Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 22 – The Omega Glory

In the highest circles of the Shatner-Khan hierarchy there is no more sacred text than “Eed plebnista” and “norkon forden perfectunun.”  One of my oldest acquaintances has been heard to spontaneously break out into this phrase with no visible rationale.  Because of these tendencies I tackle this review with great trepidation.  If I get it wrong there could be serious blowback.

The Enterprise is sent to planet blah,blah,blah to find out what has become of the Starship Exeter.  It’s found circling the planet and Kirk, McCoy, Spock and a redshirt fully primed for certain death beam over to the Exeter.  There they find a bunch of empty uniforms dribbling rock salt from the sleeves and pant cuffs.  Surprise, surprise, everybody’s dead and a video clip tells them that a disease brought up from the planet was the cause.  Being warned to beam down to the planet immediately they do so and find out that the lone survivor is Captain Tracey of the Exeter and he is engaged in Prime Directive defying aid to the Kohms in their war with the savage Yangs.  And unsurprisingly the Yangs are the descendants of the defeated white Yankees and the Kohms are the victorious Chinese Communists who won a biological weapons war and occupied the Yangs homeland.

But the Yangs are finishing off a long reconquest of their homeland and even with Captain Tracey’s fire boxes (phasers) the Kohms are in big trouble.  Tracey captures the Enterprise party and demands that Kirk provide him with ten more phasers with three extra power packs for each.  When the redshirt reaches for his phaser Tracey disintegrates him.  We also find out tha the disease that killed off the Exeter would have been harmless if the crew members had stayed just a short time longer on planet blah,blah,blah and now all of them could return to the Enterprise without risk to the ship or themselves.  But Tracey has discovered that the inhabitants live to be over a thousand years old and he is convinced that the secret to this amazing longevity can be discovered by McCoy and then sold by Tracey to the highest bidder once he’s beaten of the Yangs.  McCoy debunks the theory and says the longevity is just a natural byproduct of the survival after the bioweapon ordeal.

Meanwhile there is all this tuh-doing between Kirk and Tracey and a Yang prisoner who we find out is the Yang Chief Cloud Williams and his wife.  Finally Spock and Kirk escape from jail.  But eventually the Yangs attack the Kohms and we get to hear Tracey makes his horrified report of the battle, “They sacrificed hundreds just to draw us out in the open and then they came and they came.  We drained four of our phasers and they still came.  We killed thousands and they still came!”  Good times, good times.

So the Yangs capture all of the Federation personnel.  When the Yangs break out an antique American flag and Cloud Williams starts reciting a really garbled version of the Pledge of Allegiance Kirk completes the pledge and now Cloud wants Kirk to explain how he knows their sacred words.  But whereas Kirk wants to explain that they are from another world Tracey claims that Kirk and his crew are devils.  He uses as proof the fact that Spock has pointed ears and no heart.  Cloud Williams is unclear who to believe and asks if  Kirk can complete the most sacred of their texts which only a chief would know.  He starts it with “Eed plebnista.”  But Kirk can’t figure out what it is.  So instead he claims trial by combat against Tracey to the death.  Spock uses Vulcan mind games to get one of the Yang women to trigger a communicator and an armed landing party arrives with Sulu in command just as Kirk defeats Tracey but refuses to kill him.

Now hearing a few more of the words, “norkon forden perfectunun,” Kirk figures out that it’s the preamble to the Constitution and recites it and then gives Cloud and his tribal circle a civics lesson.  And then somehow they head back to the Enterprise, even though Sulu and the others are now infected with a disease that will dehydrate them down to bath salts within minutes.  The End.

“Eed plebnista” indeed.  There’s just so much to love about this episode.  Tracey beats up Kirk several times in the episode.  Shatner’s overacting while giving the Yangs their civics lesson.  And Tracey is so great in his angry intensity.  He wants that immortality drug and the power it will give him.  He comes up with that great “He has no hearrrrt!” line about Spock and finally he has his great narration of the Yang attack.

This gets a    10   //   7.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 22 – By Any Other Name

We’re now deep, deep into Season 2 and the amount of “humor” employed by some of the principal characters is obvious to see.  And the costume department has obviously run out of ideas.  In this episode the aliens are dressed as if they found their clothes in a dumpster behind a second-rate department store.  The men are wearing some kind of polyester leisure suit-like apparel while the women are wearing jump suits from which the backs have been cut off from the waist up.

The Enterprise is summoned by a distress signal to an uninhabited planet.  Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and two red shirts beam down to the planet.  There they find a man and a woman, Rojan and Kelinda, who claim they are creatures from the Andromeda Galaxy seeking new worlds because their own galaxy will become uninhabitable within ten thousand years.  They announce that they will commandeer the Enterprise to return home in order to begin an invasion of our galaxy by their people, the Kelvans.  It will be a multi-generational voyage taking three hundred years even at Warp 11 speed.

