high-handed use of a distress call and insults the Under-Secretary of Wheat.  Then Kirk is called up by his boss and told to do what the bureaucrat tells him to do.  Kirk obeys with bad grace and assigns guards to protect the wheat from the Klingons who are on board the space station for rest and relaxation.  The Klingon commander is played by the actor who showed up on the episode, “The Squire of Gothos” as the titular character Trelane.  So Kirk uses the opportunity of the stay at the space station to allow his whole crew to take shore leave on the space station.  Scotty is the only crewman who doesn’t want to take leave but Kirk forces him to go and keep an eye on the rest of the crew and avoid trouble with the Klingons.

A space trader named Cyrano Jones shows up at the space station and among the things he is selling are tribbles.  These are fur balls that purr around humans and hate Klingons.  Jones gives one to Uhura while she is seated at the bar in the space station lounge.  She takes it back to the ship and we find out that tribbles are prolific breeders and within a few days the Enterprise and the space station are both becoming overrun with the fuzzy creatures.

Meanwhile, Scotty, Chekov and some red shirts are having drinks in the lounge when one of the Klingons starts insulting Kirk.  Chekov is incensed and wants to start a brawl with the Klingons but Scotty restrains him explaining that it isn’t important and everyone is entitled to his opinion.  But when the Klingon starts insulting the Enterprise as a ship Scotty punches him in the head and a huge brawl breaks out.  The fight alarms the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and he rants and raves at Kirk about dangerous Klingons and rowdy Federation spacemen and tribbles.  Kirk is annoyed and promises to discipline his crew.

At this point the tribble infestation on the Enterprise becomes a catastrophe.  The tribbles have managed to infiltrate the food production systems and we see the spectacle of Kirk staring at his lunch tray covered with tribbles muttering “my chicken sandwich and coffee” to anyone who will listen.  When Scotty explains that the tribbles have managed to get into the air ducts, Kirk immediately realizes that the space wheat storage bins have air ducts too.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy rush over to the space station and when the storage bins doors don’t open easily Kirk fiddles with it and the overhead bin opens up and pours down hundreds of tribbles onto Kirk.  They’ve eaten all the space wheat and the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat, who was there to witness this debacle, blows a space-gasket and starts heaping abuse and threats on Kirk.  Meanwhile Spock, after first estimating the number of tribbles as something north of a million, observes that many of the tribbles are dead.  Bones then diagnoses the cause of death as a poison that the wheat contains.  A virus has been added to the wheat which renders the eater unable to ingest nutrition and therefore subject to death by starvation.

Using the tribbles’ hatred of Klingons Kirk is able to discover that the  Under-Under-Secretary of Space Wheat is a disguised Klingon and poisoned the space wheat.  This of course shuts up the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and allows Kirk to walk away as the hero.

Finally Kirk returns to the ship and finds it cleared of tribbles and after a lot of hemming and hawing we find out that with the approval of Spock and McCoy, Scotty beamed all the tribbles onto the Klingon battleship just as it was about to warp out of orbit.  His words were, “I beamed them into the engineering section where they’ll be no tribble at all.”

Other than the fact that writer David Gerrold stole the concept of the tribble from Heinlein’s martian flat cats as they appeared in the novel “The Rolling Stones” I wholly approve of this episode.  It is obvious that a comical take on the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise is the only good purpose the show can be put to.

Kirk spends the whole episode outraged about everything.  The Under-Secretary is a truly annoying character.  For once you actually sympathize with Kirk.  The Klingons mock Kirk in front of his crew describing him as a strutting autocrat.  When Scotty tells Kirk about it and further admits that he didn’t bother to defend Kirk from the insults but did become enraged when the ship was insulted Kirk is cut to the quick.  And when the tribbles start discomfiting Kirk at every turn he is irritable and petulant.  This was indeed Shatner’s finest hour on Star Trek.

And Uhura, Scotty, Chekov get much more screen time than on any other episode I can remember.  Uhura gets to play with the tribble and converse with the rest of the crew.  Scotty and Chekov get a barroom brawl scene.  Even Spock gets to ham it up a little.

