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. 


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Comedy Sucks, Pickle Jars, and Good Trek/Bad Trek #60: A Piece of the Action


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.

In addition to writing about Trek, I’m also a comic. I tell jokes usually for free. Sometimes for drink tickets. Sometimes even for money. Comedians are the lowest of the low in terms of entertainers. Don’t get me wrong, I like comedy a lot. I like performing it and I like watching it, but it’s everywhere and, at least in New York, it’s almost always free. And when something is pervasive and free, people tend to treat it like dog shit.

I was at a bar for a comedy show. The bar was pretty full. Couldn’t tell who was there for the show and who was just at the bar, and probably about to be upset that a comedy show was gonna happen whether they wanted it to or not. After a couple minutes the folks who made the sandwiches came out and announced to the bar that they had a hard to open pickle jar and asked if anyone could help them open it.

The. Bar. Went. Apeshit. I have literally never seen a whole group of people so excited in my entire life. I heard a story once where a group of folks in New Jersey were waiting at a local record store to buy a Bruce Springsteen album that was being released that night and The Boss walked in unannounced and signed everyone’s copies and talked to them. People who go to record stores at midnight to get an album the second it becomes available tend to be pretty into that artist so those folks naturally lost their shit. That might come close to how these people reacted to this hard to open pickle jar. It got opened pretty quickly and then the folks went to the bar and swapped stories about that time fifteen seconds ago when they were fighting with that pickle jar and all their lives had meaning.

Shortly thereafter the comedy show started. I don’t know if it just started too close in proximity to the pickle jar or what, but the entire bar, the very same bar that moments before had been more than captivated by a sticky pickle jar, completely ignored multiple performers. It was nuts. What I’m saying is sometimes comedy can be a real punch in the dick sometimes. Also, I’m going to be marketing a new party game called Pickle Jar. I don't know, I took a couple things on the chin this week so maybe I'm just being bitter, but none of those idiots even deserve pickles to begin with.

Also, I wrote something for another site. It’s silly, but it’s here if you want to read it. Anyhow, I watched A Piece of the Action. Here it is.

Recap:

This episode looks like trouble. We’re on a mob planet or something, but really it just looks like they’re beamed down to, what is obviously a studio backlot. Kirk, Spock, and Bones go to this mob planet because a bunch of years earlier an Earth vessel went there. They generally don’t hang out with pre-warp folks, but since it’s already been contaminated, why not. Everyone talks like they’re in a shitty mob movie and carries Tommy guns.
Yes, that's Captain Kirk, the hero of the show pointing a fucking machine gun at a smiling child

The three are immediately kidnapped and held ransom for guns. They outwit their captors and then get kidnapped and held ransom for guns by someone else. Then McCoy and Spock get free. Then they get recaptured by the first guy and are held for ransom for more/different guns. Then Kirk gets out and is again recaptured and held ransom for guns. Then Kirk finally remembers that he’s from a goddamn spaceship and has technology and experience that’s far greater than these yokels. So he outsmarts them a final time and goes into business with the mob boss. Also, Bones forgot his communicator one of the many times he was kidnapped and maybe he’ll really mess with the civilization. But who knows.

Good Trek

No. Qualified no, but no. I see what they’re trying to do, and I liked it more than I would have when I first started watching TOS, but a lot of this episode is William Shatner having a lot of fun, and I still just don’t like him. I don’t care for Shatner as an actor and I think Kirk is just a so-so character. There are episodes where he’s great in, but this isn’t one of them. There’s a lot of him being silly and hamming it up and the one thing Shatner never needs is an excuse to ham it up. So how much you enjoy this one is going to be dependent on how much you like Shatner having fun.

Context is everything
The episode isn’t all Shatner sucking though. Spock really shits the bed too. I like the character of Spock a lot, but for a super smart logic fiend he really ends up getting outfoxed a bunch. Up your game, Spock.

Nuts that Star Trek has been around for over fifty years and Discovery was the very first series to have their characters realize that if they’re beaming into a dangerous situation then perhaps they should have their phasers drawn
Plus, this episode ends with the Enterprise deciding to go into business with a bunch of local mobsters. That’s messed up. I know it’s just a trick to get these guys to knock off their infighting, but its still a little messed up. I hope that Kirk convinces Starfleet to send a delegate so as to keep getting their kickback. Despite it going to a fund to steer the
Iotians into a more ethical society going forward. I like the thought of a Starfleet bag boy having to do that going forward.

Trek gets a lot of credit for having the first interracial kiss on TV, but not nearly enough for having the first gay threesome
These people are said to be an “imitative” people. That’s the explanation given for why these folks found a book about old Chicago gangs and it transformed the whole society. That’s a little off right? If a spaceship came and fell from the sky that is pretty neat. I know they weren’t all that advanced, to begin with, but they were an industrial society. If they’re so imitative why didn’t they imitate the part where the people who came from outer space were peaceful explorers. Instead, they all imitate this one book, which they could all read for some reason. Not one person took a look at this book and said: “you know, I think this might be a work of fiction.” Was this the only book ever published on this planet? This is the one book they’re following. Nobody wrote a bible or a bible-like book before these folks came around with this old gang book? Do they change their entire culture every time a book gets published? That has to be exhausting. A lot of questions about this setup.
This dude poking a baby with a Tommy gun is hilarious
Why doesn’t Kirk just give these idiots a new book to emulate? Have someone write a book where everyone is just nice to each other and nobody guns anyone down in the street for absolutely no reason? Or maybe just give them A BLANK BOOK AND BLOW THEIR FUCKING MINDS!
The ship has a stun feature. The Enterprise picks up weird powers like Superman in Quest for Peace


Better Trek:
Kirk is not a condom man
If you want a Trek with people in shitty suits and overacting then the TNG episode The Royale is a lot like this one. They go to an alien planet and Data, Riker, and Worf get trapped in a casino that’s all based on a book called The Royale. It’s also a silly episode that’s played mostly for laughs. It’s not one of the best TNG episodes ever. In fact, it’s actually a kinda bad one, but I like the TNG crew a lot more so I like this episode better. I can’t help but think that The Royale was made with this one in mind.

I love that these mobsters call the Federation "the feds"
If you want an episode where the crew visits a pre-warp civilization and their whole society is upended, but have that treated with a little more gravity then go with Who Watches the Watchers. In this one, a preindustrial society sees some sick Enterprise tech and goes bananas. They start worshipping Picard as a god. And though I like Picard a lot, I think most gods would do a much better job of obeying the Prime Directive. It’s definitely a solid episode and a shit load more fun than a stuck pickle jar.