And using their neural paralysis field devices they disarm and capture the landing party while the other three Kelvans beam aboard the Enterprise and take over the ship.  In addition to the paralysis field, they can also freeze dry humans down into polyhedral bricks, about the size of a softball, made of what appears to be poorly made porous Styrofoam.  When the landing party attempts to escape Rojan has one of his associates turn the two red shirts into these efficient and stackable human pellets.  Rojan then crumbles one of the blocks with his bare hands and restores the other one to inefficient but mobile form.  We then find out that the crumbled crewman was the pretty young girl.  When he realizes this Kirk appears devastated.  Apparently, he hadn’t yet had a chance to put the moves on this yeoman and now he never would!

Back on the ship, the whole crew except for Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty are freeze dried for easy storage.  It’s especially pleasurable to see Uhura and Chekov singled out for treatment.  In one scene Kirk rounds the corner in a corridor of the Enterprise and sees the blocks strewn along the floor along with the odd computer tablet and i-pod.  When Spock had unsuccessfully attempted to mind meld with Kelinda in a scene that I have left out of my plot summary he got an image of a huge hundred-tentacled creature that is the true form of the Kelvans.  Realizing that the Kelvans were unused to sensory stimulation or emotions in their original forms he speculates that if the humans can overstimulate the Kelvans’ senses and emotions they might become vulnerable to attack.  And so much hilarity ensues during this plan.

Scotty takes one of the Kelvans, Tomar, to his cabin and starts introducing him to the wonders of grain alcohol.  Eventually Tomar becomes stupefied and collapses, as does Scotty.  McCoy takes another of the Kelvans, Hanar, aside and under the subterfuge of a medical examination starts giving him “vitamin” injections that are actually some kind of stimulant that raises his anxiety levels to monumental levels.  This has him complaining bitterly to Rojan about the incompetence of that commander’s plan.  This gets him confined to his cabin.

Meanwhile Kirk makes a beeline for Kelinda and starts pouring on the old Shatner charm.  He’s pawing her and kissing her all around the rec room.  I forgot to mention that Kelinda is played by Barbara Bouchet who is a very attractive looking actress.  She played Miss Moneypenny in one of the Bond films and is at the very high end of attractive female Star Trek guest stars.  While playing three-dimensional chess with Rojan Spock mentions that Kirk is putting the moves on Kelinda and this really ticks Rojan off.  So, he hunts them down and gets into a really spastic fistfight with Kirk.  During the fight Kirk keeps up a line of argument to the effect that by the time the three-hundred-year voyage to the Andromeda Galaxy is complete, the descendants of Rojan and his crew will no longer be Kelvans.  They will be completely human and have no desire to help the Kelvans.

He convinces Rojan to give up their voyage to Andromeda and allow the Federation to find uninhabited worlds in our galaxy for the other Kelvans to colonize while Rojan and Kelinda and the other three Kelvans will somehow form a very small colony on the uninhabited world that the Enterprise found them on.  The fact that there are only two female Kelvans and three male Kelvans is not explored further on this episode.  But to my way of thinking there is bound to be trouble in that very small paradise.

To my way of thinking the two highlights of the show are Rojan crushing the polyhedral salt lick made out of Yeoman Thompson with his fingers and Scotty hugging his empty centuries-old bottle of Scotch whiskey to his face and crooning to it, “we did it” after Tomar collapses in a drunken stupor.  And one small note, in the new enhanced graphics of the DVDs I have the Andromeda Galaxy image is very nice.

Now that nuttiness and hilarity is the order of the day on the Enterprise it’s much easier to enjoy the episodes.  Hopefully the people making the show are going along with the joke because adventure certainly isn’t the point.  Kirk wrestling with the pretty alien and McCoy and Scotty providing comic relief sort of works.

As far as Shatner mockery points, he gives some of his patented pathos when the yeoman is crumbled but it isn’t very extreme.  I’ll give this episode an     8  //  5.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 21 – Patterns of Force

Space Nazis!  In the immortal words of Dr. Zachary Smith, “Oh the pain, the pain.”

The Enterprise is headed for stellar system blah, blah, blah where there are two planets with humanoid life.  One planet, Zeon, is more advanced and peaceful.  The other, Ekos, is less advanced and warlike.  The Federation sent an observer ten years earlier name John Gill who was an historian that Kirk knew from back at the Academy.  Nothing has been heard from him for years.  Their mission is to establish communications with Gill and find out how conditions on Ekos are progressing.  As the Enterprise nears Ekos a missile with an H-bomb approaches and has to be destroyed.  Ekos should not have that level of technology so Spock and Kirk go down to the planet expecting trouble.

When they beam down they find that the Ekosians are dressed as Nazi soldiers and they are treating the Zeonians as the Nazis treated the Jews during their time in power.  We get several episodes of Kirk and Spock dressed as Nazis trying to infiltrate the Nazi headquarters to reach John Gill who they learn is the Führer of the Ekosian Nazi state.

