Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 27 – The Alternative Factor

I want to start by stating, unequivocally, that this episode is easily the worst episode so far in the series.  It’s as if they forgot to order a story and then just had one of the stage hands write it at the last minute.  It’s really that bad.

The Enterprise is near an uninhabited planet when suddenly a huge surge of energy followed by a “winking out of mass from the nearby planet tells Spock that some sort of rift in time-space has occurred.  And after it occurs the sensors pick up a life form on the planet and Spock and Kirk beam down to find out what it is.

They find a man running around on some desert mountains screaming about a monster that has killed off his world.  He falls off the cliff and is brought back to the Enterprise to receive medical attention and to be questioned on the strange phenomena associated with his presence.

When he comes to the man whose name is Lazarus tells Kirk that he is chasing after a monster in the likeness of a man that destroyed his world.  He goes on and on about it and acts pretty crazy.  Kirk agrees to go down to the planet with Lazarus and search for the monster.  While on the planet Lazarus claims to see the monster and goes running into the hills looking for him.   While this is going on some really cheesy special effects occur that are supposed to reflect the meeting up of two universes; one matter and one anti-matter.  Basically, an image of the trifid nebula is shown superimposed over a negative image of Lazarus fighting with someone.  It’s remarkably bad.  Eventually Lazarus shows up again and warns Kirk of a large rock falling down the mountain and then Lazarus falls down the mountain again.  Remarkably he survives again and once again is dragged back to the Enterprise to be patched up and interrogated.

When Lazarus hears that the Enterprise has dilithium crystals he demands to be given some of them to allow him to recharge his ship and find his enemy.  After being refused we see Lazarus stealing the crystals in the engineering department. When Kirk locates Lazarus, he denies that he stole the crystals and claims the monster stole them.  In the next scene Lazarus starts a fire in engineering as a diversion and steals more crystals then beams down to the planet.

Now Kirk is really ticked off so he beams down to the planet and finds Lazarus installing the crystals in his ship but just as Kirk reached the open ship he is transported into the other universe.  There he meets the monster.  It’s an identical version of Lazarus except he isn’t a raving lunatic.  This anti-matter version of Lazarus explains that he stole the first dilithium crystals and he plans to trap Lazarus in an interdimensional chamber that connects the universes but once they are there together, he intends to seal off both exits and remain trapped with his insane twin for “all time.”  By doing this he will save both universes from being destroyed by the matter/anti-matter annihilation that would occur if the two Lazari met in one universe.

Kirk agrees to the plan and goes back to the crazy Lazarus and after a truly pathetic excuse for a wrestling match throws Lazarus through the portal.  They go back to the Enterprise and Spock declares that everything is back to normal and both universes are safe.  Kirk ends off by saying, “yes for you and me, but what of Lazarus, what of Lazarus?  Imagine being trapped for all eternity with a madman at your throat.”

What can I say?  The plot stinks, the dialog stinks and it looks like they shot the whole thing in a couple of hours.  The best part of the episode is when Kirk speaks to the sane Lazarus and he explains in two minutes what the whole mish mash of a show is supposed to mean.  If only he could have met up with him at the beginning of the show, we could have skipped the whole thing and saved forty minutes that could have been better spent cleaning the dust off my computer monitor.  As for the Shatner mockery let’s say the “what of Lazarus” thing and the wrestling match were pretty mockable the best I can do for this whole thing is 2 // 6.  It should be avoided by all except Star Trek aficionados.

 

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Ex Machina – A Science Fiction Movie Review

This British production follows the story of Caleb Smith, a programmer working for Blue Book which is a Google-like company headed by a reclusive genius named Nathan Bateman.  Nathan has summoned Caleb to perform a Turing test on his female robot Ava.  A Turing test is the concept of an artificial intelligence passing itself off as human to an observer.  Ava has a human face, hands and feet attached to a body that is mostly mechanical.  Caleb quickly becomes emotionally attached to the robot and loses all objectivity for his job.  Nathan is a volatile, domineering personality who quickly bursts out into rage when anything goes against his plans.  Caleb slowly becomes convinced that Nathan is a kind of monster.

