Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 8 – Miri

So, the set-up is the Enterprise hears a Morse Code distress signal out in space (somehow) and follows it back to a planet that is identical to Earth.  The landing party includes Kirk, Spock, Bones and, for no explicable reason, Yeoman Janice Rand.  I’ve got to stop here for a moment, and comment on the fact that even though we’re only a quarter of the way through season one it should be noted that finding themselves on a planet that inexplicably resembles Earth and responding to a distress signal, which implies danger, the Chief Medical Officer, the First Officer and the Captain are being sent down into an unknown and possibly lethal emergency.  But at least they brought the pretty girl with them for back up.  Okay, end of rant.

The upshot is that a virus that was meant to bestow practically endless longevity to the whole population instead killed everyone but the prepubescent children.  Three hundred years later the Enterprise crew finds the “children” still young but terrified of grownups that they call grups.  Apparently, the dying adults went crazy and attacked everything in their path as they were dying.  The children call themselves “onlies” but as each of the older children eventually reaches puberty the disease covers him in hideous sores, rapidly ages him, drives him mad and kills him.  The Enterprise landing party is infected immediately and has a week to find the cure before they will die on the planet quarantined from the Enterprise.  Only Spock is immune because of his green blood.

They find a teenage girl named Miri, played by True Grit actress Kim Darby, who has a crush on Kirk and in typical Kirk fashion he creepily smirks as she moons over him.  It’s pretty bad.  The other onlies are a weird collection of random children and stunted former child actors, one of whom, Michael J. Pollard, was closing in on thirty years of age.  The actor who played Dill in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” John Megna, is in the cast as a supposedly little kid but he was fifteen years old and although he was still extremely short his head had grown disproportionately so his appearance was truly disconcerting.  Anyway, the sympathy we’re supposed to feel for the onlies doesn’t happen because they are creepy and vicious and weird looking.

The kids steal the communicators from the landing party and this hampers the search for a cure.  Kirk, Bones and Janice begin to show signs of the disease and they become extremely short tempered with each other.  One particularly embarrassing scene has Janice Rand pulling back the collar of her blouse to show a sore on her chest and then admitting to Kirk that she has always wanted him to notice her legs but now they were disfigured with sores.  Careful Janice, those kinds of things can’t be unsaid and Kirk doesn’t forget.

Finally, Kirk gets Miri to bring him to the onlies.  She adds her voice to his story that they are all in danger.  At first the onlies attack him and beat him with large crescent wrenches and odd-looking clubs.  Kirk makes some of his patented looks of pain.  But eventually he convinces them to return the communicators and trust the Enterprise crew to help them.

Meanwhile Bones throws caution to the wind and injects himself with the vaccine.  He immediately keels over and we have to wait as his unconscious body slowly fights off the virus and the sores on his face mercifully disappear.

As an epilogue Janice tells Kirk that Miri really was in love with him and he agrees but gives a creepy leering smile which probably should have been reported to the FBI’s Pervert Investigation Unit for evaluation.

Okay, so the scene where the onlies beat up Kirk is kind of funny and Janice’s comment about her legs is wonderfully embarrassing but other than that, meh.

Let’s rate it 5//5.  Right in the middle on both axes.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 7 – What Are Little Girls Made Of?

Here we are at episode seven of Season One and certain trends are already appearing.  Hopefully this will allow me to formulate a number of postulates as I did with the Twilight Zone.  For instance, whenever Kirk is replicated either by transporter mishap or incursion into an alternate universe or by action of a mad scientist hilarity is bound to ensue.

And such is the case in this episode.  The Enterprise is sent to a frigid ice world to locate Dr. Roger Korby who is not only the Louis Pasteur of archaeological medicine but is also Nurse Chapel’s fiancé.  In fact, mention of Korby’s preeminence as a scientist elicits the first utterance of the dreaded phrase, “his textbook was required reading at the Academy.”  Now we’re never told why a military officer needs to be versed in archeological medicine and in fact we never really find out what the hell archeological medicine is.  Anyway, by the fact that Nurse Chapel is his fiancée we know this guy is a loser.