They are captured, jailed, whipped and threatened.  Eventually they escape by manufacturing a laser out of the transponders that were subcutaneously emplaced under Kirk and Spock’s skin as a way to locate and rescue them if their communicators were lost.  They escape to the sewers where they join up with the underground resistance of Ekosians and Zeonians.  Eventually they reach John Gill.  They find he’s been drugged and he eventually explains that he used the Nazi model as one that could overcome the disorganized nature of Ekosian society.  It worked but then Melakon, his deputy, drugged him and seized power with the intent of going full tilt Nazi.  At this point the final solution is about to be unleashed on the Zeonians.  Kirk rouses Gill and forces him to make a speech denouncing the treatment of the Zeonians and blaming Melakon.  Melakon shoots Gill and is himself shot by the soldiers present.  The Ekosians renounce Nazism and focus on manufacturing high end automobiles.

What can I say?  What can anyone say?  Space Nazis!

So let’s get down to it.  Shatner has moments where he embraces his Kirkian magnificence.  At the beginning when McCoy is rambling on about what could have happened to Professor Gill Kirk very good naturedly reminds him that that is exactly what he and Spock are heading down to the planet to find out.  Later on when he is being whipped in the Gestapo dungeon he does a great Shatner pain face.  Not full intensity, but more as if an annoying hemorrhoid were flaring up.  Later on Spock has to climb on Kirk’s recently whipped back to reach a light bulb placed high on the prison cell wall to work his Rube Goldberg laser device.  Kirk reminds him very pointedly about the high quality of the whipping he had received and stresses that time is of the essence to finish the maneuver before Kirk collapses in pain.  The exchange may actually be the humorous high point of the episode.  A few funny non-Shatner lines are thrown in.  When Kirk and Spock are first disguising themselves in Nazi uniforms Spock notes that Kirk will make a very convincing Nazi.  Later on when Spock is brought before the deputy Führer, he has to stand passively by as the high ranking official gives a very insulting description of Spock’s physiognomy in pseudo-scientific terms that highlight the supposedly degenerate aspects of his distinctive ears and eyes.  Spock’s expressions while listening to the lecture are amusing.

Space Nazis!

I give this episode 4 // 7.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 20 – Return to Tomorrow

Okay let’s get through the plot outline really quick.  Three survivors of a god-like race that destroyed itself a half a million years ago and who now exist as disembodied energy fields inside of spherical containers that allow them to survive for hundreds of millennia have summoned Captain Kirk to loan them three human bodies to allow them to manufacture android bodies by means of their advanced science.  While the bodies are on loan the human minds of the volunteers will reside in the spheres.  With these android bodies the ancient beings would be available to guide humanity around the pitfalls that had eventually destroyed their own advanced race.  The head alien is Sargon.  The second is his wife Thalassa and the third is, ridiculously enough, Sargon’s mortal enemy Henoch.  Sargon gets Kirk’s body.  Thallassa gets the body of Dr. Ann Mulhall (played by Diana Muldaur who might have the prettiest face of any actress to appear on the Star Trek series).  And Henoch gets Spock’s carcass.  When the aliens inhabit the bodies of their human hosts, they cause the bodies to run hot.  Their temperature rises to 104 degrees F and their heartbeat is dangerously high.  For this reason, Henoch formulates a metabolic depressant to bring their readings back to human normal levels.  But Henoch wants to kill Sargon and keep Spock’s body permanently so he uses a poison to kill Sargon while he is inhabiting Kirk’s body.  McCoy manages to stabilize Kirk’s body but Sargon is gone.  Now Thallassa decides that she wants to keep Ann Mulhall’s body and bargains with McCoy to cure Kirk’s body of the poison and put his mind back in place in exchange for keeping the body she currently resides in.  McCoy refuses and Thallassa tortures him for a while then relents and apologizes for allowing temptation to overcome her moral sense.  Once she realizes her mistake Sargon’s voice praises her for recognizing her mistake and then explains that he isn’t dead (duh) but has taken up residence in the Enterprise (Where?  The computer?  The ventilation system?  The plumbing?).  He assures them that he will save Kirk himself and stop Henoch from taking over the Enterprise.  McCoy is locked out of the sick bay and when he is let back in Kirk and Mulhall are back in their bodies, all three energy spheres are destroyed and Nurse Chapel looks like a zombie.  McCoy laments that they destroyed Spock’s mind when they destroyed the sphere he was in, but Kirk says it had to be done.  McCoy is told to fill a syringe with enough poison to kill ten Vulcans and head to the bridge with Kirk, Mulhall and Chapel to kill Henoch.

Henoch is on the bridge torturing Uhura and is just getting ready to start on Sulu when the good guys show up.  But Henoch can read their minds and after freezing them in place he orders Nurse Chapel to inject McCoy with the poison.  She starts to comply then injects Henoch instead.  Registering surprise Henoch pleads with Sargon to allow him to switch bodies then collapses to the deck.