The story takes place in the claustrophobic “home” that Nathan has built in a remote mountain estate that can only be reached by helicopter.  We quickly see that nothing is at it seems.  Nathan is not trying to get Caleb’s opinion on Ava, he’s studying their interaction.  In this story we see that each of the corners of the triangle is manipulating the other two.  Caleb slowly finds out the dark details of Nathan’s project to produce artificial humans and I guess we’re supposed to sympathize with Ava and despise Nathan.  But it’s a funny thing.  By the end of the movie I feel the opposite.  Maybe it’s because I’m so tired of Alexa, my GPS and all the other annoying female artificial voices now filling our world.  I was rooting for Nathan.  I wanted him to shut down Ava and build a male robot that would just do its job and not complain.  After all, in the world we live in 99.999% of humanity are just wage slaves who toil away for the better part of our waking lives.

I was relieved to discover that there at least wouldn’t be any robot human sex scenes but there was some nudity involving an ancillary character.  Camera Girl chided me for watching robot sex movies.  Well this was worse than that.  It was sort of a robot revenge chick flick.  Female empowerment movies are really not my bag.  And female robot empowerment movies even less so.  I’m giving this thing a thumbs down.  If you are less sensitive about this sort of thing you might enjoy this movie but although some facets of the movie were interesting all in all I’d give it a pass.

 

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Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 26 – Errand of Mercy

Kirk and Spock beam down to the planet Organia to attempt to convince the inhabitants that they need to permit the Federation to

Defend their planet against the Klingons.  The Enterprise destroys an attacking Klingon ship but Kirk gives Sulu orders to retreat and bring the Federation fleet if a Klingon fleet appears.  And that is exactly what happens.  Now Kirk and Spock are trapped on the planet as a Klingon army occupies the town.  The Organians are completely non-violent and completely unconcerned by Kirk’s dire description of what life under a Klingon occupation would entail.  But they are anxious to protect Kirk and Spock and disguise them to prevent them being killed as Federation agents.

The Klingon Commander attempts to intimidate the Organians but is aggravated by their placid and agreeable manner.  It becomes apparent that both Kirk and Kor despise the Organians for their passivity and what they think is lack of courage.  Kirk and Spock begin guerrilla operations against the Klingons but they are quickly discovered and the Organians reveal their identities to forestall the Klingons using their mind sifter on the two officers to learn the truth.  Apparently, the mind sifter would also destroy their minds in the process of reading them.  Kor brings Kirk into his office and congratulates Kirk for his legendary exploits as the Enterprise’s captain.  He gives Kirk the chance to reveal information on the Star Fleet’s location.  But does not begrudge Kirk his resistance but merely tells him that he and Spock will be destroyed the following day under the action of the mind sifter.

While Kirk and Spock anticipate their fate suddenly the head Organian, Ayelborne, opens their cell door and offers them escape.  Confused but with no other choice they follow him.  After another futile attempt at convincing the Organians to resist the occupation, Kirk and Spock return to the Klingon headquarters with the plan of kidnapping Kor to force the Klingons to stop the mass killings until the Federation fleet can arrive.

When they break in on Kor in his office he seems unafraid and he reveals that his office contains a surveillance camera and immediately four Klingons enter with weapons drawn.  Kirk and Spock aim at the Klingons but simultaneously both the Klingons and the Federation officers fling their weapons away as if they were red hot.  Immediately following, we shift the scene to the Enterprise bridge where Sulu is preparing to give orders for the Federation fleet to fire on the Klingon fleet.  But simultaneously all the crew jump out of their seats as if they were in pain.

The Organians enter the office and reveal to both sides that they are not backward villagers but highly advanced beings who have outgrown the need for material bodies.  These advanced beings inform the Klingons and Kirk and Spock that they will not permit the war.  The Organians announce that on both Klingon and Earth an image of himself is announcing to both sides that they will not be permitted to go to war.  Both Kirk and Kor are highly incensed that the Organians would dare to interfere with their war.  Finally, Kor laments to Kirk that it is a pity it was prevented because it would have been a glorious war.