When they reach orbit Korby communicates to them that they are to only send Captain Kirk down alone.  But when he finds out the that Chapel is aboard; he allows that she should join the captain.  We find out that Korby is really a robot with Korby’s mind implanted in it.  He is assisted by other humaniform robots who were created by a robot that was left by the “Old Ones.”  This robot is named Ruk and is played by Ted Cassidy who was Lurch on the original Addams Family show from the 1960s.

Korby’s evil plan is to substitute robots for humans throughout the galaxy and allow them to assume control and thus bring forth a logical new civilization.  Of course, it swiftly devolves into a murder spree wherein red shirt after red shirt is killed by Ruk.  To put this plan into action Korby duplicates Kirk with a twin robot.

And here the hilarity ensues.  Kirk is naked on a spinning table with only a metal console hiding his nethers.  The other side of the table has a sort of formless dummy that is the future home of Kirk’s mind in Robot Kirk.  As his mind is being copied into the Robot Kirk, Meat Kirk keeps repeating over and over, “Mind your own business, Mr. Spock. I’m sick of your half-breed interference!”  Meat Kirk is implanting this racial hatred in the mind of Robot Kirk to tip Spock off that Meat Kirk had been replaced.  We are treated to the Kirks verbally with sparring with each other.  I’ll have to say Robot Kirk seemed to get the better of it.

One of the robots is Andrea.  She is a very attractive young woman wearing a form fitting and meager outfit that improves the show substantially.  Nurse Chapel’s reaction to Andrea’s relation to Roger Korby is very entertaining.  When he assures Chapel that Andrea is just a robot and there cannot be any question of an emotional attachment Nurse Chapel does not appear either convinced or comforted by the story.  Later on, Meat Kirk is able to overcome Andrea’s lack of emotional or sexual capability by vigorous kissing.  She is somehow transformed into a woman and when later on Robot Kirk refuses her romantic advances, mistaking him for Meat Kirk and resenting his refusal, she disintegrates Robot Kirk with a phaser.

Finally, when it is revealed to Nurse Chapel that Roger is a robot and she rejects him for not being human.  He despairs.  And when Andrea then turns her romantic attention to Roger and kisses him Roger triggers the phaser and disintegrates himself and Andrea together.  So sad.

Okay, this is a lot of stuff.  Nurse Chapel is one of the really awful parts of Star Trek.  She always has some horrific hairdo or wig, she’s kind of homely and she’s a terrible actress whose character is always annoying.  But when she’s jealous of Andrea and angry at Roger it’s kind of hilarious.

Kirk has one pretty good shoulder roll in the episode and Ruk does pick Kirk up and pins him on the top of a wall at one point.  And passionate Meat Kirk grappling with Andrea and reprogramming her with his Kirk lust is funny.  And when she disintegrates Robot Kirk for spurning her that was funny too.  But all in all, naked Kirk spinning around at two hundred rpm is probably the highlight of the show.

As a story it’s passingly interesting.  Robert Bloch, the writer of Psycho wrote this episode so it’s not completely boring.  In terms of mockery this is one of the best.  For those two measures of the value of the show I will institute a binary marking scale and to give it a pseudoscientific aura I’ll use numbers instead of letters.  In each case the value is out of a possible 10.  This is a 5//9.
 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 6 – Mudd’s Women

This episode is notable in that it introduces the character Harcourt Fenton (Harry) Mudd who returns in the much more enjoyable later episode “I, Mudd.”

The Enterprise detects a transport ship that is travelling without its identity beacon.  Pursuing it into an asteroid belt The Enterprise is forced to overload its own engines while protecting the transport ship from destruction.  Harry Mudd and his cargo of three women destined to be sold as wives to rich lonely miners are transported onto the enterprise just before the smaller ship is destroyed by an asteroid.

The women are repeatedly described as incredibly beautiful (meh) and have an hypnotic effect on the male crew.  Interestingly, other than Uhura we don’t see any of the female crew members during the episode.  The Enterprise is crippled by the destruction of its lithium crystals (apparently the term di-lithium crystals was coined later in the series) during the asteroid belt maneuver and the ship must head to a planet where lithium crystals are mined to replace them.  Mudd finds out about this and communicates with the miners and they cook up a scheme whereby the miners will refuse to provide Kirk with the crystals unless he allows Mudd and his women to go to the planet’s surface for a meet and greet with the miners.

