Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Shoulders of Giants & Good Trek/Bad Trek #65 By Any Other Name

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.

You hear a phrase a lot usually associated with technology and how far we've come and that's that we're all standing on the shoulders of giants. And it's true. Everything that's been invented and every technological breakthrough is the result of all the inventions before that. Except I guess for the first invention. They did that all on their own and are probably the closest thing to an Ayn Rand character that's ever lived. Everything else that's around today is a combination of hundreds of thousands of years of advancement. 
Judging by this description, I'm not optimistic about the fate of these redshirts
Smartphones are pretty neat. But in order for the smartphone to exist, we needed the calculator phone had to be around to be built upon. The calculator phone was great, for the first time ever you use the same device to call your friends that you used to say "boobless," but the calculator phone would never exist if the abacus phone hadn't already been around. And the abacus phone would never have existed if nobody invented the wheel. That's how that worked. 

Nothing exists in a vacuum is what I'm trying to say. Every great thing we have now is the result of every great thing that's come before. Everything is built upon everything else. The phrase is usually used to describe good stuff, but it applies just as well to every shitty thing that's out there. We're all the result of every shitty decision we've ever made as a people. Yes, we're standing on the shoulders of the giant who invented the wheel, but we're also standing on the shoulders of the giant who invented the slave trade. We've got to live with both the results of every shitty thing and every good thing that's happened so far. We've got to live with both giants.

I don't know. That all reads like pseudo-intellectual bullshit, but it's all I got this morning. I'm tired and this is as good as it's going to get. Know what else is a giant on which we're now standing? Star Trek. Of which I watched an episode. It was called By Any Other Name and it wasn't bad. 


Recap

We are on a strange planet investigating a distress call. Soon as they get down there and are approached by two aliens who identify as Kelvans and tell them that they're being abducted and their ship is being stolen so they can take their ship to another galaxy. Abducted and having their ship used for a multigenerational trip back to their home galaxy most foul. The gang wants to fight back but these particular aliens have paralyzers that whenever they're used they nobody can move. Also, they can turn anyone into these small soft rock-like things that are easily crushed. As poor Yeoman Thompson learns the hard way when Kirk knocks out one of the aliens 
How is Kirk recording this log? He's sitting in a prison on the planet. Did they give him log equipment?

Realizing they have no way to oppose these aliens, Kirk gives in. The aliens take over the ship and use it to travel to another galaxy, which is surprisingly close. Kirk thinks about blowing up the ship but can't pull the trigger. The aliens start getting into their human bodies and start displaying real human emotion. Jealousy, horniness, and love for booze. The three main human emotions. Kirk gets their leader jealous by kissing one of the ladies and after a brief fistfight, the Kelvans realize that maybe they should give up their control over the ship and just go back to the planet at the beginning of the episode and set up shop there. 

Good Trek?

Qualified yes. I thought it was a slightly above average episode. Not great but it was still closer to good Trek than to bad. The ending is really abrupt. I see what they're doing but it seemed to come out of nowhere. Kirk seduces a lady and then fights the Kelvan leader and everything is cool. There's also a huge tone jump which happens pretty often in TOS episodes but this one was very jumpy. The first quarter to half is kind of intense. Yeoman Thompson gets crushed to powder by the Kelvan leader, Rojan before our very eyes. That's a messed up way to start an episode that has an extended scene where Scotty gets hammered while playing a drinking game with an intergalactic being. But all in all, I liked it. 
It takes them like six minutes to reach the end of the galaxy. I'm calling shenanigans 

I think I've made this point before, but these aliens are using human bodies as a disguise. Their real form is a hundred tentacled creatures that I assume would look very different than us. How is it that she's attracted to Kirk? That doesn't make any sense. Even though she's now in a human body with human needs you'd think that she'd still be turned on by hundred tentacled dudes. Not doughy old Captain Kirk. I'm just saying that if I wake up tomorrow in the body of a hundred tentacled being I'm using one of those hundred tentacles to jackoff to normal human women. Just saying.  
Next episode better be about everyone turning into lizards and having babies
From Star Trek, you'd think that the only universal among literally every alien species we've met so far is that everyone loves a sick pair of tits. I'm not saying I disagree, but these aliens are from another galaxy. They're not even from the Milky Way and she knew that it would be best if she wore something that really put her bosom out there for the galaxy to see. And god bless her for it.  