The resolution is provided by the voice of Sargon.  The poison wasn’t a lethal dose.  But since McCoy thought it was Henoch thought so too and thus fled Spock’s body.  At that point Sargon destroyed him.  Suddenly Spock’s body awakens and we find out that Spock’s mind was sharing Nurse Chapel’s body with her.  Sargon informs Kirk that before Thallassa and Sargon allow themselves to fade into oblivion and be happy together forever (huh?) they’d like to borrow Kirk’s and Mulhall’s bodies for a last hug and kiss.  Permission is granted and after the clinch Kirk and Mulhall regain consciousness rapped in each-others’ arms.  Throat clearing and uniform straightening ensues.

Where to start, where to start?  Okay, so I’m giving extra points because looking at Diana Muldaur’s face is quite pleasant.  Secondly, Nimoy portraying Henoch as a chuckling villain is kind of fun.  I’m deducting points because we didn’t get to see Sulu tortured.  But really the episode is mostly Shatner.  And he gives generously of some of his hammiest best.  When Sargon first takes over Kirk’s body Shatner does a bunch of his spastic face and body contortions that only he can do so hilariously.  Then in the reverb voice used for Sargon he tallies up the experiences of being in a body again for the first time in 500,000 years.  “Lungs filling with oxygen, heart pumping, blood racing through arteries, eyes seeing.”  I was half expecting, “hair follicles receding on forehead, gall stones blocking bile duct, gastric ulcer tingling.”  Later on, Kirk calls a meeting of his officers to ask their opinion on allowing the body loan.  When Scotty and McCoy object Shatner gives a version of his impassioned “to boldly go where no man has gone before” speech.  What I noticed in the close up is that Shatner’s head had gotten a lot fatter than it used to be earlier in the series.  There must have been a lot of booze and cheeseburgers for Captain James T. Kirk over that first season and a half.  And finally, Nurse Chapel had some kind of wig that was almost like a blond skull cap and made her look truly ghastly.  I’ve got to take some points off for that.  So you can see this was a complex calculation.

I’m going to say   7 // 9.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 19 – A Private Little War

Let me just start by saying that this episode is so awful that you must see it.  It’s marvelously bad.

When first join our heroes, McCoy is rooting around on his knees in the foothills of Los Angeles.  Spock and Kirk were nearby discussing the peaceful inhabitants of the planet (I suppose Angelinos) and Kirk’s earlier visit to the planet as a young officer.  Suddenly they notice that one tribe with fake black hair is ambushing with another tribe with fake blond hair.  And the attackers have flintlock rifles while the rest of the planet is still using bows and arrows.  And most importantly the man about to be shot is Kirk’s old friend Tyree.  Rather than use his phaser (and disobey the prime directive) Kirk throws a rock at the rifleman and spoils his shot.

Hilarity ensues as Kirk and Spock flee back to McCoy while being pursued by the tribesmen.  Finally, one manages to shoot Spock in the back and they barely have time to beam up to the Enterprise before being finished off by the black wig guys.  Back on the ship McCoy and his esteemed colleague Dr. M’Benga who luckily is an expert at Vulcan physiology, are able to stabilize Spock’s vital signs but his life hangs in the balance as space age medicine is reduced to watching as the self-healing capabilities of Spock’s mind are left to repair the damage.

Kirk wisely decides not to hang around for that snooze fest and instead beams down to the planet with McCoy and determine if the Klingons that have been seen in orbit are responsible for the advanced weaponry (primitive firearm) that Kirk observed earlier.  Kirk’s plan is to speak to his old friend Tyree who is chief of the blond wig tribe and also an embarrassing pacifist.  But when they approach the village they are attacked by, and I kid you not, a man in a gorilla suit that’s been bleached white.  And if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, they glued a horn on its head and put a row of huge spines running down its back.  The gorilla man tosses McCoy away and then starts gnawing on Kirk’s shoulder while he writhes in pain.  Eventually McCoy comes to and blasts the gorilla with his phaser.

But now we find out that this is no ordinary albino, horned gorilla but the much more dangerous albino, horned, venomous gorilla.  Now here is the first Shatner Mockery bonanza.  Kirk is dying of the venom and he starts shivering and generally spassing out in an hilarious manner.  This is some serious bad acting.  Then we get to the village and find that Tyree’s wife, Nona, is a witch woman and can cure the deadly bite of the albino, horned, venomous, gorilla.  Nona is played by Nancy Kovack, a highly attractive young actress who has been squeezed into a pair of skin tight, leather hip huggers and the traditional gorilla fur bodice.

Meanwhile back on the ship Spock is in a coma.  Dr. M’Benga tells Nurse Chapel that at a certain point Spock would begin to awaken and whatever he asked her to do she must do it.  When Spock wakes, he tells Chapel to slap him in the face hard, over and over again.  At first reluctant, but after additional demands from Spock she starts slapping him ringingly and seems to warm to her work.  Scotty walks in and restrains her bodily but just then Dr. M’Benga arrives and finishes off the face slapping.  Successfully slapped silly Spock makes a full recovery.

