Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, February 24, 2014

Season 2, Episode 30 "Catspaw"

"Catspaw"
Production Number: 30
Air Order: 36
Stardate: 3018.2
Original Air Date: October 27, 1967

So, you remember how the last episode of season one ("Operation -- Annihilate!") was actually pretty good, and there was not that much to mock, and so the review was not terribly funny, and I almost outright apologized for the fact that it was a well-done episode?
Yeah, fuck that.
This week's episode sucks.
While I can't tell you that whatever drug the writers were taking while writing this were either good or bad, I can assure you that they were effective.


It might be worse than "Shore Leave". I'll keep you posted.

*******



We open on a frustrated Kirk, who is trying to locate his missing landing party. Uhura finally hears back from a crewman Jackson, who says he is ready to beam up. Kirk is pissed off because neither Sulu nor Scotty has checked in, but he and Bones go to the transporter room to meet Jackson.
Jackson falls face-first off the transporter pad. He's dead, Jim. Alright, startin' a new season with a crew death! Let's get this party started!
A voice booms out of Jackson's open mouth, addressing Kirk and telling him that his ship is cursed so they better GTFO. You can see Jackson breathing as they zoom in on him. Heh.



This season we get a slightly altered opening sequence with a faster flight shot of the E, and music that is more... Tropicana-y? I dunno how to describe it except by saying that it sounds like it was played by Ricky Ricardo's band. At any rate, I think they switched it up so they could add DeForest Kelley to the credits.

Movin' on up, De


Kirk's Log 3018.2: "Jackson is dead without a reason, and Sulu and Scotty are missing. I'm going down to the surface to get lost myself, and I'm leaving assistant engineer DeSalle in charge, even though we haven't seen him in forever, and even though I'm pretty sure Lt Uhura ranks next in line. In truth, I'm really not certain how the chain of command works on my ship."
So the OT3 beams down, and it's discovered that there's a discrepancy between what is there, and what is being picked up by the scanners. A wailing rises up from nearby, and the landing party find themselves being addressed by three floating heads of old women, who warn them in rhyming couplet that they should leave. It prompts my favorite line of the episode:
Kirk: Spock? Comment.
Spock: Very bad poetry, Captain.



"Those weren't real," says Spock. "But I'm getting life-form readings in that direction."
They move off in "that direction" but are blown off course by a gust of wind, and we get a good look at Kirk's sex hair.



A castle appears. Dramatic music! They stand around outside debating why their scanners didn't pick it up and why the tricorder is registering two life-forms, but the ship doesn't register any, blah, blah, blah. Kirk tries to contact the E, but no luck. 
So... ghost heads, a mysterious castle, some thick-ass fog, and lost communication. Dammit, did I accidentally switch over to Scooby Doo?



They finally go inside and are hissed at by a bad-ass black cat wearing a glass pendant. Kirk says that if he didn't know any better, he'd say that someone was "playing a trick-or-treat" on them, which is a weird way to phrase that. Spock asks what "trick-or-treat" means, and Kirk, sizing him up, replies that Spock would be a natural at it. Was that racist? It feels racist.



Upstairs, Chekov reports that the OT3 is no longer registering on the ship's equipment. DeSalle, who recognizes that he hasn't been seen in 20 episodes, and that how he plays his temporary captaincy role could earn him more screen-time, is a dick to Chekov. He condescendingly asks the newcomer if he needs help calibrating his equipment, to which Chekov indignantly replies, "No, sir. I'm not that green." You tell 'em, Chekov. You may not have any stripes on your cuffs, but you're awesome. You and that uber-Beatles haircut.

Nope, not a tribble. Dude was growing his hair out so they stuck a wig on him.


Downstairs, our boys follow the kitty in the necklace down a corridor filled with dust and cobwebs before falling through a trapdoor and getting knocked out. Oh, no! How will Scooby and Shaggy ever find them now?



When they come to, they are manacled to the wall in a dungeon. Kirk asks if his boyfriends are okay, and there's s sight gag where the camera angle shows McCoy looking at a skeleton. Kirk's line is "Bones? Doc?" Heh.



