Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Shoulders of Giants & Good Trek/Bad Trek #65 By Any Other Name

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.

You hear a phrase a lot usually associated with technology and how far we've come and that's that we're all standing on the shoulders of giants. And it's true. Everything that's been invented and every technological breakthrough is the result of all the inventions before that. Except I guess for the first invention. They did that all on their own and are probably the closest thing to an Ayn Rand character that's ever lived. Everything else that's around today is a combination of hundreds of thousands of years of advancement. 
Judging by this description, I'm not optimistic about the fate of these redshirts
Smartphones are pretty neat. But in order for the smartphone to exist, we needed the calculator phone had to be around to be built upon. The calculator phone was great, for the first time ever you use the same device to call your friends that you used to say "boobless," but the calculator phone would never exist if the abacus phone hadn't already been around. And the abacus phone would never have existed if nobody invented the wheel. That's how that worked. 

Nothing exists in a vacuum is what I'm trying to say. Every great thing we have now is the result of every great thing that's come before. Everything is built upon everything else. The phrase is usually used to describe good stuff, but it applies just as well to every shitty thing that's out there. We're all the result of every shitty decision we've ever made as a people. Yes, we're standing on the shoulders of the giant who invented the wheel, but we're also standing on the shoulders of the giant who invented the slave trade. We've got to live with both the results of every shitty thing and every good thing that's happened so far. We've got to live with both giants.

I don't know. That all reads like pseudo-intellectual bullshit, but it's all I got this morning. I'm tired and this is as good as it's going to get. Know what else is a giant on which we're now standing? Star Trek. Of which I watched an episode. It was called By Any Other Name and it wasn't bad. 


Recap

We are on a strange planet investigating a distress call. Soon as they get down there and are approached by two aliens who identify as Kelvans and tell them that they're being abducted and their ship is being stolen so they can take their ship to another galaxy. Abducted and having their ship used for a multigenerational trip back to their home galaxy most foul. The gang wants to fight back but these particular aliens have paralyzers that whenever they're used they nobody can move. Also, they can turn anyone into these small soft rock-like things that are easily crushed. As poor Yeoman Thompson learns the hard way when Kirk knocks out one of the aliens 
How is Kirk recording this log? He's sitting in a prison on the planet. Did they give him log equipment?

Realizing they have no way to oppose these aliens, Kirk gives in. The aliens take over the ship and use it to travel to another galaxy, which is surprisingly close. Kirk thinks about blowing up the ship but can't pull the trigger. The aliens start getting into their human bodies and start displaying real human emotion. Jealousy, horniness, and love for booze. The three main human emotions. Kirk gets their leader jealous by kissing one of the ladies and after a brief fistfight, the Kelvans realize that maybe they should give up their control over the ship and just go back to the planet at the beginning of the episode and set up shop there. 

Good Trek?

Qualified yes. I thought it was a slightly above average episode. Not great but it was still closer to good Trek than to bad. The ending is really abrupt. I see what they're doing but it seemed to come out of nowhere. Kirk seduces a lady and then fights the Kelvan leader and everything is cool. There's also a huge tone jump which happens pretty often in TOS episodes but this one was very jumpy. The first quarter to half is kind of intense. Yeoman Thompson gets crushed to powder by the Kelvan leader, Rojan before our very eyes. That's a messed up way to start an episode that has an extended scene where Scotty gets hammered while playing a drinking game with an intergalactic being. But all in all, I liked it. 
It takes them like six minutes to reach the end of the galaxy. I'm calling shenanigans 

I think I've made this point before, but these aliens are using human bodies as a disguise. Their real form is a hundred tentacled creatures that I assume would look very different than us. How is it that she's attracted to Kirk? That doesn't make any sense. Even though she's now in a human body with human needs you'd think that she'd still be turned on by hundred tentacled dudes. Not doughy old Captain Kirk. I'm just saying that if I wake up tomorrow in the body of a hundred tentacled being I'm using one of those hundred tentacles to jackoff to normal human women. Just saying.  
Next episode better be about everyone turning into lizards and having babies
From Star Trek, you'd think that the only universal among literally every alien species we've met so far is that everyone loves a sick pair of tits. I'm not saying I disagree, but these aliens are from another galaxy. They're not even from the Milky Way and she knew that it would be best if she wore something that really put her bosom out there for the galaxy to see. And god bless her for it.  

The most surprising thing about this episode is that this dude makes it. The pretty lady gets crushed to dust, but this redshirt who actually attacked these aliens lives to fight another day. I'll be damned. I was practically shouting at the screen when he suggested he could beat these aliens up "dude, you're a black redshirt. How quickly do you want to die?" You believe in duty that's cool, but you have to have been around enough to know that from time to time the redshirts don't come out of the away missions unscathed. So maybe just fade into the background and hope for the best. But goddamnit, he made it. God bless you, Lt. Shea!
Samesies

I literally laughed out loud when Bones remarks that nobody has seen Scotty in hours. So he's just been sitting there getting shit faced which was his plan to get the paralyzer off these aliens. I'm not saying he's wrong because it worked. But it does seem like everyone should've been on the same page here. Everyone is doing something different and it all works. The seduction the boozing the irritation shots Bones give. It all works. But I got the impression that Scotty would've been drinking in his quarters anyhow and just decided to make that his plan. 



The restaurant barrier at the end of the universe galaxy. So long and thanks for all the Tribbles.