The most surprising thing about this episode is that this dude makes it. The pretty lady gets crushed to dust, but this redshirt who actually attacked these aliens lives to fight another day. I'll be damned. I was practically shouting at the screen when he suggested he could beat these aliens up "dude, you're a black redshirt. How quickly do you want to die?" You believe in duty that's cool, but you have to have been around enough to know that from time to time the redshirts don't come out of the away missions unscathed. So maybe just fade into the background and hope for the best. But goddamnit, he made it. God bless you, Lt. Shea!
Samesies

I literally laughed out loud when Bones remarks that nobody has seen Scotty in hours. So he's just been sitting there getting shit faced which was his plan to get the paralyzer off these aliens. I'm not saying he's wrong because it worked. But it does seem like everyone should've been on the same page here. Everyone is doing something different and it all works. The seduction the boozing the irritation shots Bones give. It all works. But I got the impression that Scotty would've been drinking in his quarters anyhow and just decided to make that his plan. 



The restaurant barrier at the end of the universe galaxy. So long and thanks for all the Tribbles.

Honestly, I'm drawing a blank. I'm not saying that this is the best episode ever and there's no way that anyone would ever be able to top it. I'm just saying I can't think of any particular one that has the same themes. If you want to see an episode where aliens hijack the Enterprise using unconventional means of going to their homeworld then go with the TNG episode 11001001. I definitely would not say that this one is better than By Any Other Name, but what it lacks in being good it makes up for in being batshit bananas. Small blue guys named Binars hijack the Enterprise while it's in the shop getting defragged. They need the Enterprise to save their planet and they plan to leave just Riker aboard to help in case they need a person to help. So they program a hologram to seduce Riker. Yup. But Picard walks in and then the hologram proceeds to try to seduce the both of them. It's messed up. Luckily they figure it out before a hologangbang ensues. But boy oh boy does shit get weird. It's not a good episode but it's worth a watch. 
Even by Trek standards, kissing a woman where you punched her to apologize is a pretty goddamn ballsy move

If you want to see an episode where a nonhumanoid species somehow adopts a human appearance and then immediately become sexually attracted to a normal looking human then go with the VOY episode In The Flesh. That'd be weird criteria for choosing an episode but there you go. In this one, the VOY crew stumble on a perfect recreation of Starfleet academy including people they actually know. It can't be real because they're still thousands of lightyears from home. It's all an elaborate training facility used by Species 8472 who are still pissed at Voyager for teaming up with the Borg to murder them. Understandably so. This is a solid episode. I'd check it out. 

That's it for this one. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Michael Savage, Poop, Mooks, News For Dullards, & Good Trek/Bad Trek #64: Patterns of Force

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'm in Michigan right now. Doing some shows. Visiting some family. If you're around come to one or two and say hi. I'd appreciate it. I was driving the other night because that's how people get around out here. When it comes to the radio I'm usually an NPR guy but the BBC was on my local NPR station and if I were to make a list of things I'd rather listen to than the BBC that list would include everything. I don't know what it is. I don't have anything against the news. I don't have anything against British people. But you combine those two and you get radio so utterly unlistenable that it had me cruising the AM dial to see what one of your dumber uncles might be listening to right now. In my defense, I tried sports radio first but they were talking about hockey and that's the BBC of sports to me. So AM radio it was.

A guy named Michael Savage was on. If you haven't had the pleasure of listening to Michael Savage then do yourself a favor and continue to not listen to him. Because he's fucking nuts and all his listeners are worse. I shit on right-wing media personalities a lot partially because they deserve it and partially because I'm fascinated by them. Rush Limbaugh, in particular, is credited with revolutionizing the way we as a country take in our news. The thing is, some revolutions suck. The revolution will not be televised, it will be on the weird end of your AM radio dial listened to by folks who aren't just dumb but are angry at everyone about it.
"Flattery is the sincerest form of flattery." - "Dr." Michael Savage 04/04/18
Michel Savage is a former homeopathist and now he's the author of hyperbolic horse shit and a prominent AM bloviator. So the only constant among all his careers is that he likes taking advantage of dumb-dumbs. That's fine. There's a lot of dumb-dumbs and their money is just as green as everyone else's. Even as far as AM radio personalities go, it was pretty nuts. I only listened for about fifteen minutes before I'd had enough.