They start another convo about how this stuff might have gotten on an uninhabited planet, when the door opens. It's Scotty and Sulu! Hooray! No, wait! Dramatic music! Scotty has his phaser aimed at them!



They give no reply when spoken to, beyond Sulu nodding when Kirk asks if Sulu knows who he is. Bones thinks they've been drugged. Sulu unlocks the manacles,and everyone turns to leave. The OT3 attempts to jump Sulu and Scotty, but suddenly the scenery changes, and a guy yells "stop!"
They're all in a throne room with a bald guy in shiny robes.



The bald guy is Korob, and he assures the OT3 that their shipmates are simply under his control. He talks to the black cat, and Spock makes a remark about wizards and familiars. Korob says that Spock seems different, that he doesn't buy the illusion.
"He doesn't know about trick-or-treat," smirks Bones.
"I don't understand that reference, so it is not important," shrugs Korob.
That's... a rather unintelligent notion. People have probably died from such assumptions.
He waves what is either a wand with a crystal on the end, or a very short pimp cane, and a banquet appears on a table. When they are unimpressed, he tries to bribe them with jewels. Again, they tell him to fuck himself.
"You passed our tests," he says, which sounds like BS that he made up on the spot to cover the fact that he can't get a handle on them. He tells them that they are loyal and brave for coming to the scary castle for their friends, and that they have integrity for not accepting bribes.
The cat leaves, and a woman comes in. Ugly outfit, ugly wig, wearing the same necklace as the cat. Korob introduces her as Sylvia. Blech, just go back to the cat form.

Pretty sure that's the lace bodystocking worn by "Ruth" in Shore Leave.
It's not cute here, either.

She and Korob admit that they are not natives to this planet, and that they are controlling Sulu and Scotty with what Sylvia calls "sympathetic magic". She says she made an image of Jackson, and when she thought of him as dead, he was. Sylvia gives Kirk his comm and pulls out what is clearly an Enterprise Christmas ornament on a chain.

And every Trek fan screams "OMG, WANT!!!!!"

He calls the bridge while she holds the ornament over a lit candle. DeSalle reports that they are being cooked alive. Once Kirk gets Sylvia to move the ornament, his comm stops working. Korob asks about human technology. Kirk counters by asking about their technology or magic or whatever. Sylvia verbally bitch-slaps Korob about how much they should tell the humans, and his response is to make a face into the camera. It's freaking weird. He's not breaking the fourth wall per se, but it's almost as if, post-shoot, they decided they wanted shots of his response, but none of the other actors was on-set anymore. It's also hella Scooby Doo.

He's now in the position of facing the throne instead of standing next
to the table.

Korob prevents the E from sending down a search party by encasing the ornament in crystal. Up top, Chekov reports to Acting Asshole DeSalle that they have been surrounded by a forcefield.

Sylvia, who comes off as more of a tired soccer mom than a scary witch, orders the boys back to the dungeon before deciding to keep Bones behind.



In the dungeon, Kirk and Spock have a long-winded conversation wherein they guess that Sylvia and Korob attempted to create an environment from the consciousness of the humans, but didn't do a good job, as they conjured fog, castles, dungeons, black cats, and sorcerers, thinking that this was a normal human situation. Were all of the humans thinking about Halloween and B-movies at the exact same time as their minds were being probed? I must apologize here. If I had better Photoshop skills, I would have 'shopped a jowly Great Dane into every one of these screen-captures.
Bones comes in with Scotty and Sulu, and because we've forgotten about the plot from "Return of the Archons", we're all shocked to see that Bones has become One of Them. They take Kirk away.

Poor Sulu. His whole part in this episode consists of silently unlocking
manacles. And least Georgie and Jimmy were paid for this crap.

