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 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.

The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem – A Science Fiction Book Review

Many years ago, I read some short stories by the Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem.  I remember they had futuristic elements like interstellar travel but they also included a certain amount of communist doublespeak about socialist this and soviet that.  And that seemed really odd.

But recently War Dog mentioned favorably the “The Cyberiad” collection of stories and its mathematical love poem so I decided to give Lem another whirl.

The stories in this book are the adventures of two robot inventors, or as they are called in their world Constructors, named Trurl and Klapaucius.  And when I say robot inventors I mean to say that they are inventors who are themselves robots.  They are friends and rivals and from time to time enemies.  They go on assignments together or separately taking on contracts to build just about anything imaginable.  And sometimes they build things for themselves that don’t always seem to be very sensible.  For instance, one- time Trurl constructed a machine that could create anything starting with the letter n.  It could make needles, negligees, nepenthe, narcotics, nimbuses, noodles, nuclei, neutrons, naphtha, noses, nymphs, naiads but not natrium.  And why not?  Because natrium is Latin for sodium and in English sodium starts with s!  Later on, being told to make nothing almost puts an end to the universe but luckily Trurl stops the machine just in time.

So as you can see this is comic science fiction. It’s something sort of in the same vein as Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” but what it also reminds me of is Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland stories.  There is an enormous amount of wordplay and punning going on in the stories.  The interesting thing is that a lot of the word play is specific to English and these stories were written in Polish which makes me wonder if the translator had to find English equivalents for Polish puns.

The Constructors become involved in adventures that take them all through the cosmos fulfilling contracts for kings and emperors and pirates and sometimes for common people who just really need help.  They build monsters and demons and story telling machines and even machines that know everything about the whole universe.  Interestingly it seems most of the universe is populated by robots and other cybernetic beings.  Organic beings exist and seem to be pretty generally looked down upon by the robots.  But the robots are very human in their foibles and behavior and none more so than our heroes Trurl and Klapaucius.

Mixed in with the zaniness of each of their adventures is a good dose of irony about the human condition.  The selfishness and cruelty of many of their employers and the vanity and greed of the Constructors themselves is often the point of the stories and the fantasy setting is there to add humor and interest to the tale.  And also Lem is enjoying the poetic aspect of the words.  Sure, we can’t hear the Polish words to know it’s poetical but based on the English words you can see that Stanislaw Lem is like a “drunken lord of language” always using twenty words for effect where one is needed for meaning.  Here’s an example:

“Multitudinous are you?”

“We are!”  they shouted, bursting with pride.  “We are innumerable.”

And others cried:

“We are like fish in the sea.”

“Like pebbles on the beach.”

“Like stars in the sky.  Like atoms!”

You get the idea.  Lem is a poet.  And his stories are parables.  And because of this I find that it needs to be broken up and digested in small chunks.  Each of the chapters is a separate story and should be approached as such.  With all of the word play and digressions you can lose track of the nub of the story if you’re tired and not paying attention so I wouldn’t suggest reading them at night before going to bed.  This happened to me once or twice and I realized this wasn’t the kind of material that can be enjoyed at high speed like an adventure novel.  But if you give each story some time and attention it will reward you with a smile and a chuckle.  I’m glad now I was made aware of The Cyberiad.  I will enjoy returning to the adventures of the two intrepid Constructors Trurl and Klapaucius on some cold night in January when my world needs something lighthearted and clever to get me through the short days and long nights of winter.  But if you don’t like an airy, poetical style of writing this might not be for you.

Vox Day Gets a Laugh at the Woke Sci-Fi Fans Outrage at the Hugos

Vox was the leader of the Rabid Puppies starting back five years ago and he still enjoys watching the Pink Sci-Fi mafia shrieking whenever one of the actual successful sf&f writers (like in this case, George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame) doesn’t grovel low enough at the altar of intersectional fiction writing for their liking.  Apparently he mispronounced one of the unpronounceable fake names that transgender people make up and because of that he’s a racist transphobe and might not get invited back to the Hugos again!  Oh the horror.

Vox copied the funnier parts of the shriek.  I’m still a big fan of all things Sad/Rabid Puppy and always enjoy watching the crazies attack each other with great joy.  If you remember the fun back then check it out for the laughs.

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/08/canceling-rape-rape.html

ShatnerKhan II – Pastrami in the Time of Plague

Several weeks ago, and in a mysterious half-mythical locale like Middle Earth or Camelot, but with better Wi-Fi, I attended the second annual ShatnerKhan.  As was specified in my contract, there was New York pastrami and other deli selections to make bearable the task of viewing an intense selection of Shatneriana.  Up front I will state it was barely sufficient to cushion my system from the brutal shocks of what was to come.

After the rigors of ShatnerKhan I, I had assumed that the membership would have retreated from the danger zone of forbidden Shatner and played it safe with an agenda restricted to Star Trek and Twilight Zone standards.  That was not the case.  Like the fictional Gamesters of Triskelion these risk takers wouldn’t settle for trifles like quatloos or CBS science fiction episodes.  They were hunting for big game.  And they started it off by firing with both barrels.

In my youth I remember seeing a commercial that featured a young-looking William Shatner dressed up as Alexander the Great.  Even as a child I knew there was something wrong with that picture.  Luckily, I was spared finding out how wrong it was until ShatnerKhan II.

