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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galaxy’s Edge – Takeover – A Science Fiction Book Review

Takeover is listed as the first book of “Galaxy’s Edge Season Two.”  This signifies the end of the first story arc that pitted the corrupt House of Reason against the imperial designs of Goth Sullus with the Legion trapped in the middle.  With the end of that chapter we begin this season in the aftermath of that struggle with the Legion reorganizing the Galactic Republic after the defeat of the Goth Sullus and the dissolution of the House of Reason.

All of this change has left almost everything and everyone throughout the galaxy in flux.  This is the story of one of those places, Kublar, a world with its own indigenous race now heavily controlled by a government installed from outside by the now defunct House of Reason and also heavily colonized by an aggressive and hostile outside race called the zhee.

An outside force arrives in the form of a private army of mercenaries hired by a man called Arkaddy Nilo.  Nilo has a plan to alter the imperial methods of the Galactic Republic and restore freedom to the many worlds that chafe under the rule of the Republic.  Takeover is the story of how that plan is implemented by Nilo and of the two primary weapons that Nilo uses.  One is a former legionnaire named Carter who leads a platoon of combat soldiers that provide the skills needed to aid the koobs (nickname given to the natives of Kublar) in their fight to take back their planet.  The second is a former Republic Navy spy named Bowie who performs clandestine operations for Nilo meant to destabilize the coalition of the House of Reason government, the zhee and a local group of koobs who benefit from selling out the interests of the rest of their people in return for special treatment.

Anyone who has read any of my earlier reviews of the Galaxy’s Edge books knows I’m an enthusiastic fan of the series.  The authors Jason Anspach and Nick Cole have created an exciting and inventive universe full of military science fiction fun.  Takeover continues this legacy with a new cast and fresh storylines that provide a different direction from last season.  The opportunities for expanding the scope of the story are very apparent in Takeover and back story about the nature of the invaders from the “Savage Wars” era is sprinkled in the story line that Bowie inhabits.

The battle scenes are exciting and well-drawn.  The characters are interesting and include good guys to cheer and plenty of bad guys to snuff out.  And as opposed to season one there are plenty of opportunities for the good guys to actually win the day without sacrificing the whole cast.

Okay, so this is a no-brainer.  I highly recommend Anspach and Cole’s Galaxy’s Edge series and I am happy to announce that the first book of Season Two, Takeover, continues the proud tradition of Season One in providing quality military science fiction that you can enjoy.  And you can even applaud as the social justice losers in the government imposed by the House of Reason are thwarted and routed by the good guys.  What could be better than that?

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 8 – I, Mudd

This episode features the return of Harry Mudd, a character from the first season episode “Mudd’s Women” in which he played a smuggler and con-man that was trafficking in chemically enhanced mail-order brides.  This present episode is decidedly written as a comic story.

A new crewman on the Enterprise named Mr. Norman hijacks the ship by overriding the helm and engine room with a Deadman’s Switch that will explode the ship if it is tampered with.  He sends the Enterprise to a planet that cannot directly sustain human life but requires domed habitats.  When Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and Chekov beam down to the planet they discover that the planet is inhabited by two hundred thousand androids and one human, Harry Mudd.  When Kirk threatens Mudd if he does not release the Enterprise Mudd laughs at him and explains that Harry will give the orders because he is the ruler of this planet.  His status is that of an absolute king and his title is Mudd the First.  Harry tells Kirk that in escaping from a capitol crime he stole a spaceship and crashed on this planet and the androids took him in.  He has had hundreds of beautiful android women created to serve him and surround him with beauty.  And he has had one other android specially made, one that looks and acts exactly like his shrieking harpy of a wife Stella.  Whenever he approaches her shrine he only has to say, “Stella dear,” and she screams out his name, “Harcourt Fenton Mudd,” and then launches into a tirade of insults and accusations to which Harry only has to shout, “Stella shut up!,” upon which she winds down and goes dormant. Mudd draws great solace from this ritual that allows him to always have the last word.

But Harry also reveals that although he can have whatever he wants he can’t leave.  Because the androids desire to have someone to serve they keep him as a virtual prisoner.  And so, he is desperate to escape.  His plan is to use the Enterprise to sail off to life in the galaxy with some of the androids as his beautiful crew.  In exchange he will leave the Enterprise crew on the planet to give the androids someone to serve.

