Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 4 – The Naked Time

This episode leaves me very conflicted.  Because of the enormous amount of awful acting by a plethora of characters this should be and is a highly rated episode on the mockery index.  But having to sit through it is challenging.  There really is a limit to how much insipid tv you can watch before your skin starts to crawl.

Let’s dispose of the plot, such as it is, first and then look over this train wreck.  The Enterprise has been sent to Psi 2000, a planet whose star has “gone dark” and is now apparently collapsing in on itself from the cold.  They are tasked with rescuing a crew of four scientists that, for some inexplicable reason, were left in a highly dangerous and unstable environment and after the rescue they are to observe the collapse of the planet at extremely close range in a highly unstable and dangerous orbit.  Sure.

Spock and Lt. Joe Tormolen (hint, hint, dead man walking) beam down to the surface in isolation suits and find that the scientists seem to have died violently from the effects of insanity.  Tormolen’s nose is itchy so of course he takes off his glove and immediately becomes infected with what ever strange infection killed off the scientists.  Tormolen spreads the infection to the ship and for the rest of the episode the whole cast except McCoy engage in random acts of imbecility that somewhat mimic drunkenness.  Of course, the ship ends up in great danger of crashing into the unstable planet and a last minute “Hail Mary” by Spock and Scotty saves the ship but hurls the ship three days back into the past and then the show ends.  That’s not much of a plot.

Okay, so this is kind of a stupid plot but what is truly notable is how many creepy behaviors are on view by the crew.  Sulu takes off his shirt and swash buckles around the ship menacing the crew with a fencing sword.  Nurse Chapel starts whining at Spock declaring her empathy and love for his poor neglected emotional life as a half-Vulcan.  She even starts pawing at him and infects him whereupon he also starts blubbering and whining about how sad he was as a child.  Spock infects Kirk during a fist fight and then Kirk starts describing his unrequited love for the Enterprise.  All in all, it’s a nauseating spectacle but Spock and Nurse Chapel crying together and then Spock crying by himself in his cabin has got to be the low point.  It has to be seen to be believed.

There is an important scientific moment.  When the shut down engines won’t be available soon enough to save the ship if a normal start up is used, Kirk orders Scotty to engage in a full power restart, to which Scotty exclaims apoplectically, “ye canna mix matter and anti-matter cold!”  I fully expected him to preface it with an exclamation like, “Are ye daft man?”

Majel Barrett, who played Nurse Chapel was Gene Roddenberry’s main squeeze and soon to be wife.  But she is just such an annoying character that she comes close to making the episode unwatchable.  The hair style or wig she has in this episode is weird and off-putting.  The hair on the back of her head is dark and the front is grey and the whole thing is sort of swirled around.  It looks like something went terribly wrong during the hair and make-up prep.

So, my verdict is this is a must see because of just how heinous the acting is.  But at the same time make sure you aren’t in a weakened state during the viewing.  It will lower your vitality and it’s entirely possible you will break out in hives.  And it is completely out of the question for the mentally unstable.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 2

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 1

Shaking off the lingering effects of Rocket Man wasn’t easy.  But after enough refreshments were absorbed, we were ready to go forward.  Believing they had sustained the worst shocks possible they were steeled to delve deeper into the less familiar works of William Shatner.  They knew that I possessed one of the few copies of the 1984 made-for-tv movie, “Secrets of a Married Man” (SOAMM).  A unanimous vote decided that it would be next.

For those who don’t know about this little known “treasure,” Shatner plays an engineer, Chris Jordan, working on an important project that will make or break his career.  He has a wife and kids but the wife (played by former Momas and Papas singer Michelle Philips) has been so busy with her own career that she has sort of neglected her conjugal responsibilities toward Chris.  So, what with the stress of the project and his neglected libido, Chris starts availing himself of the services of various prostitutes.  This provides moments of Shatneresque hilarity.  One scene shows Shatner in the shower when suddenly he looks down and must see some kind of rash or other skin problem on his genitals and almost has a stroke in his own special Shatner style.  In the next scene he has gone to some doctor other than his family general practitioner and is relieved to learn it’s just an allergic reaction to soap or laundry detergent or “something else.”  One particularly funny scene involves Shatner driving down the main drag with his wife in the car and all the hookers are calling out to him “Hi Chris” and Shatner is trying to explain to her how the name Chris is just hooker code for a new customer.