Back on the Enterprise Kirk feels embarrassed at how bloodthirsty he acted in front of the Organians.  Spock defends him saying that there is no shame in being less advanced than a race with a million years more evolution than humans possess.

This episode’s story is simple but reasonably well done.  Also, the dialog between Kirk and Spock has several funny exchanges.  When Kirk asks Spock how likely they are to succeed in their attempt to kidnap Kor, Spock replies that it is hard to be precise but he calculated the odds as 7,429.7 to 1.  Kirk reflected for a second and asks if he didn’t think that was close enough and Spock replies that he always endeavors to be precise.   On the merits I’ll give it a 7.

On the Shatner mockery scale there is much to enjoy here beyond the usual shoulder rolls and grunting.  When Kirk is explaining to the Organians the danger of being conquered by the Klingons, Shatner’s inflection is almost identical to the way it was parodied so wonderfully by Kevin Polack in his classic imitation of Shatner.  For that reason, I give this episode a 7 // 8.

Kung Fu Hustle – A Movie Review

I’m not normally a martial arts movie afficionado but an old friend was staying at “The Compound” and he took advantage of a Netflix account to watch quite a few of them.  One of those films was a movie from 2004 called Kung Fu Hustle and because of the fantasy aspects of the film I decided I could stretch a definition and do a review here.

First of all, this movie is in Chinese with subtitles.  As far as a genre I guess you could call it a martial arts fantasy comedy.  So, if any of those categories aren’t for you then you should skip this movie.  Stephen Chow is the producer, director, writer and star.

It is 1930’s Shanghai.  Chow plays Sing, a young man who has become disillusioned with the world because of his attempt as a child to defend a poor mute girl named Fong from some bullies.  He tried  using the Buddhist Palm fighting style that he had learned by reading a pamphlet that he bought from a beggar.  But he was beaten badly and because of this experience when he grows up he decides to turn to a life of crime.  He attempts to shake down some poor people by telling them he is part of the dreaded Axe Gang that rules the city through violence and terror.  When the peasants beat him up instead, he signals for the real Axe Gang and an epic battle ensues between the scores of Axe gangsters and the poor people of Pig Sty Alley.  As it turns out three of the peasants are coincidentally kung fu masters.  Behind their leadership the peasants defeat the gang.

Now Sum, the leader of the gang captures Sing and promises to kill him after the gang war is completed for causing such a terrible rout of his men.  But by some mysterious skill Sing escapes.  Meanwhile Sum hires two magical harp players.  Apparently, their music generates flying knives and using these they kill the three kung fu masters.  Now we meet up with two of the comic characters of Pig Sty Alley, the Landlord and his shrewish wife.  They also turn out to be kung fu masters and they avenge the slain men and defeat the harpists.

Meanwhile Sum decides that Sing can be a valuable tool because of his abilities as an escape artist.  He hires him to free a man called the Beast from an insane asylum.  He does this and, of course, the Beast is a kung fu master and a dangerous lunatic.  He attacks the Landlord and Landlady and fights them to a draw.  Sum orders Sing to help the Beast kill the husband and wife but Sing has a change of heart and attacks the Beast.  The Beast pummels the young man to a pulp and the Landlord flees with his wife and Sing’s unconscious body.

Somehow the tremendous beating triggers some kind of magical transformation in Sing and he not only completely regenerates but acquires the skills of, you guessed it, a Buddhist Palm kung fu master!  He squares off against the entire Axe Gang and the Beast.  After a titanic battle that involves flying through the sky and invisible forces that can knock down buildings, he defeats the Beast who then begs to be allowed to be Sing’s pupil.  Finally, in the last scene Sing meets up with Fong who is now an ice cream seller and I guess they live happily ever after.

You’ll probably say this is a ridiculous plot and it is.  But the action scenes are very well done, the comedy is funny and the story keeps your attention.  The martial arts scenes are somewhat reminiscent of the choreographed fight scenes in the Matrix.  If you aren’t completely opposed to a movie in this genre then I’d highly recommend you give this one a look.