Honestly, I'm drawing a blank. I'm not saying that this is the best episode ever and there's no way that anyone would ever be able to top it. I'm just saying I can't think of any particular one that has the same themes. If you want to see an episode where aliens hijack the Enterprise using unconventional means of going to their homeworld then go with the TNG episode 11001001. I definitely would not say that this one is better than By Any Other Name, but what it lacks in being good it makes up for in being batshit bananas. Small blue guys named Binars hijack the Enterprise while it's in the shop getting defragged. They need the Enterprise to save their planet and they plan to leave just Riker aboard to help in case they need a person to help. So they program a hologram to seduce Riker. Yup. But Picard walks in and then the hologram proceeds to try to seduce the both of them. It's messed up. Luckily they figure it out before a hologangbang ensues. But boy oh boy does shit get weird. It's not a good episode but it's worth a watch. 
Even by Trek standards, kissing a woman where you punched her to apologize is a pretty goddamn ballsy move

If you want to see an episode where a nonhumanoid species somehow adopts a human appearance and then immediately become sexually attracted to a normal looking human then go with the VOY episode In The Flesh. That'd be weird criteria for choosing an episode but there you go. In this one, the VOY crew stumble on a perfect recreation of Starfleet academy including people they actually know. It can't be real because they're still thousands of lightyears from home. It's all an elaborate training facility used by Species 8472 who are still pissed at Voyager for teaming up with the Borg to murder them. Understandably so. This is a solid episode. I'd check it out. 

That's it for this one. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Michael Savage, Poop, Mooks, News For Dullards, & Good Trek/Bad Trek #64: Patterns of Force

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.

I'm in Michigan right now. Doing some shows. Visiting some family. If you're around come to one or two and say hi. I'd appreciate it. I was driving the other night because that's how people get around out here. When it comes to the radio I'm usually an NPR guy but the BBC was on my local NPR station and if I were to make a list of things I'd rather listen to than the BBC that list would include everything. I don't know what it is. I don't have anything against the news. I don't have anything against British people. But you combine those two and you get radio so utterly unlistenable that it had me cruising the AM dial to see what one of your dumber uncles might be listening to right now. In my defense, I tried sports radio first but they were talking about hockey and that's the BBC of sports to me. So AM radio it was.

A guy named Michael Savage was on. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to Michael Savage then do yourself a favor and continue to not listen to him. Because he's fucking nuts and all his listeners are worse. I shit on right-wing media personalities a lot partially because they deserve it and partially because I'm fascinated by them. Rush Limbaugh, in particular, is credited with revolutionizing the way we as a country take in our news. The thing is, some revolutions suck. The revolution will not be televised, it will be on the weird end of your AM radio dial listened to by folks who aren't just dumb but are angry at everyone about it.
"Flattery is the sincerest form of flattery." - "Dr." Michael Savage 04/04/18
Michel Savage is a former homeopathist and now he's the author of hyperbolic horse shit and a prominent AM bloviator. So the only constant among all his careers is that he likes taking advantage of dumb-dumbs. That's fine. There's a lot of dumb-dumbs and their money is just as green as everyone else's. Even as far as AM radio personalities go, it was pretty nuts. I only listened for about fifteen minutes before I'd had enough.

The show starts with a warning. Something about how The Savage Nation contains adult language and psychological nudity. This is how a news program starts. I don't know if the adult language is actually mandated or if this character fancies himself a dangerous dude. I don't know which is sadder for the guy or his listeners. The fifteen minutes I listened to was quite a wild ride. First, the newsman talked about how much he couldn't pay attention to the news anymore. He was sick of it. So some folks are getting their news from a guy who just can't with the news anymore. Then he talked about how the Mueller investigation was akin to a king who would show people his poop???? This metaphor went on for quite some time. In Michael Savage's view, every time Mueller indicts someone that's the same as him not being able to poop????? And when he does poop then nobody is indicted. It was puzzling. He ended the first segment by yelling about liberal cockroaches and mooks. This was the weirdest part to me. What started as a silly old man making lazy points devolved into what was just an unhinged man yelling. He must've screamed "mook" twenty times in five minutes. It was bizarre. It was weird, but he's stooge. He's only doing it because there are a bunch of people who choose to get their news this way. That's the craziest thing to me. I can't imagine that. Not knowing what to think about a certain subject until you've heard an unhinged lunatic with spittle on chin ramble on about poop. People out there consider themselves informed because they had the word "mook" screamed in their ear for fifteen minutes.

My favorite part was the first commercial break. You spend any time on any kind of right-wing news and you will hear about shady sounding investment companies. Usually, gold and silver, though crypto is making a strong push for the dullard market. Michael Savage was hocking for a company called Swiss America. Which sells people both kinds of investments. Gold AND silver. And in the commercial Savage told the biggest lie. He said that Swiss America is the only thing he trusts with his financial future. Which is obviously a lie. Michael Savage's financial future doesn't lie in gold or silver. His financial future is heavily invested in America's most renewable resource: Fucking idiots who think what he does is news.

All that being said, if this episode of Trek were being sold on Swiss America it's long-term future would look good. It was Patterns of Force and it was pretty solid. Here goes.

Recap:

The gang is in a system with two planets, Zeon and Ekos, looking for a Starfleet cultural observer named John Gill who was stationed there to observe the Ekosians. As they're approaching Ekos the Enterprise get attacked by a nuclear missile, which is weird because that technology is well beyond where they should be. They beam down to look for John Gill and just to see what's what and immediately we learn that shit's gone BANANAS. Looks like the whole planet is modeled on Nazi Germany. Modeled on Nazi Germany most foul. Could John Gill have something to do with this? I mean, yeah, of course, but how?

