Thursday, December 1, 2016

Good Trek / Bad Trek #7 The Enemy Within

Looks like I was wrong again. I saw the title for the show and just assumed it was one about the mirror universe, but that will come later I suppose. Instead, we get a different mess of an episode. Captain Kirk gets split into two shitty versions of himself. I’ll be honest, I was starting to get into this show. I was even starting to like Kirk. Leonard Nimoy is settling into Spock. The plotting of the show is still pretty awful, but still fun to watch for the most part. I was thinking that maybe I was just wrong all along. I had just seen a couple bad episodes and the TOS really is awesome and I was just wrong for avoiding it for so long. I was just coming off The Naked Time, which was a great episode so I was looking forward to keeping that going. 

I’m not going to say I was right initially, but this was just a fucking mess of an episode. Just a goddamn mess. It’s called The Enemy Within AKA The One Where Yeoman Rand Really Gets Put Through The Wringer. Here it is. 

Recap. 

They’re on a planet just kinda hanging out. Sulu found a dog wearing a costume so I guess that means that there were either smart humans or really smart dogs. Nobody knows. We get some real clunky exposition to start the show. Don’t even know why. We’re on the planet and Sulu and Kirk have a conversation about how it gets to be -120 degrees at night. Okay. They bring it up like five other times throughout the show. I guess a writer just learned that other planets might get pretty cold and this just blew his mind. 
Highlight of the episode

A crewman trips and falls and scuffs up his hand and has to beam back to the ship. The transport doesn’t go all that well, but they beam up Kirk right after and he’s feeling woozy. Right after he and Scotty leave the transporter room the transporter engages again and another Kirk beams up. The orchestra and squirrelly lighting let us know that this is a bad Kirk. 

Evil. Sweaty and Evil. 

Bad Kirk runs around and generally causes ruckus after ruckus. He heads to sickbay to get some booze. Why they keep the booze in sickbay I don’t really know. Heads over to Yeoman Rand’s quarters and tries to rape her. Then beats up a crewman who tries to stop the raping. Really a lot of uncaptain-like behaviour. 
Kirk: Making space great again

Turns out the either the yellow ore they beamed up or the dog in the Halloween costume overloaded the transporters so now every time they use the transporters not only does whatever they beam up come up but also an evil version too. Or whatever it is that’s being beamed up gets split in two and one becomes weak and passive and one becomes evil and aggressive.
What these littel guys are all about would've made such a better episode


So mean Kirk is running around and being a real jerk. They put out an APB for a guy who looks exactly like Jim Kirk, but you know…evil. They find him, give him the ol’ Vulcan nerve pinch, and boom evil Kirk is done captured. They still can’t beam up the away team on account of the transporter is still making duplicates. Plus now bad yang Kirk shoots a hole in the side of the transporter, but it wasn’t really working anyhow. So whatever. The planet is getting cold which they keep on telling us. Sulu is getting pretty chilly so Scotty better hurry his ass up and get that stupid thing fixed, because they keep on reminding us every three minutes that Sulu is going to freeze to death, which nobody wants. 
Kirk: Making space great again. 

I’m skipping a bit, but they think they’ve found a fix. They try running the two pups through, but it kills it. Kirk says fuck it, let’s roll, but evil Kirk gets out. But of course they capture him and go through and boom, two become one. I assume they get Sulu before he freezes to death. Kirk teases the lady his evil part tried to rape, they take the parking brake off, get out of dodge. 


Fin. 
This week in slash fiction inspiration: Spock swings by to fix the space cable of a fresh out of the shower Kirk.


Does this episode suck?

This episode could easily have been about twenty minutes shorter. There are multiple scenes that don’t need to be here at all. The first twenty minutes couldn’t and should’ve been pared down to roughly three minutes. That’s how clumsy the plotting and pacing is. I’m watching it now and really think that folks watching back then would have been happier watching commercials. Had the concept B plots not been invented yet?

Holy fucking shit does this episode ever shit on physics. I mean this transporter is just creating people out of thin air and nobody really seems all that surprised by that. That’s a pretty big deal when you think about it. That’s one of the laws of the universe and the Enterprise treats it like a minor inconvenience standing in the way of beaming up their away team. People are being duplicated out of thin air. Matter is just becoming MORE MATTER! The universe is going to explode. That’s a big fucking deal. 

Fuck all the Kirks in this episode. All three are douches. His evil twin nearly rapes Yeoman Rand and at the end of the episode and he makes a joke about it. Jesus Christ. That’d be shitty enough to begin with, but he’s also her boss. It wasn’t an evil imposter. The bad Kirk was part of him that got separated from himself. I’m not saying that both of them should be held equally accountable for everything bad Kirk does, but joking about how your transporter separated physics defying duplicate damn near raped your yeoman, that’s not cool bro. The fixed Kirk at the end is just as bad as Evil kirk. 

This isn’t a foreign concept to Star Trek. Most of the other series have had episode where something happens to their body and they get duplicated or they become evil or they get an emotion chip implanted that allows them to behave all crazy like. Most of these episodes suck. I don’t know why they writers are so eager to do it either. Every one of these “I’m my own opposite now!” episodes seem like they were written at the behest of the actor just so they can really hit the ham hard. Kirk does not dissapoint in that regard. 


Lot of weird stuff about how Starfleet works. Spock yells at Kirk about telling the crew the full truth about what’s going on. Spock thinks that if the crew knows what’s what then Kirk will lose their respect and then he’ll inevitably lose the ship as well. Then later when Kirk yin and Kirk yang are about to head through the transporters to become one he makes Spock promise he’ll take command of the ship if it doesn’t work. Yeah. That’s how the chain of command works. The captain can’t command the ship then the second in command takes over. That’s why they’re called the second in command. This isn't a Klingon Bird of Prey, there are rules. 

I mean they have shuttles don’t they? If they mentioned why they couldn’t just take the trusty old Galileo down and fetch the away team I didn’t catch it. I’d rewatch it and see if I might’ve missed it, but it’s a bad episode and I don’t feel like watching it again. Is that too wrong of me? Maybe, but I don’t give a shit. If you want to know so bad then you can watch it.

