Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, August 5, 2013

Season 1, Episode 03 "The Corbomite Maneuver"

The Corbomite Manuever 
Production Number: 03 
Stardate: 1512.2 
Original Air Date: November 10, 1966 
Episode Air Number: 10 

I walked into this project with the best of intentions, and passed several politicians on the same path. It was really hot, you guys. My initial plan was to do my viewing, write-ups and posting-prep each Sunday, as I normally have zero to do on Sundays. I have also noticed that people who update their blogs regularly on certain days normally get the best responses. It is polite to one's readers to be prompt. However, I spent this weekend cat-sitting for 19 cats, where my most-uttered sentences were "Thank you for the gift of the dead mouse, Tora... I'll treasure it always...?" and "I was expecting a ginger female, but Peter Capaldi is neither..." I had also forgotten that my friends have no DVD player or computer with interwebs, so my DVDs and notebook sat untouched. It is now late on Sunday night, and I doubt that I will be done in time to post Monday morning, as I had intended. Sad trombone, and I will give it the ol' grad school try next week. (As I am cat-sitting for this clowder again next weekend, the roommate's laptop will be going with me.) 
This week, I'm adding the air number to my citations, so you can see where this episode fell in terms of how they were aired. The pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before", was intended to be the second pilot, but was aired as episode 3, after "The Man Trap" and "Charlie X". The disc set I'm watching has the production numbers listed, and I believe the out-of-order sequence is due to post-production time, though I'm not 100% certain on that. It's debated within the fandom which order is best for viewing, and while I originally viewed them in air date order, there are funny out-of-sync goof-ups. For instance, Yeoman Janice Rand features heavily in the story lines of both "The Man Trap" and "Charlie X", but she does not appear in the next aired episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". In fact, another yeoman, Smith, is in her place. Rand was not added until later. For the sake of avoiding these discrepancies, I've decided to go in production number. 

Anyway... "The Corbomite Manuever". 

The episode starts out with an exterior establishing shot of the Enterprise, and they sweep forward to the top of the ship so that you get the feeling that they're directing you to the bridge. Some of these shots are cleverly done so that it's not obvious that they're using models... this one is rather obvious, though. Despite the cheesy look of some of these effects, I have to admit that they're pretty damn good. This show was fairly cutting-edge for it's day as far as effects went. These days it would be a snap to do some of these shots and effects, but I have to give credit to the people who worked behind the scenes on this show. 

We go onto the bridge, where our boy Sulu sits at the helm. Spock is conducting surveys of the area, and one of the opening shots moves away from him at the console to sweep backward and up, away from him to hover over the entire bridge. Fancy. I've never seen another shot like that in this show. I'm going to guess that it was expensive, and probably had to have several takes, as it was one long shot. 

Spock conveys that they are out farther than any human has ever been, and Sulu informs him of an object coming toward them. They attempt to move away from it, but it follows them. Lieutenant Uhura, replacing the male communications officer from the pilot, reports that she is getting no signal from the object. (Interestingly, she is wearing gold rather than red. I'm finding that it was taking a bit to get everybody's uniform and rank sorted in the first season.) 

When they pull up an image on the screen, it turns out to be a rotating cube in glowing primary colors. That was a close one, you guys. Out of all of the irrational fears in the universe, mine is the tesseract, or four-dimensional cube. The best way to find out what a tesseract looks like is to watch animation of one moving. It moves unnaturally, like the stuff of nightmares. I thought the Enterprise had encountered one of those, but no: it's just a harmless cube. 
Again, they try to get around it, but it is firmly in place in front of them. Bailey at the helm next to Sulu flips out a bit, and Spock chastises him for raising his voice, then announces that the ship is on alert and pages the captain to the bridge. How terribly elitist of the Enterprise, going to alert over a cube. Bet they wouldn't go to alert over a circle. Probably for the best that they didn't encounter an offensive line - oh, the horror! 

The intro comes on, and Kirk's spoken part is included this time, with that now-iconic phrase "to boldly go where no man has gone before" added in. I must confess that it is still odd to hear it said that way, rather than in Patrick Stewart's accent. (When I recite along, I unintentionally say "civil - EYE-zations" like Picard.) 

