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 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. 


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.


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