Sylvia and Korob are bickering like an old married couple. Or like Spock and Bones. Whatever. Same thing. Apparently, in their real forms, they don't feel physical sensations, and Sylvia has become kind of a glutton about it. Korob tells her that she's forgotten why they are there, and about their instructions from the Old Ones. Spoiler alert: we will never find out why they are here, and we will never hear more about the Old Ones. Sylvia calls Korob a fool, and says that he's a puppet. Spoiler alert: yes. Yes, he is.
Again, his responses are recorded looking straight into the camera. And it's pretty much the same shot as before. WTH?
When Kirk arrives, Sylvia boots everyone else, though Korob watches her and Kirk through patterned holes in the wall like a guy in a Rococo painting. Sylvia wants to ride Kirk's D-Train. She thinks he's a real E-ticket. Shut up, that was kind of funny. Kirk gropes her and tells her that she's sexy (no). Then she "changes form", even though it's just her in different outfits. There's this:

What?

and this:

Oh my fuck, no.

and he tells her that each of those forms gets him hot. They make out while Kirk asks about their tech. She admits that a transmuter gives them form. Suddenly, she realizes that he's been pumping her for info, and she screams at him. He points out that she was doing the same. Sylvia has him hauled away. Silly Sylvia. Did you really think that Kirk was going to pick you over the Lady E? 

Upstairs, the bridge crew has been slowly melting a dent in the forcefield, and DeSalle is actually polite to Chekov.



Korob returns to the dungeon to free Kirk and Spock, giving them their stuff back and telling them to leave. He's taken the forcefield down, and he says that the stress of being in human form has taken it's toll on Sylvia, who is losing her mind. They make their way through the castle, and shots of the cat in a model of the corridors are supposed to read as Giant Pissed-Off Sylvia Cat. Kirk, Spock, and Korob end up in the room beneath the hole in the floor, and Korob closes the door. Kirk and Spock try to climb up through the hole, and Sylvia Cat knocks the door in on top of Korob. Then we get this:

This shit is terrible. Points for trying, I guess?

Kirk takes the transmuter and he and Spock climb up through the hole. There's a fight scene between them and the Mind Control Gang which may have been added because they still needed to fulfill their weekly fight quota. When everyone is subdued, Kirk tells a giant cat shadow that he has the transmuter. Sylvia the woman appears and tries to seduce him. When he doesn't go for it, she grabs her necklace, and they are transported to the throne room. She makes another bid to get him on her side. Sylvia really wants to go where many a girl has gone before. He tells her to go fuck herself (which actually would have solved a lot of her problems), then smashes the crystal on the end of the Pimp Cane wand.



The scene melts and Kirk finds himself outside on a rocky outcropping. The others come running and they all stare at the ground. Kirk had pulled the masks off of Sylvia and Korob and discovered this:


"I've got no strings -"
Wait...

They created everything with a transmuter, coming to this planet to do Zod knows what, and they would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those meddling Starfleet officers. And then the tiny puppets die.
So this was it, kids. This is what happens when Star Trek makes a Halloween episode. I hope that sometime mid-December, we get one where Kirk teaches Khan the true meaning of Christmas.

They didn't even leave me anything to think about later, the assholes.

*

Gonna go ahead and give points to this episode for again attempting to create aliens that were not humanoid. They weren't especially well-done (they seemed to be going for Ray Harryhausen but fell short) but it was something. Also, the title: "Catspaw" makes a nod to the cat in the episode, but the term mostly refers to a person who is used as a tool (Sylvia and Korob use Sulu, Scotty, and Bones as tools; Sylvia attempts to use Kirk, he attempts to use her). It can also refer to the Cat's Paw Nebula, which is part of the Scorpius constellation.


Attempted cleverness: they switch back and forth between long-haired cats and short-haired cats. The fandom cried "inconsistency!", but the producers insist that they were trying to show Sylvia's shape-shifting capabilities. Points for that, but it was way too subtle to read that way. This may be the only thing I've encountered where crappiness was not made up for by the inclusion of a black cat (the coolest kind of cat there is).

Bonus trivia: I learned through IMDB that Jimmy Doohan lost one of his middle fingers during WWII. It's usually not visible because of clever blocking and camera angles, but in this episode, there are places where it is more obvious.

I'm staring this new thing: death counters. I got the idea from the King of Counters, Andrew from Frasier Denied . I had been thinking of adding in death counters for a while, but it reached a critical point last week when I realized that I wanted a tally for Red deaths in season one and had no way of getting it besides slogging through seven months' worth of back-posts.
Without further ado:

Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 0
Gold deaths this episode: 1
Gold deaths this season: 1
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 0
Total crew deaths this episode: 1
Total crew deaths this season: 1
Total crew deaths thus far: 17

I'm suddenly glad that I don't write a Game of Thrones review blog.