Captain's Log, stardate 1512.2: The captain explains that Spock has put them on alert and why, but that he (Kirk) is in sick bay doing his annual physical for McCoy. He notices the alert then and talks to Spock through Skype. Cuz, you know, they Skype on the Enterprise. Kirk demands to know if McCoy noticed that they were at alert, and the good doctor replies that he wanted Kirk to finish his damn physical for once. That was a bitch move, Bones. But like many of Bones' bitch moves, I approve. I enjoy a good curmudgeon. 

All decks are on alert, but Kirk is strutting around sweaty and shirtless. How professional. After checking in with Spock, he finds that they're in no danger, so he goes back to his quarters to change. Why did we need that scene? I feel like there are a lot of moments in this show when I am forced to see one or both of Bill Shatner's nipples, and I really don't need to see that. I guess they were going for sex appeal, but... meh. 

On the bridge, Bailey protests to Spock that he only raised his voice because he's a human, and his adrenaline gland kicked in. The Vulcan replies that it sounds inconvenient, and suggests that Bailey have it removed. Sulu snickers. I'm with Spock. That sounds like a good deal to me. Kirk has everybody report in, but nobody has any info from their readings, so they have a meeting. 

1515.8: At the meeting they agree that they got nuthin' and Bailey suggests that they fire at it. Kirk verbally slaps him, and tells him to plot a course away from it. Much of the beginning of this episode surrounds the fact that they're all standing around muttering "WTF?" 

They try to pull away, and the cube follows them. Roommate suggests that the cube just wants a hug. I wonder if it has literature about it's god, Circle. They go to warp speed, as the cube is giving off radiation. The cube continues to stalk them. Bailey is kind of freaking out a bit. You know because we've never seen Bailey before and the episode features him so much that something is going down with him later on. Kirk gives the command to fire phasers at the cube, and Bailey does so. 

There's a shot then of the ship being rocked, and people in the corridors flying to one end of the hallway. These scenes crack me up. Where the hell were these people going, and why did they need to get there so badly that they were willing to wander around while at warp and on alert? 

Captain's Log, 1514.0: Cube is destroyed, and the ship is damaged. Kirk and Spock chat about what might have sent it, and Spock suggests a superior life form. Yeah, probably. I've found with most of these alien storylines that the answer is usually that the other life form is smarter. Humans are either sophisticated or Neanderthals out here in space. Kirk says they should seek out new alien life, as per their mission. Spock asks why Kirk bothers to ask him questions if all Kirk is going to do is follow his own plan. Kirk replies that it gives him "emotional security". And all of the Kirk/Spock shippers giggle. 
While they plot a course to find whatever sent the cube, Kirk orders the helm to run exercises to sharpen their skills because they were slow on the uptake. Sounds like Kirk's version of lines. "Bad helmsman, bad! Fire better next time!" 

He and Bones get into the lift, and McCoy tells Kirk that he promoted Bailey too quickly because Bailey reminds Kirk of a younger version of himself. Bones thinks Bailey is stressed out. The drills being run on the ship are broadcast over the PA throughout this conversation. Bet listening to that gets old fast. In his cabin, Bones and Kirk share a Saurian brandy. Yeoman Rand comes in with a tray and sort of barks at Kirk that it's time to eat, like she's his Jewish mother or something. 

You guys should probably know that I really hate Yeoman Rand. At first it was just her ridiculous hair. It's a wig, and not a good one. It's a blonde cone of a beehive, and the worst part of it is that it's got a fucking basket weave on the front. Just in case you're not sure that you read that correctly, this woman supposedly gets up each morning, sections her hair off like the top crust of a woven pie and does that to her hair. Is it the most obnoxious thing that I've ever seen done to hair? Of course not. Years ago, the Disney Channel ran a series from Australia called "Ocean Girl". The setting was sort of futuristic, and that had the most obnoxious hair that I've ever seen. The hair in the Panem Capital has some crazy couture flair to it, but somehow, I find even that to be more tolerable than Rand's coiffure. This is done like this every day, as though basket-weaving one's hair is as simple as pulling it back into a ponytail. Here, they have it pulled back at the base of her skull into a low pony, which is slightly less awful than when the bottom half is splayed around her shoulders. It looks more natural here, if that's possible. Also, I hate her because she's a bitch.

