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. 

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