This goes on way too long until finally he meets the dream girl.  Cybil Shepard is a high-priced hooker who drains Shatner of cash and even has him second mortgage his house to keep up with his weekly visits.  But when the hooker’s pimp needs five thousand dollars Shatner’s whole life falls apart as his wife finds out what’s happening and leaves him and the police step in.  We watched about forty percent of the show fast forwarding to the scenes where Shatner brought his unique acting abilities to bear on this stunning plot.  But even that was too much.  We finally shut it off.

When it was over the delegates were restless.  They felt we had strayed too far from the core of the Shatner canon.  While it was agreed that SOAMM contained some powerful and unique Shatner moments nevertheless the unheroic nature of the role separated it from the true spirit of Shatner.  Even the hideousness of Rocket Man maintained the heroic nature of the Shatner persona.  We had a to regroup.  So, after reviling SOAMM and making fun of Cybil Shepard’s career that allowed her to play in this kind of movie we moved on.  We decided to go back to the classics.  And we picked for our next selection Space Seed.  ShatnerKhan needed a little Khaaaaan!

But first we decided to take a break and restore ourselves with our choice of refreshments.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 1

On the 27th of October 2019 word spread that an opportunity existed for ShatnerKhan 1 to occur on November First.  I scrambled to confirm that the resources were in place.  I searched for any conflicts that could interfere with the operational excellence needed for such a critical mission.  ShatnerKhan 1 was a go!

So much had to be done in such a short window.

  • Venue reservations
  • audio-visual equipment rentals
  • purchase of archival quality motion picture and television recordings
  • intellectual property rights agreements
  • hotel accommodations
  • security staff and clearances
  • media announcements
  • insurance waivers
  • local permitting

The time it took to N/A each of these items on the public domain occasion planning list that I downloaded from a random website was time taken away from the planning of exactly which Shatner masterpieces would be included and which would have to be sadly excluded due to time constraints from ShatnerKhan 1.

When I arrived home that fateful night ShatnerKhan 1 had already kicked into high gear.  The delegates, some of whom had travelled from locales almost as far a way as the Andorian, Tellarite and Coridan systems, were attempting to regale Camera Girl with droll anecdotes of their exploits on their far-flung travels.  She on the other hand, being a woman and therefore of a practical nature, was more interested in when they intended to leave.

I bounded into the gathering full of enthusiasm and the bright good spirit of camaraderie and feasted on a sumptuous repast of not only wonderful chicken chop suey, marvelous won ton soup and priceless egg rolls but also a mysterious dessert that attempted to predict my future!  O Brave New World!

And now sated of our ravenous hunger and perfectly receptive to the cinematic delights we were about to experience we discussed the program.  What would be included in this inaugural edition of ShatnerKhan?  What would have to be postponed for a subsequent occasion?  And what order would we arrange the included courses?  I proposed to start off the evening with “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”  This seemed a safe and non-controversial strategy.  But surprisingly, the delegates were opposed.  The attitude of the room was that this was too tame, too familiar.  They demanded a more challenging, a more esoteric choice.  I knew that some of the delegates had not delved as deeply as I into the less well-known strata of Shatneriana.  I resolved to stagger them with something they were surely unprepared for.  I played Rocket Man.

For those who had not seen it before, the effect was devastating.  By the time the third Shatner appeared there were howls of pain emanating from the audience and shouts to stop the show.  I refused.  They had sown the wind now they must reap the whirlwind.  When the last “long, long time” died out into merciful silence I could see that those who had revolted against the safe choice of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” were now sadder and wiser.  They probably wished they could go back in time and undo that revolt.  But no one can unsee “Rocket Man.”  Their innocence was shattered.  Like the victims of a Lovecraftian eruption of eldritch horror, the image of the tuxedoed Shatners was seared permanently into their souls.  I contemplated describing here the experience of watching “Rocket Man.”  It can’t be done.  The experience is inexplicable.  You’ve either seen it or you haven’t.  It’s like trying to describe green to a blind man.  Suffice it say that it is Shatner at the height of his powers, confident, almost arrogant.  In complete control of the audience and his cigarette.

We stopped to revive ourselves with licorice and pretzel rods.

 

ShatnerKhan 1 – Part 2

 

 

Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 3 – Where No Man Has Gone Before

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” is that rarest of Star Trek episodes, a good science fiction short story.  And interestingly, it has only a few moments of Shatner awful acting.