Protocols of the learned elders of Zeon

Kirk and Spock steal some Nazi uniforms but get captured almost immediately. In prison, they're involved in light bondage, whipping and the like, but get out pretty soon and they steal more Nazi uniforms. They escape again and end up helping a Zeon resistance group in order to find John Gill because it looks like he's the Fuhrer of Nazi Ekos. But, oh no, they get captured again when Nazis invade the resistance hideout. But these were just fake Nazis they use to test the loyalty of Spock and Kirk. So that whole thing passes quickly.

One can only assume that part of Kirk torture will involve being chased around a county fair while folks try to catch him

They go to Nazi HQ to try to find the Fuhrer Gill by impersonating a Nazi propaganda film crew. Fuhrer Gill addresses everyone from a little booth Wizard of Oz style. They notice that he's off. Perhaps he's being controlled or drugged. So Bones Nazi suits up and beams down to give his official medical opinion. They find their way behind the curtain, and yes, he's being drugged and controlled. Drugged and controlled most foul. Turns out that Gill wanted to unite the people of Ekos so he created the Nazi state. Then he was surprised when it turned xenophobic and totalitarian. Ha! His deputy started drugging him to control him, and to John Gill's chagrin, his deputy turned the Nazi state into a tool for hate and intolerance.

That's GREASED Zeon pig to you!

They get John Gill to snap out of his drugged stupor and denounce all the genociding that's been going on in his name. Which is nice. But he's gunned down by his deputy who is then in turn also gunned down. Gill's dying words are about how great the non-interference directive is. Which is very too little very too late. They leave with Spock saying that these two planets will make fine additions to the Federation. Which seems a bit premature if you ask me considering they were just involved in a multi-planet genocide just minutes beforehand.

Good Trek?

Yes. I understand that this one was way over the top, but sometimes it's fun to kill a fly with a sledgehammer as opposed to a fly swatter. There is a shit load of Nazi imagery and it never stops being more than a little jarring. It's crazy just how free they are about having their protagonists dress up like Nazis and REPEATEDLY do the Sieg Heil. It's nuts. There are SO MANY swastikas in the episode. I know it takes place in a Nazi state, but good gravy. It's just weird to see so many swastikas outside of a history book.
This is played for laughs

This episode, maybe more than any other, I would've loved to see back when it originally aired. This was on TV in 1968. That's just 23 years after the end of WW2.  How fucked up it must've been to be a forty-something WW2 veteran, still messed up from being in one of the most traumatic events the world had ever seen. You decide to relax by catching up on your favorite show about exploring space and then you have to watch Spock and Kirk goose-stepping across your screen.  Also, Shatner says Nazi funny. So that must've been weird too.

I like Star Trek for its optimistic take on the future

I get what they're going for, but having the stand-ins for the Jews on this planet be the Zeons? Did they not have the phrase "a little too on the nose" at the time? Because, oh my god we get it. I also found it funny that Spock knows all about Nazi Germany without any kind of prompting. They make Vulcans learn about Earth history from 400 years prior? That seems a little much for an alien Starfleet officer.
If you were worried that there wouldn't be instructions on doing a proper Sieg Heil, then have I got good news for you! 

Since there was no makeup budget in this episode it's really tough to see how the Ekosians can so easily spot the Zeons so easily. These folks are all just average looking 60's era TV white people. But the Ekosians are somehow able to pick out a Zeon from fifty paces. The only one who looks any different is Spock and he's able to blend in just as many times as he's sussed out.
Yikes

Nerd nitpicking time. I know they were making an over the top point about why they have the non-interference directive. Even though John Gill had good intentions his actions had unintended consequences and ended up costing a whole lot of innocent lives. All that being said, this guy is supposed to be a historian. A historian who specializes in motivations and consequences in history. How the hell is this guy surprised that introducing Naziism to a bunch of people might lead to those people acting like, well, Nazis. Gill said that he decided to help structure the Ekosian state after the Nazis because of how efficient it was. Just because you're modeling a state after them doesn't mean you have to go balls to the wall in embracing the imagery. You could've come up with new symbols and uniforms. Maybe parachute pant and smiley faces instead of swastikas. Maybe that's why Nazis are always so evil. All those harsh angles of the swastika drive your citizenry mad. Yeah, it helped those of us at home draw the good/evil lines early in the episode, but it seems like some of the bathwater should've been thrown out while you were bringing that Nazi baby back.
Perhaps you caught Captain Kirk's recent op-ed in The NY Times

Better Trek?

I liked this episode. It gives some good depth to why the Federation is such a stickler for their practice of non-interference. What they call the non-interference directive eventually becomes the Prime Directive. The most important rule of Starfleet. Granted, captains still regularly shit all over it when they need to, but whatever. If you want to watch an episode about the Prime Directive then watch this one. It's good. If you want to watch an episode about a Trek crew going in back in time to give some Nazis the business then I'd go with the ENT two-parter Storm Front. I don't know if those modern-day Nazis used this episode to name their little club. But they do share a name. I think this is only the second time I've recommended an ENT episode. Because they're by and large, not very good. They were really starting to pick up steam in season 4 and this is the first and second episode of the season. After finally averting the Temporal Cold War the NX Enterprise is headed home for some much needed R&R, but instead, they end up back in time in an altered timeline where Nazi Germany controls much of The United States. A situation which is neither restful or relaxing.
Hirogen's Heroes

If you want to see a Trek crew fight fake Nazis then go with the VOY episode the Killing Game. In this one, the Hirogen take over Voyager and turn it into a giant holodeck hunting ground where they brainwash the Voyager crew into thinking they're living in Nazi-occupied France. I always thought the Hirogen were an underutilized villain. They were in a handful of episodes, but I thought they had what it took to be the go-to villain for Voyager to keep on encountering. Like the Borg for TNG or The Dominion for DS9. Just about any Hirogen episode is worth watching and this is the best of the bunch. I'm not usually a fan of holodeck episodes, because they boil down to "hey, we're on the holodeck, nothing could possibly go wrong!" Cut immediately to "oh no! Something's gone horribly wrong!" This one takes a fun villain and incorporates the holodeck into it in a unique way. It might be one of my favorite holodeck episodes ever. It's certainly the best one I can think of off the top of my head.