Kirk and his officers attempt to learn something that will allow them to regain the Enterprise before Mudd leaves.  Spock learns that there are many series of identical androids, the Allices, the Maisies, the Roberts.  But there is only one Norman.  He is the central control for the rest of the androids and he may be the key to escape.  We also learn that the androids were the servants of a race that came from the Andromeda Galaxy but was destroyed by a nova of their star.  Meanwhile the androids inform Harry that they are not going to let him have the Enterprise.  They recognize that Harry is a corrupt individual and should be kept away from civilization.  They instead will take the Enterprise and use it to contact human civilization and both serve and control humanity for its own good.  They intend to become so useful to people that they will leave all action up to the androids.  The androids hope to eliminate war and other illogical activities that humans are prone to.

Kirk and his crew and Harry Mudd devise a plan to overcome the androids.  They exhibit illogical behavior and say nonsensical things and this has the effect of shutting down the individual androids in a sort of overload condition.  Finally, Spock, Kirk and Mudd channel their efforts to overwhelm Norman.  The last step is for Kirk to state to Norman that Harry Mudd is a liar and everything he says is a lie.  Then Harry tells Norman, “I’m lying.”  The paradox of these two statements overloads Norman.  Smoke comes out of his ears and he shuts off.

The final scene has Kirk telling Mudd that the androids have been reprogrammed to terraform the planet.  Mudd will remain there under their surveillance and will only be released when they decide he has been reformed.  Mudd looks at the beautiful androids and decides that he can live with that.  Suddenly the Stella android, no longer in a box, runs up to Harry and starts accusing him of skullduggery.  But when Harry tells her to shut up nothing happens; she continues the diatribe.  Several more Stellas show up and when Harry notices that one of them has the tag number 500 he begs Kirk to save him as the Enterprise crew walks away laughing.

This episode is for laughs and should be evaluated in that light.  The Stella gag is extremely funny and one that can be appreciated by any husband no matter how genial his wife might be, bless your heart, Camera Girl.  And the end gag with the Stellas is even funnier.  The familiarity of Kirk and the other crewman with Harry Mudd’s crimes and foibles is somewhat amusing although at some points taken a little far.  Shatner mockery points are restricted to some overacting when Kirk is belittling Mudd about his crimes and misdemeanors.  But there’s not much there.  All in all, it’s a satisfactory episode.  Call it a 7 // 3.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 7 – Catspaw

Robert Bloch, the sf&f writer who also wrote Psycho wrote this episode.  This episode aired on October 27th 1967 and back then tv shows would have a holiday episode for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  For the most part, these kinds of shows couldn’t be accommodated on a science fiction series like Star Trek but for some reason they went out of their way to make this travesty.

The Enterprise is exploring a lifeless world.  Sulu, Scotty and a red shirt have fallen out of communication on the surface.  The red shirt calls to be beamed up and when he appears on the Enterprise, he drops down dead.  Now a “spooky” voice tells the Enterprise that the planet is cursed.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy beam down and find a silly Halloween set.  There is a castle complete with skeleton filled dungeon, black cat, witches and fog.

We meet a wizard, Korob and his familiar, a black cat who is also a “beautiful” woman named Sylvia.  They have captured Sulu and Scotty and zombified them.  Eventually they zombify McCoy.   They can play tricks like taking a little model of the Enterprise and holding it over a candle to make the real ship start to overheat.  We find out the aliens are creatures from another galaxy and of course they don’t have emotions or other fun stuff so Sylvia makes a play for Kirk.  Kirk pretends to like her but she figures out he’s faking and gets angry.  Now Korob frees them from the dungeon and nervously tells them that they must escape because Sylvia has gone nuts and will destroy them all including him.

She turns into a giant black cat and hunts down and kills Korob by smashing him under a dungeon door.  As he’s dying Korob reveals that the source of their power is a magic wand.  At the key moment Kirk smashes the wand and everything returns to reality.  No castle, no fog and Korob and Sylvia are now these little six-inch figures that look like they are made of colored pipe cleaners.  Scotty, Sulu and McCoy are unzombified and unaware of what has gone on.  Then they go back to the ship.

