Friday, July 25, 2008

Still even more pointless commentary on Star Trek

"Metamorphosis" Season 2, episode 9. In a shuttlecraft, cut short of their mission, Commissioner Headford is sick. She yells at McCoy about "the inefficiency of the medical branch of Starfleet." The funny part is that she is quite right in being pissed off because she didn't get an inoculation for a disease McCoy says is so rare that contracting it is "billions to one." How can you not be inoculated? What, were they trying to save a few bucks? Then they are accosted by some "thing" again, some kind of ionized cloud that takes them off course and makes them land on an asteroid with a breathable atmosphere. Isn't it amazing how many bad things happen from "ionized" clouds or storms? On the surface of the asteroid they find none other than Zephram Cochran, discoverer of the space warp. He knew Spock was a Vulcan, making that sync with Star Trek: First Contact. The Companion, the ionized cloud, saved his life and rejuvenated him. Now it keeps him as a pet of sorts, or a lover. Bones says it is more like love. Kirk says that Cochran is from Alpha Centauri, so that is weird. Cochran wonders, "What's it like out there?" Kirk responds, "We're on a thousand planets and spreading out. It's estimated that there are millions of planets with intelligent life and we haven't begun to map them. Interested?" (On a side note, it is a thing like this that makes me sad for living in this technological infancy of the early 21st century.) Cochran plays like Rip Van Winkle, "How'd you like to go to sleep for 150 years and wake up in a new world?" Cool concept.

I truly like the theme of some of these episodes of being imprisoned against the will even if that imprisoned life seems perfect and well cared for. Compare this to the episode "This Side of Paradise."

Cochran gets pissed when they talk of him and the Companion being lovers; he is just about revolted. Somehow though, when the Companion takes over the body of the Commissioner, well, that's just hunky-dory then! Still the Companion but now in a human body--plus, what about the ramifications of the Companion "taking" the Commissioner's body--isn't that like killing? How does Kirk write that off in his log? Did she die or not? If she did, it was McCoy's fault for not inoculating. There was a novel, Federation, that took on Cochran's life after this, actually in the time of The Next Generation.
"The Squire of Gothos" Season 1, episode 17. The first Q. Trelane, our antagonist, is even treated as a Q in one of the Star Trek novels, I remember. The ultimate in all of Star Trek's omnipotent antagonists. It's interesting that as he is watching Earth, he forgets about the time dilation effect and is watching Earth of 900 years ago, that's why he dresses like that, although, I don't see it as fully accurate because at one point they are using guns like those that "slew Alexander Hamilton." That would put the year at 2700, which is not when Star Trek is set. Trelane holds a "trial" just like the Q of The Next Generation, albeit not the kangaroo court of that series. Actually a cool episode, even with fighting another omnipotent antagonist. Wish he had come back. There is a great switch at the end with Trelane being a naughty little boy. Also, this is the third episode with crewman DeSalle that I know of. Also, there is yet another new pretty yeoman for Kirk--how the hell is this supposed to be a five-year mission if Kirk keeps getting pretty new yeomans? One dilemma: they never tried to enlist the aid of these super-entities when they were faced with dire circumstances, like the Borg in TNG.

"Mirror, Mirror" Season 2, episode 4. Great. Another ion magnetic storm. They pop up all over and they don't know a thing about them! A masterpiece episode--this is one of the ones you show a friend who has never seen Star Trek before to make them into a Trekkie. This is a perfect episode that has a strange transporter accident make a landing party switch places with their counterparts from a parallel universe. Even though Kirk does come up with the implausible answer a little quickly, that is simply a way to move the story along. And, the odds of the same four landing party members in both universes transporting at the same exact time in the same exact orbit of the same planet is extra-astronomical, it is still fun. Although, you do wonder what exactly happened with the talk about mining those dilithium crystals from the Halkans on that planet--that is never resolved. Also, the Tantalus Device is super-interesting, a device that can wink enemies out of existence.