*******

I fell off my "no soda" wagon a bit this week and paid for it by being awake too late for far too many nights. It was mostly for that reason that I grabbed a box of Sleepytime Peach by Celestial Seasonings. It's caffeine -free, and boasts chamomille, spearmint, lemongrass and "more". I'm not sure what the "more" bit is, but I kind of taste banana. Sounds kind of weird, but it's not. Maybe it's just my imagination. It's good, though. Fruity. And sweet. I feel like it's naturally sweet enough that I could back off my regular dosage of Probably Too Much.


http://www.celestialseasonings.com/products/sleepytime-teas/sleepytime-peach

So far, I don't think I feel sleepy, but I do feel relaxed. Good job, tea.





Monday, February 17, 2014

Season 1 Overview

This show isn't awful. In fact, there are times when it's great. But there are a hell of a lot of times when it's just okay or downright lousy, and those parts are the most fun to mock. I can see where the show is appealing - if you like action, you have the Adventures of Ripped-Shirt Kirk. If you like philosophical ideas that spark discussions between yourself and the Trek fandom, you're in luck there, too. If you like cheap sets and cheesy costumes, hooray! This your show!



I was hesitant to watch TOS initially. It was in syndication, and it would play sometimes in reruns, and I'd watch a few minutes, hoping that it would grow on me. But it didn't until this past summer, when I was facing months of unemployment, fresh art degree in hand, and I needed something to do. I had also been reading Full House Reviewed for years, and it seemed like a creative, straight-forward project that I could duplicate. It forced me to stretch my over-worked creativity muscles, and provided on-going deadlines to keep me on track. What's more, many other readers of that now-famous blog had set up their own reviews of tv shows, and it seemed like a do-able project (unlike Drawing A Day, which I keep starting and stopping). Eventually, I realized that I liked this show best when I could mock it a bit. Examination in that way meant that I could mull over the philosophical elements, but still laugh at Kirk for being a dipshit.

Characters


It took me a while to realize to figure out why I don't hate Kirk. Really, I should. Dude drives me nuts. He leaps without looking, he walks all over protocol meant to keep everyone safe, and I'm fairly certain that he likes to jack it in the engine room while talking to the computer. (Mmmm, Kikerprise. Sex-ay.) I finally determined that he's a lovable doofus. Not like a goofy sidekick "lovable doofus", but the kind of friend who posts drunk photos of himself on Facebook when he's supposed to be working. Despite the fact that he constantly breaks rules and receives pats on the back for it, I feel like he's got a good heart, and that he's a good and loyal friend.
Kirk is connected to two other fictional captains: Horatio Hornblower (from the book series and subsequent films), and Zapp Brannigan from the show Futurama. James T Kirk is based on the Napoleonic sailor Hornblower. In wanting to be as Hermione as possible about this project, I actually read part of the first Hornblower novel. Within the first 25 pages, the 17-year-old Hornblower has been assigned to a ship where he doesn't have any friends and doesn't enjoy his job. He is suicidal in a casual, Holden Caulfield kind of way, and when he is accused of cheating at cards by an older, drunk sailor, he demands a duel to restore his name. He figures he will be pleased with either outcome, as the man he has challenged is a dick, and if that man dies, then Hornblower won't have to deal with him. If Hornblower dies, that's okay too, as the dickish CO will have done the job for him, and he won't have to kill himself. The twist is that their captain has ordered the quartermaster to not load either gun, so everybody just goes back to work. Okay, I see it. Kirk is the Horatio Hornblower of the stars.


Kirk actually inspired the character of Zapp Brannigan, who wears no pants, orders around a hapless underling, and screws everything that moves. Zapp thinks he's a suave motherfucker, and though he's a caricature, and we haven't seen too much of Kirk's bedroom eyes this season, we still have two more seasons to go (plus possibly that animated series and a crapton of terrible films).

Let's go with "sometimes"...