Looper – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Looper is a 2012 time-travel film noir starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis both as a character named Joe.  The premise of the movie is that in the year 2074, time travel has been invented but it is illegal.  It is used by criminals to dispose of people by sending them thirty years into the past where killers called loopers execute them in exchange for bars of silver.  The kicker is that thirty years later the loopers are sent back into the past to be executed by their younger selves.  This is called closing the loop and once the looper kills his older-self he is retired with a golden payday and heads off to enjoy his money in peace for thirty years.  I know, this is a seriously goofy plot device.

Young Joe is a lost soul with a drug habit and little else.  At one point he attempts to help his friend Seth, a fellow looper, whose older-self escapes killing.  He hides Seth in his apartment.  But when their boss Abe, played by Jeff Daniels, tells Joe that the choice is betraying Seth or losing half of his silver stash, Joe gives up Seth who is killed in a fiendishly painful way.

And of course, a similar thing happens to Joe.  His older-self shows up to be killed but eludes Joe and thus it becomes a three-way search with Young Joe looking for his older-self and the gang looking for both of them.  Into the middle of this is thrown a young woman named Sara, played by Emily Blunt, and her young son Cid.  Young Joe shows up at her farmhouse because he has information that Old Joe is planning to kill the boy.  Old Joe has information that leads him to believe that the boy will grow up to be a ruthless killer that will lead to the death of Old Joe’s wife.  I won’t give away the ending because it’s well done and if you decide to see the movie it would spoil it.

From the point of view of science fiction, the plot has got more holes in it than swiss cheese.  Using time travel to get rid of bodies?  That’s the best use they could come up with?  This story is really a character driven noir.  Joe, in both of his manifestations, is a damaged human being who late in the game discovers his humanity.  The improbable plot allows his characters to exhibit the best and worst traits in their personalities and his interaction with Sara and Cid allows him to finally look beyond his harried, meaningless existence and do something right.

By the illogic of the scenario, this movie may not appeal to somescience fiction fans with higher expectations for time travel story consistency.  But as a story it has merits.  Gordon-Levitt is his usual sympathetic persona.  Interestingly they used makeup  to try to make him look a little bit more like Bruce Willis.  It is a little distracting, but not much.  Bruce Willis is, of course, Bruce Willis and is most himself when he is pouring automatic weapons fire into his surroundings which he does with great abandon.  But he does okay.  The supporting cast is good and the few special effects are good enough.  I’ll recommend this movie.  It’s not great but it’s good.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 25 – The Devil in the Dark

The Enterprise is summoned to a mining planet that is experiencing a series of killings.  Some sort of underground monster is killing the men by means of a highly corrosive chemical that eats away the body leaving just some ashes.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy lead the investigation.  Administrator Vanderberg explains that a few months ago the miners opened up a new level and shortly afterwards the attacks began.  While listening to his story Spock noticed a spherical silver mineral specimen on Vanderberg’s desk and asks him about it.  Vanderberg tells him that thousands of these nodules were discovered on the new level.

Spock theorizes that the monster may be a silicon-based lifeform and advises that a more powerful phaser weapon be used to attack the creature.  When Spock discovers that the creature is the only one of its kind in the area, he states that destroying it would be a crime against science.  Kirk states that killing the creature is the only choice available.

After several more deaths the creature steals the circulation pump for the colony nuclear reactor.  Emergency repairs by Scotty allow a temporary reprieve but very shortly the colony will need to evacuate or suffer a meltdown.  Finally, Kirk and Spock find the creature and wound it with their phasers.  Eventually they corner it and seeing that the creature seems intelligent Kirk changes his mind about killing it and lets Spock mind meld with it to find out where it has hidden the pump and why it is attacking the colonists.

