Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, November 17, 2014

Season Two Overview

So I finally got one of those "make money while blogging" offers in my email, and I laughed out loud. It started out with "we noticed your blog." No, you didn't. You noticed that I write a blog, and that I get more than five readers a month. Then they went on to ask if I would review a product on this blog. Now, if ThinkGeek asked me to review say, a phaser keychain with light-up action and sound effects, I would consider it. If a tea company offered me a sampler pack, I'd think about that as well. But it wasn't either of those things. It was for weight-loss supplements, something that has nothing to do with the subject of this blog. Really, how was I supposed to even work that in? "Taking these weight-loss supplements will help you to look like one of Kirk's Old Friends"? Bitch, please.
In case you were wondering, no, I'm not being compensated for any part of this blog. I buy all of the tea myself. And frankly, if I was being compensated in some way, I'd let you know. I'm really big on transparency. Also, I will never take on a review where someone compensated me to specifically praise that product or service, regardless of how I actually felt about it. When you tell people that you're reviewing something, you have a responsibility to give them your honest opinion. You may not agree with my opinion on things, but I assure you that I will never When Harry Met Sally you.


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Now, let's get down to business!

Admit it: that's exactly how you finished that sentence.


Roomie admitted when I started season 2 that it was her favorite season. Then she back-peddled and restated that season 2 contains some of her favorite episodes. I've found that to be pretty accurate: this season had some really fantastic episodes. it also some that were just okay, and some that were downright shit. As such, I've categorized them into awards: Command Gold Star awards for the really great episodes, Red Shirts for the terrible ones, and then there are a handful of awards for miscellaneous stuff.



Amok Time: Here, we get to travel to Vulcan to see Spock's wedding. Some shit goes awry, and we end up watching an extended fight scene between Kirk and Spock instead. It also just occurred to me that that that fight scene was a metaphor for Spock's inner battles between his human and Vulcan halves. Holy shit, that's a great episode! What really gets me in Amok Time is that we get to see some character development from Spock, and some background information as well. The weapons used on Vulcan are bad-ass, and their clothing does not suck. What's more, we learn about how Vulcans view themselves and others in the galaxy. It's layered and rich. I like that. From this episode also came the Vulcan hand salute (invented by Leonard Nimoy) and the iconic Pon Farr music, which gets played for especially animalistic fight scenes in Star Trek.



A Piece of the Action: This one wins out of sheer entertainment. I admit, when I heard this episode described as "the one with the gangster planet", I groaned. It sounded stupid. While I still maintain that this premise would have worked better as an alternate universe rather than a copy-cat alien planet, I was willing to overlook it because this episode was fun. It gets more points for pointing out that Kirk is a super-shitty driver, and... well... Leonard Nimoy in a pinstripe suit and fedora. Sploosh.



Assignment: Earth: We ended the season fairly strong with this episode, which was the pitch for another show about an unseen benign alien race trying to help Earth reach it's full potential through planted humans trained in espionage. I loved this episode. It was both funny and serious, as it used current events to point out to the human audience how ridiculous their squabbles could be. It didn't have a lot to do with Star Trek, but that was okay, as it was interesting enough on it's own.



Journey to Babel: Another great Spock-centric episode, Babel allowed us to explore the struggles within Spock's family and again lets us see the universe through the eyes of a Vulcan. We also get to see Vulcan through the eyes of a human, as we are introduced to Amanda, Spock's human mother. I love the backstory of Spock and Sarek's relationship, that of Spock and Amanda, and especially that of Sarek and his wife, which I ship hard. Bonus points to this episode for trying to create less-humanoid aliens, and for creating the Vulcan kiss, which is charming as hell.



Metamorphosis: Kirk, Spock, Bones, and a female guest get marooned on a planet where they find a famous warp engineer who should have died a long time ago. This guy has become permanently 35 or so, and is kept company by an entity who turns out to be female, and in love with him. The entity then takes the body of the dying female guest, and he in turn learns to love her. This episode rather subtly dealt with LGBTQ issues, though I'm sure they weren't thinking along those lines when they wrote it. No, what this episode turned out to be was sci-fi at it's best, where real-world issues are explored through futuristic means, and one can easily apply them back to real life. There are also some really lovely moments between Scotty, Sulu and Uhura in this episode, always a bonus in my book.