Anyway, Nona is disillusioned with the pacifism of her husband Tyree and wants him to get Kirk to provide phasers to allow Tyree to become the great leader of the blond wig nation.  In exchange for the promise of advanced weapons she agrees to cure Kirk.  This involves her cutting her hand and placing it on the bite while gyrating and undulating on top of Kirk in a highly humorous display.  Kirk is cured and later on Nona drugs Kirk to get his phaser.  But another albino, horned, venomous gorilla shows up and to save herself from the gorilla she rolls around on the ground screaming for Kirk to help.  But the drug has doofed him out and it takes almost two minutes of rolling on the ground before he gets around to disintegrating the gorilla.  But for his trouble all he gets is a large jagged rock smashed against his skull by Nona as she steals his phaser.

She has decided to switch sides and take up with the more aggressive and obviously more manly chief of the black wig tribe.  She finds a few black wigs wandering around and tells them to take her to their leader.  But they are so excited by the tight pants that they start pawing at her.  Just then Kirk, McCoy and Tyree show up.  Thinking that Nona had led them into a trap they stab her to death and then proceed to get their clocks cleaned by Kirk and to a small extent Tyree.  Now that Nona is dead Tyree sees the light of day and tells Kirk to get him a bunch of rifles.  This fits in with Kirk’s plan to supply the blond wig guys with exactly the same weapons as the Klingons provide to the black wig guys.  He explains that his theory is based on the balance of power that existed between the East and West during the cold war and how that prevented total war.  He tells a skeptical McCoy that he doesn’t like the solution but that it is the only way to prevent catastrophic defeat by one side.  Then it mercifully ends.

What a mess.  The wigs, the monster suit, Shatner’s bad acting, the embarrassing scenes with the monster, the embarrassing scenes with Nona, the embarrassing scenes with Nurse Chapel, Dr. M’Benga’s name.  Really the only positive thing the episode has is Nona’s outfit.  But this is a Shatner mockery bonanza.  I score this episode 4 // 10.

Guest Contributor – War Pig – Apologia for Giant Space Amoebas

(Editor’s Note: This essay addresses my diatribe against giant space amoebas.)

Gently, gently. Remember when those shows aired. It was the late 60s. We were shooting for the moon (and made it). Nothing seemed impossible to us. Back then a transistor radio the size of the palm of my hand was the latest and greatest portable music. 8 track tapes were all the rage for your car. Technology by today’s standards was Neolithic. Cars were not fuel efficient; their cubic inches were only surpassed by their horsepower ratings. Personal/corporate jets were becoming more popular. Most television programming was still in B&W, although prime time went all color in 1966. Color TVs did not outsell B&W televisions until about 1970. CB radios were just becoming the thing. Still mostly as trucker toys until the mid-seventies. Cars did not have cellular phones, they had radiophones and they were so expensive only the wealthy had them. Seat belts? Just beginning to attract notice. GPS? A dream someone in DARPA had. Night vision? First generation Starlight Scopes. Lasers? Sci-fi. Bell labs was doing some laser research but as a weapon, or as a range finder, or as a thermometer or as a pointer? That was genuine Star Trek stuff. Lost in Space had its first season in B&W. A self-aware robot? Laser pistols? FTL travel in a flying saucer? Golden aliens? Remember the sci-fi movies of the 50s and 60s. Godzilla, a mutant lizard so huge he would collapse under his own weight in the real world. Rodan, another impossibly huge reptile who incidentally could exceed the speed of sound without flapping his wings. The Giant Claw, an antimatter bird from another galaxy, here to lay eggs and destroy our world. Robot Monster, a movie with the villain as a man in a gorilla suit with a space helmet for a head. War of the Worlds with Gene Barry. A lot of eye candy in there, but science? Nah. When Worlds Collide, where we as a species land on an interloper planet when our world is destroyed and it just so happens to have a breathable atmosphere and earth-tolerant temperature.

 

All entertainment and even world events led us to suspend belief. For the USA, nothing was impossible. Colonize Luna (the Moon), then Mars. Mine the asteroid belt. Surely FTL ships would be along before our grandchildren passed away. It was a time of unbounded enthusiasm. Science fiction was mostly fiction and was pure escapism, entertainment.

 

Yet, many things have come true. Kirk’s communicator was our flip phone. His tricorder our Tablet PC. We have remote monitoring of body functions as McCoy had in sick bay. Our machines talk to us and are voice-programmable. Ever talk to Siri or Alexa? We can compress enough data on a postage stamp sized SD card (like Spock’s data discs) that would have taken three buildings filled with machinery and magnetic tape storage in the 60s. We can stream live events and movies in excellent resolution and stereo sound to our hand-held smart phones. We have access to most of the world’s information at out fingertips. We can shoot down planes and missiles with lasers.