That's it for this week. If you do decide to buy gold from Swiss America, make sure to enter "AdamSokol.com" in the promo field. They are not a sponsor, but maybe if enough people do that they'll send me some silver. Or at least some bronze they have lying around. Who knows.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Facebook, Tech Monsters, & Good Trek/Bad Trek #63: Return To Tomorrow

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.

I wrote a couple weeks back about trying to be more consistent with when I post these and then I plum forgot to post this last week. That’s because I’m an idiot. I’m gonna be telling jokes around Michigan the next couple weeks. If you’re around you should come to a show. 

Facebook has been in the news this week. A lot of folks seem to think that it’s their fault that Trump became president. Which is dumb. All this talk about there being a singular reason as to why we have half a dullard in the White House is ridiculous. The reason we have that fucking idiot in there is that a lot of other fucking idiots wanted him there. Facebook didn’t hijack the election, almost 63 million people hijacked it by voting for him. Even if some company acquired your information in a shady fashion all they did was let the Trump campaign know where the fucking idiots who’d be the most inclined to vote for him were. Those folks pulled the lever. Their fault. Not Facebook’s. Not Mark Zuckerberg’s. Not Cambridge Analytica’s. It’s the fault of the 46% of the country that voted for him. Not because they were tricked into it by some data mining company that nobody had heard of before last week, but because they wanted to and that sucks even worse. 

People are still angry at Facebook and they should be for any number of reasons. I don’t know Mark Zuckerberg, obviously. He seems like a bit of a goon, but he seems like a genuine dude who thinks his company is a lot less messed up than it actually is. That happens. That’s true with most of these newer tech companies. Google controls huge amounts of your data. They already have it and there isn’t shit you can do about it. People get outraged about that sometimes, but really I can’t see why. If you really thought that these companies just existed to provide you with a free service and somehow made untold billions of dollars because every once in a while you clicked on one of those “21 Social Media Fails That Will Have You LOL” articles then you were being naive. You clicked the button allowing infostealer.biz to access all your information because you wanted to see which Mad About You character you were. That’s a whole lot on you. Not all. But a lot. 

The whole privacy situation is beyond the point of no return. We’ve already put so much of our information out there and we’ve already decided that it is worth the tradeoff. We’ve come to rely on these free services so much that it’s hard to think of communicating with people in other ways. Can you even imagine going a day without checking your Google Plus notifications? I have good friends that I’ve only ever texted with via Facebook Messenger. We’ve committed to this and we’re just now realizing how much we’ve given up to do so. 

That shit’s scary. But I don’t think it’s nearly as scary as what’s coming up. Again, I think that the Google folks and Zuckerberg don’t see what they’re doing as bad. They largely think that what they’re doing has been good for society and some of it probably has been (I believe that about most of these companies except Amazon. Jeff Bezos is the devil and you should try to buy your shit elsewhere). But they won’t be there forever. These folks won’t be around forever. They’ll give way to a new generation at some point. A new generation that doesn’t give a shit about public perception or not being an outright bastard. They’ll give way to some piece of shit elected by the board of whatever company they’re a part of who will only care about exploiting you as much as possible. At a certain point, all these tech companies will end up being oil companies and the like. They won’t go out on apology tours after they give your information away to someone, they’ll fund articles and studies convincing you that they didn’t and if they did it’s not a big deal anyhow because having your information sold without your knowledge is good for you. And that scares me. Big Brother is only watching you because you pleaded with him to do so. 

The future scares me, but the present is looking good. Baseball is back, I’m going to tell jokes in a different state, and I watched a pretty good episode of Trek. It was Return To Tomorrow. Here goes. 

Recap:

Oh doggies, we’ve got ourselves a little mystery. The Enterprise is hundreds of lightyears past where any Earth vessel has ever traveled and they’re getting pulled to a planet where everyone seems to find odd even though just because an earth vessel hasn’t traveled there doesn’t mean that nobody has. That’s the whole point of the show after all. That’s why they’re trekking through these here stars. 
You should be happy you were excluded from this mission, anonymous red shirts

They get to the planet that’s drawing them in. It’s similar to Earth, but it’s much older and it’s very dead. The whole atmosphere has been ripped away a half million years ago. A voice comes through and starts commanding Kirk by name to beam on down and he’ll explain what this is all about. The alien makes it clear that Spock and Dr. Mulhall should accompany Kirk and McCoy. But WHY?!?
The Enterprise is about to get red pilled

They go down to Sargon’s lair and he’s a giant glowing ball that can jump into bodies. They want to borrow the bodies of Kirk, Spock, and Mulhall. They're gonna use them so they can build robot bodies to live in. Due to war and whatnot, this whole civilization wiped itself out. Before they all died they preserved a handful of beings in the giant glowing balls. Now they want robot bodies. They all agree. Surprising quickly. 
Kudos to Kirk for having his all-inclusive pronouns on point

As soon as they’re transferred the alien Henoch is in Spock’s body. Turns out he's evil and that’s no good. He aims to keep this body instead of going into the robot body. He plans on killing Sargon occupied Kirk and McCoy doesn’t trust this shit. Sargon occupied Kirk sniffs out Henoch occupied Spock’s plan and with the help of an unwitting McCoy pulls a reverse switcharoo. Kills off Henoch and then he and a Thalassa occupied Mulhall realize they can’t control their powers so they better just disappear into the ether. Kind of sad. 