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, Jewish mother. Kirk whines like a baby because the doctor has changed his diet to include more salad, and Rand's rather bitchy about it before being dismissed. Then Kirk kvetches about getting stuck with a female yeoman, and states that his old lady is the Enterprise, and he doesn't need more hos to worry about. Bones gives him this look that DeForest Kelley absolutely perfected during this role. 

Suddenly, the voice on the PA declares that they're not running drills anymore, that now they're in deep shit. There's another object, this one huge and spherical. Ha, totally called that shit. It's the Lord God Sphere, but it is not bringing the Good News. And it grabs them in a tractor beam. Imagine the ugliest Christmas ornament you can, something that your grandmother has had since the early 1960's. Now cross-breed it with the ball that they drop on New Years in Times Square. It's big and ugly and pulsing. 

Uhura opens the hailing frequency and Kirk is polite in giving an ID and asking for response. The reply comes back over Bailey's equipment, and he broadcasts it to the bridge. A deep voice tells them that it is Balok from the First Federation ship Fesarius, and that the Enterprise destroyed a buoy left out in space to warn them of their borders. He then gives them 10 Earth minutes to make peace with their maker before he kills them. I can say this for the unknown Balok: he's courteous. Most aliens would just blow them sky-high. Dude is giving them time to prepare, even as he's planning to kill them. Spock decides to see if he can locate the where the voice is coming from, to get an image of their adversary. Kirk makes a speech about a fear of the unknown and attempting to understand others in the hopes that they will understand us, and it's rather mature coming from a guy who usually barrels into these kinds of situations without thinking twice, and who is sure quick to fire a phaser. He then tries to tell Balok that they're peaceful and intend to leave, but he's interrupted by a high-pitched noise, and Bailey stumbles through his orders. 
When Spock is able to pull up an image of the alien, they all kind of pause. It's a puppet, you guys. It's an okay puppet, with moving eyes and mouth, but... was the budget really so small that they couldn't afford some stage make-up on an actor? The image is wavy, like the same effect they use when a ship is cloaking.

 Bailey flips his shit and yells at the bridge crew. 

Kirk relieves Bailey of duty, and Bones snaps at Kirk that he warned the captain that Bailey was going postal, and that he intends to put that in his medical log, which means that Kirk has to respond in his own log. 

"Told you so, Jim." 
"STFU, Bones." 

Kirk decides to fuck with Balok, and he tells the alien that his ship is stuffed with corbomite, which is explosive, and which will blow them both to the Horsehead Nebula if Balok tries to destroy them. They chew their fingernails for the last few minutes, and Bailey comes back, calm and quiet and asking to return to duty. They go ahead and let him despite the fact that he was a raving lunatic a moment before. Long minutes pass, and then Balok asks to see the corbomite device. Kirk tells Balok to blow him.

Because when you're about to die, what you'd really like is some coffee.

 For some reason that I can't explain, Rand brings coffee onto the bridge, and tells Spock that even though the power in the galley is out, she used a hand phaser to warm it. Why the hell was that there? Was the program too short by 10 seconds? Why should I care that Rand made coffee? Was I missing something?  
I wanted to know exactly what the rank of yeoman was, so I looked it up on Wikipedia, which is not always right, but will sometimes give you a good idea overall. "In the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, a yeoman is a rating usually with secretarial, clerical, payroll or other administrative duties." Ah, gotcha. Based on her duties in this episode, Yeoman Rand is the Snack Bitch. Later, when the ship's soccer team is done with practice, she'll bring them Capri Suns and fruit snacks. 

A little cluster of lights breaks off from the giant ugly sphere, and Balok tells them that his tiny ship is going to tow them to a nearby planet where he'll inter them. I'm sorry, what? He's gonna bury them? Shit, that's cold. No wait, I misheard him. He's gonna intern them. I'm guessing he's talking about prison, and not making them walk his dog and pick up his dry cleaning, and fetch his half-caf mocha soy Starbucks latte. Actually, they've got Snack Bitch Rand - she'd be good at that. 