I won’t quibble about the tribbles.  I’m just going to give this episode a 10  //  10.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 14 – Wolf in the Fold

This is Star Trek in all its cheesy glory.  It starts with Kirk, McCoy and Scotty sitting in a bar leering at a belly dancer.  Apparently, the Enterprise is in orbit around an interstellar red-light district.  Kirk and McCoy are slobbering over each other talking about other dives they want to visit.  Scotty goes for a walk in the foggy night with the belly dancer.

Anyway, the plot, such as it is, revolves around Scotty being found several different times with a woman with a knife sticking in her.  In each case Scotty claims to have amnesia at the moment of the murder.  The police administrator is played by John Fiedler, the little bald mousey character actor known for his work in the movie “Twelve Angry Men” and as the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s friend Piglet.  In order to get to the bottom of the murders the leader of the planet has his wife perform a séance.  She starts moaning and whining about some monstrous deathless evil that kills women and lives off their fear.  But suddenly the lights go out and she screams.  When the lights come back up Scotty is, of course, holding the woman with a knife in her back and her blood on Scotty’s hands.

Eventually we find out that the evil entity was Jack the Ripper and he travelled out into the galaxy as humanity expanded out from Earth.  Based on the clues it is determined that the police administrator is the monster and when discovered he attempts to stab Kirk.  Kirk flips him and disarms him and then punches him in the jaw.  McCoy checks the killer and declares, “He’s dead Jim!”  But the entity leaves the human body and invades the ship computer.  Once in the computer the entity attempts to frighten the crew prior to murdering them.  But Spock sets the computer to figuring the exact value of pi.  Since pi is a transcendental number apparently the futuristic computer can’t handle the chore and malfunctions.  This drives the entity out of the computer and back into his body.  Spock injects the creature with a tranquilizer and then transports him into open space with a wide dispersion thus rendering it harmless.

This episode is wonderfully tacky and even the small touches add to its hokey atmosphere.  When the crew is being tranquilized to avoid feeding the creature on their fear Sulu gets this drunken expression that makes you think he’s about to drool on himself.  And I think the episode set a record for McCoy saying, He’s/She’s dead Jim!”  I counted three.  By the third one he should just have said, “Ditto.”  But above all, Kirk and McCoy in the belly dancing den of iniquity, slavering over the depravity they plan at the next dive they intend to visit is the high point.

I give this a score of   6 // 10.  Shatner’s bad acting lifts this episode to new heights of awful.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 13 – Obsession

Kirk, Spock and some red-shirts are on a planet searching for unobtanium.  Suddenly Kirk starts smelling gas.  Apparently, he recognizes a sickly-sweet smell from eleven years earlier when he was on the USS Farragut and it was attacked by a hemoglobin drinking gas cloud.  During this present mission the cloud kills off all the red-shirts.

This smelly gas cloud is Kirk’s white whale.  He is feeling guilt over having hesitated firing a phaser that might have saved his Captain’s life back eleven years ago.  By coincidence, the son of the late captain, Ensign Garrovick, is in the Enterprise’s crew and Kirk takes this young man down to the planet’s surface for another chance to kill the cloud.  Garrovick hesitates for two seconds when surprised by the cloud and more red-shirts are killed.  Kirk blames Ensign Garrovick for the death of the men.  Now the creature flees the planet and the Enterprise pursues at Warp 8.  Eventually the creature turns to fight.  Phasers and photon torpedoes do nothing and the creature manages to enter the Enterprise where it kills a few more men.  The creature attacks Spock but his copper-based globin is inedible.  Suddenly the creature leaves and heads off at Warp speed.  Kirk figures it’s going back to where it attacked the Farragut and that it’s going to spawn a multitude of offspring.  Spock tells Kirk to use an “ounce of anti-matter” to destroy the creature.  Kirk and Garrovick become bait for the creature and at the last second, they are transported away and the anti-matter is unleashed.  The blast interferes with the transporter and Spock and Scotty barely get the two men to rematerialize.