 

Roddenberry didn’t dream big enough. My maternal grandfather was born in the nineteenth century. He told me of how things were when he was a child. He was literally born in the horse and buggy era. He remembers the big hooraw over the Wright Brother’s first flight, and he lived to see men walk on the moon. I in turn tell my grandson what it was like when I was a child. I also add in the parts about walking to the school bus drawn by a team of muskox in minus 40-degree weather through snow three feet deep and fending off dire wolves who were trying to get my school lunch made from mammoth tenderloins. Just for fun. But remember back in your childhood, photog. Compare it to today. You and me both listened to 45 RPM records. Technology is advancing faster all the time. My first airliner ride was in a Super Constellation, a prop-driven airliner. My first helicopter ride was in a Sikorsky H-34, the type Fernando Lamas piloted in The Lost World, with Michael Rennie.

 

We’ve come a long way pretty fast. Back then it took less suspension of disbelief than it does now.

On Giant Space Amoebas and TV Science Fiction

I’m more than halfway through my episode by episode review of the complete Star Trek, the original series (TOS), and it has been eye opening to see how terrible some of the episodes were.  Of course, that’s probably more a reflection of how long it’s been since I’ve seen these shows.  Nonetheless I think there are some observations I’d like to make.

Over the course of the show we’ll see planets with humanoid inhabitants almost exclusively.  Oh, sure once in a while they’ll have pointy ears or green skin but nine times out of ten, they look like they come from California.  And just to make the situation even more ridiculous we’ll even find planets that have Space Nazis, Space Romans, Space Bootleggers and even Space Americans and Russians who have survived a Space WWIII and are living like nomads but still wielding an American flag and a copy of the Constitution.  And I say, sure, why not?  After all they could get the costumes at the Desilu props department and we could chalk it all up to some multiverse probabilistic hand waving stuff.

But where I draw the line is the planet sized amoeba made of protoplasm.  This doesn’t make any sense at all.  In fact, it’s insulting to anyone of even modest intelligence to think such a thing is anything but laughable.  I mean come on!  What’s next?  If you ran out of awful plots what would they find next inside of an opaque interstellar cloud?  A giant negative energy absorbing aardvark or lemur?  Maybe there could be a planet-sized ranch or Cape Cod building along with an equally cosmic sized old guy sitting on his porch yelling at the Enterprise for travelling across his lawn at warp factor 3 and threatening Kirk with a light years spanning garden hose?

I guess I’m getting a little cantankerous but is it so much to ask that a show that forces us to suspend disbelief about faster than light travel and inexplicable teleportation devices at least meet us half way and make believe that they’ve provided us with a fig leaf to cover the colossal absurdity of whatever gold-plated impossibility they are foisting off on us at the moment.  At least get Spock to say that the amoeba is composed of some unknown form of condensed negative energy that behaves like a cosmic equivalent of protoplasm.  Would it be that hard to say some gobbledygook like that just so we didn’t feel that we were watching a show that couldn’t rise to the level of realism exhibited by the Teletubbies?

So, I’m not asking how Apollo got his temple to a planet, light years from Earth.  Maybe it has a warp engine in one of the columns.  I’m not complaining that the Gorn’s head looks like it was put together out of craft supplies bought at Walmart.  All I’m asking is that a science fiction show give me at least some plausible fake science to placate my sense of scientific decency.

Oh, and would it have killed them to have a few more of those Vegas show girls show up once in a while?  Nurse Chapel truly should have been retired on a pension and replaced with Terri Garr or Barbara Eden.  Just saying.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 18 – The Immunity Syndrome

This is the one about the planet sized amoeba that wants to eat the Enterprise.  When we come in the Enterprise is heading for an R&R shore leave to compensate them for some extreme duty they’ve been performing.  Kirk gives a lecherous leer at one of his female yeomen who is passing by.

But suddenly Spock suffers a spasm and upon being interrogated by Kirk he tells the bridge onlookers that he telepathically experienced the death of the four hundred plus Vulcans aboard the Star Fleet ship blah blah blah.  Kirk sends Spock to sick bay for McCoy to harass Spock over his inexplicable extra sensory perception across light years of distance.

Meanwhile Star Fleet preempts the shore leave and tells Kirk to investigate the loss of the Vulcan star ship and the mysterious silence of a solar system nearby.  So, the Enterprise investigates and finds that the solar system is dead.  And in the path of the missing Vulcan ship they find an inexplicable black zone in space.  And of course, since they’re idiots, they fly into it.  Now they’re trapped in the zone and can’t get out.  They’re pulled toward the center of the zone and just for good measure, the zone is a negative energy field where both the ship’s energy and the humans’ life force are being slowly depleted.  Kirk becomes irritable and fatigued and starts snapping at Spock and Scotty because they can’t provide much information on what is happening or how to escape.  Finally, they see what is at the center of the black zone.  There is an 11,000-mile long amoeba that Spock informs them is made of protoplasm.  Oh, come on!