Was This Good Trek?

There are a lot of problems with the transporters throughout the Trek universe. It’s a really error prone piece of technology. Maybe that’s why the folks on the Enterprise treat this particular accident so nonchalantly. Maybe folks periodically just get duplicated and have their personalities duplicated. It’s right up there with the holodeck, which should not be allowed. That should really just be put on the shelf for a while. I know it’s already the future but it needs to be saved for the future's future. At least the transporter in necessary for getting around. The holodeck is just for shits and giggles. 

VOY: Tuvix

In terms of other Trek to watch, if you’re looking for a slightly better episode about a crazy transporter malfunction I’d go with VOY’s Tuvix. This one features a bananas transporter malfunction that accidentally fuses two crew members making them become one person. I wouldn’t say it’s a great episode, but at least when the transporter makes the impossible happen, everyone reacts how’d you’d expect. It’s nuts and everyone recognises it as such. It also raises some ethical questions that The Enemy Within doesn’t even pretend to. Okay, now that the transporter has created a new person, even if it is by fusing two other people or by separating another, does that new person have any rights? Can you ethically just fix the transporter issue and destroy the new person? Plus Tim Russ’s Tuvok is one the most underrated characters on any Trek incarnation. 

TNG: Rascals 

Another crazy ass transporter malfunction leads to a crazy ass problem. Picard, Keiko O'Brien, Guinan, and Ensign Ro accidentally become children again. They have all the memories of their adult selves, but now look like they're children. In Picard’s case, he also gets a sweet adolescent boy voice. The episode is mostly comedy because the Ferengi show up and try to take over the ship, failing because of the meddling by those pesky kids and their darn targ.

TNG: Second Chances

The transporter splits someone in two again. This time it’s Commander Riker. Turns out eight years prior during a rough beam up he accidentally got split into two people. So for the better part of a space decade, his clone has been sitting on a planet’s surface just hanging out. The Enterprise stumbles on him and he has to come to terms with his lost eight years and living with a duplicate who’s gotten to live those lost years. 

TNG: Sarek

This one doesn’t have any crazy transporter malfunctions, but it’s still a damn good episode. Spock’s father Ambassador Sarek is hitching a ride on the Enterprise to carry out his final diplomatic mission for the Federation. The reason I’d throw that one in threes that Sarek is an old Vulcan who, due to his age and illness can no longer control his emotions the way Vulcans usually do. In order to complete his mission he transfers his volatile emotions to Picard. Both Patrick Stewart’s Picard and Mark Lenard’s Sarek spend time not in control of their emotions. They both treat their roles seriously and really make you feel for the characters. Shatner’s evil Kirk is just fucking dumb. I was just starting to like him, but goddamn does Shatner ever suck in this episode. 

That’s it for this week. Next week is Mudd’s Women. Which I’m sure is to be a very respectful look at sex work in the future. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Good Trek / Bad Trek #6: The Naked Time

This week is Thanksgiving. THE number one holiday devoted to giving thanks. I’m pretty thankful for Star Trek, and I can be pretty sure that you are all thankful for me. I was pretty shitty to last week’s episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before. I think with good reason. It’s a shitty episode. I’ve spent some time reading about it in the interim though and maybe I was a little harsh. I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise nearly as long as I remember, but not being familiar with TOS episodes I’m looking back from someone watching this all for the first time fifty years later. I knew that going in. I don’t want to be too much of an asshole about it. I was reading about reactions from people who first saw the episode in the sixties and how much sci-fi fans lost their shit upon seeing it. I couldn’t believe that. I know it was fifty years ago and people were dumb and had much lower expectations when it comes to TV, especially genre fare. I kept on reading and it started to make more sense. Gene Roddenberry’s was one of the first positive visions of the future. Before Star Trek, there wasn’t anything about folks out in space just for the sake of it. These people aren’t going to distant planets to fight or conquer they’re there just to see what's out there. Even if they often have to fight and are in danger and encounter all kinds of nasty stuff, it’s still at its heart an inherently positive look at science-fiction. So even if a lot of the episodes suck I can see why they captured people the way they did at the time.

It is optimistic, but only to a certain point. Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of space exploration took into account that we’d have to go through a bloody eugenics war in the 1990’s.

All that being said, I was not looking forward to this episode because I was pretty sure it was gonna set new records in terms of sucking. I stated the name of this episode incorrectly last week. I said it was The Naked Now not The Naked Time. A nerd was kind enough to point that out. Not saying that in a derogatory way. I’m watching Star Trek and then telling you what episodes are better or worse, so that’s pretty much who this is by and for. The Naked Now is an episode of Stat Trek TNG that pretty much redoes this very same plot, and boy does it suck. It’s one of the worst episodes of that show’s run. I assumed that this one would be even worse than that because the calibre of casts are so different, the TNG cast being a shit-ton better. Have to say pleasantly surprised. So here we go with Naked Time!

Recap

The crew is at PSI 2000. A planet that’s about to die, and they’re there to watch it die. Also to pick up a science crew that’s been sitting there to study the dying planet. But oh no! The science crew is dead. Their station is all frozen over, life support was turned off. A woman has been strangled to death. A guy froze death while taking a shower fully clothed. Spock is checking it out with Joe Tormolen who sees a bunch of dead folks and decides now's the time to take his gloves off and itch his nose. Spock then tells the idiot to be careful not to expose himself to anything. But really that should be considered away team behaviour 101.

Spock, I think this mannequin is dead! 

They get decontaminated and get checked out. Both Spock and Tormolen seem fine so McCoy lets them go on their way. McCoy takes some ethnocentric potshots at Spock and that’s it. From what they can tell the science crew died because they all went space bananas. They all just sat there and let themselves die. Nobody knows why. All the while Tormolen keeps on looking at the hand that was exposed on the planet while a rattlesnake sound plays. They’re thinking it might be space madness, but they can find no cause.