The show starts with a warning. Something about how The Savage Nation contains adult language and psychological nudity. This is how a news program starts. I don't know if the adult language is actually mandated or if this character fancies himself a dangerous dude. I don't know which is sadder for the guy or his listeners. The fifteen minutes I listened to was quite a wild ride. First, the newsman talked about how much he couldn't pay attention to the news anymore. He was sick of it. So some folks are getting their news from a guy who just can't with the news anymore. Then he talked about how the Mueller investigation was akin to a king who would show people his poop???? This metaphor went on for quite some time. In Michael Savage's view, every time Mueller indicts someone that's the same as him not being able to poop????? And when he does poop then nobody is indicted. It was puzzling. He ended the first segment by yelling about liberal cockroaches and mooks. This was the weirdest part to me. What started as a silly old man making lazy points devolved into what was just an unhinged man yelling. He must've screamed "mook" twenty times in five minutes. It was bizarre. It was weird, but he's stooge. He's only doing it because there are a bunch of people who choose to get their news this way. That's the craziest thing to me. I can't imagine that. Not knowing what to think about a certain subject until you've heard an unhinged lunatic with spittle on chin ramble on about poop. People out there consider themselves informed because they had the word "mook" screamed in their ear for fifteen minutes.

My favorite part was the first commercial break. You spend any time on any kind of right-wing news and you will hear about shady sounding investment companies. Usually, gold and silver, though crypto is making a strong push for the dullard market. Michael Savage was hocking for a company called Swiss America. Which sells people both kinds of investments. Gold AND silver. And in the commercial Savage told the biggest lie. He said that Swiss America is the only thing he trusts with his financial future. Which is obviously a lie. Michael Savage's financial future doesn't lie in gold or silver. His financial future is heavily invested in America's most renewable resource: Fucking idiots who think what he does is news.

All that being said, if this episode of Trek were being sold on Swiss America it's long-term future would look good. It was Patterns of Force and it was pretty solid. Here goes.

Recap:

The gang is in a system with two planets, Zeon and Ekos, looking for a Starfleet cultural observer named John Gill who was stationed there to observe the Ekosians. As they're approaching Ekos the Enterprise get attacked by a nuclear missile, which is weird because that technology is well beyond where they should be. They beam down to look for John Gill and just to see what's what and immediately we learn that shit's gone BANANAS. Looks like the whole planet is modeled on Nazi Germany. Modeled on Nazi Germany most foul. Could John Gill have something to do with this? I mean, yeah, of course, but how?

Protocols of the learned elders of Zeon

Kirk and Spock steal some Nazi uniforms but get captured almost immediately. In prison, they're involved in light bondage, whipping and the like, but get out pretty soon and they steal more Nazi uniforms. They escape again and end up helping a Zeon resistance group in order to find John Gill because it looks like he's the Fuhrer of Nazi Ekos. But, oh no, they get captured again when Nazis invade the resistance hideout. But these were just fake Nazis they use to test the loyalty of Spock and Kirk. So that whole thing passes quickly.

One can only assume that part of Kirk torture will involve being chased around a county fair while folks try to catch him

They go to Nazi HQ to try to find the Fuhrer Gill by impersonating a Nazi propaganda film crew. Fuhrer Gill addresses everyone from a little booth Wizard of Oz style. They notice that he's off. Perhaps he's being controlled or drugged. So Bones Nazi suits up and beams down to give his official medical opinion. They find their way behind the curtain, and yes, he's being drugged and controlled. Drugged and controlled most foul. Turns out that Gill wanted to unite the people of Ekos so he created the Nazi state. Then he was surprised when it turned xenophobic and totalitarian. Ha! His deputy started drugging him to control him, and to John Gill's chagrin, his deputy turned the Nazi state into a tool for hate and intolerance.

That's GREASED Zeon pig to you!

They get John Gill to snap out of his drugged stupor and denounce all the genociding that's been going on in his name. Which is nice. But he's gunned down by his deputy who is then in turn also gunned down. Gill's dying words are about how great the non-interference directive is. Which is very too little very too late. They leave with Spock saying that these two planets will make fine additions to the Federation. Which seems a bit premature if you ask me considering they were just involved in a multi-planet genocide just minutes beforehand.

Good Trek?