Good Trek?

Yes. Sometimes it’s important to put these all in context for me. Aliens occupying crew members has become a bit of a Trek trope. But I have to remember that it’s become a trope because episodes like this one made it cool. And this one is cool. So, yes. Good Trek. 

It'd take an actor with considerable skill to make this not ridiculous. William Shatner is not that actor. 

McCoy loses his shit when he realizes that they’re going to be beaming through a hundred miles of solid rock. Why is that so nuts? They routinely beam through the GODDAMN VACUUM OF SPACE! How is that not infinitely more nuts than going through some rocks?

The whole "person becomes evil" thing can be tricky to pull off. I’ve always loved Brent Spiner’s Data. I usually hate Data’s evil twin, Lore. On the other hand, I really liked Marina Sirtis when she gets possessed by a creature and gives Worf a toss in TNG. Leonard Nimoy does it pretty well in another turn as an evil Spock and I think pulls it off. Shatner, of course, doesn’t. Because he’s Shatner. Nimoy looks like he’s having a lot of fun acting as the treacherous Henoch and it’s fun to watch. I liked it.
Then why are you wearing a red shirt?

This is one of the best-paced episodes so far. It has such a distinct and solid A and B. They set up what happened with Sargon and co. For a minute I thought that the whole episode was just going to focus on getting these folks new robot bodies to use for the rest of time and that it was moving along really quickly. Then the second half comes and it deals with possessed Spock doing the whole switcharoo pretty quickly.

Deus ex oblivion
Hey, I know that Spock and Kirk are the two main characters of the show, but it seems a little silly that they’d agree to let the captain and first officer lend out their bodies to these things. It seems like a lot of away mission protocols that are around in future Treks exist solely because of how insanely irresponsible Kirk was with his ship and crew.

Dr. Mulhall
I knew this lady looked familiar. At first, I thought that it was just because she looked a little like Ayn Rand, but I looked it up and it’s because she’s Diana Muldair. That name probably doesn’t ring any bells for most folks, but she’s from TNG. She plays the shittiest doctor in Star Trek history, Dr. Pulaski.

The moral here is a little muddled. These folks killed their planet because of war and the like. So they trap their minds in these stupid little ball things. So both sides of the conflict have persevered so they can learn to live together if/when they ever do find a way to not live in these giant glowing balls. But as soon as Henoch or whatever gets in Spock’s body he goes apeshit and wants to kill off Sargon and get it on with his wife. They had half a million years to learn to get along better and they just didn’t. Were they talking that whole time? Maybe instead of just sitting around twirling their nonexistent thumbs they should’ve been going through their differences and trying to make sure that this didn’t happen again. Hopefully, by the time we humans have destroyed the planet and have our consciousness living on in glowing spheres, we’ll have taken this message to heart.

Better Trek?

Speaking of Marina Spirits giving Worf the old heave-ho, watch that one (TNG episode Clues). It’s very different, but it does have a member of the Enterprise being possessed by an alien and being kind of a jerk about the whole thing. When I first started watching TNG as a kid I used to tape them on VHS while I was watching them at night and then rewatch them over and over. This was one of the first ones I saw. It was one of my favorite episodes. I’ve seen it a whole bunch of times and it includes Worf getting tossed like a rag doll by Counsellor Troi. 


I don’t know if either of these are better than Return to Tomorrow, but the DS9 episode The Assignment is a solid one. There are very few Keiko O’Brien centered episodes. I guess this one really isn’t either because she spends the whole episode possessed and evil. Miles O’Brien is such a great character and to see him both trying to uphold his duty as an officer while trying to not have his wife die is good. Any episode where O’Brien is put through the ringer is alright in my book. So watch this one. Watch them all actually because they’re all good.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Russia, Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, & Good Trek/Bad Trek #62 A Private Little War

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.

There was a lot of news this week. Usually is. Most of it pretty messed up. I guess that Trump character fired the deputy something or other. His porn star ex-mistress is none too pleased with him because you know what they say “hell hath no fury like a woman porned.” And to top it all off some more Russia stuff happened. Some of it I paid attention to. Most I didn’t. I can’t anymore. It’s not that I don’t care, though I largely don’t. I just can’t. 

It’s not just that there’s too much news. Although there is. News channels are 24 hours. That’s too much news I think. 24 hours is what's in a day. The fact that news is running all day every day implies that everything is news, which it most certainly is not. Granted, they're not covering everything that happens every day. They usually find one stupid thing and cover that all day every day for about six months. You, of course, don’t have to watch it but a lot of people do. That and everyone on social media has taken it upon themselves to just kind of periodically say something vaguely news related and wait for that sweet #content interaction! It’s exhausting and we should all be ashamed of ourselves. 

But the sheer volume of news isn’t the problem. Not entirely at least. It’s just that none of the news even matters anymore. I’ve never regularly watched Rachel Maddow. Maybe a couple minutes here or there but never in any real way. She seems very smart and does what she does well, but from what I can tell her whole show has turned into a year-long quest to convince her viewers to know that Russian election meddling is the biggest deal that’s ever happened. I don’t watch Sean Hannity either. I don’t think he’s very smart and I’m sure he’s a raging piece of shit and most his viewers are dullards. He’s turned his show into a year-long quest to convince his viewers that foreign governments interfering in our elections is not a big deal. And none of it matters because they’re both right. If you’re one of those dumb fucks who tune into Rush every day at noon, then switches over to Hannity at 4, then goes and waits impatiently for the news portion of Fox News to end so you can have another set of angry white folks who live on the coasts tell you how rich people on the coasts are screwing you over then election meddling doesn’t matter. If anything you think that the Russians did us a favor. I’ve heard that over and over again. Conversely, if you’re tuning into Rachel Maddow every night then you were convinced that this was a huge deal on day one of the coverage. None of the rest matters. On both sides, it amounted to one day of news and 364 days of tribalistic reinforcement. 