We go to Tormelen, Sulu, and a dude named Reilly in the rec room. Tormelen is being a bit nuts. Going on about how humans have no business in space. He pulls out a butter knife and while Sulu and Reilly are trying to wrestle is away he ends up stabbing himself. But oh no, now Reilly has the rattler disease. Even though Tormelen’s wounds aren’t all that serious he dies. I don’t know how they could have been all that serious considering he was only holding a butter knife. Still. He’s good and dead. McCoy doesn’t know why. Seems his body just gave up on living.

Ha!

Sulu and Reilly both now have the rattling disease. Sulu abandons his post to hit the gym and Reilly starts ranting about how great fucking Irish people are. Spock sends Reilly to sickbay where he goes and flirts with Nurse Chapel (giving her the rattle disease in the process). Here’s where we get the scene the whole episode is based around. SULU IS RUNNING AROUND SHIRTLESS WITH A SWORD! It’s awesome. He chases a bunch of folks before making his way to the bridge to win the heart of Uhura. Spock gives him the old Vulcan nerve pinch and knocks him out. Turns out the rattler disease is something that lowers your inhibitions and makes you embrace long suppressed parts of your personality. Tormolen got the disease and became a wuss, Sulu fancied himself a swashbuckler and that came out, and Reilly is Irish, he embraced insufferably reminding everyone that he’s Irish.


Reilly, who at this point might as well be the Notre Dame logo, has taken over the ship. He’s got full control of the engines and he’s singing old Irish drinking songs over the ship’s PA. Meanwhile, everyone is drunk and going apeshit and the ship is spiralling out of control towards the dying planet’s atmosphere. Just like the typical Irish piece of shit.


They're trying to get into the engine room. If they don’t then they ship is pretty much screwed. Spock gets the drunk disease from Nurse Chapel and has a drunken breakdown. They make it in and the drunken Irishman Reilly has turned the engines all the way off, which is very bad news. Turns out the Enterprise is like the 86 GrandAm I had when I was 16. You can’t just start it up. It’s gonna take at least 30 minutes before you can safely take that thing out of the driveway. Also like my old GrandAm the driver’s seat recline is broken so Kirk needs to keep an old plastic stepstool behind to keep it upright.

They need a proper formula to restart the engines. Unfortunately, Spock and Kirk both have the drunk disease so are alternating between Spock saying “I love you, man” and having slap fights. That part is the realest of all the drunken behaviour on the episode in my opinion. The doctor discovers an antidote to being space drunk and starts giving it to folks just as they’re about to try the extremely risky engine restart. Which works of course. So they’re able not to crash into the surface of the dying planet which is nice. And also they accidentally discover time travel, which is a huge fucking deal that they all seem pretty nonchalant about.

Did This Episode Suck?

NO! This episode rocked. I have to say that I was super pleasantly surprised. I don’t know why this episode was so much fun and the TNG episode is such a dumb drag. Maybe I have to rewatch that one. Perhaps it is fun and I was just in the wrong headspace the first dozen times or so I watched it. But this one is great. It’s silly, but it’s fun. I like Spock really struggling with emotions. He’s come across as a jerk the first few episodes, but he totally redeemed himself for this one.

Reilly playing the drunken Irishman is a little much. I don’t know if we’ll ever become a (mostly) peaceful spacefaring people, but if I have one wish for the future it’s that people stop being proud of being Irish. I’m not saying it’s a bad country. If you're from there cool, be proud. If your parents are from there, cool be proud. BUT, the concept that hundreds of years in the future long after individual nations have existed on Earth there's still going to be assholes running around proud to be Irish is gross. If you've never met the person who is from Ireland then you need to stop basing your personality on that before we meet aliens. In fact, why don't you go ahead and stop. Stop it now.

Sulu makes up for Reilly. He’s shirtless with a fencing sword. It’s awesome, and you can tell he’s having a blast doing it. His enthusiasm is contagious.

I don’t know if the writers of this episode have never seen a drunk person in their life or what. Yeah, it lowers your inhibitions, but not everyone who's drunk wants to sword fight or take over a ship or stab one’s self. Most people just want to get more booze.

Shit head of the episode award goes to these three people. A knife fight breaks out and these three idiots just sit there and stare. They don’t even look all that excited about it. By the looks on their faces dudes just stab themselves every day at lunch.

THEY ARE WATCHING A KNIFE FIGHT

I never noticed how much the Reavers from the Firefly universe seemed to borrow from this. I don’t know if that’s parallel thought or what. The idea of folks gone mad in deep space. The Firefly version is a fair amount darker, but it came around 40 years later and Joss Whedon doesn’t seem to be quite the Pollyanna about the future that Roddenberry was.

My biggest qualm with the show is that I like the idea of space madness better than just some stupid infection. People gone mad because they’re too far out in the expanse of space is a cool concept. That's badass and I’d love to see that done. I doubt TOS does it, but I guess I’ll see as we go along.

Worse Trek

This is a pretty good episode. It’s fun and it is so in a very Trekey way. There’s a first season episode of TNG with a similar name. It’s called The Naked Now and it's dog shit. So if you watched this one and you want to see a similar episode except awful check out that one. For some reason, Data also succumbs to space drunk disease. It’s really just awful.

Better Trek

You know this was a good episode. I don’t know if I can think of an episode off the top of my head that does a concept like this better. I guess check out DS9’s Babel. In it, O’Brien picks up a mysterious illness that makes him speak gibberish. You think he’s just a bit stressed, but it turns out the gibberish disease is contagious and almost everyone ends up with voles getting their tongues. I wouldn’t say it’s a better episode, but it’s pretty good. One of the better early DS9 entries at least. But first watch The Naked Time, because it’s some damn good Trek.