Even back in 1967 when I was ten years old, I knew this episode sucked.  It has nothing.  They couldn’t even give us a really good-looking woman with not much clothing.  It was all bad.  It isn’t even redeemed by Shatner mockery points.  It’s a waste of time except as an anthropological study on early television holiday tie-ins.  I give it a 3 // 1.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 6 – The Doomsday Machine

The Enterprise comes upon two adjacent inhabited solar systems that have had their planets reduced to rubble.  Heading into the next solar system they receive a garbled distress signal from the Federation Star Ship Constellation.  When they reach the solar system, they find that all the planets except for the inner two have been destroyed.

As they navigate through the debris field, they discover the badly damaged Constellation drifting in space.  Sensors determine that parts of the ship are still habitable but the warp drive and transporters are destroyed and the bridge has been depressurized.  Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and some red shirts beam aboard and discover that the crew is missing.  While investigating the auxiliary control room they discover the ship’s commander Commodore Decker (played by well known character actor William Windom) slumped over the control console in heavy shock.  McCoy revives him with a medication and Decker relates to them that some device of mammoth proportions, “miles long,” was destroying the fourth planet of the system when they arrived and so the Constellation attacked it with all it’s phaser weaponry but with the machine’s hull made of “pure neutronium” it had not effect.  The Planet Killer counterattacked with a beam of “pure antiprotons” and disabled the Constellation.  To save his crew Decker beamed them down to the third planet and stayed with the ship.  After the Constellation could no longer move the device ignored it and went back to destroying the planets.  Decker’s crew called him and begged him to help them as the machine destroyed the planet, they were on but he had no way to save them and this is what led to his breakdown.  Kirk speculates that the device is a Doomsday Machine unleashed in some long-forgotten war that destroyed both sides, leaving the machine to travel on indefinitely destroying everything in its path and using the debris from the planets it destroys as fuel.

Kirk sends McCoy and Decker back to the Enterprise and stays along with Scotty and the engineering team to reactivate the Constellation.  Scotty is tasked with getting the impulse engines working and the rest of the team attempts to get the main view screen of the auxiliary control room functional.

Meanwhile back at the Enterprise Spock is towing the Constellation along and intends to head away from the subspace interference associated with the Planet Killer and warn Starfleet that the device is headed for the most populous area of the galaxy.  Communication with the Constellation is cut off by interference and when Commodore Decker reaches the bridge, he relieves Spock of command and orders the Enterprise to attack the Planet Killer.  And of course, this goes very badly.  In the course of delivering a series of totally ineffective phaser blasts to the hull of the device the Enterprise is caught by a tractor beam and is slowly pulled toward the maw of the Planet Killer.

At this point Kirk gets visual sensors back on line in time to see the Enterprise heading for annihilation.  Scotty provides Kirk with impulse power and some phaser capability.  Kirk attacks the Planet Killer and this gives the Enterprise the chance to escape.  Kirk contacts Spock and orders him to relieve Decker.  Decker escapes from an escort and steals a shuttle craft and despite pleading by Kirk flies it directly into the maw of the device.  The explosion of the shuttle craft’s small engine damages the Planet Killer by a small but definite amount.  Kirk theorizes that exploding the impulse engines of the Constellation inside the device might destroy the Doomsday Machine.

Scotty rigs a 30 second delay to provide Kirk with time to escape the Constellation before detonation.  As the Constellation comes within a few hundred miles of the device Kirk pushes the timer and calls to be beamed out.  But the transporter was damaged during the battle with the Planet Killer and we get the comical scene of Kirk getting closer and closer to destruction and anxiously reminding Spock he needs to be saved.  Spock provides monotonous reminders to Scotty of the imminent demise of Kirk while the engineer works feverishly to repair the transporter’s something or other.  And of course, Kirk makes it out with nothing to spare and his atoms scrambling in the air as the transporter manages to collect him together out of the hellish nuclear inferno set off inside the Doomsday Machine by the Constellation’s self destruction.  We get some prattle between Kirk and Spock about the Constellation’s detonation which is like a hydrogen bomb, the 20th century’s doomsday device, being used to destroy a different doomsday device.

