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. 


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. 

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