That’s it for this week. Next week we get to visit one of my least favourite Star Trek plot devices, the mirror universe in The Enemy Within.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Good Trek / Bad Trek #5 Where No Man Has Gone Before

The world is still garbage, but here we are. More Star Trek. I linked to this on Facebook. Facebook is going through some shit right now. They’re starting to go after fake news, which is probably for the best. Fake news is bad news. You shouldn’t share it or take it in. I’d say any news source that needs to remind you how smart you are for taking in that brand of news is bad for your brain. I don’t know if it’s possible to ban fake news. It’s only out there because people want to believe it. It’s a demand-side issue that will always find a supplier so long as those folks are out there. So really we should be banning those people from Facebook. Also, we should be banning all of us from Facebook. It’s not good for you and you know it. That being said, Facebook doesn’t have any rules against Star Trek reviews (yet), and you’re probably only here because we’re social media friends and you're bored at work, so what the hell do I know. So social media does do good things, like spread awareness of this here blog. 

This week’s episode is Where No Man Has Gone Before. Though not being too familiar with TOS episodes this one is pretty famous. I had seen it before, and even before I saw it the first time I was familiar with the episode. The original pilot episode, The Cage, was rejected by CBS on account of it being just absolute garbage. So Lucile Ball had to convince the network brass to let Gene Roddenberry take another stab at it. This was the second pilot. What I don’t get is that if the execs thought the original pilot was too cerebral and lacking action why would anyone think that this episode would be greeted any differently? It has a lot of the same problems. It’s definitely better than The Cage, but not by leaps and bounds. So anyway here goes. 

Recap

The crew of the Enterprise is headed towards a distress signal of an old ship that’s been missing for centuries. So that means this ship, the Valiant, decided to head out of the galaxy hundreds of years before anyone else possibly could and just never mentioned it to anyone. Regardless, looks like it didn’t go well or we wouldn’t be hearing a distress signal. Kirk and Spock are passing the time with a good new fashioned game of space chess. Spock is being a douche about it, and pretending that acting logically means pretending to not know what the word “irritating” means. 
Irritating is an Earth word to describe people who pretend not to know what words mean so they can be douches about it

They find the distress signal and turns out it’s not from the ship itself, but from its space black box. They investigate and turns out the Valiant’s black box is full of clumsy foreshadowing. There’s a bunch of gobbledygook about ESP and that the captain ordered his own ship destroyed. That leaves us to wonder if anyone on the Enterprise will have something happen to them to give them ESP abilities. Luckily we only have to wait about 45 seconds. They go through an energy barrier and it knocks out Gary Mitchell and Dr. Elizabeth Dehner. Kirk wakes up Gary, but now he’s got blinged out eyes, and the heavy-handed score lets us know that this is not a particularly good thing. 
With glittery eyes comes glitter powers comes glitter responsibility 

Turns out with glitter eyes comes glitter power. Like making your medical instruments make you look either very healthy or very unhealthy. Also, you can kill yourself? I can see being able to kill yourself, but if you’re dead how is it you will yourself undead? You are dead. You don’t need glitter eyes to see how much sense that doesn’t make. Did he set a timer maybe? I don't know. Mitchell makes a big stink of knowing it was Kirk who entered the room like he’s showing off his new powers. Like the ability to know who has entered a room after they’ve already entered it is all that impressive. He can also read fast now. So the ominous music seems a little drastic in relation to the powers he’s shown so far. 

The next 12 minutes pretty much suck. They’re just walking around saying what we all know. The dude has abilities. He’s getting powerful. He hasn’t really done anything yet, but Spock is pretty sure they’d be right in murdering him. They decide to split the difference and instead maroon him on a deserted planet while they’re fetching some power packs. Dr. Dehner seems like she digs the new superior race of glitter men. 
Be vewy queit. I'm hunting GOD!

They lock him in a force field cage. He kills a dude and gets out. Kirk evacuates everyone but himself and for the second time in two weeks, he decides he should fight a being with godlike powers. I have trouble believing that he would’ve survived this far into his command. The fight doesn’t go well. On account of Mitchell now being god and Kirk just having his boyish charm. Mitchell informs Kirk that he’s a god now and then really gives him the business in a fistfight. Dr. Dehner realises that she doesn’t want to start a new race of super beings with Mitchell so they use their powers to turn each other purple a few times. This weakens Mitchell enough to wear Kirk can fist fight god. Yeah. Eventually, Kirk realises that the only way to defeat a god is by burying him in rocks and that’s about it. Dr. Dehner apologises for being turned into a superior being who doesn’t want to be murdered for evolving too quickly and then for some reason she just kind of dies. 
When gods die



Does This Episode Suck?

Yes. It did. It seemed okay at first. I went in not being too familiar with TOS episodes, and I went in hating Kirk but loving Spock. I have to say Kirk is growing on me and Spock is kind of shitty so far. I know I’m only four episodes in so I’m sure that changes. Shatner has a level of charm that makes him easy to like so far. Spock, on the other hand, has acted like a horse’s ass. Mitchell gets his glitter powers and immediately Spock thinks they should kill him. You’re a goddamn scientist on a mission of discovery and your immediate reaction to a never before witnessed phenomenon is to murder it in cold blood. Jesus dude. Plus, everyone knows that Vulcans some level of telepathy so why is he shitting his pants at the thought of someone with ESP abilities?



I read that the actor who played Mitchell had a problem with the contacts that made his eyes look all glittery, and oh holy shit does it show. I can’t imagine that they spent all that much money on those contacts where they just had to stick with them. It’s also not like the effects look that awesome where they needed it. It looks like shit. And his dumb eyes look like they’re about to rot out of his head. 
Those contacts mean he's the only one who can't see his eyes are rotting out of his head


Another takeaway from this episode is to say fuck the orchestra. It is overpowering as shit. I hope that’s something they get squared away soon because it is SUPER distracting. It’s so loud and they give every little issue the same overbearing ominous music. 

The worst part about this episode though is watching it knowing that it was supposed to be the second pilot. In that way, it does not even work a little bit. There’s no introductions. I know exposition can be clumsy in pilot episodes, but all you get is Spock not knowing what “irritating” means because he’s a logical alien with a small vocabulary. Other than that we learn almost nothing about who any of these people are or why they’re out in space aside from just trekking for the sake of trekking. 