Return to Tomorrow: In another episode that I foolishly judged by it's cover, Kirk, Spock and Diana Muldaur volunteer their bodies so that non-corporeal entities can build android bodies for themselves. In truth, I thought I would be far more annoyed by Diana Muldaur because she pisses me off so much in NextGen. Turns out, she was fantastic here. Leonard Nimoy, playing Spock as the morally iffy Henoch, knows just how much to dial up the creepy so that you kind of want to trust and distrust him at the same time. You're kind of okay with him, but he also makes you squirm. Then there's the love story between Sargon (housed in Kirk) and Thalassa (housed in Muldaur's Dr Mulhall): I totally bought it. It was played beautifully, and shockingly, I had to give props to two actors whose characters I really don't like otherwise. 




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And now, for the Red Shirt Awards. These episodes just need to die. And I've selected how.



The Apple: A computer-run planet where the computer has died or gone haywire or some shit. The inhabitants have never heard of sex or kissing, so of course the Enterprise crew introduces them to that. All hell breaks loose, but then Kirk assures them it's fine because sex is fun. Four Red deaths, breaking of the Prime Directive, Kirk kills "God", and I was bored the whole time. Let's go with Death by Native Peoples for this episode.



Catspaw: This is one of those episodes where people read my review and and said "Awww, you didn't like that one? I love that episode!" Catspaw is, quite simply, the Star Trek Halloween episode. The OT3 gets stuck on a planet with a spooky castle, a witch that turns into a cat, and some kind of hapless warlock. Cheesy effects (though some I did appreciate) throughout. One or two good jokes and sight gags. Points for trying to create non-humanoid aliens, though it was only kind of effective. One talking dog and one stoner shy of a Scooby Doo episode. Go jump in a boiling cauldron of acid, Catspaw.




The Gamesters of Triskelion: Kirk, Chekov and Uhura are kidnapped by non-corporeal entities, and trained by aliens to fight to the death, so that the entities will have something to wager on to fill their time. Chekov and Uhura finally get more lines, and it has to be in this crappy episode. The costumes are terrible, and Kirk does his "seduce-a-woman-for-my-own-gains" thing. Only this time it's obvious that Kirk has fucked this girl up in unimaginable ways, and she'll be stuck in therapy for it for years. The worst part is, she kind of thanks him for it at the end of the episode. Gamesters of Triskelion, I sentence you to an arena match with Vulcans whose blood boils from Pon Farr. You get no weapons and must wear a loincloth and Barbarella boots.



The Omega Glory: This episode, written by Gene Rod, was one of three considered as the secondary pilot for Star Trek (the others were Mudd's Women and of course, Where No Man Has Gone Before). I'm glad they selected No Man for the pilot. Mudd's Women was pretty okay. This one should have been scrapped. It starts out promising, with yet another Starfleet commanding officer going rogue on some Prime Directive planet, this time because the guy thinks that the people are immortal, and he can bottle and sell it. Then it goes on this fucked-up tangent about how the two indigenous peoples on this planet are actually Yanks and Communists, and when the Commies won the war, the Yanks went primitive. This was another story that would have made more sense as an AU, but they made it a different planet instead. It's heavy-handed, racist, badly written, and the first and second halves have nothing to do with each other.  Watching this episode made me want to bash my own brains in with a brick. I had to force myself to watch all the way to the end. A phaser shot to the chest for you, Omega Glory. Set to kill.



Wolf in the Fold: There's been some kind of accident, and now Scotty hates women (NO), so Kirk and Bones take him to a pleasure planet. Some women are stabbed to death and everyone blames Scotty, but it turns out that Jack the Ripper is some sort of long-lived alien (NO) who has continued murdering woman throughout the centuries (NO) and across the galaxy (NO), and he's the one who committed the murders that Scotty was accused of (NO). What's more, the guy hired to play Intergalactic Jack the Ripper is also obviously the guy who has voiced Piglet in all of the Winnie the Pooh cartoons (NO). Death by Stabbing, Wolf in the Fold.


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Award for Interesting Premise

Who Mourns for Adonais?: This episode, though just "okay" in my opinion, had a really interesting idea behind it. The idea put forth was, what if the ancient gods and goddesses of Rome and Greece were not mythological, but actually real aliens with unusual powers from another planet, and when they made landfall on Earth, the primitive shepherds and merchants declared them to be supernatural? Now, I feel like this premise sounds ridiculous when typed out, but I believe that good writing can save a crappy premise, and bad writing can kill a good one. This episode had okay writing, but the idea was actually pretty great. It was certainly better executed than Wolf in the Fold, which wanted us the believe that Jack the Ripper was an alien. One of these ideas makes sense. The other one is stupid. Also, Adonais gets points for having good costumes.





