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.

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