Worse Trek

Hide and Q: I don’t know why’d you want to watch a worse episode, but if you are so inclined I'd check out the TNG episode Hide and Q. It’s a first season stinker. In it, Riker is given godlike powers by Q. It’s a real piece of shit. The only thing that makes Hide and Q better than Where No Man Has Gone Before is that when Riker gets his Q powers nobody pulls a Spock and starts plotting his murder. 

Where No One Has Gone Before: You should watch this one if you want to watch a garbage episode of Star Trek, but you care a lot about gender neutrality in episode titles. But seriously another season one TNG piece of awful. So don’t actually watch this one. It is very very bad. 

Better Trek

A member of the crew getting powers isn’t something that happens all too frequently from what I can recall, and when it’s done it’s usually a shitty episode. The one I can think of that I really enjoyed was a second season episode of Voyager titled Cold Fire. It’s a rare Kes centred episode, and even rarer in that it’s a Kes centred episode that doesn’t suck. I always thought that Jenifer Lien’s Kes got a raw deal. She was given nothing but horse shit for three seasons and then fired because the writers were shitty about giving her anything for her to do. 

In it Kes meets some other members of her race and they help her tap into her telepathic and telekinetic abilities which quickly get out of her control. A lot of similarities to Where No Man Has Gone Before but so much better. Kes gets new abilities, and even though Tuvok almost gets killed by her new found abilities he treats it like you’d expect a Vulcan would. He’s cautious but finds it fascinating. Also as Kes is getting stronger and stronger she’s seems genuinely pumped and kind of scared by her new powers and what she’s becoming. Mitchell seems like the mostly bored by the fact that he now has amazing powers. 


So that’s it for this week. Next week is The Naked Now, otherwise known as the shirtless Sulu sword episode. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Good Trek / Bad Trek #4: Charlie X

Boy, this was a week, right folks. I gotta tell you that I did not feel like writing a stupid ol’ Star Trek review post after half the country up and lost their fucking minds on Tuesday. But it’s at times like these that the world needs Star Trek blogs more than ever. Star Trek blogs aren’t written for the good times. They’re for times like these. When things look their bleakest that’s when we as Americans need a snarky review of a fifty-year-old TV show to turn to. So, you're welcome.  

I don’t know if any episode would’ve felt this way, but this week’s episode felt very fitting considering all that went down. The episode is Charlie X and it's about an oddly colored weirdo who sexually assaults women and is generally is just a menace. Yeah, okay I know it's a reach, but cut me some goddamn slack. Plus Charlie is a dude with weirdly bronzed skin who does some pretty weird shit to women, has a child’s mind, and is hypersensitive when it comes to criticism. So...

Recap

The Enterprise takes on a new passenger. A seventeen-year-old guy named Charlie Evans who’s been living alone on a planet after being the sole survivor of a shuttle craft when he was three, and he is a weirdo. I guess living alone your entire life leaves you lacking in terms of social skills. He keeps on interrupting Kirk and just about shits his pants when he meets Yeoman Janice Rand. I’m not saying that Yeoman Rand isn’t an attractive lady, but he damn near loses it. Turns out that she’s the first lady he’s ever seen and he likes what he sees. 

Charlie gets checked out. Turns out that he learned to talk by listening to tapes on his crashed shuttle and somehow just found some food on this desolate planet. He slaps Yeoman Rand on the ass and she asks him not to. I don't know what tapes he's been listening to, but he walks around like his only knowledge of humanity is Andrew Dice Clay tapes. The planet he was found on is said to have a long extinct species of aliens called the Thasians. They decide to leave whether or not the boy was raised by aliens and instead look for a surrogate father for young Charlie. 
Making space great again

We go find Charlie in what looks to be the Enterprise’s rumpus room. Uhura is singing a song about how great a lover Spock must be. Charlie doesn’t like that attention is being paid to someone else so he gives Uhura a weird look and then she can’t speak. Then he’s able to impress everyone by doing some sick card tricks. Creeps using card tricks isn’t new, but it does seem that something sinister is afoot. 

I mean the answer is anywhere, but the word you're looking for Yeoman Rand is "pussy"

Kirk tries to explain to Charlie the rules about slapping ladies on their asses, and then the shit hits the fan. The ship Charlie came on has been destroyed. Nobody knows how. A bunch of meatloafs (meatloaves?) that were being cooked have somehow turned into turkeys. Live turkeys. Which seems even weirder to me. I mean ships blow up. You're cruising around the alpha quadrant using a shit load of anti-matter. There's gonna be problems. I don't want to sound space-callous. I'm just saying. But these were just stupid old meatloaves that turned into live birds. That’s messed up. Charlie seemingly melts some chess pieces with his mind too. Then creeps out Yeoman Rand again. He doesn't use his powers to make Yeoman Rand uncomfortable. Just his shitty personality.  
I honestly don't know if this is supposed to be a compliment or a neg
Kirk sits Charlie down and politely asks him to not rape Yeoman Rand. Kirk tells him that he can’t have every lady he fancies and that what he’s going through is the same thing every teenage boy has always gone through. You know how when you were seventeen and wanted to have sex with someone and they wouldn’t so you melted some chess pieces with your mind? Boy stuff. Kirk then figures out that what a boy with far too much sexual aggression needs is to be taught how to fight. So Kirk throws on his Starfleet issued Spanx and tosses the little nerd around. Charlie does not take learning karate very well and the shit hits the fan again. Crew people get vanished. All the phasers on the ship also vanish. The lighting gets all weird so only character’s eyes are illuminated. 
Don't want to call the kettle black here, but that is not a dick that screams "ready for prime time"