Spock. Spock is the fucking shit. I am also a logically-based creature, and nine times out of ten, his suggestions to Kirk are the ones that I would go with because they typically make more fucking sense than whatever crap Kirk comes up with to fix a bad situation. He seems to actually enjoy the company of his friends, and I don't think he could ever be driven to be disloyal to them. The only times I have a problem with Spock is when some alien with a more-advanced culture tells the humans that they are inferior creatures, and Spock agrees sanctimoniously. Then I'd like to bitch-slap him through the screen. I mean, come on. If humans are so inferior, then why does he spend so much time in their company? Does he consider himself to be the only scientist on a ship full of white mice? Get over yourself, dude.


I love Bones McCoy. I do, in fact, love the aging curmudgeon (Lemon-Matthau FTW, y'all). Bones is a good doctor, with a bit of an ego, but he's funny as hell. A little unprofessional at times (why does he keep Saurian brandy in his office?), he often trades racist remarks with Spock. I know, it's a bro thing. They're busting each other's chops. Still, I get a bit irritated when Kirk is off doing some dumbshit thing and gets lost or captured or something, and something else on the ship takes precedence, and he yells at whoever is in charge, because they're not saving Kirk. I'm waiting for the moment when one of those people turns to him and yells "OMFG, McCoy! I have other shit to do, and dumbass got himself into this mess! I know you're in love with him, but sit your ass down!"


Uhura the Ship Goddess. She's competent, does her job, and only flirts on her downtime. Plus, she's talented and she always looks good. I hope to see more of her in seasons two and three. She only got to go on one away mission, and you don't get to see her do much there. More than that, Nichelle Nichols helped pave the way for People of Color on television. And through her, we learned that MLK was a Trekkie! Yes!


Dude, who doesn't love Sulu? He and Uhura are the most competent bridge officers, plus bonus points: he's played by George Fucking Takei. He doesn't get very many lines or scenes, but when he does, he makes that shit memorable.

Next season we get Chekov, and I'm hoping that means more screen time for my boy Sulu, because who doesn't need more Sulu in their lives?


I almost forgot to add in Scotty, because frankly, he got very little screen time. Most of his scenes consist of assuring Kirk that he can get a job done, but that it'll take far longer to complete then they have time. A lot of his appearances ended up being in conjunction with the drama-creating "Disable the Ship" convention.



Rand. Motherfucking Yeoman Janice Rand. I hate her so much... so fucking, fucking much. It started with the hair. She came onscreen with that hair, and I think I said out loud, "What the hell is that?" It's a half-up, half-down beehive with a basket weave on the front. That hair is inconceivable. It defies gravity, and it makes you wonder, when the hell does she get up in the morning? If her shift starts at nine, does she start weaving at 3 am? It feels like Starfleet would put the kibosh on that because it's so ridiculously unrealistic to do that to one's hair every day. The problem was, it didn't stop with the hair. She was bitchy, too. And whiny. And she shipped herself with Kirk, who couldn't decide if he actually liked her or not. I kept hoping that the scene would come along where she would move awkwardly, and tracker jackers would swarm from her hair and sting her to death. At least she's gone after this season. From what I've encountered online, I'll be seeing her again in TOS films, though thankfully not with that hair. Because the wig was stolen from the set.





And now it's time for some awards:

Worst Dressed: Lenore Karidian from "Conscience of the King"
Girlfriend changed like 6 times over the course of a 50-minute show. Only one dress didn't suck. The others were awful, but nothing tops this fur muff dress with kid gloves, sparkly tights, and Lucite stripper heels. This is fugly. Don't dress like this unless you want random strangers on the internet to mock you.

This is Rand's WTF Face. If  Rand thinks you look ridiculous, you do.
Runners Up: Ruth (Kirk's old love interest) and those Playboy Bunny things, both from "Shore Leave".
Bottom Line: Most of the costumes for this show consist of a weird conglomeration of sixties psychedelia and "futuristic". Definitely not to be considered timeless by any stretch of the imagination, the men were mostly clothed in jumpsuits, and the women were frequently wearing something that showed sideboob, or were oddly shapeless. Plus, with few exceptions, the women all had the same hairstyle:


Funniest Villain: Trelane from "The Squire of Gothos"
An over-enthusiastic collector turns out to be a kid playing with his "toys". Awesome.