I was listening to a podcast the other day. Which, in case you’re curious, is the number one most insufferable way to start a sentence. It was about active information avoidance. It was pretty interesting. Being part of a group is so important that most people would rather actively block information out if it means they’d have to go against their team. When the apocalypse does come, which should be any day now, half the people are going to greet it by saying "this is impossible, Rush told me this was a leftist ploy for control" and the other half are going to smugly say "I told you so." Or vice-versa. Who knows. In summary, everyone is dumb and we’re doomed as a people.  


Except for those of us who can see clearly. Those of us who can open our third eye and see that despite some pretty big flaws this was a solid episode of Trek. It was called A Private Little War. Here goes. 

Recap:

We’re on a crazy an Earth-like planet called Neural. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are collecting samples and looking around and talking about how great this particular planet is. The planet is populated by a couple different tribes, the villagers and hill people, who are very peaceful. They’re said to be preindustrial and hunt with bows and arrows, but Kirk spies some villagers with primitive guns. Spock takes one to the back has to be beamed back to recuperate. 
These aliens look like half Donald Trump half Charles Manson

The Klingons show up, but they don’t notice the Enterprise in orbit around the planet. Kirk and Bones adopt native garb and beam down to see what the hell is going on and how these folks advanced twelve centuries in a little over a decade. Kirk thinks that the Klingons are arming them even though nobody is supposed to be interfering with their development. Before they can find out anything Kirk is attacked by a hilarious horned monkey thing that growls like a mountain lion. 
McCoy won’t shut up about his goddamn Himalayan salt lamps

Kirk is nursed back to health by his old friend, Tyree and his witch doctor wife. Once he’s better they go and find out that yes, the Klingons are arming the villagers. So Kirk decides to arm the hill people. McCoy thinks this is a bad idea. Tyree’s wife uses herbs and the fact that she’s an attractive woman to seduce Kirk but before they can get too far they get attacked by yet another horned monkey thing. Witch doctor steals Kirk’s phaser and tries to give it to the villagers, but they decide they’d rather rape her. When Tyree, Kirk, and Bones show up they abort the rape and just stab her to death. Tyree is pretty upset about the whole “dead wife” thing so he plans to get oodles more guns so he and his friends can murder as many villagers as possible. 
You know what they say "a good woman is hard to divide"


Good Trek?
Seems fair
Whoa doggy, this one is all over the goddamn place, but I am going to say that the ending pushes this one into the good Trek category. The look of this episode is really silly. Everything looks cheap as shit. Even by late sixties standards, there’s a lot of truly terrible looking set pieces, costumes, and effects. But there’s a lot of good in this one. Particularly the ending. I’m someone who has watched a shit load of Star Trek in my day and this ending took me by surprise. So good on them for having a couple tricks up their sleeve. I kept on waiting for Kirk and co. to have the villagers and the hill people to sit down and realize that this new arms race would just lead to both sides losing too many people and that peace would be in everyone’s interest. They didn’t. The ending is really goddamn bleak. Tyree just sitting there seething with bloodlust. It’s messed up. 
Remarkably foreshadowy 
It’s pretty clear that the writer was going for a Vietnam thing here. Which I thought was pretty heavy-handed my first watch through, but liked a lot better the second time through. Kirk gives the hill people guns because the Klingons were giving the villagers guns. Instead of urging the two sides to talk to each other or going to Starfleet and informing them about the Klingon interference they just give these people guns. Both the Federation and Kirk are using these once peaceful people as sacrificial lambs in their weird cold war pissing match. The Klingons and Federation are at peace ostensibly, but still using these poor bastards to get their aggression out. I don’t know if the writers meant for it to be taken as that dark, but that’s how I did. That’s messed up. 

The Gorn gets a lot of shit for being so goddamn ridiculous, but how is this any better?
If I’m Starfleet as soon as I read Kirk’s logs about this mission I’d be like why the hell do we even have a goddamn prime directive if people are just going to be making a mockery of it. He’s not supposed to interfere. That’s all he does. He interferes by telling Tyree who he is and where he’s from. Now he’s just going to give the hill people weapons. Yeah, the Klingons started it, but just because the Klingons jumped off a bridge doesn’t mean that they should too. 

Interracial kissing was not allowed in 1968 but prolonged motorboating was

Alright, about the sex in this one. This episode has more weird as hell sexual imagery than an Ayn Rand novel. It’s all very very yikes. It’s nuts to me to think about what was allowed on TV when and why. I understand that violence had to be pretty subdued and if you said “shit” on TV you’d be publicly shot, but they allowed a lot of weird sex stuff in the sixties. Tyree’s wife is shown to be almost raped by three men. It’s a long scene and it’s messed up. Also, Tyree most definitely motorboats her towards the beginning of the episode. I know she ends up getting almost raped and very murdered so I shouldn’t shit on her, but she rapes Tyree and tries to rape Kirk, right? She roofies them both which is really not okay. It’s not like Kirk wouldn’t do her if she’d just asked anyhow. She needs the drugs. That’s part of it for her. I was just really surprised that some of this was allowed on TV at all. Let alone in the sixties at primetime. Are we sure Trek was canceled for ratings and not for being the most ridiculous sex filled show that has ever been on TV? One of my biggest pet peeves about cultural criticism is the tendency to judge decades old stuff with a harsh modern eye. Shit was different. You have to take that into account. That being said, the sex dynamics on Trek are messed up. This is the second or third attempted rape in three weeks. That seems high. 
This attempted rape goes on for quite some time


Better Trek?