Spock, McCoy, and Kirk have a little pow-wow about the Charlie situation. They’re pretty sure that he’s the one that destroyed his old ship. They don’t want to take him to the colony they were headed to because he’s got powers. Not only does he have powers, but since he’s a teenage boy he’d be completely unable to control these powers. Charlie takes control of the ship and decides to keep on heading towards the colony they were originally headed towards. He tries to rape Yeoman Rand again, electrocutes Uhura, breaks Spock’s legs, makes Yeoman Rand disappear and then Kirk decides that something should probably be done about this little shit. They try a forcefield, which surprisingly doesn’t work against a dude who can control time and space. He’s pissed now so a lot of shit hits a lot of fans. We are treated to the third episode in a row where a woman getting old is treated as horror. It almost makes sense this time, but still. I’m beginning to think that this is just something that happens every week. My favorite thing about this week’s "horror of being an old lady" segment is that, unlike the other two episodes, they don’t put old person makeup on a younger actor. They use two. So an older lady was given a part that described “realizing you now look like yourself, and recoiling in horror at your disgusting age ravaged body.”
TOS is 3/3 in shitting on old women for the hell of it

The main crew is brainstorming on the bridge. They need to do something about him. Kirk’s plan is to fight him. Which seems pretty reasonable. They're hoping that because he’s using his mind to control too much that he might be weakened. Turns out this is correct. Because a floating green head comes in and explains everything. The floating head folks, who turns out are the Thasians found the three-year-old and gave him a bunch of powers so he could live. They didn’t realize what a goon he would be about them. So they take him back to live on the floating green head world. This bums out Charlie, because he “can’t even touch them.” He can’t touch them like he was hoping to do to Yeoman Rand. And that’s about it. The heads take the sexually frustrated boy back to their home world where he will have the rest of his life to undoubtedly get very good at masturbating. 
Slimer's stodgy grandfather



Did This Episode Suck?

Yeah, kinda. Though it was also funny in a bad way. This is a common theme that future Star Treks will come back to time and time again. Both the crew taking on an alien that doesn’t appear dangerous at first but then turns out to be very dangerous, and young alien that’s been orphaned and tries to make a parental bond with a member of the crew. Charlie is just so unlikeable that it doesn’t really make any sense that the floating heads would even want him back. The episode feels both rushed and to take forever. I don’t want to be a nerd about it, but given the shitty shitty election that we all watched the craziness of watching a dude grab a lady by her space pussy and have the captain laugh about it seemed grosser than usual. So maybe I just wasn’t in the mood. 

Oh yeah, there was also this. A girl wants to join the Faceless Men? 

There were lessons to be had though. I like how when confronted with a childlike buffoon who smacks ladies on the ass and makes fun of Spock’s alien heritage the Enterprise crew gets him the fuck off the ship. They don’t just hand over the stupid keys. So the future is bright. 

Better Trek

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a bad episode. It wasn’t a great and there are a lot of better ones one for sure. It was just kind of there. This is a formula they’ve used a lot and I would definitely watch almost any other one of them instead. 

TNG: Hero Worship

This used to be one of my absolute favorite episodes. I was a big Data fan growing up, and this one is great. The Enterprise helps a wrecked ship that has but one survivor, a young boy. Both his parents along with everyone else was killed. Because Data is the one that saved him, and because Data is super strong the boy starts emulating Data and pretending that he also is an android. The relationship between the two is very nice. Data helps him pretend that he’s an android to help him get over the death of his family. It’s a Star Trek trope done very well. 

VOY: Q2

Q is an interesting character mostly because he should suck. Any kind of omnipotent character is usually just a means of lazy writing in my opinion. Who gives a shit about what an omnipotent being wants or need? Q should suck, but the chemistry between John de Lancie’s Q and Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard made the character work. DS9 and VOY didn’t have Patrick Stewart so the Q episodes usually were pretty bad. They reminded me of a character from a beloved sitcom who just pops by a lower rated sitcom to say hi. I don’t remember if he ever met Archer. Probably did and it probably sucked. That being said, Janeway does play annoyed well, and Q does annoying well. This time he brings his kid by to be raised by Janeway. It’s not played nearly as seriously as Hero Worship or Charlie X, but it’s also about a powerful child who wreaks havoc on a Federation starship, and it’s a hell of a lot better than Charlie X. Plus the young Q has his faults but is very good in the not raping department. 

DS9: Abandoned

Quark accidentally buys a baby Jem’Hadar. Odo adopts him and starts raising him hoping that he can help the little guy grow up to be a productive member of space despite the fact that he’s genetically programmed to want to fight and kill. Odo is very good at being the gruff guy with the heart of gold. Technically he doesn’t have a heart because he’s a shape shifter. The Jem’Hadar don’t have telepathic powers like Charlie X or the Qs do, but it still follows a similar path. The station is worried that keeping him around will result in death and destruction, but Odo is firmly in the nurture camp so wants a chance to help him live a better life. In the end, nobody ends up happy. 


That’s it for this week. These are getting longer and longer every week, but who gives a shit I guess. Tune in next week for the second pilot Where No Man Has Gone Before. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Good Trek / Bad Trek #3 The Man Trap

Here we are. The first episode that made it to air. I thought about reviewing Where No Man Has Gone Before first considering that was the second pilot, but The Man Trap was the first one to make it to air. So that's it. 

The cast is gonna be more familiar than the previous one. Kirk is in command of the Enterprise instead of Pike. We start with the Enterprise at planet M-113. A barren planet that has only two folks living there. An archeologist named Dr. Robert Crater and his wife Nancy. The thing is, according to Kirk, that Nancy is that one woman we all have in our lives for Dr. McCoy. Okay. I mean, seems like a weird thing to put in an official log. 

So Kirk, McCoy, and a crewman named Darnell beam down to the planet to inspect the Craters. When they meet Nancy each member of the Enterprise sees a different woman. McCoy sees the Nancy he knew completely unchanged over the years. Kirk sees the same woman but appropriately aged, but to which he still recoils in horror at her grey hairs. Crewman Darnell sees a young blonde lady. Which leads to a pretty fucked up exchange where he tells her that she looks like a “girl I left behind on Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet.” Which Kirk, McCoy, and everyone else watching take as a pretty messed up thing to say. I don’t know what or where Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet is, but it sounds like a place where you’d have sex. Which is fine. I’m space sex positive. But he specifically says a “girl I left behind” that implies that he had sex with her and then just took off. 