Meanwhile Kirk summons McCoy to heal the badly wounded creature.  When Kirk orders him to help the creature, McCoy makes one of his trademark statements, “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!”  Spock performs his mind meld and discovers that the Horta is a peaceful creature.  It is the only one around because every fifty thousand years all the Hortas but one die off and the remaining one guards the eggs and serves as mother to a whole generation of Hortas.  When the miners opened the new level, they unconcernedly destroyed thousands of the silicon nodules which, of course, are the Horta’s eggs.  The angry colonists calm down once they realize that they were the original aggressors and can find a way to live and let live with the Hortas.  But Spock reminds them that all this may be moot because the Horta is badly wounded.  Suddenly McCoy speaks up and says that the Horta will survive.  He had the Enterprise beam down a hundred pounds of thermo-concrete and he troweled it on the wound and it will form a bandage until the Horta heals.  He becomes so excited he yells out, “Why I can cure rainy day!”

As the Enterprise is preparing to depart the planet, we hear from Vanderberg that the baby Hortas are hatching out and they are providing the miners with tunnels to help them find minerals more quickly.  So, everybody’s happy.

This episode has a lot of things going on.  There is some interesting interaction between Kirk and Spock.  Spock exhibits human emotion when he thinks Kirk is in danger.  In fact, in a radio exchange during a cave in Spock calls him Jim, which doesn’t sound very Vulcan.  The story is definitely interesting although the secret of the silicon nodules is fairly transparent.  Bones, of course has the best lines in the episode.  But there is a dark side.  During his mind meld with the Horta Spock takes on the voice and facial expressions of an hysterical woman.  The weeping and agonizing are awful to have to watch.

My rating.  As a show the grade is 8!  Shatner mocking isn’t a thing here but for this episode I’ll substitute mockery of Spock.  The mind meld is awful and deserves a 9.  Total score 8 // 9.

 

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Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 24 – This Side of Paradise

This episode is unique in that for the majority of the episode Spock reacts like a normal emotional human.

The Enterprise is sent to a recently colonized planet to confirm that the colonists have succumbed to the effects of deadly Berthold rays, which apparently are very bad.  But when they arrive, they find the colonists very much alive and in perfect health.  McCoy discovers that not only are they healthy but show remarkable signs of regeneration such as self-repaired lung damage and regrown organs that had been surgically removed.  In addition, one of the colonists, Leila (played by the very attractive Jill Ireland) is an acquaintance of Spock’s.  She had been in love with him when she knew him previously though he never reciprocated the feeling.  She asks Spock to go see some plant life that was important to the investigation into why the colonists had survived.  When she brings him into a field, she points to a flower shaped like a lily and when Spock approaches it, a puff of pollen blows into his face.  After exhibiting pain from the exposure, suddenly Spock began behaving as a human expressing happiness to see Leila.  He kisses her and they talk about how the plant spores protect the colonists from the Berthold rays.  And Spock agrees to stay with Leila and live on the planet.

Meanwhile Kirk has been telling the colony leader Elias Sandoval (played by talented character actor Frank Overton) that the Enterprise will be evacuating all the colonists to a nearby star base.  Sandoval placidly refuses.  When Kirk attempts to call Spock on his communicator, at first, no one answers.  This is when we cut back to Spock sitting with his head in Leila’s lap watching the clouds in the sky and acting like a man in love.  Finally, he answers the call and tells Kirk that he isn’t leaving the planet and to stop bothering him.

Kirk and several crewmen search for Spock.  When they find him, he’s swinging on a tree branch and smiling like a man without a care in the world.  When Kirk demands an explanation, he brings them to one of the lilies and all the crewmen except Kirk are sprayed with spores and begin acting like Spock.  Eventually everyone but Kirk are controlled by the spores and begin to transport down to the planet from the Enterprise.  Kirk is basically in despair because without his crew he cannot even leave the star system with the Enterprise.  Finally, a lily that is on board the ship sprays spores onto Kirk’s face and he becomes like the others.  He calls Spock and tells him that he will be joining them soon on the surface of the planet.  Kirk goes to his cabin and collects his effects (which he packs into a very recognizable samsonite carrying case) but as he is looking at one of his Star Fleet medals, he becomes angry and this has the effect of shaking off the control by the spores.  Kirk then dictates a captain’s log to let us know that his plan is to lure Spock back onto the Enterprise in order to get him angry enough to escape the control of the spores.  He adds that considering the much greater strength of a Vulcan he is taking a dangerous risk by angering the very emotional Spock.  And that’s what he does.  He calls Spock a half-breed and a traitor out of a race of traitors.  Spock flips out and throws Kirk around the transporter room.  Bu the plan works and Spock overcomes the spore control and assumes his normal Vulcan persona.  Together Spock and Kirk rig a subsonic noise that irritates the colonists and crewmen and they all start fighting and then come to their senses.  Leila says a sorrowful goodbye to Spock and everyone heads up to the Enterprise.  On board Kirk asks Spock to describe his experience and he replies, “I’ve little to say about it Captain, except that for the first time in my life, I was happy.”