This episode features Kirk obsessed with destroying the creature that killed the captain that he admired coming out of the Academy.  Bones and Spock get to question Kirk’s judgement but eventually understand the danger of this creature.  There is a scene where Ensign Garrovick and Kirk fight over who would stay last while the creature is lured to the anti-matter.  Several times in the episode Kirk loses his temper.  This is a so-so episode.  Let’s call it a 5  //  4.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 12 – The Deadly Years

The setup, such as it is, has Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov and some female red shirt beam down to Gamma Hydra IV to perform routine physicals on a colony of typical victims.  They find all but two of the colonists dead of old age and the two remaining ones already extremely elderly, this despite the fact that chronologically, they were all under thirty years of age.

When they get back to the ship the last two colonists expire and the landing party, except for Chekov begin aging at the rate of thirty years per day.  This is discovered when Kirk feels a back ache and instead of it being a muscle pull McCoy diagnoses advanced arthritis.  Next, we see Scotty walk into the sick bay completely gray haired and covered in wrinkles.  Kirk’s hairline starts receding and McCoy is soon sporting an enormous gray-haired wig that’s obviously plastered on top of his real hair.  At first, they barely give Spock a few gray hairs because Vulcans are more long-lived but by the end Spock gets a good set of facial wrinkles and some decent gray coverage.  And all of this make-up is hilarious but it’s the acting that makes this episode so great.  There is another of a long series of Commodores who is being transported to Star Base blah blah blah and is impatient to get there.  And once he witnesses Kirk forgetting the password for the bridge screen Twitter feed Commodore Busybody convinces Spock that it’s his duty to convene a competency hearing.  Of course, Kirk embarrasses himself and is packed off to assisted living or sick bay anyway.  The Commodore takes command and decides to cut across the Romulan neutral zone in order to get Kirk and the others to medical attention as quickly as possible.  He assumed the Romulans would be impressed with the humanitarian aspects of the mission.  Hah!  Now while the ship is being attacked by a dozen Romulan birds of prey, Kirk is berating Spock and calling him a traitor.  But in order to save the ship they pool their dementia-riddled brains and try to figure out how to reverse the aging disease.  They remember that Chekov was frightened down on the planet and McCoy remembers that adrenaline is present in the bloodstream during an acute fear reaction and that it is effective against certain radiation sicknesses which was the cause of the disease they are suffering from.  Miraculously they formulate a medicine and use it to reverse Kirk’s condition in time for him to boot the Commodore out of the Captain’s Chair and use the corbomite bluff (again!) to escape the Romulans.

I love this episode.  The titanic awfulness of the acting, the cheesy plot devices and the emotional interactions are highly entertaining.  Kirk and McCoy are just so wonderfully bad and they are at the very maximum of Kirkness and McCoyness so that a true fan of Star Trek could not ask for better.  At one point when Spock goes to the Kirk’s cabin to tell him he’s been relieved of duty Kirk calls him a traitor and accuses him of stabbing him in the back the first chance he got.  His whiny geriatric petulance is truly a Star Trek high point.  Shatner embodies in that scene the full limited emotional range that the series affords.  This is his “you broke my heart Fredo” moment.  It’s wondrous to behold.

At another point when Spock goes to McCoy complaining of hypersensitivity to cold and asks for a treatment, McCoy says, “I’m not a magician Spock, I’m just an old country doctor.” And Spock says, “Indeed, as I always suspected.”  This is the essence of the Spock/McCoy relationship.  And finally, when McCoy drags up the word adrenaline from his failing memory, as the name of the sought-after cure, he sounds like he might have expectorated in the face of anyone within range.  At each of these moments you know that this is the most fully realized that Star Trek ever was.

There are other touches.  Chekov gripes to Sulu about all the testing and blood samples they subject him to.  Kirk somehow has an old girlfriend on the ship who by some amazing coincidence is an endocrinologist and still has the hots even for geriatric Kirk.  I will say that even old Kirk looks like he could have done better.  Sulu questions a couple of Kirk’s repeated helm commands which sets Kirk off on a rant about questioning his orders.  And even the cute blonde yeoman (played by Carolyn Nelson) lets Kirk know he is asking to review a report he already signed a few minutes before.  Uhura has a larger than usual part.  She gets to testify against Kirk that he forgot that the Romulans had cracked the Federation Message Encryption Code 2.  And later on, while the Romulans are pummeling the ship with photon torpedoes, and the Commodore questions her why the Romulans aren’t answering his message to them she reminds the Commodore that Romulans are notorious for ignoring explanations.