Things move forward on the plan but one of the women, Eve, is disgusted with the whole plan because of their guilty secret.  The women are only artificially beautiful.  They take a drug that makes them attractive.  If they stop taking it, they become homely.  Anyway, the miners find out about the secret and become angry but then we see that Eve becomes beautiful again due to the placebo effect of thinking she took the drug.  Now she’s beautiful because she’s self-confident.  And the miners are happy again because she has a heart of gold.

Mudd is taken back on the Enterprise where he will be put on trial for high crimes and misdemeanors against the Federation and the Enterprise is back to just having Yeoman Rand to maintain their hormonal balance.

Other than the slightly amusing acting of Mudd and the revealing costumes of the three women the only scene that I found engaging is when Eve and her miner are shown in bickering domesticity.  She makes him breakfast and they spar about the value of female versus male housekeeping.  I detected a spark of honesty in the portrayal which is highly unusual in anything Star Trekian.

But that’s it.  Watching Bones, Scotty and Kirk salivate and gape at the women wears thin very quickly and cannot manage to fill out the hour while Mudd enacts his brilliant scheme.  Kirk doesn’t do any shoulder roles or pontificate about life.  It’s not very good.   This episode is sub-par on both a conventional dramatic scale and with respect to Shatnerific bad acting.

 

 

 

 

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 5 – The Enemy Within

As I delve deeper and deeper into Season One, I find myself amazed at just how much awful acting there is.  Whereas in most Star Trek episodes just one Jim Kirk is enough to satisfy anyone’s appetite for bad acting but in “The Enemy Within” we get two!  A malfunction of the transporter causes anything sent through to be divided into polar opposites.  A dog with a horn on his head and a really fake looking fur coat is split into a calm docile version and a rabid psycho version.  And when Kirk goes through the machine, he becomes polar opposite twins too.

And this pair of Kirks is very special indeed.  One of them is Castrated Kirk.  The transporter has neutered him.  He is indecisive, confused and unmanned.  He is constantly reminded by Spock that his Evil side is responsible for his ability to command the ship and therefore Good Kirk while intelligent and principled is unfit to run the ship, a capon and a big loser.  Spock really rubs it in.  It seems like he’s angling for the job.

The other Kirk is Satyr Kirk.  He attempts to rape Yeoman Rand.  I suspect given time he might have humped the entire female crew.  He berates Bones and orders him to hand over the Saurian Brandy which he wanders around swigging from the bottle.  And he beats up various members of the crew whenever the chance offers itself.  Later on, when he takes the Helm, he orders the crew to abandon Sulu and the landing party to their frozen deaths.  This did actually endear him to me.  I think they should have given him a chance.  I liked his instincts.

Watching Shatner portray the complementary fragments of Kirk is a thing of grotesque beauty.  The feral lascivious leer of Evil Kirk is wonderfully overdone.  The fretful womanish whining of Good Kirk is annoying and pathetic.

As a secondary pleasure in the episode, due to the malfunctioning transporter, the landing party is trapped on the planet as the temperature heads down into negative triple digits so we get to watch Sulu slowly freezing to death.  Very satisfying.

The climactic scene for each of our demi-heroes comes when Good and Evil Kirk have their showdown on the Bridge.  When Evil Kirk submits to Good Kirk’s leadership he cries out in a panicked voice, “I want to liiiive, I want to liiive!”  Pure schmaltz, marvelous.  Then as both Kirks are standing on the transporter plate waiting to see if the transporter can meld them back into a composite of bad acting, Good Kirk is supporting unconscious Evil Kirk and just before the mechanism is activated Good Kirk hugs his Evil half in a loving embrace.  It’s quite nauseating.  Truly wonderful.

Obviously, this is a Star Trek must-see episode.  Seeing the two polar opposite Kirks you realize that up until this episode, Shatner has been restraining his acting style.  We get to see Shatner unbound and it’s not pretty.  But it’s important for us to know his true range.  It’s good to know that there is more Shatner in there if it’s needed.  Well done Bill, well done.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Here are other scenes that deserve mention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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