So now Spock and McCoy bicker over which of the two of them should be sent in a shuttle craft into the nucleus of the cell to provide scientific info on the organism and then die tragically as the creature absorbs him.  Kirk agonizes embarrassingly then picks Spock to go.  Spock sends a garbled transmission in which the key word to describe how to destroy the creature is unintelligible.  Now Spock is dying in the amoeba and Kirk is inspired by McCoy’s maunderings about how the Enterprise is like a germ inside the cell to think of the word antibody which for some reason makes him believe that Spock had said antimatter would destroy the cell.

They put an antimatter bomb inside the nucleus and as the timer is running, they beat a pathetically slow retreat due to their low power reserves.  They detect Spock’s shuttle craft and grab it with a tractor beam.  Spock calls them and warns them that wasting power to save him is too risky.  McCoy tells him to shut up and allow them to rescue him.  Spock replies, “Thank you Captain McCoy.”  They run out of power right before they escape the cell membrane but the bomb throws them clear including Spock’s shuttle craft.  Kirk breathes a sigh of relief and begins to contemplate the debauches he will commit on his shore leave.

Okay, a planet sized blob of protoplasm.  I could be wrong but wouldn’t gravity render all but an outer layer of such a mass into nothing but steam and some trace elements?  Couldn’t it have been something like a cell but compounded of materials that could possibly have existed on such a scale?  Ah, who am I kidding, this is Star Trek, anything goes.

So, peevish low-energy Kirk is mildly amusing.  Spock and McCoy bickering over who is the likelier sacrifice in the shuttle craft is sort of fun.  And there is a giant amoeba on the screen for part of the show.  Let’s be kind and call this a 7 // 3.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 17 – A Piece of the Action

Another comedic episode!  The Enterprise travels to a world that was visited a century earlier by an early human space vessel that never returned to Earth.  And since the world is almost a hundred light years from Earth, the radio messages from the original flight have just reached Earth.  Now Kirk must determine whether the earlier contact has had any detrimental impact on the inhabitants.

They contact the planet and are instructed by a local leader named Bela Oxmyx where to transport for a meeting.  When Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive they are taken prisoner by Oxmyx’s men who are dressed as prohibition-era gangsters and armed with Thompson machine guns.  While traveling to Oxmyx’s office they are waylaid by a carload of rival gangsters who spray machine gun fire at them.  We are shown that this world is a replica of 1920’s America and organized as a constant war of gangs fighting it out for supremacy.  When they get to Oxmyx’s headquarters we find out that the earlier ship had left a book on 1920’s gang history and the inhabitants of this world have adopted it as a textbook on how to organize their society.  Oxmyx demands that Kirk provide him with a supply of phasers to allow him to conquer all his enemies and take over the whole planet.  Kirk refuses and the three of them are taken prisoner.

After that the story is a series of escapes and captures by Kirk, Spock and McCoy from Oxmyx and his rival, Jojo Krako, as they attempt to figure out a plan to repair the damage done to this world’s culture.  Eventually by using a show of force with the Enterprise’s phaser weapon set on a wide area stun setting Kirk convinces the mob bosses that they are outmatched and must knuckle under to the Federation.  He sets up Oxmyx as the head boss with Krako as his lieutenant and ends the violence between the gangs.  And to make it seems legitimate to these criminals he demands 40% of the “action” from the mobsters that will be collected annually by a Starfleet vessel.

Alright so that’s the plot but it’s just an excuse for a costume farce.  And as that it’s enjoyable and somewhat funny.  Once Kirk figures out that he’ll have to deal with the gangsters on their own terms he adopts an awful New York accent and starts using the gangster slang.  “We’ll put the bag on Krako;” “put him on ice;” “we won’t give you the heaters;” and “we’ll give you a piece of the action.”   Once he adopts this persona, even stealing some clothes from the mobsters for himself and Spock, Kirk (Shatner) hams it up and even attempts to get Spock to talk the slang with limited success.  And, of course, these slips by Spock are for laughs which actually work.  Later on, we get Spock critiquing Kirk’s lack of skill driving a manual transmission automobile, which is also kind of funny.  And the other bit is Kirk trying to convey instructions to Scotty over the communicator in this patois.  Inevitably he has to translate it into normal English for Scotty.  But when Scotty finally has one of the mob bosses on the Enterprise, he attempts to use some computer-based research into the period slang by threatening the boss with a pair of concrete galoshes.  The mob boss looks contemptuous and asks him if he means cement overshoes.  Scotty looks crestfallen but gives him his Scottish “aye.”

As I’ve made clear previously, I consider any Star Trek episode that plays it for laughs as a welcome change.  When the characters are actually allowed to make their characters somewhat three-dimensional it provides something to keep our interest.  Nimoy playing Spock playing a gangster is probably as good as Spock is going to get.  Even the very end of the episode goes for laughs.  Back on the ship McCoy admits that he lost his communicator on the planet.  Kirk acts alarmed and says based on this race’s cleverness at reverse engineering things eventually they would come after the Federation and “want a piece of our action!”  There is a fair amount of “Bowery Boys” style fight scenes that give Shatner a chance to embarrass himself but this episode is basically rated based on the success of the comedy.