Ah, it’s a fabulously ripe second season episode.  Kirk’s angry, confused portrayal falls perfectly into Shatner’s wheelhouse.  There isn’t any Shatner physicality but his angry blustering attacks on Spock gives this a very high Shatner mockery score.  Highly recommended for the connoisseur.    9 // 8

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 11 – Friday’s Child

This is the quintessential second season episode.  It has so many kitschy tics going on that it’s a little overwhelming.  So first the plot.

The Enterprise is attempting to get a treaty with a tribal world that has some make-believe mineral that’s really important.  The natives are allegedly seven-foot-tall Visigoths that are very honest but very combative and warlike.  McCoy has spent time on the planet and is an expert on their customs.  He, Kirk and Spock beam down along with a redshirt who is immediately killed by the natives when he draws his phaser at an unexpected Klingon with the natives.  Scotty is left in charge of the Enterprise and has been warned that the Klingons may be lurking around.

The Klingon plots with one of the natives and eventually this tribesman kills the tribal leader and takes over the task of deciding whether the Federation or the Klingons will get the mining treaty.

Now the deceased tribal leader’s pregnant wife (played by tv’s Cat woman Julie Newmar) is about to be slaughtered by the new leader but Kirk intervenes and the Enterprise landing party and the woman are placed under armed guard until it is decided how they are to be killed.

Meanwhile the Enterprise is decoyed out of orbit by a Klingon ship masquerading as a Federation freighter in distress.  So, while the landing party is unable to call for help in their peril.  By means of a subterfuge Kirk and Spock manage to overpower the guards and headed for the Los Angeles hills where they find a cave where McCoy can deliver the woman’s unwanted child.  As the widow of the leader she is honor bound to kill herself and the child with her.  McCoy convinces her to want the child but somehow, she decides the child is now McCoy’s.

Kirk and Spock make bows and arrows and cause an avalanche in the cliffs of southern California and hold the tribesman at bay while the baby is delivered but eventually the Klingon kills the new chief for no apparent reason and then is killed by the tribe.  Just then Scotty and a landing party arrives and the Cat woman is made the regent for her son who will be the next tribal leader.  Back on the ship we find out the baby is named Leonard James Akaar after McCoy and Kirk and Spock acts annoyed.  Hilarity ensues.

Okay, now let’s review the horror.  The supposedly seven-foot-tall natives are barely average height.  The uniforms of the warriors look like they were designed for Liberace or Elton John.  Next, we have the classic McCoyism.  When he is trying to drag the Cat woman up an arroyo he complains “I’m a doctor not an escalator.”  And while Scotty is commanding the Enterprise he comes up with such gems as, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!” and, “Let’s charge right at him and see if he has the belly for a fight!”  Kirk and Spock up in the hills with their bows and arrows was pretty ridiculous looking.

All the little mannerisms have been built up over the season and a half are now in place.  Kirk has an established manner with each of the cast members.  You can almost predict what he will say to Spock, McCoy, Scotty or Uhura.  Even Spock and McCoy have their little routines that they banter at each other.  So, from the point of view of a second season Star Trek episode this is average.  Average in every way.  I’ll give it an average rating 7 with a low Shatner mockery rating so let’s call it a 7 // 4.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 10 – Journey to Babel

In this episode, the Enterprise is carrying ambassadors from several Federation races to a conference on a planetoid called Babel to decide the fate of a planet called Coridan requesting membership in the Federation.  The first scene involves the arrival by shuttle craft of the Vulcan ambassador Sarek and his human wife Amanda (played by Jane Wyatt who was the mother in the popular television series, “Father Knows Best”).  As it turns out they are also Spock’s father and mother.  We find out that Sarek and Spock have not been on good terms since Spock decided to join Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Academy as his father had desired.

Sarek is involved in an altercation that turns physical with the Tellarite ambassador over the illegal Tellarite mining of dilithium in the Coridan system.  Later, when the ambassador turns up dead, Sarek is the prime suspect.  Meanwhile an unidentified starship of incredible speed begins following the Enterprise.