(On a side note, I really like these shots that they get from the nacelles. I don't know if it's the lighting or the angle, but they're more realistic-looking and believable somehow.)

 They try to pull out of the tractor beam, and there are more hilarious shots of people falling over in the corridors. The injuries sustained on this ship just walking down the hall must keep Kirk up to his elbows in Worker's Comp claims. "Was walking down the hall while captain was doing something reckless on the bridge. Broke leg in three places." 

The Enterprise's engines are shot from breaking free of the tractor beam, but Balok's engines fail as well. Uhura picks up his distress call to the Fesarius, and Kirk decides to help, taking Bones for casualties and Bailey, because Kirk feels he owes the helmsman a "look at the unknown". When Spock objects to not being able to go, Kirk gives him a little "Sit. Stay. Good Vulcan." 

Upon beaming over, Kirk, McCoy and Bailey get a good look at Balok. 
"It's a... dummy," says the captain. 
James T Obvious, ladies and gentleman. Yup, it's actually a puppet, with real acknowledgement and everything. A voice says "Welcome, I'm Balok," and they turn toward a room nearby. 


Naw, I'm just fuckin' with you guys. Wouldn't that be terrifying, though? Travel into space to see new life-forms and encounter Michelle Tanner? I'd run screaming. Then alert the Borg.

She's plotting to eat your heart. With fava beans and Chianti.

So Balok is a kid in a bald cap and he's lip-synching to a high-pitched adult male voice. And I have to say, he's doing a damn good job with the lip-synching. (He's played by 7-year-old Clint Howard, and it's kind of funny that his voice was dubbed over here as, sprinkled in among the bit acting parts that this guy has done, are voice acting parts for cartoons.) This kid is sitting on a kid-sized chair in front of drapes that look like they came straight from the 1980's, and I think he's got a traffic light next to him. 

"Does this guy look Australian to you?"

He offers them drinks, which they accept hesitantly. I don't blame them. This dude has been screwing with them all day, and now he's offering them a drink? I'd check that shit for iocane first. But they drink it, and he apologizes for testing them out with his little tricks. They seem to be taking it well, considering that he told them that they were going to meet their maker. 
He admits to having no crew and being kind of lonely, and wanting to more about them. Kirk offers to leave Bailey with him, so they can exchange cultural information. Now we know how we ended up with Bailey: he's to be used as a human ambassador. He's willing and they pleasantly tour the ship. The end. A stand-off ends with lol/jk. And their engines are shot to hell. Who benefits? Kirk, Bailey and Balok. Who's fucked? Scotty and engineering. 
"Captain's Log, supplemental. A little dude screwed with us all day and ruined our engines, so I gave him my helmsman." 

"Haha, you did WHAT?"

So our Vulcan kitties (Kirk, Spock and Uhura) are going into the veterinary optometrist this week to have their eyes checked. Spock will most definitely need surgery to fix his entropian (eyelids grew in inside-out, with eyelashes crushed against eyeballs) and agenesis (failure of a body part to grow during development, in this case, last quarter of the eyelids), which gives him his Vulcan look. Uhura, whose eye problems just make her look exotic, will probably need surgery as well, but we're hoping that Kirk's biggest issue is that he's cross-eyed, which gives him terrible depth perception and leads to him being the most ungraceful cat ever. 





This week's tea is Dammit, an Irish Breakfast blend based on Dr McCoy. I got it from Adagio.com, which makes custom-blended tea with fandom themes. Being a huge fan of... well, fandoms and fan-based work, I was so psyched to find that there were fandom teas out there. And this tea was delectable. We tried it hot, iced, and in tea daiquiris, and it was fantastic in all forms. Along with the Irish Breakfast, it features cinnamon and peach rooibos, with orange peels. It was beautiful start to finish. 



  1. So... a little kid messes with people encroaching on his space by using fake voices and props to simulate the appearance of life. Between that and the object looking like a Christmas ornament, I can't help but say that this works as a prototype "Home Alone".

    1. Great. Now I can't help but see Kirk and Spock in the robber roles. :P