The Enterprise is cruising close to the edge of the galaxy.  A damaged ship’s recorder from a star ship, the Valiant, that disappeared two hundred years earlier is recovered and it is determined that traveling through the negative energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy had something to do with it.  They determine that the Captain of the old ship had self-destructed the ship because of some threat that had to do with a survivor of the negative energy effect.

So, of course, Kirk decides to bring his ship through the barrier.  Several crew members are killed but two of those affected but not killed, Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell and psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner are changed by the experience.  Mitchell now has silvery eyes that glow and appears to have inexplicable mental powers.  A careful analysis of the Valiant’s recordings shows that the captain was interested in information about extra sensory perception (ESP).  Comparing health records of the crew members killed and Mitchell and Dehner shows that they all had high rating for ESP with Mitchell being exceedingly high.

Now Mitchell begins to exhibit alarming abilities.  He can control parts of the ship remotely using only his thoughts.  He also starts to talk about himself as being almost a god.  At this point, Spock concludes that the Valiant was destroyed because one of its crew must have developed powers in the same way as Mitchell and self-destructing the ship was the only way to prevent him from taking it over and going back to conquer the human race.  Spock recommends that Kirk kill Gary Mitchell before he becomes too powerful to stop.  Kirk rejects this but after proof of Mitchell’s power and hostility toward humanity, he decides to maroon Mitchell on a refueling planet that they are headed for.

Mitchell reads their thoughts and strikes out at them.  By luck they manage to knock him out with a tranquilizer and bring him down to the planet.  But eventually Mitchell’s increasing powers allow him to break loose and kill one of the Enterprise crew before escaping with Dehner into the desert.  At this juncture Dehner also has silver eyes and is talking about godhood.

Kirk sends the rest of the crew back to the ship and goes after Mitchell and Dehner with a phaser rifle.  Mitchell knows he’s coming and sends Dehner to talk to Kirk.  Kirk tries to reason with her and tells her to use her training as a psychiatrist to diagnose Mitchell as a psychotic.  Mitchell is easily able to capture Kirk and attempts to get Kirk to pray to him like a god for a merciful death.  Kirk refuses and uses the situation to convince Dehner that Mitchell is completely mad.

Dehner is convinced and before Mitchell has a chance to kill Kirk she attacks Mitchell with her energy weapon.  They battle back and forth.  Dehner is mortally wounded but Mitchell at least temporarily is weakened which is signified by his eyes returning to normal.  Dehner warns Kirk that his chance is brief.  Kirk attacks Mitchell and they have a fist fight.  But pretty soon Mitchell begins to recover his powers and pummels Kirk.  In a last desperate attempt Kirk knocks Mitchell into the grave meant for Kirk and recovering his phaser rifle he blasts a boulder that then falls and crushes Mitchell to death.  Kirk returns to Dehner in time to see her die.

This is a fun episode.  Gary Lockwood who plays Gary Mitchell does an outstanding job of showcasing the transformation from Jim Kirk’s best friend to megalomaniacal monster.  Sally Kellerman as Dr. Dehner is good and even William Shatner portrays the part as conflicted friend and foe of the monster with more range than he usually musters.  In fact the only mockable scene is when Mitchell is forcing Kirk into an involuntary kneeling posture with his hands joined in prayer.  He uses his usual spastic facial expressions to indicate his battle against the alien will.  It’s awful but it’s only a brief moment.

Some notable casting details.  In this pilot episode McCoy isn’t the Medical Officer but Scotty is the Engineer.  Sulu is still a “physicist.”  And interestingly we have a different cute blonde as Kirk’s yeoman instead of Janice Rand.  Andrea Dromm plays this Yeoman Smith.

So, here I am in an odd position.  I have to give this episode the highest marks for dramatic and storytelling qualities and lowest marks for Shatner mockability.  If you haven’t seen this episode I highly recommend seeing it.  If most of the episodes were close to this quality this would have been a great science fiction series.

 

 

Galaxy’s Edge – Tyrus Rechs – Contracts and Terminations – Book 1- Requiem for Medusa

By the title you can see that the Galaxy’s Edge franchise has branched out.  This book is the first installment of a spin off series that follow the adventures of quasi-immortal bounty hunter, Tyrus Rechs.  Tyrus was a component in Book 2 -Galactic Outlaws of the main sequence of the Galaxy’s Edge series.  This series is a prequel to that time line and gives us the back story for Rechs and several other important components of the ancient history of the Galaxy’s Edge universe.