This is a great episode.  The writer, Norman Spinrad, although not an author I preferred was a competent science fiction writer so he has crafted an interesting science fiction story.  The Decker character is given a good part as the Captain Ahab trying to get his White Whale.  Kirk gets to add a little humor to the situation of his transporter malfunction problem and he actually does this admirably.  He even gets to tell Scotty he earned his pay.  There really isn’t too much Shatner acting to mock but this episode doesn’t need it.  I’ll call it a 10 // 0.   This is as good as it gets for Star Trek.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 5 – The Apple

Kirk beams down to Gamma Trianguli VI with Dr. McCoy, Ensign Chekov, Spock, Yeoman Martha Landon (a pretty blonde named Celeste Yarnall) and several expendable red shirts.  We’re really not sure why the hell they’re there but we find out it resembles a tropical paradise that contains plants that shoot poisonous darts and rocks that explode if you step on them.  In fact, three red shirts die in these fashions and one of the plants almost gets Kirk but Spock pushes him aside and gets the darts in himself.  Of course, Spock survives but while attempting to beam back to the ship to help him, we find out that some force on the planet has neutralized the transporter and is also pulling the Enterprise toward the planet with a tractor beam.

We now meet the inhabitants of the planet.  They look like some combination of non-violent sheep with surfer dudes sporting platinum blond hairdos and wearing towels around their waists.  They work for a godlike idol named Vaal that inhabits a rock formation in the shape of a dragon’s head.  It has a force field around it and seems to be the power that is attacking the Enterprise.  Spock states that is some kind of machine.  The People of Vaal feed it the exploding rocks once a day and that seems to be the source of Vaal’s power.  Vaal controls the people and forbids them to procreate but feeds them and controls the environment so that they virtually live forever.  They are childlike and annoying.

When Yeoman Landon finds out that they don’t have sex she wonders how they would replace someone who dies by accident.  And the male members of the landing party look around sheepishly at each other until Spock hems and haws through a statement that Vaal will provide some kind of instructions.  McCoy makes a sarcastic comment to the effect that he’d like to see a machine try to provide those instructions.

While the situation of the Enterprise becomes more critical Kirk and Spock try to figure out a way to neutralize Vaal.  Spock warns that destroying Vaal would violate the prime directive.  Kirk indicates that he’s not concerned about that.  Meanwhile Chekov and Yeoman Landon are observed kissing by a couple of the People of Vaal.  Luckily, it’s 1967 so they are a man and a woman and when they experiment with this new behavior, I don’t have to turn the tv off.  But Vaal is not equally as happy about this behavior as I am and instructs his people to kill all the Enterprise personnel.  When the male People of Vaal attack the crew, they manage to kill one red shirt from behind by bashing his head in with a big stick.  But without the element of surprise these lame losers are quickly pummeled and disarmed by the Enterprise crew.  Even Yeoman Landon is able to kick the butts of these feeble skirt wearing sissies.

Now Kirk comes up with a plan.  He imprisons the People of Vaal thus preventing them from feeding Vaal while simultaneously he instructs Scotty back on the Enterprise to fire its phasers continuously at the force field of Vaal.  Sure enough Vaal quickly runs out of reserve power and is destroyed by the phasers.  Kirk tells the People of Vaal that they will learn to enjoy life without Vaal and will learn to take care of themselves and have their own lives and families as men and women are supposed to.

The final scene on the Enterprise has Spock trying to make the point that destroying Vaal is equivalent to forcing the People of Vaal out of the Garden of Eden.  Kirk counters by saying that essentially Spock is equating Kirk with Satan.  Kirk follows up by asking Spock if anyone on the Enterprise even remotely resembles Satan to which Spock guardedly says there is not.

This is sort of a companion piece to “Who Mourns for Adonais.”  Once again, a godlike creature holds a group of humanoids in thrall to serve it while providing the people with a life of ease.  And in both cases the Enterprise destroys the alien power source with its phasers.  There are definitely more humorous passages in this episode than usual including the first time that Kirk has to “fire” Scotty when he can’t perform the impossible.  And of course, he rehires him when he performs some other technical miracle instead.

There are a few scenes where Kirk displays anxiety over the death of some of the red shirts.  He whines about how he should have seen the dangers coming.  This is the extant of the Shatner mockery points.  Also, he gives Spock some grief for saving his life and there is the Satan shtick at the end.  There is a pretty girl in the episode and Chekov manages to get a few jokes about Russia into the script.  But it’s a relatively silly plot and the People of Vaal are like wimpy pajama boys so it does have a certain annoying quality.

Taken all in all I’ll call it a 7  //  5.