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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 15 – Shore Leave

Shore Leave is sort of a fantasy episode wrapped in a sci-fi costume.  It was written by Theodore Sturgeon who was a very good, very unconventional science fiction author of the time.  But from my point of view this story is just an excuse to allow the cast to run around and emote.  Accordingly, it will have a lower episode score but a higher Shatner mockery score.

The Enterprise is exploring a new planet that needs cataloging.  The crew including Captain Kirk are extremely weary from recent emergencies that they have encountered during their extended mission.  Kirk is considering using this seemingly idyllic planet as a location for shore leave for the crew.  During the exploration the landing party encounters some inexplicably strange things.  McCoy meets the White Rabbit and Alice from Wonderland.  When Captain Kirk beams down with his new yeoman, a fetching young woman named Tonia Barrows who is a worthy successor to Yeoman Janice Rand, they also begin to run into impossible things.  Yeoman Barrows is manhandled by a swashbuckling man who resembles her idea of the womanizer Don Juan.  Kirk meets his nemesis from Starfleet Academy, an upperclassman named Finnegan, who back then, tormented him with practical jokes.  Sulu finds a pistol that he has always wanted to try and meets a samurai who chases him with a sword.  Other landing party members are chased by a tiger and strafed by a WW II fighter plane.  And finally, after Yeoman Barrows puts on a medieval princess’s ball gown Doctor McCoy is run through with the lance of a knight on a black charger.

Mr. Spock beams down to inform the landing party that a mysterious force is draining the Enterprise of energy.  He surmises that the strange encounters are some kind of manufactured creations meant to give life to the thoughts that the various crewmen are thinking at the time.  Finally, Kirk chases down Finnegan and they have an epic fist fight after which Spock notes that Kirk very much enjoyed giving Finnegan the comeuppance he earned long ago.  Spock theorizes that the phenomena are meant to be amusements for the participants.  But Kirk reminds him that McCoy is dead.

At this point a man in a long funny robe shows up and tells them he is the caretaker of this world and that his people use it as an amusement park on which to relax.  When Kirk complains that McCoy is dead, of course, McCoy walks back into the scene accompanied by two chorus girls wearing some feathers here and there and each holding onto one of his arms.  Yeoman Barrows who has shown some proprietary interest in McCoy demands an explanation for the girls and McCoy confirms that he happened to be thinking of a cabaret and the dancers just showed up.  The caretaker confirms that no permanent damage will happen on this pleasure world and offers to Kirk the opportunity for his crew to take a greatly needed shore leave and he agrees.

I am of two minds about the intrinsic merits of this episode.  It is somewhat amusing in a broad and casual way.  But I think it goes overboard.  The plot is clearly absurd.  And it’s a departure from the story arc of the series.  The thin plot is fleshed out with the landing party running back and forth reacting to all the strange people and things they encounter.  I’d give it a score of 6 for the episode rank.

But for Shatner mockery it gets points for the fist fight with Finnegan.  Shatner gives of his best.  He rolls around in the dirt and flips and tumbles all over the place.  He even manages to rip away half of his shirt.  And while he doesn’t give us any of his most spastic facial expressions, he does give us a fair number of overwrought expressions and exclamations.  Let’s give it a 7 on the Shatner scale.

So, there we are,  6 // 7.  That’s makes it a fairly balance experience for the Star Trek connoisseur.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 14 – Balance of Terror

Another good episode with no Shatner mockery score worth mentioning.  In this episode, the Enterprise is operating close to the Romulan Neutral Zone and has to come in aid of the border surveillance bases that the Federation maintains there.  The Romulans have been quiet since a war fought a century ago but a distress call reveals that an invisible ship has destroyed three of the bases.  Surveilling the mystery ship at a distance Kirk discovers that the Romulans have a cloaking device that makes their ship almost indetectable and they have a super weapon that no shield can stop.  But he also finds their weaknesses.  While cloaked the ship cannot use its weaponry and the Romulan ship does not possess warp drive but must proceed at the slow speeds of an impulse engine.  While eavesdropping on a Romulan transmission they discover that Romulans look like Vulcans and are indeed an offshoot of Mr. Spock’s home planet.  And he informs Kirk that these people are not like the modern logical peaceful Vulcans but instead are fearsome warriors.