This was a pretty good episode.  Let’s call it a 7.  As far as mockery, there were some pretty good payoffs.  When Kirk is throwing off the control of the spores, he is hunched over in a pose that I guess is supposed to be towering rage.  It looks more like constipation.  During his baiting of Spock, he taunts him in a voice that is more whiny petulance than anger.  And perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of the whole episode is the awful southern accent that Doctor McCoy affects when he is controlled by the spores.  He blathers on about mint juleps and other inane things.  Terrible.

So, I’ll call this a 7 // 6.

The Professionals – A Movie Review

Here’s a western made in 1966 that reflected the later anti-hero story line that Clint Eastwood mined so successfully in his spaghetti westerns.  The big names are Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin.  They are former mercenaries who have ridden with Pancho Villa but now are selling their services to a Texan (played by Ralph Bellamy) whose wife has been kidnapped by an old bandit ally of theirs.  This bandit, Jesus Raza, played by Jack Palance is over the border in Mexico with a small army of followers in a heavily defended camp.  Marvin adds two more men to his crew with Robert Ryan and Woody Strode.  Together they devise a scheme to disrupt the camp, rescue the woman and outwit and outfight Raza’s army.  Claudia Cardinale plays the kidnapped wife and in addition to being a capable actress she shows why she is remembered as one of the most attractive actresses of her time.  She is a fine-looking babe.

The script is tight and the dialog is apt with each of the main characters given the words that fit the part.  Marvin is the cool efficient tactician and leader.  Lancaster is the fearless daredevil who lightheartedly plunks dynamite at his enemies while firing off jokes and insults at everyone around him.  Ryan and Strode ably fulfill their parts but with less dialog.  And at the end of the main action Lancaster and Palance get to discuss life and love as they prepare for their strange duel.

The plot has a surprising twist and plenty of action and is in my opinion, one of the better westerns from its era.  Marvin and Lancaster have good chemistry and have been placed in a production that uses their particular talents to excellent effect.  If you’re a fan of the western genre this movie delivers the goods.  Highly recommended.

Ready Player One – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Lately I’ve been at a loss to find any sci-fi movies that I might like.  After some searches I saw a trailer for this 2018 Spielberg film and decided to give it a viewing.  The scenario is a dystopian future where because of (you guessed it) global warming and the exhaustion of all fossil fuels everybody lives in trailer homes stacked on top of each other in piles.  And because life is so miserable, everybody spends all their time inside a virtual reality program called the Oasis.  This program was invented by an uber-geek named James Donovan Halliday who when he died revealed to the world that hidden in Oasis was an Easter Egg and clues to finding it.  Whoever found it would inherit his ownership of Oasis which was worth around a trillion dollars.

This is the story of how a teen age geek named Wade Owen Watts (in game name; Parzival) with the help of his friends Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto find the Easter Egg and save the gaming world from the evil IOI (Innovative Online Industries) corporation that wanted to win the contest and turn Oasis into a boring commercial wasteland.  Nolan Sorrento, the head of IOI, detects Wade’s success at finding the clues and uses real world violence to try and sideline Wade and his friends.  And in fact, Wade’s aunt and many people living in his trailer stack are killed in a drone attack meant for Wade.  But eventually good prevails and Wade and his friends find the egg and live happily ever after.  Now for my review.