I liked this one. It has a messed up ending and deals in some pretty thorny moral issues and handles them with a lot more nuance than most of TOS have. I would initially say that TNG’s Who Watches The Watchers would be a good choice in that they also go to a primitive planet and shit goes awry when some of their technology is witnessed, but I’m pretty sure I used that one a couple weeks back. I’m gonna say Insurrection. I like Insurrection. I’ve read enough bad reviews and I haven’t seen it in a while where sometimes I’m not sure if I’m right in remembering it as fondly as I do, but I’ve always thought it was a really solid movie and unfairly maligned by it’s detractors. This one also has a seeming primitive people who are at risk and a whole lot of shouting about morality and the prime directive. I’m not selling it well, but it’s good. 

If you want a funnier take on aliens interfering with a less advanced civilization then go ahead and check out VOY’s False Profits. The Voyager crew stumble on a planet where two Ferengi who got trapped in the Delta Quadrant are manipulating the planet into thinking their gods. It’s also good because it’s a callback to a TNG episode which is funny to me. 

That's it for this week. Next week's episode is Return to Tomorrow. I'm gonna try to get to posting these on Friday. But let's see. If you want, I put the email thing up top if you want to get these emailed to you weekly. That'd be neat. And come to a show and say hi. I won't do anything for you, but it would make me feel very good about myself. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

NYC Cars, Vigilantism, & Good Trek/Bad Trek #61 The Immunity Syndrome

Intro: I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a kid. I started by watching TNG in 6th grade. I’ve been a fan since then and though I’ve spent a lot of time watching Star Trek, I’ve never watched The Original Series. So, I’m watching and reviewing them as a fan of Star Trek, but one who’s never seen any of them. So I’m watching all the TOS episodes for the first time and saying whether or not they suck. At the end, I give examples of better and/or worse Star Trek episodes to watch that remind me of this episode. Usually, I ramble on about some bullshit before the Trek. That’s it.

Crazy week over here in the apple that never sleeps. A lady killed two kids with her car, which was pretty nuts. A lot of attention has been paid to people who die by guns lately. Which makes sense. Guns kill a bunch of people. But I do think that’s different. Because people are trying to kill each other with guns. The fact that a lot of people are killed by guns is kind of an engineering victory for the gun folks. Guns are designed and manufactured to kill people. Ammo is designed in a way to be extra deadly. To go through armor sometimes. To cause extra big exit wounds so as to really go bonkers when the bullet is in there. Cars are not. They are made to get you from point a to point b and they do an awful lot of killing. Yeah, I know there’s a time differential. If we as Americans spent as much time irresponsibly shooting guns as we do irresponsibly driving in cars then there’d probably be a lot more gun deaths, but still. It’s messed up. The lady hasn’t been charged with anything as of yet, which is insane. I’m having trouble thinking of any other instance where if you, in broad daylight and in full view of dozens upon dozens of witnesses killed two children in front of their mothers and you were just free to go about the rest of your day. I mean, if I’m a cop I’m arresting the shit out of that lady just in case. Because chances are you done fucked up. 

It’s not just that people are dying a lot and almost dying constantly, but it's that nobody gives a shit. You’re considered a nuisance. because you’re walking or riding your bike. Listen, if someone is on a scooter, then I get it. That person is a nuisance, but for us bike riders and pedestrians we’re just trying to get around and it often seems that the NYPD is not just indifferent but actively opposed to people getting where they need to be safe and alive. You watch folks speed through red lights in full view of cops who just sit there staring. You watch cops themselves pull 43 point U-turns just to double park in front of a sandwich shop. Go by a police station anywhere in this city and try to walk by on the sidewalks and you can’t. You can't because the sidewalks are filled with cop cars. These are the folks we’re supposed to rely on to take this shit seriously. The very same ones who park on sidewalks or in crosswalks or in front of every available hydrant. You know the amount of balls you have to have to park on a sidewalk in this city?

Can you think of any other instance where two mothers watch their children get killed in front of them and dozens of witnesses in broad daylight and the person responsible is just free to go that very day? It’s insane. Who is going to enforce laws if not the NYPD? Do pedestrians and cyclists need to resort to vigilantism in order to be taken seriously? You see cops parked on sidewalks do we need to start slashing tires? Taking our U-locks and smacking the mirrors off of cars who endanger us? I guess we should all start with spitting on cars that piss us off and work our way up. 

I don't know what the answers are. What I do know is that I watched an episode of Trek and it was one of my favorites so far. It's the Immunity Syndrome. Here goes...

Recap:

The Enterprise just completed a long exhausting mission and are headed in for some nice relaxing r & r when there’s a distress call from a Vulcan manned ship named the Intrepid. Spock freaks out because he senses that the Intrepid has been destroyed and the crew is dead. They’re ordered to the sector to investigate because there are strange things afoot aside from the disappearance of the Intrepid. From what the sensors are saying the sector itself is filled with nothing. When they show up it’s just a giant black area in space. No stars or nothing. They don’t know what this giant black thing is, but they’re beginning to think that whatever it is, it’s responsible for the disappearance of both the Intrepid and also an entire solar system that just so happened to vanish. Messed up. 