Kirk and the Romulan commander play a cat and mouse game in which each tries to anticipate the actions of the other and get the advantage needed to survive.  There are several twists and turns and also tension within the Enterprise as an officer whose family was decimated during the century old war with the Romulans suspects Mr Spock of loyalties toward his distant kinsmen.

For fans of old WW II submarine movies, you’ll see some of the same tactics used here.  At one point the enemy jettisons some materials as debris to fool the Enterprise into thinking the Romulan ship had been destroyed.  In another scene silent running is used to fool the enemy into thinking the Enterprise is incapacitated.

The whole episode is very capably scripted and the acting is some of the best seen in the series.  The actor who plays the Romulan Commander, Mark Lenard went on to play Spock’s father in a later episode and in several of the movies.  The interplay between Kirk and the Romulan Commander is the highlight of the show and the final conversation between them is an excellent set piece that Shatner performed admirably and in an unusually understated style.  No exaggerated emoting going on.

This is a 9//0 episode.  Well done.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 13 – The Conscience of the King

This episode is essentially a murder mystery story.  Kirk is the detective and the members of the crew and a band of traveling Shakespearean actors are the props.  The leader of the acting troupe is suspected by Kirk of being a mass murderer who slaughtered four thousand of his citizens where he was a colony leader.  The only surviving witnesses who can identify the murderer are Kirk and Lt. Riley of the Enterprise.  The biggest complication is that, of course, the suspect’s daughter is a buxom blonde that has caught Jim Kirk’s eye.

Other than the love interest, which is slightly tedious, the Shakespearean motif is relatively amusing, with chunks of Macbeth and Hamlet slung around at slightly appropriate moments.  Spock is alarmed by the Captain’s secretive and erratic behavior and McCoy is his usual contrary self.  Outside of the plot we are regaled with Lt. Uhura singing something Star Treky and we are given one last walk through by Yeoman Janice Rand on the bridge.  Apparently she was fired shortly before this episode and this was her swan song.  A pity.  She was pretty.

The plot and the love story resolve themselves as the guilty receive poetic justice and madness and death are the fruits of murder.  I’d give the story a 7.  Shatner has almost no opportunity to perform any tumbling, bare chested gymnastics or over the top histrionics.  I’ll call it a 1 on the Shatner mockery scale.  That a 7 // 1.  Not too bad.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 11 & 12 – The Menagerie

The Menagerie was a reformulating of the first Star Trek pilot episode, “The Cage.”  Jeffrey Hunter was the original pick to be the captain of the Enterprise, Captain Christopher Pike.  But the network rejected that pilot and when Roddenberry asked Hunter to do the second pilot he bowed out.  So, the original story of the Enterprise on Talos IV is embedded in the two-episode story of Spock’s mission to help Captain Pike.

The plot revolves around events that involved the Enterprise long before Jim Kirk was captain.  Chris Pike was the captain during the Talosian incident and his science officer at the time was Mr. Spock.  Fast forward to Jim Kirk’s Enterprise and Spock fakes a distress signal from a Star Base in order to kidnap a critically injured and horribly disabled Christopher Pike and hijack the Enterprise to reach Talos IV.  Captain Kirk and the star base commander Commodore Mendez follow after the Enterprise and once aboard they put Spock on trial for mutiny.  Spock provides evidence in the form of an audio-visual record of the Talosian incident which as it turns out is being transmitted to the Enterprise by the Talosians.  This transmittal explains why Talos IV is quarantined by the Federation and nature of the Talosians powers.  The resolution of the trial and Captain Pike’s fate are the climax of the story.

This story is one of Star Trek’s best.  Even though this is a cut and paste of the earlier episode with the later additions for the Spock plot it is an interesting story with characters that are at least as interesting as the normal crew.  I would say Jeffrey Hunter does an excellent job as Captain Pike and it is interesting to think what the series would have been like if he had stayed with the show.

The nature of the Talosians powers and their intentions for Captain Pike allow the storyline to include several scenes that involve Pike and the girl Vina in some fantasy episodes.  There’s even one scene where she’s painted green and dancing around in a harem outfit (and of special interest to Orion’s Cold Fire, she’s described as a green-skinned Orion slave girl).

A notable item from the story is the casting of Majel Barrett, the woman who went on to play the always annoying Nurse Chapel, as Pike’s First Officer known as Number One.  Barrett played her part as a cold logical officer.  In this part she was far more entertaining than with her Chapel character.