Requiem for Medusa is a standalone story.  It’s a revenge story that involves Tyrus tracking down the murderers of the only woman that still had any connection to his weary soul.  The story reads like a noir but ends up as a military assault against desperate odds to take down the criminal gangs and the corrupt security apparatus that flourishes in the lawless depths of the Reach, the section of the Edge that had been abandoned for centuries to outlaw operations that even the Republic’s Legion left alone.

For the faithful readers of the Galaxy’s Edge series, this is not required reading.  This is a personal story of Tyrus Rechs and although it will answer some questions about Rechs, it won’t matter if you skip it from the point of view of the main narrative.  And this story differs from the other stories in that it contains a love interest component.  Whether this would distract the reader from the story is of course a personal preference.  But it should be mentioned in my opinion.

Now my opinion.  This is a separate story from the Galaxy’s Edge narrative but the characters are interesting and the character development for Tyrus Rechs doesn’t hurt him at all.  He performs his murderous rampage without any loss of skill due to the emotional component of his motivation.  There is a very clever plot device called the nano-plague that is probably linked to some of the other important ancient history for the Galaxy’s Edge universe but in this story, it is used to advance a plot element in the revenge story.

All in all, I liked this story and recommend it.  As with all the Galaxy’s Edge books it is well written, holds your interest and contains exciting combat action.  However, if you do not want to explore the periphery of the Galaxy’s Edge fictional universe it can easily be omitted without sacrificing your knowledge of the series.  Highly recommended.

 

 

Star Trek: The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 2 – Charlie X

This is a relatively straight forward plot.  The Enterprise meets a ship, the Antares, that has rescued the survivor of a spaceship wreck.  Seventeen-year-old Charlie Evans survived for fourteen years on the planet Thasus alone.  The Antares crew is anxious to leave and Captain Kirk takes the boy under his wing and tries to introduce him to how people live.

Soon we find out that the boy has extreme psychic powers that allow him to dematerialize members of the crew and destroy items across stellar distances.  Apparently, he was raised by the legendary Thasians who gave him these extraordinary powers.  Unfortunately, teen aged Charlie isn’t able to control his emotional insecurity and so his powers become a threat to the Enterprise and all aboard, especially Yeoman Janice Rand whom he immediately falls in love with.  When the crew of the Antares attempt to warn Kirk of Charlie’s powers he destroys the distant ship using only his thoughts.  When things start spinning out of control Kirk uses his dominant personality to try and rein the boy in but in the climactic battle for control of the ship Charlie rebels against his father figure, Kirk, and comes close to killing him.  Luckily at the appropriate moment the Thasians show up and take Charlie back to Thasus where they will take care of him and he will be prevented from destroying humanity.

This episode is a gold mine of goofiness.  We are regaled by Spock playing some kind of Vulcan lyre-like stringed instrument accompanied by Uhura singing extempore lyrics about Spock’s appearance and alleged romantic proclivities.  It must be seen and heard to be believed.

Later on, Kirk takes Charlie to the gym to teach him to fight.  Now we have our first viewing of Kirk without a shirt.  It’s not pretty.  He really needed to lose about twenty pounds.  And he demonstrates for Charlie his patented shoulder roll move.  Very athletic.  He also demonstrates his ability fall backward onto a mat.  Apparently, this is a skill that needs to be learned.  Well, it looked so awkward and unathletic that I judge it to be the highlight of the episode.

Here are other scenes that deserve mention.

Charlie sees one of the crewmen slapping his friend on the back after some work accomplishment.  When Charlie is walking away from Yeoman Rand, he says goodbye by slapping her on the butt.  She tries to control her outrage and tells Charlie to ask Captain Kirk why he shouldn’t have slapped her like that.  Kirk sputters and equivocates and dodges out.

Later on, Charlie goes to see Rand in her cabin.  She’s wearing some kind of one shoulder strapped dress that accentuates her figure.  Charlie pours out his adolescent hunger for her in incoherent monosyllables and when she rejects him, he dematerializes her.  This definitely reduced the interest I had in the rest of the show.

In this episode we see more of Mr. Spock’s stoic Vulcan personality and see kirk interact with him on a personal level while they play a game of three-dimensional chess.

The Charlie character was purposefully neurotic but I still found him very annoying.  This episode may have been the inspiration for a later episode called the Squire of Gothos which has a similar character who has superhuman powers but a very immature nature.  But in that episode the characterization is much more entertaining.

