An on-going series of Star Trek Original Series episode reviews
Hi! I’m Sue! You know that by now, and I am an Anomaly.
In case you’re sick of reading these blogs and would prefer to hear my sarcasm first hand, I was a guest on the All Things Trek podcast this weekend. I talked with Oren and Deyvid about my first time through Star Trek TOS and my thoughts about several of these episodes. The episode was broadcast live on TrekRadio.net and will be released as a downloadable podcast later this week. Plus, the guys have been kind enough to invite me back when I get through seasons two and three.
And now, to the remainder of Season 1 of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)…
1×22 Space Seed
Summary: The Enterprise crew encounters a ship, floating in space, and identifies it as the SS Botany Bay, which was launched from Earth in the 1990s at the end of the Eugenics War. An away team beams over to find several humans in suspended animation. Of course, they revive the one that appears to be the leader.
Thoughts: I honestly had no idea that Khan’s origin story was so early in the series! In general, I am so intrigued and fascinated by the Eugenics Wars and how they lead into WWIII. I hope there’s more of that in cannon, aside from Wrath of Khan. If there’s not, I’ll just have to pick up the novels. But, I just have to take a moment to point out Kirk’s amazing double standards: McGivers is distracted by Khan (and not nearly to the degree that the men are by any “beautiful” woman), and Kirk rips into her. Does he not realize that he does this all the time? Not to mention all of the other casual misogyny and micro-aggressions in this episode. I can’t even. On the positive side: I love that they make it very clear that these superior humans who were genetically enhanced to be smarter/better/faster/stronger and both men and women from all races (even if Scotty does say “oriental” – ugh). On the hilarious side: That might be some of the worst editing with a stunt double that I’ve ever seen.
1×23 A Taste of Armageddon
Summary: The Enterprise arrives at Eminar VII, on a mission to establish diplomatic relations with the inhabitants. But the ruling council declines, stating that they have been at war for over 500 years. Except there’s no evidence of such a war.
Thoughts: The premise behind this episode is very interesting. These two planets in the system have decided to eliminate the physical and culture impact of war by simulating it with computers, but they don’t eliminate the loss of life. The computers calculate who dies in the attacks, and those individuals willingly report to suicide chambers, essentially. It’s very hard for Kirk to grasp, understandably. The moral being, I suppose, that if you remove all of the consequences of war – the pain, suffering, and fear – does it become too easy to kill? Once Kirk does destroy the suicide chambers, the fear of an actual war brings the two sides of the dispute into peace negotiations. Interesting questions are raised here, but the execution is a bit lacking, IMO. But what I liked the most about this episode was back on the ship, when Scotty stands up to the overbearing Ambassador in order to protect his crew.
1×24 This Side of Paradise
Summary: The Enterprise is on a recovery mission to Omicron Ceti III, where a colony was established before it was known that the planet was bathed in lethal radiation. Much to their surprise, the find a thriving – and very docile and happy – colony.
Thoughts: Um… what? This was nothing but ridiculous, but not in the good way. From the giant air-cannon flowers that shoot glitter confetti spores, to Spock’s insubordination, to McCoy’s terrible accent, to Kirk’s flailing about the ship to make himself angry. Ridiculous. Also, “Vulcanian” is really starting to irk me. Feminist-groan moment of the episode: “I have never understood the female capacity to avoid a direct answer to any question.” C’mon, Spock!
1×25 The Devil in the Dark
Summary: On a mining colony planet, a “monster” is killing miners and destroying equipment.
Thoughts: Ho-hum. This is not a new story for me. Was it new at the time it aired? I can’t tell you. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but [for me] it’s expected. You intrude on a creature’s home, threaten it’s territory, and start smashing it’s eggs? Yeah, it’s gonna fight back. (Just like the Gorn, FYI, even though there was no egg-smashing then.) I did enjoy that the Horta is silicon-based. I also liked Spock’s recounting of how the Horta reproduce – every member of the species dies except one, who raises the next generation. It’s unique, but also very dangerous in terms of continued existence. Unrelated: I actually punched the air at the first occurrence of McCoy’s “I’m a doctor, not a ____” construction.
1×26 Errand of Mercy
Summary: Negotiations with the Klingon Empire are falling apart and Kirk gets special orders to head to Organia and prevent the Klingons from setting up a base of operations there. He is to protect the natives from the Klingons, and if possible, negotiate with them to have the Federation set up there.