While being interrogated by Kirk over the murder of the Tellarite Sarek reveals that he could not have been the killer because he is too weakened by a heart condition.  Suddenly Sarek is stricken by a major heart attack and McCoy thinks that surgery will be necessary.  But the Enterprise lacks sufficient supplies of Sarek’s rare blood type to safely allow the surgery.  Spock volunteers to undergo treatment with a drug that will supplement his body’s ability to produce new blood and will thus be able to produce sufficient blood for the operation.

Kirk is attacked by a member of the Andorian delegation named Thelev.  Kirk subdues him but only after sustaining a serious knife wound to the lung.  Kirk is taken to sick bay and Spock assumes command which in his mind makes it impossible for him to provide the blood transfusion needed for Sarek’s life-saving surgery.  When Amanda hears of Spock’s decision, she begs him to put another officer in charge and save his father’s life.  When Spock refuses on the grounds of duty, Amanda slaps Spock in the face and runs away from her son.

When McCoy tells Kirk, what Spock has decided Kirk tells McCoy that despite his critical injury he will go up to the bridge and pretend that he is recovered in order to force Spock to assist in the surgery.  Once Spock leaves the bridge Kirk will call Scotty to relieve him.  McCoy reluctantly agrees to the plan because Sarek is so close to death.  And it works.  Kirk fools Spock and McCoy escorts the Vulcan back to sick bay.

But just as Kirk prepares to call for his relief the mystery ship begins offensive posturing toward the Enterprise.  Simultaneously, Uhura detects communication between the enemy ship and the Andorian, Thelev in the ship’s brig.  Although Kirk is in obvious pain, he maintains command and calls for the Andorian prisoner to be brought to the bridge while he directs Chekov and the helmsman battling the enemy ship.  The ship is so fast that the Enterprise’s weapons systems are too slow to track it.  Finally, with shields already failing Kirk is forced to make a desperate ploy.  He deactivates the ship power systems to lure the ship in close and disables it with phasers at point blank range.  The ship self-destructs rather than be captured and the prisoner Thelev reveals that he also has a suicide plan and succumbs to poison before medical aid can be brought.

Meanwhile during the attack McCoy is attempting to perform delicate heart surgery to save Sarek’s life while the operating area is convulsed by the weapons concussions and power fails some of his most important surgical instruments.  At one point, Sarek’s heart stops and McCoy is forced to use a manual device to resuscitate him.  Spock is also in grave danger from the equipment malfunctions occurring.  But by the end of the attack McCoy was able to successfully repair Sarek’s heart.

Now Kirk staggers back to sick bay after allowing Chekov to relieve him.  When Spock regains consciousness, he informs Kirk that he believes that the alien ship and Thelev were actually Orions.  Thelev was surgically altered to appear Andorian and the Orions wanted to destroy the Enterprise and start a war and then sell pirated dilithium crystals to both sides.

Amanda appears and tells her husband to thank her son for saving his life.  Sarek counters that it would be illogical to thank Spock for doing the logical thing.  Amanda becomes outraged and disparages Vulcan logic.  Spock notes that his mother seems very irrational.  He asks his father why he married her.  Sarek replies that it seemed the logical thing to do at the time.

But now McCoy steps in and tells all his convalescing patients to calm down and stop talking.  After a few warnings, they fall silent and McCoy breaks into a big smile and says, “Well what do you know, I finally got the last word.”

This is not such a bad episode.  The Spock family stuff is mostly amusing and the ridiculous fake aliens are, of course, ridiculous.  They even have a couple of dwarfs painted copper that are supposed to be something or other.

Jane Wyatt relating scenes from Spock’s childhood and trying to reconcile her husband and son has some charm.  On the story side of the ledger this earns a 7.

On the Shatner mockery side, we have the scene with Kirk battling the knife-wielding Thelev.  At one point, when they are wrestling, Shatner does some kind of sideways jump where his legs collide with a wall and part of Thelev.  It looks extremely uncoordinated and ineffectual.  And after he is stabbed, he contorts and writhes in Shatnerian agony.  So altogether I’ll give this a 7 // 7.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yellowstone – A Television and Country Music Review

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