But as mentioned the highlight of the episode is Bill Shatner rolling around on the floor of the gym.  His embarrassing and awkward athletics are marvelous.  Putting aside the uninspiring plot the other aspects mentioned rate this episode very high in the pantheon of bad Star Trek specialness.  Highly recommended for connoisseurs of awful Shatner athletics.  Special mention for Yeoman Rand getting smacked on the butt.

Joker – A Science Fiction – Fantasy Movie Review

(Spoiler Alert- I do talk about a good amount of the plot.)

First of all, is this a fantasy movie?  Well, it takes place in a mythical place, Gotham City and I suppose it exists in the “DC Universe” which includes Superman and other superheroes so I guess that can’t be the real world so let’s say it’s fantasy.

And this is nominally the origin story for Batman’s nemesis the Joker.  But although Bruce Wayne makes a cameo appearance and his father is a somewhat important character it doesn’t feel like this is a comic book story.

I guess it’s a story about how you can be the wrong man, in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The time and place are Gotham City (think New York City in everything but name) around, approximately, the mid-nineteen-eighties, a time when the bull market on Wall Street contrasted with the crime and poverty within much of the city.  The contrast was between the opulence of the elite and the graffiti and garbage laden streets of the poorer areas.  Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is trying to make people smile, he’s a self-professed clown.  But he’s also a mentally unstable man who struggles to make a living in the cruel time and place that surrounds him.

Arthur lives with his invalid mother in a tiny apartment in a ramshackle building somewhere in Gotham City.  He is on seven different medications for his mental problems which in addition to clinical depression includes an uncontrollable urge to laugh at the most inappropriate times.

We see him trying to earn a living as a clown.  He is sent out by an agency to perform whatever entertainment or advertising assignments a clown could be used for.  At a store that is going out of business, he dances around on the sidewalk with a twirling sign that announces that everything must go at their sale.  A gang of teenagers rip the sign out of his hands and run away into traffic.  Arthur chases them in his clown costume and after an exhausting chase is ambushed in an alley by the gang and brutally beaten down.

The movie is a downward spiral with Arthur experiencing cruelty and disappointment from every direction, strangers, his social worker, his neighbors, his employer and fellow employees and even his mother.  The only relief he ever finds in the movie are either delusions that his mind manufactures or the elation he feels when he finally exacts revenge with a gun.

Once Arthur is completely defeated in his hope for a normal life, he formulates the idea that all his pain is not a tragedy but actually a comedy and his mission is to spread the joke to everyone he meets.  He becomes the Joker and exults in his new found purpose in life, to extract revenge on everyone he comes in contact with.  After that the movie is a kinetic chase to see if Arthur can reach the maximum audience for his grim comedy before the police catch up to him.  Eventually the alienated masses in Gotham City embrace his chaotic violence and burn the city down in a spasm of violence.

This is an endlessly bleak film.  There is absolutely no positive message that can be taken from it.  The negative message that might have a cautionary aspect is not to push desperate people all the way to the wall, because they may still have teeth.

I was speaking to some folks in my circle of acquaintances about the Joker movie.  One of them is one of the Deplorables and he was very enthusiastic about the movie.  He felt that the movie reflected the way the world treats people today.  For instance, the neglected condition of Arthur Fleck and the rundown condition of the city he lived in was emblematic of how the elites treat the everyday folk.

He keyed into the scene where Arthur manages to meet up with Thomas Wayne.  Arthur’s mother had worked for Wayne and Arthur wants to talk to the great man.  He goes to the gate outside Wayne Manor and using some magic props amuses young Bruce Wayne who happens to be nearby.  Alfred the butler intervenes and Arthur runs away.  In the next scene Arthur sneaks into a private showing of a Charlie Chaplin movie at a palatial theater that Thomas Wayne and the rest of the elite of Gotham City are privately viewing.

Arthur enters as the show is in progress.  There they were, the elite, in their tuxedos and gowns without a care in the world while outside the riff raff were protesting the neglect and rot that had descended on the city.  Arthur is charmed and exhilarated by the opulence and happiness he sees and expects that Thomas Wayne will welcome him with open arms.  Instead he is rejected by Wayne and told that his connection to the Wayne family is a delusion.  And just for the sake of irony vis-à-vis the Batman back story Thomas Wayne punches Arthur in the face and says that he will kill Arthur if he ever comes near his son Bruce again.