"Space Seed" Season 1, episode 22. Khan. The prequel to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Obviously, someone always wondered what the heck happened with Khan's exile after watching this episode. Khan and his followers are found in suspended animation after 200 years, fleeing from the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s and World War III on Earth (Gotta love that alternate history after the decade has really passed). The crewman Marla McGivers goes over to Khan's side rather easily--I wish she had more of a story. It's a little too easy for Khan to take over the ship. Shouldn't Kirk and Spock's command override everything, especially takeover when it doesn't come from the bridge? Doesn't Kirk's voice command have ultimate authority? And then the whole idea of not punishing Khan and McGivers with jail--rather, they put them on Ceti Alpha V to start a new world. How did that fly? No wonder somebody always wondered what happened to Khan because that has to be the strangest punishment in Trek history.

"Tomorrow is Yesterday" Season 1, episode 19. Weirdest start to a Trek episode as it starts with a 20th century USAF jet plane. Makes you wonder if you have the right show or not. Then you see the Enterprise and all is right. They are on their way to Starbase 9 when a "black star with high gravitational attraction" causes them to be trapped. Thy break away like a rubber band, they say, and the whole Enterprise wind up back in the late 1960s. Then the fun begins, as it was like they were filming this episode as they went without writing a script. They beam the poor jet pilot aboard, Captain Christopher, then they talk about paradoxes with returning or not returning Christopher. I'm sorry, Kirk messed up by beaming that pilot aboard. Spock should have shouted that possibility at the very least. He never should have put the jet into the tractor beam in the first place. The Enterprise crew then decide they have to destroy the records of Captain Christopher--and they make it worse by beaming up a security guard! The Slingshot Effect that is used at the end to send the Enterprise home is used again in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The thing about this whole episode I don't get is that the Enterprise crew beams the two 1960s Earthmen over their previous selves to fix the problems. The 1960s Earthmen forget everything. This is an odd episode that had me scratching my head.

"Spock's Brain" Season 3, episode 1. You know, for an episode cheesily entitled "Spock's Brain" it is a really good one. Aliens steal Spock's brain! Yet they leave his body...that's an oddity. Scotty talks about the ion propulsion of the alien ship being advanced. "They could teach us a thing or two." The alien, an unassuming beautiful woman, transports to the Enterprise and with the touch of a couple buttons on a device on her wrist, she completely incapacitates the entire crew, even those on other decks. More super-advanced technology that gets forgotten about in Trek-time. Then she steals Spock's brain! Kirk hunts down the aliens and finds an advanced civilization that apparently needs a strong brain to run the city. The inhabitants know nothing. The Builders of the place and their medical knowledge--who are they? Where did they come from? go? It's another one of those themes of whether or not paradise is having someone or something else do it all for you. McCoy then gets some super-knowledge and puts Spock's brain back in his head. The Federation could study and learn from that world--do they? I sometimes wonder what happens "after the episode."

"The Ultimate Computer" Season 2, episode 24. This is a really great episode that has Dr. Daystrom's M-5 computer being tested on the Enterprise. It has been designed to basically run a starship. Commodore Wesley tells Kirk he can "sit back and let the machine do the work." Prophetic words, indeed. Can a computer do everything a man can do? Kirk laments the fact that computers may make even him unessential, quoting that Masefield poem, "All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by," and Trekkies remember Kirk quoting that in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier with Spock correcting Bones on who the quote comes from--McCoy misattributes it to Melville. The M-5 goes crazy, destroys a robotic ore freighter and even vaporizes one of Kirk's red-shirted ensigns as they start trying to turn it off. The M-5 then proceeds into the scheduled wargames but takes them seriously, attacking the four Federation ships. At one of Wesley's reports there are 53 dead on the Lexington and 12 dead on the Excalibur. The Excalibur's captain and first officer are reported dead. According to the biography of Daystrom, "nearly 500 Starfleet personnel were killed." They still end up naming a research institute after him for all his previous achievements. Kirk "kills" the M-5 by a logic trap about murder and the death penalty for murder. It is mentioned twice that murder is contrary to the laws of God and man. Great episode, especially as you see Daystrom was really only wanting mankind to be better.