Since Captain Kirk has a relatively small part in these two episodes, he really had no chance to demonstrate his special acting skills.  Interestingly, the plot does have a couple of incidents where Jeffrey Hunter had to react to psychic torture with exaggerated facial expressions and spasmodic body gestures.  It appears then that the writers and directors are partially responsible for all the histrionics that Bill Shatner is so famous for.  But obviously he had a greater ability than Hunter at hamming it up.

So, with respect to scoring I’ll go with 10//2

 

#1 in Customer Service, The Complete Adventures of Tom Stranger (Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent #3) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review

For the sake of accuracy let me say that his is actually an audiobook.  It’s found on Audible which is an Amazon company.

This is the third installment in the Tom Stranger saga but Audible has bundled all the earlier episodes in with three new chapter in the series adding up to eight hours of listening time.  The Tom Stranger stories are a goofball joke that Larry Correia of “Monster Hunter International” fame spun out in 2016 as a lark.  But he got Adam Baldwin (of Firefly and Chuck fame) to do the narration and the first one was so much fun to listen to that I’ve kept up with the nutty series ever since.

The idea is exactly what the title implies.  Tom Stranger is an interdimensional insurance agent.  He travels throughout the multiverse settling claims on any policies meant to protect a client in one dimension from interference by any being from a different dimension.  So, as a for instance, while in our dimension back in 2016 Barack Obama was president of the United States, in another universe Adam Baldwin wasn’t just an actor but was also elected president.  So, when something from our universe threatened this alternate reality, Tom Stranger was called in by the policy owner, Adam Baldwin, to restore the balance and repair the damage.

Now Larry Correia was the originator of the Sad Puppies campaign against the SJWs of pink science fiction so tweaking liberals and other weirdos is a healthy chunk of the content and motivation for the stories.  But everyone else, including himself, Adam Baldwin and even nominal allies like President Trump come in for abuse somewhere in the story.  The only group that consistently escapes abuse are manatees.  Tom is presented exactly like the earnest insurance agent he is, humorless, efficient, extremely uncool and incorruptible.

I will say right up front that if you don’t like goofball humor and don’t appreciate pretty heavy handed SJW bashing this may not be your cup of tea.  Also, right now the book is free if you start a trial membership of Audible.  I guess if you cared to you can get it free and then cancel the trial membership. But I just bought it because I’m a trillionaire.  Otherwise it is $28 dollars which seems like a lot of money for a goofy book.  So, I’ll say that this book is definitely not for everybody.  Also Audible is one of those services where the audio file doesn’t reside on your computer but streams from their servers.  Being a geezer, this annoys the hell out of me.

Going back to the story, it’s something that I like but it has several things going for it for my tastes.  First off, I was a participant in the Puppy Wars and enjoy anything that tweaks the SF SJWs.  Secondly Larry Correia is a very funny guy and writes a really clever satire.  And finally, Adam Baldwin is great fun as the narrator.

So, there it is.  A specialty product that isn’t for everyone but satisfies a niche for a special audience.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 10 – The Corbomite Maneuver

This is an iconic episode.

The Enterprise is mapping a new sector of space and runs into a space buoy that is meant to warn off outside ships from entering the space occupied by “The First Federation.”  When the Enterprise attempts to evade the probe, it matches course and then begins emitting radiation that increases to a lethal level.  Because of this Kirk orders the buoy to be destroyed by phaser fire.  During this operation the young navigator Lt. Bailey is noticeably flustered by the situation and afterwards is rebuked by Kirk for his poor performance.

Later an enormous spherical star ship intercepts the Enterprise and captures it with a tractor beam.  It scans the Enterprise’s structure and reads its memory banks.  A harsh angry voice identifying itself as Balock the Captain of the Flagship Fesarius of the First Federation announces that because of the Enterprise trespassed into their territory and destroyed the buoy Balock would destroy the Enterprise in ten minutes.  Spock manages to bring up an image of Balock on the bridge viewing screen which reveals a large fierce visage that fills the screen.

At this point Lt. Bailey becomes unhinged and starts shouting and berating his crewmates.  Kirk relieves him of duty and sends him to his quarters.  When Kirk consults with Spock as to a course of action Spock relates it to a game of chess where one player has overwhelmed the other and it results in checkmate with no recourse but defeat.