Without a doubt one of the themes of the movie is that the rich have abandoned their poor neighbors.  And in fact, the three men that push Arthur over the edge into homicide are rich young stockbrokers who feel no compunction about attacking a seemingly harmless man on a subway train.  But it should be remembered that Arthur is also attacked by some street hoodlums who obviously aren’t any kind of an affluent group.  Their underprivileged status hasn’t given them any sympathy for Arthur when they beat him savagely when he attempts to retrieve his stolen property from them.

My friend feels that the Joker represents a recipe for what is ahead as the downtrodden rise up and eat the rich.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe there’s no other way but somehow that doesn’t feel like victory to me.  If the best outcome possible is burning the world down to the ground then excuse me if I’m not particularly enthused.  I have to imagine we’re not so completely powerless that the only way we can have our way is to form a gigantic mob and sharpen up the guillotine.

The orgy of rioting that erupts in reaction to Arthur’s televised insanity is not a victory for anything.  Instead of representing some kind of independence movement it’s more like a scene from the French Revolution, from the Great Terror.

Joker is a tour de force by Phoenix.  He must have lost an awful lot of weight to appear as emaciated as he is in the film and he wrings an agonizing performance out of his soul and onto the screen.  It is painful to watch and leaves you somber at its conclusion.  And there is no catharsis because right up to the end there is no sense that anything has been resolved.  The Joker is just waiting for his next chance to kill and destroy whatever he can.  This is a movie for those who have a taste for darkness.  It’s well made.  But anyone looking for happily ever after, stay home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 36 – The Bewitchin’ Pool

Sport and Jeb are the young children of Gil and Gloria Sharewood.  They live on a beautiful estate with a big house and a large in ground swimming pool.  But their prosperous parents dislike each other intensely and bicker constantly.  One day while their parents are fighting the children see a little boy with a Huckleberry Finn straw hat on his head appear in the swimming pool and tells them to follow him.

They swim down into the pool and end up somehow coming out into a swimming hole where they see a country cottage surrounded by a swarm of children playing happily together.  The boy they followed Whitt introduces them to Aunt T, an old lady who takes care of the children.  She gives them chores and acts as a loving grandmother to them.  She gets Sport and Jeb to frost a cake she’s making for the children and they are really happy to be in a happy love-filled environment.  But then Sport hears her mother worriedly calling to them and she tells Aunt T they have to back to their home because they and their parents love each other.  Aunt T agrees that a loving home is the best place for children.  They swim back into the pool and their parents are very angry with them for disappearing and punish them by sending them to bed without supper.

The next morning Sport is painting outside when her mother wants her to get her brother who has disappeared.  She says she has a big announcement and there won’t be any more fighting in the house.  Sport goes into the pool and finds her way back to Aunt T’s house where Jeb is happily helping out.  Sport tells Jeb that they have to go back and that things were going to be better without any more fighting.

When Jeb and Sport get back their parents tell them they’re getting divorced and the kids will have to pick who they want to live with.  Jeb and sport run back to the pool and their parents chase them and tell them to get out of the pool.  When they don’t resurface their father jumps in.  When he comes back up, he tells his wife that they aren’t in the pool.  She becomes hysterical crying for them to come back.

Jeb and Sport are happily frosting cakes with Aunt T when suddenly Sport hears her mother’s voice calling for them.  But she ignores it and they go back to their happy life at Aunt T’s.

This was the last episode to be televised in the Twilight Zone series.  Because of this, some technical problems they had with sound on the outdoors segments of the show caused major issues.  The actress who played Sport was not available to re-dub the sound and so a voice actress, June Foray had to be used to voice over Sport’s lines.  Foray was the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series and her voice is noticeably different from the actress who played Sport.  This change is actually quite jarring for the listener.

Another incidental note for this episode has to do with the actress who played Sport (Mary Badham).  In this episode the sister and brother are named Sport and Jeb.  In a well-known movie that Mary had recently been in (To Kill a Mockingbird) the character she played was a sister named Scout with a brother named Jem.  A coincidence?  I think not!

This fantasy episode is addressing the topical problem of an increased divorce rate in America at the time.  Of course, compared to today it was an idyllic era for family life but modernity was already taking its toll on the sanctity of marriage and the family.  I see what Serling was saying in this episode and it is admirable.  Dramatically the story is simple but effective.  Even counting in the technical problems with the voice over I’ll call this a B+.