"The Enterprise Incident" Season 3, episode 2. Kirk takes the ship straight into Romulan territory, without authority. Bones says he has been acting loopy. The Enterprise is captured. Kirk is charged with espionage on the basis of Spock's testimony.

SIDEBAR: I have to say, for the record, that if you are holding a gun on someone, you do no need to be within Kirk's kicking range!

Spock says he has been a Starfleet officer for 18 years. When Kirk lunges at Spock, Spock says, "I instinctively used the Vulcan Death Grip." McCoy responds, "You're instincts are still good. The Captain is dead!" But we find out it was all subterfuge under direct Federation orders to obtain a cloaking device. Quite brilliant. The Vulcan Death Grip does not exist; he used a "nerve pinch to simulate death." Then Kirk gets made up to look like a Romulan, ears and all. Spock woos the female Romulan commander, although she is practically throwing herself at him the entire episode. She's a smart commander even though she let her emotions for Spock get in the way. A couple of minor plot situations to discuss: if the ships were all at battle-ready, wouldn't the shields have prevented the beaming of Captain Kirk in Romulan disguise aboard the Romulan ship? I guess they could have been down during negotiations but somehow I doubt it. Secondly, wouldnt a Romulan crew know all its own personnel? Especially know a Centurion leader that Kirk disguises himself as? I know everyone in my high school, especially people in charge. On a Romulan ship there are substantially less people than aboard a Federation ship. The Enterprise then speeds away when she was once "surrounded." How did she get away? Another thing, Spock contacts Kirk on the Romulan ship with a communicator and the Romulans pick up the signal, giving them away. Didn't they know that their signal would be picked up? If they did, they took a completely unnecessary risk. Also, the Romulans could have shot Spock at once instead of letting him filibuster away until he is beamed away--again through shields? The Romulan ships could have shot the Enterprise before the cloaking device was hooked in. For a great episode, it sure is filled with Star Trek internal logic holes.

One more thing--what did they do with the two Romulan prisoners in the brig?

"The Alternative Factor" Season 1, episode 27. Existence and non-existence. Matter and anti-matter. Spock reports, "The entire magnetic field of this solar system simply blinked." Non-existence, a cosmic winking out. It occurs within every quadrant of the galaxy, it is said. Kirk and Spock beam down and meet some dude named Lazarus who explains that he is "chasing the devil's own spawn" that wiped out his entire universe. There is lots of fighting in a fuzzy blue screen, apparently to symbolize the alternate plane. When Lazarus is taken aboard the Enterprise they sure give the guy a lot of leeway for not knowing who he really is and Spock saying he is the center of all the disturbances. He has complete run of the ship, even a second time after assaulting two crewmen. To solve the issue, Kirk gets transported to the blue plane and crosses over into the anti-matter universe. He finds out it is the anti-Lazarus. Lazarus then gets stranded in the bridge between the universes, fighting the anti-Lazarus until the end of time.

"The Immuity Syndrome" Season 2, episode 18. The Enterprise battles a giant space amoeba! Spock "felt" the death of the 400 Vulcans on the Intrepid just like Obi-Wan Kenobi felt the deaths on the planet Alderaan. How often do they come across "something I've never seen." Answer: every episode. They have no idea what it is but they go in anyway, even knowing that the Intrepid was destroyed by it. They figure out a way to destroy it. Just another "Thing-in-space-we-have-to-destroy" episode.

SIDEBAR: "Probe will hit in 7.3 seconds." It takes longer to say the "point 3" then the "point 3" lasts, doesn't it? Then it is said again: "contact in 18.3 seconds." I know they are trying to be anally scientific like when Spock computes ETA at something like 5.2 hours. But that's okay because "point 2" hours is appreciable time. "Point 3" seconds is not. You can't even see the "point 3" as it rolls on by the chrometer.

SIDEBAR 2: Mr. Kyle was a helmsman in Sulu's place--how many episodes was Kyle in? I looked him up at and it says later on "Twenty years later he was a commander and communications officer on the U.S.S. Reliant."

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