At this moment Dr. McCoy upbraids Kirk for treating Lt. Bailey so harshly and threatens to write a medical log blaming Kirk for the problem if he doesn’t relent.  Kirk replies angrily that he won’t allow McCoy to bluff him into something he doesn’t want to do.

Suddenly Kirk has an idea.  He looks at Spock and says the answer isn’t chess it’s poker.  He will bluff Balock.  Kirk informs Balock that all Earth ships are equipped with a substance called corbomite which has the property that if it is impacted with a certain level of energy, it reflects back that same level energy against the attacking ship thus destroying it too.  Kirk then dares the alien commander to go ahead and attack.  While the ten minutes is counting down Lt. Bailey returns to the bridge in a calm state and requests to return to his post which Kirk allows.

After the ten minutes expires Balock orders the Enterprise to prove that the corbomite device exists.  Kirk refuses.  Finally, Balock declares that the First Federation will tow the Enterprise to an earth-like planet, hold the Enterprise crew captive and then destroy the ship.  But instead of the Fesarius a tiny vessel separates from it and tows the Enterprise away.

Kirk devises a plan to overload the engine of the small craft by running the enterprise engines into overload and hope that the small craft’s capacity is less than theirs.  Barely short of the rupture of the Enterprise engines the smaller craft overloads its own engines and becomes inert.  A distress signal from the small craft to the Fesarius alerts Kirk that its engines and life support systems have failed.  And based on the weakness of the distress signal it is believed that the mother ship could not have heard it.

Kirk determines to transport into the distressed vessel with McCoy and Bailey to lend aid.  When they reach the ship, they find that the creature they thought was Balock is a puppet and the real Balock is a being that resembles in size and appearance a four-year-old boy (actually played by Ron Howard’s brother Clint).  He explains that he was testing their intentions and they passed.  He offers them a beverage called tranya and asks if an exchange program can be worked out to allow the two peoples to learn about each other.  Kirk asks Bailey if he’d like to volunteer and Bailey accepts Kirk’s suggestion gladly.

Okay, let’s talk about this episode.  First as a story, it’s very good.  The dialog is snappy and the plot moves along nicely.  And there is a clever ending that you don’t see coming.  Kirk’s idea of using poker instead of chess as the basis of his strategy plays up the difference between Vulcan thought processes and human.  The lesson is that logic alone is not always the answer.  Sometimes intuition and experience come into play.

The interplay of the characters is interesting and even the weakness of the Bailey character provides some human interest and a little redemption to the story.  One fun bit of dialog is Kirk complaining to McCoy about having been assigned a female yeoman (Janice Rand) instead of a man and being heckled by McCoy about it.  This was just after Janice had come into the Captain’s cabin and served him a salad for lunch on the orders of McCoy.  Apparently, Kirk had put on a few pounds and needed a diet.  So, on the first axis this episode is a 9.

On the mockery axis we have two areas of interest.  Once again, they’ve got Kirk’s shirt off so we can view his slightly doughy torso.  This is while he is getting a physical in sick bay.  He’s lying on his back at a slight decline with his legs pumping against some spring-loaded blocks coming out of the upper area of the wall performing a cardio stress test.  He looks utterly ridiculous.  The ironic nature of this seemingly futuristic stress test is that behind the set wall there was probably a stage hand pushing back on the stepper blocks with his hands simulating resistance.  And by the end of the scene Kirk is glistening with sweat.  It might as well have been some gladiator movie from the fifties.  The other mockable item is the enormous amount of fake quaking.  Almost continuously during the time the ship is attempting to escape from the First Federation ship the crew on the bridge is vibrating as if the whole ship was shaking.  And shots of the crew in the corridors of the ship show them throwing themselves against the bulkheads as if the deck were pitching underneath their feet.  It looked quite absurd.  But there really isn’t any wonderful Shatner over-acting.  I’d have to call this episode a 6 on the mockery axis.

So, call it a 9//6.  But that still makes it a must see.

 

Peter Thiel Turns on Shatner!

The Fat Man who is a hyper-vigilant researcher of all things Shatner sent this in to me.  Imagine his horror when another of his idols, Peter Thiel, mocks the great one!  Watch starting at 10:00.

Oh the horror.  Utter blasphemy.

Landreau, coordinate!