The three faces of Nancy: Young Nancy, old Nancy, and Wrigley's Pleasure Nancy

I don’t know if both pleasure and planet should be capitalized when describing Wrigley's. I think they should. I guess it depends on whether Wrigley’s has chains of similarly named planets, or if pleasure planet is just a class of planet that's out there. That’s why NASA get so pumped whenever they find another planet. It might finally be one of the pleasure variety. 

Short story long, Darnell really shits the bed on his introduction to Nancy so Kirk and McCoy make him wait outside and think about what he’s done. Soon as crewman Darnell leaves the house the Pleasure Planet Nancy comes out with him. 

This brings us to the new and improved credits. This actually looks like Star Trek to me. People will probably look at this and think it looks dated, with the Enterprise flying through space while the credits roll, but thinking this was made in the sixties it looks really goddamn good. It proves just how much better practical effects hold up. 

After the credits, we get to meet Dr. Crater. He seems a little cantankerous and keeps on demanding salt (will this come up later?). We hear Nancy scream and (gasp!) Crewman Darnell is dead! Which really is a shame. Nancy is there with him and he’s got a plant in his mouth. Seems the dumb idiot got to a foreign planet and just started shoving strange plants in his mouth like a dog (or did he???).

We go back to the ship and finally get to meet Uhura. I’ve always loved the character from the movies, and I love Nichelle Nichols from the various TV appearances and interviews I’ve read of her. She’s said that she at one point she thought about leaving the show but Martin Luther King Jr. called her and convinced her to stay because TV had so few positive black characters at the time. I’m glad she decided to stay because I know she becomes awesome, but this first appearance is yikes. You almost get the impression that Gene Roddenberry was friends with men of all races and creeds throughout his life, but had never actually spoken to a woman before. Regardless we finally get to meet Uhura. She’s having trouble doing her job because she hasn’t been told she’s pretty in a little while so she might cry. Yes, yes. I know Spock is logical and doesn’t really get the whole emotion thing. But he responds to Uhura saying she might cry like he’s never heard the word cry before. That’s not logic that is ignorance. 

Kirk and McCoy fight about what killed poor Darnell. He’s a healthy man. He wasn’t poisoned. They now know it was murder. Space murder. Space murder most foul. Turns out what killed the poor bastard was the complete removal of salt from his body. A new landing party beams down. Two more crewmen with McCoy and Kirk. They confront this Crater character about the salt business. He runs off. Kinda. He really just slowly shuffles away, but whatever. While this is all going on Nancy is sucking the salt out of the other two crewmen. She decides to impersonate one of the crewmen (Crewman Green) and gets beamed up to the ship to have herself a salt fiesta. 

He’s following Yeoman Rand around because she has a salt shaker. He wants that salt. He follows Rand to Sulu's lab. He gets no salt there so continues his hunt. Salt vampire becomes a dude and almost gets poor Uhura. Which means this was a poorly named episode. It’s not a man trap. I don’t know if the monster has a gender. It should be the salt trap. Doesn’t want men. Just needs that savory savory salt. It sucks a crewman of his salt, then goes to McCoy’s, slips him a roofie, and goes on to impersonate him. 
Sulu's lab is in the Dr. Seus department

Spock and Kirk have a pretty badass phaser fight with Crater. They capture him and we finally get the truth. Nancy Crater isn’t really Nancy Crater. She’s the last member of a species that used to live on the planet. She’s a salt vampire that’s able to impersonate anyone she wants to by stealing people’s memories and throughs. The viewers already knew the salt vampire stuff, but it’s nice for the crew to be able to catch up. The creature killed the real Nancy Crater years ago, but then Dr. Crater realized that it could become a younger version of his wife so he decided to just let it slide.
A small step for a man, one giant leap for slash writers

They all go back to the ship where the salt monster kills Dr. Crater and tries to suck the salt out of Spock, but he’s a Vulcan so his blood is green and presumably low sodium. The monster decides to become Nancy again and begs McCoy for help. Kirk shows up with some salt tablets and tries to get it to eat out his hand like a horse. This doesn’t work. It’s gonna kill the captain and then Spock shows up. A fight ensues and eventually McCoy shoots the salt Nancy. It’s all very sad considering it's the last of its people, but nobody seems to give all that many shits. 

Salt vampire Nancy


Does This Episode Suck?

No. I don’t think it does. There are problems. Mostly involving Uhura’s dialogue, but it’s not bad. Maybe it just seems better than it was due to the unmitigated train wreck that is The Cage. But by comparison this seemed pretty damn good. 

Kirk doesn’t seem to suck that much which surprised me. Maybe I was wrong about Shatner all along. Or maybe I’m just comparing him to Jeffrey Hunter’s Captain Pike. God how fucking garbage was he? I honestly can’t wait to see him paralyzed and reduced to communicating through a series of blinking dots. It will improve his range. 

It’s corny, but I love how Yeoman Janice Rand describes Crewman Green as going “space happy” to mean crazy. It’s one of my favorite things that’s in old shitty sci-fi. It was assumed that as soon as we became a space-faring people we’d automatically just add the modifier space to describe everything. 

The scene where Spock tries to demonstrate that Nancy is salt-Nancy and not Nancy- Nancy by just repeatedly wailing on her is both jarring and hilarious. He says “if that were Nancy could she take this?” While brutally punching her in the face. That kind of implies that there’s a universal Starfleet standard for how well a woman can take a punch. Any more and you got yourself an alien so watch out. Still, Spock two-fisted punching a woman in the face isn’t nearly as cruel as what the writers did to Nichelle Nichols. 
Logic dictates that three punches usually drops a hoe

They could have and should have spent more time trying to find a way to get rid of the creature without murdering it and making it extinct. They didn’t really seem to give two shits about that, which doesn’t seem right. Picard would’ve found a way is all I’m saying. Seems like they just wiped out a never discovered species and just didn’t care. I mean seeking out new life and civilizations is part of their mission statement. Maybe they could do it a little more carefully next time. 