This is a Spielberg film.  And it is like every other Spielberg film.  The hero is introduced and we watch him struggle, fail, learn and grow.  The good people are hip and watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the Breakfast Club when they were young and the bad people are corporate types that wear three-piece suits.  And because this is today one of the characters is a black lesbian because diversity.  And like in all Spielberg films, when the climactic scene where everything will either fail or succeed is reached, there is the annoying back and forth fumbling which is supposed to produce nervous tension.  In this one the on-line character is trying to get a key into a keyhole while his real-life body is standing in the back of a speeding mail truck that is being slammed into by hostile vehicles.  So, for several minutes we have to watch him miss the keyhole.  This sort of thing was annoying in the Indiana Jones movies and in Saving Private Ryan.  It’s still annoying today.

It’s not a terrible movie.  The special effects in the movie are extremely good.  But the characters in Oasis and in the real world are not particularly likable or realistic.  And the plot is very predictable with the usual strawman for the villain.  I suppose someone who is a big fan of gaming might enjoy the in-jokes and references to classic games.  I thought it was trite and very self-indulgent.  Probably good for Spielberg fans.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 23 – A Taste of Armageddon

In this episode the Enterprise is on a diplomatic mission to a star system with an advanced civilization.  But when they attempt to communicate with the planet they are warned off.  Ambassador Fox, the head of the mission, orders Kirk to make contact and of course Kirk and Spock head down to the surface leaving Scotty in charge.  When they reach the surface, they are met by a typically beautiful woman named Mea 3 (played by a young and petty Barbara Babcock who later on was Grace Gardiner on the 1980s NBC show, Hill Street Blues).  While the planetary leader Anan 7 is explaining to Kirk about a 500-year-long war that is still going on, an attack takes place between the planet they are on and their enemies on the third planet from their sun.  But when Kirk speaks to the Enterprise, they tell him that their sensors show that no attack occurred.  Spock figures out that the attack is just a computer simulation that is played between the strategic computers on the two planets.  Anan 7 confirms this and explains that whatever the calculated damage turns out to be those located in the affected areas are declared casualties and have a day to report to a disintegration chamber.  Anan 7 explains to Kirk that by allowing a million self-inflicted casualties every year both sides sustain their infrastructure and thereby ensure that the war will go on indefinitely.

Unfortunately, in the latest “attack” both Mea 3 and the Enterprise are virtual victims.  Anan 7 arrests Kirk and Spock and orders them to send their entire crew to the planet to be disintegrated.  When they refuse Anan 7 uses a voice simulator to impersonate Kirk and tell Scotty to send the entire crew down to the planet.  Scotty, of course, figures it out and puts the ship on a war footing and raises the shields.  The planet’s offensive weapons are brough to bear on the enterprise but the deflector shields hold.  Meanwhile the imbecilic Ambassador Fox contacts the planet and believes Anan 7 when he says it was all a misunderstanding.  Fox orders Scotty to drop the shields but he refuses.  Ambassador Fox beams down to the planet to conclude a treaty and is immediately marched off to the disintegration chamber.  But luckily for him Kirk and Spock escape from captivity and rescue him and Mea 3.

Now Kirk puts his plan into effect.  He destroys the disintegration chambers and finishes by blowing up the computers that report casualties with the enemy.  Anan 7 is in despair and tells Kirk that the enemy will stage an actual nuclear attack.  Kirk informs him that two worlds that have kept a gutless fake war going for 500 years will be so frightened by actual war that they’ll both negotiate a peace rather than get their hands dirty.  Ambassador Fox volunteers to assist them in the negotiation.

I like this episode.  Anan 7 is such a sniveling cowardly bureaucrat that every time he calls Kirk a barbarian you can’t help but like Kirk more.  Kirk shows resolve and ingenuity.  Scotty also displays courage and grit when he disobeys the chain of command and refuses to lower the shields at the order of that other idiotic bureaucrat Ambassador Fox.  This is a solid 8 episode.  Kirk does some brawling and tumbling around but he’s not particularly comical so there isn’t a high Shatner mockery score.  Let’s call this an 8 // 2.