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 9 – Dagger of the Mind

The plot of this episode is a variant of the “mad scientist theme.”  The Enterprise is transferring supplies and receiving freight from a penal colony Tantalus V.  An escapee hides in a crate and is loose in the Enterprise.  When he is captured it is discovered that he is part of the staff named Dr. van Gelder.  The director of the penal colony, Dr. Adams, claims that van Gelding was driven mad through exposure to a device called the neural neutralizer that is used for therapy on the mentally ill.

But McCoy has suspicions and recommends that Kirk go to the planet and investigate the real reason for van Gelding’s madness.  McCoy selects a young woman named Lt. Helen Noel to accompany Kirk down to the surface.  Noel and Kirk had a romantic episode during the “Christmas Party” the previous year.

While investigating the neural neutralizer, Noel plants a suggestion in Kirk’s head that their little encounter was really a serious romance.  But immediately after this, Dr Adams has Noel restrained and uses the machine to convince Kirk that he was madly in love with Helen Noel.  After the session, Noel and Kirk are returned to his room and once Helen convinces him that his romantic impulse is a false memory produced by Dr. Adams through the neural neutralizer, he helps her into the HVAC duct with the intention of turning off the force field to allow communication with the Enterprise.

While she approaches the power plant Kirk is brought back by Dr. Adams for a more painful treatment meant to make Kirk a compliant victim of Adams’ plans.  Finally, Noel shuts down the power and Kirk overpowers Adams.  Spock comes to the rescue with a security theme but when the power is restarted Dr. Adams overdoses on the neutralizer that suffuses his unconscious body and dies.

Parts of the episode were interesting, parts were ridiculous.  I enjoyed the silly banter and embarrassment between Kirk and Helen Noel.  It was slightly clever.  The fact that they mention a Christmas Party instead of the politically correct term Holiday Party was refreshing.  The plot was fairly predictable but not terrible.  The actress playing Helen is definitely a babe.  As a regular story it would earn a 6.  As for the mockability index, there are several notable moments.  Whenever van Gelding tries to tell McCoy and Spock about things that the neutralizer compels him not to talk about, he writhes in agony and makes the goofiest faces imaginable.  And in this episode Spock performs his first “Vulcan Mind Meld.”  Melding with van Gelding he becomes practically weepy which is truly embarrassing to view.  So, I would give the overall score as 6//5.

 

Limitless – A Science Fiction – Fantasy Movie Review

Limitless was a 2011 movie starring Bradley Cooper.  The movie is about Eddie Morra, a young man in New York City struggling to write a novel.  On the day we meet him, he is dumped by his girlfriend and is trying to fend off his literary agent.  Eddie has blown through the advance he was paid for the book but so far hasn’t written a single word of the book.

By coincidence Eddie meets his former brother in law who used to be a drug dealer but alleges that now he markets a legal pharmaceutical called NZT that alters brain chemistry in a way that turns the user into a super genius for a day.  Although reluctant to use it Eddie tries it and it is everything promised.  He writes half his novel in a few hours and finds himself able to navigate his real-world problems, like his angry landlady, effortlessly and successfully.

He goes back to his brother in law to get more of the drug but after going to perform some gopher errands for him Eddie finds his brother in law shot to death in his living room and the apartment ransacked.  Eddie calls the police but spends the ensuing arrival time finding and taking the large supply of NZT that the killer had missed.

Now Eddie harnesses his abilities by becoming a securities trader.  But he needs capital to get going so he borrows $100,000 from a frightening Russian mafioso.  Eddie quickly makes several million dollars and comes to the attention of a Wall Street giant, Carl Van Loon played by Robert De Niro, who gives him the opportunity to become a major financial player.  But now he starts running into the side effects of NZT.  Continued use encourages neglect of the body such as forgetting to eat for days and overuse of the pills leads to violent impulsive actions.  And as he finds out from his ex-wife withdrawal from the drug can be fatal or at least permanently debilitating.

The climax of the story combines crises combining the Russian gangster, Eddie’s work with Van Loon and the NYPD.

The science fiction element of the story is restricted to the unbelievable effects of NZT.  In fact, the story reminds me of a decidedly non-science fiction story that I saw long ago.  In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Tom Cruise’s first big hit “Risky Business.”  We have a man taking a dangerous chance to change his life and dealing with the consequences of that decision.  Of course, this story is much darker but the resemblance occurred to me.  While I think the story is a little over the top, especially with respect to the Russian gangster portion of the story, I thought it was pretty good.  If it sounds interesting to you, give it a try.