Yes. I understand that this one was way over the top, but sometimes it's fun to kill a fly with a sledgehammer as opposed to a fly swatter. There is a shit load of Nazi imagery and it never stops being more than a little jarring. It's crazy just how free they are about having their protagonists dress up like Nazis and REPEATEDLY do the Sieg Heil. It's nuts. There are SO MANY swastikas in the episode. I know it takes place in a Nazi state, but good gravy. It's just weird to see so many swastikas outside of a history book.
This is played for laughs

This episode, maybe more than any other, I would've loved to see back when it originally aired. This was on TV in 1968. That's just 23 years after the end of WW2.  How fucked up it must've been to be a forty-something WW2 veteran, still messed up from being in one of the most traumatic events the world had ever seen. You decide to relax by catching up on your favorite show about exploring space and then you have to watch Spock and Kirk goose-stepping across your screen.  Also, Shatner says Nazi funny. So that must've been weird too.

I like Star Trek for its optimistic take on the future

I get what they're going for, but having the stand-ins for the Jews on this planet be the Zeons? Did they not have the phrase "a little too on the nose" at the time? Because, oh my god we get it. I also found it funny that Spock knows all about Nazi Germany without any kind of prompting. They make Vulcans learn about Earth history from 400 years prior? That seems a little much for an alien Starfleet officer.
If you were worried that there wouldn't be instructions on doing a proper Sieg Heil, then have I got good news for you! 

Since there was no makeup budget in this episode it's really tough to see how the Ekosians can so easily spot the Zeons so easily. These folks are all just average looking 60's era TV white people. But the Ekosians are somehow able to pick out a Zeon from fifty paces. The only one who looks any different is Spock and he's able to blend in just as many times as he's sussed out.
Yikes

Nerd nitpicking time. I know they were making an over the top point about why they have the non-interference directive. Even though John Gill had good intentions his actions had unintended consequences and ended up costing a whole lot of innocent lives. All that being said, this guy is supposed to be a historian. A historian who specializes in motivations and consequences in history. How the hell is this guy surprised that introducing Naziism to a bunch of people might lead to those people acting like, well, Nazis. Gill said that he decided to help structure the Ekosian state after the Nazis because of how efficient it was. Just because you're modeling a state after them doesn't mean you have to go balls to the wall in embracing the imagery. You could've come up with new symbols and uniforms. Maybe parachute pant and smiley faces instead of swastikas. Maybe that's why Nazis are always so evil. All those harsh angles of the swastika drive your citizenry mad. Yeah, it helped those of us at home draw the good/evil lines early in the episode, but it seems like some of the bathwater should've been thrown out while you were bringing that Nazi baby back.
Perhaps you caught Captain Kirk's recent op-ed in The NY Times

Better Trek?

I liked this episode. It gives some good depth to why the Federation is such a stickler for their practice of non-interference. What they call the non-interference directive eventually becomes the Prime Directive. The most important rule of Starfleet. Granted, captains still regularly shit all over it when they need to, but whatever. If you want to watch an episode about the Prime Directive then watch this one. It's good. If you want to watch an episode about a Trek crew going in back in time to give some Nazis the business then I'd go with the ENT two-parter Storm Front. I don't know if those modern-day Nazis used this episode to name their little club. But they do share a name. I think this is only the second time I've recommended an ENT episode. Because they're by and large, not very good. They were really starting to pick up steam in season 4 and this is the first and second episode of the season. After finally averting the Temporal Cold War the NX Enterprise is headed home for some much needed R&R, but instead, they end up back in time in an altered timeline where Nazi Germany controls much of The United States. A situation which is neither restful or relaxing.
Hirogen's Heroes

If you want to see a Trek crew fight fake Nazis then go with the VOY episode the Killing Game. In this one, the Hirogen take over Voyager and turn it into a giant holodeck hunting ground where they brainwash the Voyager crew into thinking they're living in Nazi-occupied France. I always thought the Hirogen were an underutilized villain. They were in a handful of episodes, but I thought they had what it took to be the go-to villain for Voyager to keep on encountering. Like the Borg for TNG or The Dominion for DS9. Just about any Hirogen episode is worth watching and this is the best of the bunch. I'm not usually a fan of holodeck episodes, because they boil down to "hey, we're on the holodeck, nothing could possibly go wrong!" Cut immediately to "oh no! Something's gone horribly wrong!" This one takes a fun villain and incorporates the holodeck into it in a unique way. It might be one of my favorite holodeck episodes ever. It's certainly the best one I can think of off the top of my head.

That's it for this week. If you do decide to buy gold from Swiss America, make sure to enter "AdamSokol.com" in the promo field. They are not a sponsor, but maybe if enough people do that they'll send me some silver. Or at least some bronze they have lying around. Who knows.