Thoughts: Wait – which ones are the Klingons? The ones with the slanted eyebrows but regular ears? Oh, okay. So many issues with this episode, from an anthropological standpoint. First, “Richter’s Scale of Cultures?” NOPE. Then, Spock declares the Organian culture to be stagnant, and Kirk is horrified by this, offering not only to protect them, but to help them “progress” by imposing his own social mores and cultural constructs. The ruling council refuses Kirk’s “help” over and over, insists they’re not in danger, and tells him that he does not understand their ways, and Kirk will. not. listen. He can’t seem to wrap his head around a cultural that does things differently from his own. Very Federation-centric. And C) When the Organians intervene in order to put a stop to the Federation-Klingon war/violence, Kirk actually tells them that they have to right to meddle in another culture’s interstellar affairs! As it turns out, the Organians evolved to a form of pure energy centuries ago, and appear as human only for the benefit off less-developed/evolved species. (My Cultural Anthro 101 professor from 10 years ago would be so proud of my outrage… if he had any idea who I was. Random humanities credit FTW!)
1×27 The Alternative Factor
Summary: The Enterprise is rocked by a time-space disturbance, that seems to have affected the entire galaxy. Upon investigating, Kirk encounters Lazarus, a (sometimes-mad) scientist who insists that a hideous being is pursuing him.
Thoughts: What a stinker! Parallel universe stories are obviously not new to me, and I usually enjoy them almost as much as time travel. But this episode just made my brain hurt. I found it very confusing, and kind of frustrating. Kirk and Spock seemed to be drawing their conclusions incredibly slowly – perhaps because they were trying to make sure their audience understood what was happening. Kirk is heartless in his actions, and then suddenly philosophical, but the decision was already made by sane!Lazarus. It’s not as if Kirk actually considered any alternative. I have two lingering questions: 1) What exactly was I supposed to take from this episode? And 2) What was with that facial hair?
1×28 The City on the Edge of Forever
Summary: The Enterprise is orbiting an unexplored planet, investigating time distortions that are emanating from the surface. After responding to a medical emergency, Bones accidentally injects himself with an overdose of cordrazine and loses control. He beams down to the planet, followed by a landing party, where he is sent back in time to 1930s America, changing the future. Kirk and Spock follow, in an attempt to set things right.
Thoughts: This might be one of the most well known TOS episodes, so I had very high expectations. But it fell a little short for me (meaning it might be my #2 episode so far, instead of #1), and I think it’s the love story. Unnecessary love stories are a bit of a pet peeve for me, and you don’t have to fall in love with someone in order to want to prevent their death, you know? And with one of the couple being notorious ladies’ man James Tiberius Kirk, I just don’t buy it. But I do love Edith Keeler, and her possible alternate future – just one person’s life can change the course of history. That’s the kind of stuff I love, what with my Chaos Theory degree. I also love Spock’s computer interface made with stone knives and bearskins. And I want to know more about the Guardian of Forever! Who built/created it? How long has it been there? Who’s been through it before? Is our history actually an altered future from someone else’s perspective? Have I mentioned that I like time travel? A lot?
1×29 Operation: Annihilate!
Summary: Mass insanity has been spreading through the galaxy, and Deneva is the next planet in the pattern. It also happens to be where Kirk’s brother’s family resides. Uhura can’t raise the colony on the communications system. The crew investigates and discovers that the cause of the madness is an invasion of amoeba-like aliens that are part of a larger whole.
Thoughts: This is what follows The City on the Edge of Forever? Farting brain cells? Oookay. I actually liked the “they’re sensitive to light” explanation, but wouldn’t you think that after noticing this reaction to visible light, a medical doctor and a Vulcan science would test other wavelengths? Visible light is such a small percentage of the electromagnetic spectrum (wavelengths 380-760nm, which is less than one millionth of one percent of the spectrum). Seeing as Spock’s blindness (haha!) is only temporary, that entire plot point is rendered moot. Just use infrared or ultraviolet to begin with (and potentially give everyone on the planet skin cancer, but that’s another story). Thought it did allow for Spock and McCoy to bond, and then immediately return to snarking at one another once the danger had passed.
Some general observations for this week –
1. They really need to stop saying “Vulcanian.”
2. Kirk’s double standards are really starting to get on my nerves.
3. Star Trek TOS is so often described as philosophy and morality plays disguised as a science fiction show. While I’ve seen some of that, I was expecting it a lot more. I can understand that not being present a lot during the first season of a show, but with only 3 seasons total, I was surprised. I’m preparing to be hit over the head with this in the next few weeks.
4. On a more serious note: In general, the show seems to really want to be progressive and push boundaries. But every time I see something like that, something else is said or done that makes me facepalm. “One step forwards, two steps back.” In a lot of ways, that’s frustrating to watch. Especially because a lot of those troublesome things are still issues in media today. It’s odd to all at once see how far we’ve come in 50 years of television, and how far we still have to go.
I feel like I’ve been a little goofier and maybe even a bit more sarcastic this week. But, like Bones, I snark because I love.
As I look over the episode guide for Season 2, I see that I have to deal with Spock’s Pon Farr and the return of Harcourt Fenton Mudd. What have I gotten myself into? I might have to throw in a rewatch of Tapestry or The Inner Light just to make it through.
Until next week, LLAP.