Lamest Villain: Dr Adams from "Dagger of the Mind"
Dude was erasing the minds of prisoners for no reason. What the hell was this guy's motivation? Was he trying to impress his super-creepy assistant? Points for dying by his own contraption, though.


Most WTF Episode: "This Side of Paradise"
Spock gets high and bangs a blonde. No. Just no. I guess maybe they wanted to show how drugs can change your personality, but he instantly became this... anti-Spock. I'd like to slap the writer of this episode.



Alien That Looks Most Like a Live-Action Ninja Turtle: The Gorn from Arena
He just does.


Best Use of Budget: The Menagerie, parts 1 and 2
You don't need me to write another paragraph on how I ship myself with this double-parter. We all know it was genius.





Episodes I'd Be Okay With Never Watching Again:


Shore Leave: *waits for episode to get interesting*
*still waiting*
*credits roll*
*sigh*


Space Seed: Khan was the creepiest creep who ever creeped, and I'm grossed out by the fact that they devoted an entire film to this abusive fuck. Not looking forward to seeing him again. Also, slightly weirded out that they picked Dumbledore Cabbagepatch to play him in the new film. I like Dumbledore Cabbagepatch. Khan makes my skin crawl.



The City on the Edge of Forever: All the feels. All of them.

First appearances of enemy races:

Though the Gorn doesn't appear in TOS outside of the episode "Arena", they continue to play a part in the Star Trek universe.

We got to see not only the Romulans, but also the inside of their ship in "Balance of Power".

Klingons, man. Klingons are fucking awesome. They played alien of the week in "Errand of Mercy".





He's dead, Jim: A Death Toll

Total number of Reds killed this season: 4 (Seriously?)

Total number of Blues killed this season: 4

Total number of Golds killed this season: 5


Total number of Mystery-Colors killed this season (no way to tell color): 3


Total number of Enterprise crewmen killed: 16

Total number of civilians killed: 16

(Technically, Gary Mitchell was Lackey Tan, but further research revealed that had they been going with the gold-blue-red combo of the later episodes, dude would have been dressed in Command Gold. We also lost two ships this season: the Antares from "Charlie X", and the Romulan war bird from "Balance of Terror". I didn't include those in the numbers, because I couldn't be sure of the head count. I also omitted civilian numbers where we didn't see those deaths, ie the deaths on the starbase in "Arena", and the "war casualties" in "A Taste of Armageddon". Basically, I only counted civilians when we see their deaths specifically.)

Bottom Line:

There were far fewer Red deaths than I assumed there would be, and far more civvie deaths than I anticipated. Also, Kirk did not attempt to seduce as many women as I'd heard. There were more awesome philosophical ideas discussed, and which were not always concluded by episode's end, making for nice post-episode discussions with other viewers. However, much to my glee, there was also plenty of crap, fake science and God-awful costumes for me to mock.
I may actually miss Rand a tiny bit.

...though probably not.

*******
My friend posted a link to his Facebook page that gave instructions for cereal tea. It sounded horrendous. I decided to try out for you, friends. In the name of science. So you won't have to. You're welcome.
Basically, you crush cereal bits and put them in a tea bag, then steep it in steamed milk. I thought about using a tea strainer, but there's no way in fucking hell that I'm clogging my brand-new TARDIS tea strainer with soggy cereal bits. 


Not gonna lie. This is not my idea of a tasty beverage. I'm not the sort to drink cereal milk. I selected Fruity Pebbles because Raisin Bran tea sounded vomit-inducing.


I think it's kind of fun/funny that part of the project was to use the cereal box to make a new tag. According to my tag, my tea is gluten-free and also contains 11 essential vitamins and minerals, though sadly, I am not certain how my tea is part of a balanced breakfast.


It tasted about how I expected, like warm cereal milk. Or a Fruity Pebble latte. But the taste was very faint, because you aren't supposed to use too much of the crushed cereal in the bag. I imagine that using Cocoa Pebbles or the like would give you something akin to a subtle hot chocolate.
If you get all nostalgic over cereal milk, go for it. The project is kind of a cute one. But I'm switching back to actual tea, thanks.