I’ll call this an 8 // 4.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 16 – The Gamesters of Triskelion

Another iconic episode.  Alright let’s get it out of the way right at the beginning.  Ratings must have been fading so they hired a Las Vegas burlesque queen in a very revealing costume to give the show a boost.  And as I remember my adolescent self was not opposed to this aspect of the show at all.  Honestly, she was probably the best-looking babe they ever had on the show.  In terms of acting, well it was Star Trek so really, who cares?

Kirk, Chekov and Uhura (boy that’s an odd combination) are in the transporter getting ready to beam down to planet XYZ123 when suddenly they vanish without the transporter even being energized.  Scotty, Spock and McCoy jabber at each other trying to figure out what happened.

Meanwhile we see Kirk, Chekov and Uhura on a distant planet called Triskelion being assaulted by mismatched gladiators with silly weapons.  The hot looking warrior woman named Shahna is dressed in an aluminum foil bikini and armed with a giant-sized bottle opener.  A caveman in a Fred Flintstone suit is armed with a whip and a net.  A relatively ordinary looking guy in hose and doublet named Lars has a letter opener as his weapon and then there’s this really small old woman who doesn’t do very much and maybe also had a giant bottle opener but since I was watching Shahna most of the time I’m not really sure what the other woman had.

Once the Enterprise crew is subdued by the “thralls,” a weird skinny, bald headed guy in a black robe tells them what’s what.  He is the Master Thrall named Galt.  He runs the gladiatorial games for the “Providers.”  The Providers are disembodied brains living in a cavern a thousand meters below the surface of Triskelion and they spend their pathetic lives capturing beings throughout the galaxy with their powerful transporter beam and betting a currency called quatloos on the fights they organize between the captives.  But since they are disembodied brains that live in a cave what they would do with the quatloos they win is completely meaningless.

Meanwhile back on the Enterprise Spock confirms that the landing party is not on the planet below and finding an energy signature in a cloud decides to head twelve light years in that direction to find the captain and company.  McCoy and Scotty whine and complain about this decision and finally Spock has the best non-Shahna moment in the show when he tells them that since he is in command that he will do as he pleases unless (and hear he lowers his voice so that only the two of them can hear him) McCoy and Scotty intend to start a mutiny.  The two complainers immediately started hemming hawing and denying they had any such idea and fall in line with the plan.

Kirk and company learn the hard way that Galt and the Providers use collars on the necks of the thralls to train and punish disobedience.  They seem to learn that there is no escape and no way to resist.  So, Kirk quickly gets down to business and seduces Shahna with his Shatnerly charms.  He hugs and kisses her and tells her about the stars and Earth and how much he likes her.  But in the next scene he kisses her and then socks her in the jaw to get her key to his cell and make a break with Chekov and Uhura.  And since Providers are omniscient, they are quickly subdued and sentenced to die.

Kirk is now doomed to die but first he asks to meet the Providers face to face.  He is transported into the crappy cave that the Providers live in and berates them for their pathetic existence.  At this point the Enterprise reaches Triskelion and is immediately immobilized by the Providers.  Kirk appeals to the Providers’ gaming blood and proposes a wager.  If he defeats a thrall in single combat, he and his people will go free and the Providers will give freedom and training to the thralls to become independent beings on Triskelion.  If he loses then the whole crew of the Enterprise will become thralls.  The Providers decide instead that he’ll have to fight three thralls.  Take that Kirk!  Kirk dispatches the caveman and Lars but the third guy is only injured so he is replaced by Shahna who is still mad about the sucker punch Kirk gave her earlier.  Finally, Kirk takes away her bottle opener and with Lars’ letter opener at her throat she surrenders.  The Providers turn out to be good sports and keep their word and let the Enterprise go free and agree to turn the thralls into people.

There is a maudlin scene between Kirk and Shahna and after the landing party beams up Shahna gets a short monologue where she talks to the sky and thanks Jim Kirk for showing her the road to female empowerment and possibly less-revealing clothes.

So much to say.  Besides Spock’s mutiny game I think the other stand out comedy was Chekov being cornered in his cage by his selected mate, the old short weird looking woman thrall.  She’s smitten with him and he tries to be civil but he’s obviously weirded out by her appearance and overeager attentions.  It’s very creepy.

This show is just overflowing with Shatner doing his thing.  His shirt has been taken away and has been replaced with a harness that reveals his noticeable weight gain.  He’s leaping around kicking and punching everything in sight.  And of course, his amorous moments with Shahna highlight some of the very corniest acting Bill Shatner ever committed.  But I think what I like best is when Kirk is dismissing the idea of the Providers betting “trifles like quatloos” when human lives were so much more meaningful.  There we see Kirk the negotiator, Kirk the gambler.

So, all in all the girl is very attractive, although her eye makeup looked to be about an inch thick.  The plot was amusing and reasonably clever.  The Shatner mockery value was almost off the scale.  I’ll give this an 8 // 10.