I don’t remember if this was a CBS or NBC made for tv movie.  Whatever it was I can tell you it was awful.  It was as if the producers were looking for the perfect formula to guarantee that this project would crash and burn like nothing before or since.  Think of it, they teamed up Bill Shatner and Adam “Batman” West and put them in dresses, really embarrassingly short dresses.  Then they had them riding around on horses and generally pretending to fight a war.  They threw in John Cassavetes and Joseph Cotten just to try to butch it up a little but after twenty minutes I begged for mercy.  It was just too horrendously bad.  I asked for some kind of change of pace just to help me shrug off the effects of that nightmare.  I was allowed to choose “The Doomsday Machine.”

Here my feet were back under me.  I had just reviewed the show recently and felt like I was back in the company of an old friend.  I could hum along to the danger theme of that episode.

Dahdunt, dahdunt, dehdunt, dehdunt

Dahdunt, dahdunt, dehdunt, dehdunt

Dahdunt, dahdunt, dehdunt, dehdunt

Dahdunt, dahdunt, dehdunt, dehdunt

Dehduntduntdunt, dehduntduntdunt

Duhdeduhdeduhduhdehhhhh!

 

There was the Bill Shatner I was comfortable making fun of.  There was Bill Shatner wearing pants.  Sure, he might take his shirt off once in a while or have it ripped off of him in a fight but he was consistently dressed like a man.  With everything back to normal I declared a break and we broke out the vanilla ice cream, Mounds Bars and salted cashews.  This provided just the right amount of sugar shock for us to actually discuss what we had watched without really caring what we were talking about.  It was a great success.

With the last of the cocoanut and chocolate washed down with crème soda I thought I was ready for whatever would be next.  After all, having survived Alexander the Great I didn’t think there was anything left in Shatner’s resume to worry about.  Boy, was I wrong.

Shatner is known for talk-sing covering songs by other singers.  But I had never heard him in a duet.  I wish I could still say that.  I was bombarded by something so pathetic that I can’t even describe it.  Words fail me.  You’ll have to judge for yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J648lr8cjuw

It was like some kind of Lovecraftian horror that leaves you gibbering and disoriented.  I just sat there and let the rest of the group steer the choice of videos without me.  I think we watched Amok Time but I’m really not sure.  It was all hazy.  I was like some kind of disaster survivor sleep walking through the wreckage of my mind.

When I finally started to come around, I was sitting at a table with a cup of coffee and a slab of ice cream cake.  The world started to come back into focus.  When the discussion returned to Shatner, I noticed that there was no mention of what we had witnessed.  I could tell that none of us wanted to acknowledge that we had allowed ShatnerKhan II to overstep the bounds of sanity and even break the bonds of normal space-time.  We had let it get away from us and we all knew we had been lucky that we hadn’t summoned up some horrible presence from “out there.”  Sitting here in the safety of my living room I can contemplate something like that but what if it had happened?  What if a fat Korean guy in a bowl haircut and ancient Bill Shatner sweating and talking into his wireless microphone had broken through the space time continuum and suddenly appeared before us singing, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  Very probably the whole multiverse would have exploded forming a big bang across all the universes there are.  I can’t be responsible for that.  I can’t let that happen, not on my watch!

I’m going to need a kill switch for ShatnerKhan III.  That’s the only way it’s going to happen.  And I’m going to need a lot of corned beef and mustard too.

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.

Alien: Covenant – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review

I saw Alien in the theater in 1979.  It was one of the earlier movies produced with Dolby Sound and the theater in Times Square was extremely proud of their superb sound system.  And that was all that the movie can be said to have excelled in.  It was without a doubt the loudest movie I have ever been exposed to before or since.  Watching the movie back then I determined that rather than make a scary monster movie they made a painfully loud monster movie.  So, whenever the monster was about to jump out of the dark, they would turn the volume to eleven and the audience would jump out of their seats holding their ears in pain.  I guess they figured we might mistake burst eardrums for fear.  The movie is basically shot in the dark and you can never really see the monster when it’s killing someone so it’s really not scary, just annoying.

In the mid-eighties James Cameron was paid to make a sequel to this film with a troop of “space marines” added to bump up the body count and allow Sigourney Weaver to become a female Arnold Schwarzenegger and hopefully add some more sequels to the franchise.  Admittedly Alien 2 was better than the original but that’s not really saying much.  Then they made a third one which really sucked and finally a fourth that most normal people just ignored completely and so it was hoped that the series had died its natural death.

But sometime in the 2000s someone had the bright idea of having the creature in the Predator series meet up with the Alien creature and this spawned a new series of bad sci-fi movies.  But at least these weren’t “serious” science fiction films, whatever that means, and so the “integrity” of the Alien franchise was maintained.

In 2012 they dragged the director of the original Alien, Ridley Scott back to make a prequel called Prometheus.  It included a bunch of crap about how humanity was the product of genetic engineering by an advanced race called the Engineers.  And this gets all mixed up with the Alien monster showing up on a planet where one of the Engineer’s ships is holed up for some reason and the Earth crew’s android turning evil.

Well anyway in 2017 they made a sequel to Prometheus called Alien: Covenant.  Here a human colony ship headed for a new world intercepts a message and finds one of the characters from Prometheus and starts falling victim to the alien monsters again.

So, what’s the best way to say this?  Oh, I know!  It’s the same stupid story from 1979 all over again.  It’s exactly the same plot and even the same character stereotypes.  There’s the plucky young woman with a knack for killing monsters on space ships.  There’s the android who is fascinated by the creature and will allow the humans to die in order to learn more about the creature.  And then there is the rest of the crew who are just fodder for the creature on a killing spree.

That’s all there is, over and over and over.  Save yourself the trouble.  It’s not fun and it’s not interesting.  The characters aren’t great, the special effects are no better than any other CGI sci-fi movie and you already know the plot from the beginning.  Hollywood, try to come up with something different for once, please.