Better Trek:

I was thinking a few, but I think the one I would go with first would be DS9’s The Assignment. Miles Obrien’s wife gets taken over by a bad alien and makes him perform tasks. It’s a better version of a character dealing with a loved one who isn’t themselves anymore. 

Also the VOY episode The Cloud. In that one, the Voyager crew is almost killed by a previously undiscovered alien. Only Janeway responds like a goddamn Starfleet captain should and not turning immediately to murder. 

If the only thing you like about this episode was Spock punching Nancy then go with TNG’s Clues. Worf and a possessed Troi duke it out. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Good Trek / Bad Trek #2: The Cage


The Enterprise is heading to the Vega colony to care for it’s injured following a battle we don’t see. They get a distress signal. Decide not to investigate it. Then they get the distress signal again and decide to check shit out this time. They go down find some survivors from an old crash site and are preparing to rescue them when SURPRISE is a trap. That’s no moon it’s a plot device. Turns out there are no survivors, it was all just an elaborate trap to get to capture Captain Pike because these aliens needed a prime specimen of man (?!?!?). 

Prime specimen of man Captain Pike
So now Pike has been trapped. In a cage. Being held prisoner be some large-headed aliens with relatively good makeup for a fifty-year-old show. They tell him they’re going to start experimenting on him which he doesn’t seem too wild about. These aliens are able to telepathically make Pike experience various things from his past in an attempt to interest him in the lady survivor whose name is Vina. 

Despite all my rage, I'm still just a Pike in a cage

There some illusions that are pretty ridiculous. Then Pike and Vina get to talking and Pike figures out that he and Vina are going to be in charge of repopulating the planet. Yup. Two people. Are going to repopulate the planet. That's what these genius aliens plan is. Just like Adam and Eve. Despite the fact that the aliens can make Pike experience anything telepathically, he seems none too keen on the whole monogamy thing. So he’s still going to resist this. Lashes out and realizes that the Talosians can’t read “primitive” thoughts. Which I guess means anger. This comes up later. 

I will watch you repopulate now

They try other illusions. Pike’s home in the Mojave dessert. Vina as an Orion slave girl (with green makeup so bad it looks like she did it herself). Meanwhile, the Enterprise is having trouble getting Pike out of there. They can’t blow up the door, but eventually they figure out where the power source of the underground lair is and are planning to beam down. However, when they do, only the women are beamed. The aliens have stolen the broads as a means of letting Pike choose with whom to repopulate the planet. 

Easy buddy. Save that enthusiasm for a pon farr episode.

Pike uses his primitive thinking to mask his thoughts and fist fight one of the aliens, and because the aliens are nothing but big headed nerds he kicks the shit out of him. The aliens then learn that humans don’t care for being imprisoned. Even if they get to have tons of sex. So they agree to let them go. Just like that. Unfortunately, Vina can’t go because it turns out she’s not really young and pretty. That was another alien illusion. Nope turns out she is old and disfigured due to the crash on the planet all those years ago. So she can’t rejoin society on account of her ugliness. Seriously. So she just decides to stay and live in an alien illusion where at least she'll be pretty. 

In space, no one can hear you scream (at the site of an unattractive woman)



Did This Episode Suck?

Yes.  I had seen this one before and it was worse than I remembered. It is just awful. This pilot was rejected by CBS. People say that now like it’s funny that they ever would’ve passed on what’s become such a valuable property. Watching the show now though, you think well, of course they passed on it. It’s shitty. It’s not just that it’s bad. That can be forgiven. It’s just boring. A quarter of the show is done with before we even meet the Talosians and Vina. They play the theme song then they play it again out of nowhere five minutes in. It’s just bad TV. 

It’s largely a completely different cast than the ones that will be in the majority of the episodes. The captain isn’t Kirk, but Christopher Pike. Played by Jeffrey Hunter who is just fucking awful. His wife didn’t want him on the show because she thought that science fiction was beneath him. Turns out that not only is science fiction not beneath him, but he is very much beneath science fiction. Not to say that this was a good episode. It’s not. He’s just bad enough to stand out as particularly awful in an already bad episode. 
Ummm how sexist is the concept of Orion slave girls? I think you mean Orion slave WOMAN!

The alien villains are dumb too. The Enterprise crew makes a big deal about how smart they are, what with their giant brains and all. But those brains don't seem to be doing them too much good. Why would they only abduct two people? You try to repopulate a planet with only two people, and you're just begging to have your population ravaged by recessive gene disorders. 

Also, these aliens aren't able to read what they call "primitive thoughts." Which means violent thoughts. But they are able to read his desire to have sex with Orion slave girls. What could possibley be more primitive than raping a slave?

The plot is shitty, the acting wooden, the awful costumes are awful, the dialogue is awkward. Everything about this episode is why I don't like TOS episodes. 

I initially wanted to say Encounter At Farpoint. The TNG pilot. Both are double episodes. Both are pilots. Both involve powerful aliens that trap and test Enterprise crews. So, you could go with that one, but I think a better fit is another TNG episode The Survivors. In it, the crew encounters two elderly folks living alone on a completely deserted planet. In involves powerful aliens who are able to conjure up images at will. It has barren planets. It has a sweet ending. It's got it all. As a bonus, it features an older woman that folks don't recoil in fear from so it doesn't seem hopelessly dated upon rewatching. 

There’s a twist at the end that I won’t give away, but John Anderson portrayal of one of the elderly survivors is really really touching. Anderson said that due to a personal tragedy he found this to be one of the hardest roles he’d ever played. It shows. You do have to put up with some Troi freaking out, which is never fun to watch. But you also get to see one of Worf's best lines on TNG. So that makes up for it. 

So don’t watch The Cage because it’s bad. Watch The Survivors because it’s good.