Trump tweeting about the Oscars
They enter the “zone of darkness” and shit goes from bad to worse. Their energy supplies are being depleted and they don’t know how to stop it. The shields are being drained. And the zone is also wreaking havoc on people’s bodies. The dark zone is literally draining people’s life force in addition to the ship's power. They’re being pulled towards the center of the zone where a giant space amoeba lives. Bones realizes that the only way to find out how to defeat this thing is to send a shuttle with one person. One person who, in all likelihood, will not make it out alive. Both McCoy and Spock volunteer. Kirk then has to choose which one is better able to complete the mission. So whoever he chooses probably won’t make it back. Kirk decides on Spock. Who goes in, but is unable to transmit the information before losing contact. 

But don’t worry, I’ll be gentle
Kirk decides to take the whole Enterprise in because this thing is like a giant space disease and they need to use antimatter because that will work like an antibody. To make matters worse they don’t have much power so they have but one chance. They send some antimatter to the belly of the beast and snag Spock's shuttle with a tractor beam on their way out. Everything works and everyone is alive at the end. 

Good Trek?

Yes! I really liked this episode and it's definitely one of my favorites so far. The mystery is fun. They let it unfold really well. The pacing is among the best of all the TOS episodes I've seen. I like the idea of parts of space where space itself is actually dead. I also loved the fact that the Vulcans all died because they weren’t able to deal with the situation illogically. Just a really solid episode all around. Kudos. Just some fine fine Trek here.   

Great shot. Also, there's some space dust in my eye
So did George Lucas not think that anyone would realize that he straight up stole Obi-Wan sensing the destruction of Alderaan from this episode of Trek? The dialogue is remarkably similar. Spocks reacts similarly. It's very very close. Yeah, Obi-Wan saying "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.” might have a little more razzle dazzle to it, but don’t you dare expect us not to notice this. One of the many many ways that prove that George Lucas sucks and that even though Star Wars is fine, it’s not nearly as good as Trek.

 Fuck you, George Lucas. I'm calling out your hack ass. 

I guess my only problem is just how quickly they want to kill this thing. This is the fundamental difference between Kirk and Picard or Janeway (Sisko had so much other shit going on he wouldn’t even notice giant space amoebas). I know they are in a bit of a time crunch with the power being drained and their lives all hanging in the balance, but there was literally no thought given to a solution that didn't involve murdering this thing. Yes, it’s only a single-celled organism, but it is new life. You know the very thing they’re supposed to be seeking out where no man had gone before. Spock is the scientist too. You think he of all people would be the one who would try to find a way to communicate with it, but no. They identify it and all of a sudden it’s time to take it out.  
God bless you, Bones
I’ve made it abundantly clear that Kirk isn’t my favorite captain and more so I don’t really care for Shatner as an actor either. It doesn’t help that the dude comes off as a douche in real life too. That being said Shatner knocked the choosing who goes on the away mission out of the park. That was my favorite part of the episode by far. Kirk telling  Spock that he's most qualified to probably die on this mission is one of my favorite scenes of the entire show. Or at least what I've seen so far. I can’t remember if they’ve done this device before, but it's something else. That took a pretty good episode and turned into a great episode. There’s a lot of tough missions and I know that both Spock and McCoy are going to be okay because I’ve seen the movies and they're both in them. Although I guess Spock has died before, so I guess he could die and be searched for again, but he doesn't. This whole episode is also good in establishing the friendship between Spock and Bones. Great all around. 
"Yo, what the fuck?" - Chekhov

I hate to nitpick, but they’re out of power right? I mean, Scotty said that there's no more power. They used the last of it on the tractor beam to drag Spock's sorry ass out of the space disease. So they're not going anywhere. They're just going to drift alone until life support fails and they all freeze/suffocate to death. Just putting that out there. I would say that if I was going to nitpick. But I'm not about that or anything else because this is a great episode. 

Better Trek?

I wouldn’t say any of these are better. But these are also some good ones that deal with similar themes. The Voyager episode The Cloud. One of the most famous lines by any Starfleet captain is spoken in this episode when Janeway says “there’s coffee in that nebula.” Thing is there is not. It’s a trap. The nebula isn't a nebula but a giant living being and before they realize that they accidentally mortally wound it. Even though this "nebula" is a threat to them and going back in would be very dangerous, the Voyager crew does what they can to fix it up before they leave the area. 
Vulcans are known for logic and also for being extremely passive-aggressive in the face of death

If you’re interested in a Trek that also involves large swaths of space without stars or planets and energy is being drained then look no further than yet another VOY episode, The Void. Voyager gets trapped in a large expanse of space that's devoid of stars, planets, or any form of energy and is seemingly impossible to escape. One of my absolute favorite Voyagers. Janeway often gets forgotten in terms of the favorite captain debate. She’s got a little bit of Kirk’s cowboy, a bit of Picard’s stoicism, and some of Sisko’s badassery. I think she’s great and this episode is where she's put on what makes her such a damn good captain. The Federation means the world to her and she knows that no matter how difficult it can be sometimes, cooperation and sharing is the way to get shit done. 
"Tits" is how that ends. Surprised that made it past late 60's censors

Of course, if you’re looking for a Trek where Spock sacrifices himself for the greater good of the many, then you'd be a goddamn fool if you didn't watch Star Trek II. One of the best Trek movies out there. I’m still partial to 6 as my favorite, but Wrath of Khan is really a phenomenal movie and you already should have already seen it by now. But if you haven't, then take this opportunity to do so. If not I don’t know what the fuck you’ve been doing with your life.  

That's it for this week. If you drive a car, please don't kill me. If you ride bikes, stay safe out there. If you're a cop, do your fucking job, please. And of course, watch this episode of Trek and also Wrath of Khan. They're both really solid.