Awesome Guest Stars of Season Two


T'Pring of Amok Time: Spock's arranged-marriage fiance, she feels trapped by the fact that he is famous, will be gone from Vulcan for long stretches of time, and frankly, she's just not that into him. She's fallen for a guy named Stonn instead, so instead of getting married, she hatches a plan where she'll get to be with Stonn no matter what the outcome. The thing is, she'll completely screw over Spock by making him kill his best friend. When her explanation finally comes out, Spock admits that her plan was logical. Then he gives T'Pring and Stonn the Vulcan version of the finger. T'Pring's way of thinking has actually spawned a phrase in our house: when something is morally terrible, but logical at the same time, it is labelled as being "T'Pring evil."

Also, T'Pring is a fox.


Eleen of Friday's Child: Brilliantly played by Julie Newmar of Catwoman fame, Eleen (Eh-leh-en) is the gift-wife of the tribal leader (Te-air) on a planet run by men. She's also stuck carrying the baby of a husband she doesn't really like. When her husband is killed in a coup, Eleen follows the OT3 up into the hills to escape her own death at the hands of the new Teer. She barks at Kirk and Spock, and gets into a slap-fight with Bones. She finally decides that she likes Bones, and allows him to assist in her giving birth. Waiting until he's asleep, she bashes him on the head with a rock and takes off, encountering the rest of the tribesmen, and a Klingon who has been mucking about on this planet, hoping to secure mining rights. In charge of her own destiny, Eleen declares that she will commit suicide in her own tent rather than be killed by the new Teer. She then pretty much spits in the face of the Klingon. Eleen is not your typical Star Trek damsel, and she takes no shit whatsoever. When the dust clears, her kid is named Teer, and Eleen is named regent. She then gives the Federation mining rights. Eleen: a feminist in a patriarchy. Fuck yeah.




Isis from Assignment: Earth: Gary Seven's shape-shifting cat companion, Isis assisted in his attempt to sabotage a missile for the benefit of mankind. In her cat form, she appeared on-screen in almost every scene. But she only got two shots in her human form, for a total of less than ten seconds. Mysterious and beautiful, who is Isis? Alas, we will never know. Her show was not picked up. *sigh*



Dr Richard Daystrom from The Ultimate Computer: Just in case you're thinking that this list is only comprised of bombshells, I've slipped the lone guy into the middle. Featured on an okay episode with a crappy title, Dr Daystrom is the genius behind the computer systems that run the Enterprise, and now, he has a new computer that thinks like a man. It sounds pretty simple, but the part of Daystrom is actually fairly complicated, as he's fighting against his own early fame and trying prove that he's still a heavy-hitter. Daystrom is a fairly important guy in Star Trek canon, being the namesake of the Daystrom Institute, later mentioned in Trek spin-offs. It was probably an extra slap in the face to the censors to make this important, well-respected man a big black dude. Good on ya, Star Trek.



Marlena Moreau from Mirror, Mirror: Being from the Mirror Universe, Marlena has some questionable morals, but she still managed to bring it in the end. The Captain's Woman, she is working her way through the ranks until she finds a comfortable spot. This is actually pretty admirable in a universe where one usually progresses through murder. It seems that at some point, she figured out that she could get what she wanted through seduction. However, she's clearly not adverse to that sort of thing, as she begins "eliminating" crew members that get in the way of non-Mirror Kirk and his quest to get back to his own universe. She asks him to take her with him, but he insists that she can do more good with Mirror Spock and Kirk than with him.



Amanda from Journey to Babel: As the wife of Sarek and the mother of Spock, it would have been a crime to make this woman boring. Awesomely, she is not. She constantly walks that fine line between being human and understanding Vulcans, but questions it all the same. Amanda manages to be both smart enough for her husband, but endearing enough to everyone else. I love this woman. She slaps Spock for being bull-headed and rages at Sarek for the same. And at the end of the day, you know she's crazy about both.





And now, some of my favorite screenshots from Season Two...



This was a beautiful shot from Metamorphosis, where the Companion, in her new human form, holds a scarf in front of Zefram Cochrane, in order to see him as she did when she was composed of a fine mist. It's a really lovely bridge between her previous form and her new form, and a nice way to talk about it without actually talking about it. It's subtle.



Sometimes you pause the episode at just the right moment, and even though you didn't intend to use that point as a screencapture, it's awesome enough to include. Here is Kirk choking in Gamesters of Triskelion. *snort*



This shot of Diana Muldaur's Dr Mulhall reacting to Kirk hitting on her was made it so easy for me to like her in TOS:




And now, my favorite screencapture of all time. I actually considered having this printed on a mouse pad. It's Spock getting a chest full of poisoned flower darts in The Apple.




So that's it for season two. I'm told that season three is not only super-shitty, but a Red blood-bath. Let's end with our death count, shall we?


Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 20
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 6
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 1
Total crew deaths this season: 27
Total crew deaths thus far: 44

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