Star Trek

Star Trek

Monday, January 26, 2015

Season 3, Episode 64 "The Tholian Web"


"The Tholian Web"
Production Order: 64
Air Order: 64
Stardate: 5693.2
Original Air Date: November 15, 1968

Roomie got a new job recently, one where (among other things) she opens a lot of letters.
"My coworkers all have cool letter-openers, so I need one too," she said, popping open her laptop.
Curious to see what sorts of letter-openers existed in the world, I did the same. The lightsaber and Sonic Screwdriver openers failed to catch her eye, and she was feeling discouraged, until I found the best one yet: tiny bat'leth.
"Roomie! Tiny bat'leth! Twenty bucks!" She went excitedly to the Think Geek website, but then I noticed something unwelcome. "Oh. Sold out."
She howled in frustration. "They have them on Amazon for fifty! I can't spend fifty bucks on a letter opener!"
Sadly, we are still on the hunt for a geeky letter opener, knowing that nothing will ever be quite as good as that tiny bat'leth.






*******

RAWR. Sometimes you sit in the living room, needing to write your blog post, and your roommates put Guardians of the Galaxy in the blu-ray player, and of course you're forced to watch, because it's Guardians of the Galaxy and it's awesome. Then they put in Fantasia, which you haven't seen in a million years, and which you can't ask them to turn off because it's also awesome, and because Rumor hasn't ever seen it, because he was raised by monkeys in Africa or some crap, and you're finally forced to sequester yourself in your room to watch this fucking web shit. Another RAWR. Harry Potter 5 angst.
Imagining Kirk being eaten slowly by Chernabog. OM NOM NOM.

You make the best faces, Chekov.

Kirk's Log 5693.2: "Looking for the USS Defiant, which disappeared three weeks ago, in an area of the map marked here there be aliens."

Everyone is all on edge.
"Sensor readings are weird," says Spock. "They say space is breaking up."
"This weird area is messing with the engines," says Scotty.
Chekov sees something on the viewscreen. It's the Defiant, which is glowing or something.
"Huh," says Spock. "We see it, but the sensors don't."
Okay, this is actually a really smart move by the budget: they made the Defiant a Constitution-class ship like the Enterprise, which means they can re-use the E model as a stand-in for that ship. And because there's something wrong with the Defiant, they can cover the call letters on the model with green spots and claim that it's a special effect. What's more (spoilers), when the away team beams over to the Defiant, they can re-use Enterprise sets.


Sulu brings the ship to within transporter range, and Kirk tells Uhura to hail the Defiant. Because she does her job well, she informs him that she's been hailing them for several minutes. I commend her for being able to say that without rolling her eyes at him. Kirk puts together an away team of himself, Spock, Chekov and Bones and leaves Scotty in charge. Seriously, as often as Scotty is put in charge, you'd think he'd just be promoted to captain. Kirk can be demoted to Guy in Charge of Getting Himself Kidnapped.
In the meantime, we are treated to this awesome shot:



So let's recount: The Defiant has been missing for three weeks, they find it glowing in an unexplored area of space which the sensors report is breaking up, and because no one is answering hails, Kirk has decided to take several people and just blindly beam over there. I wanna yell at him for it, but apparently he's taken the precaution of suiting up. The laugh I get from these suits is amazing. Shiny, sparkly, skin-tight silver with colored tubes, and the mesh on those helmets makes it look like they photocopied headshots of the guys and taped them in.


When they beam onto the bridge of the Defiant, the first thing they see is the captain on the floor, having been choked to death by a Red, who is also dead. Dramatic music! Break for credits!

While Bones scans the bodies, Chekov asks if there has ever been a mutiny onboard a Starfleet vessel, and Spock replies that it has never happened. That sounds like crap, but Spock enumerating mutinies wouldn't make a lot of sense here, so he simply said no. (Even though he comprised one in *cough, cough* "The Menagerie" *cough, cough*) Spock scans the ship for the mutineers and Kirk calls Scotty for a complement of Reds. You know that'll be canceled though, because the costume-makers would not have made more of those ridiculous suits. So then Spock says everyone on the ship is dead, and that cancellation comes true. He sends Chekov to engineering and Bones to sick bay.
In sick bay, Bones finds crewmen strapped to the beds. Chekov gets a quick visual in engineering of all the dead bodies. He reports in, and then sways, unsteady on his feet. They use the fish-eye lens to show his POV.

I have an issue with the two guys that have artfully draped themselves
over the dilithium crystal chambers. Were they having a dance party on top
 of it when they died? Why didn't they fall off? Dead weight is just that:
they would not still be perched on top of the chamber if they were
actually dead.

Back in sick bay, Bones calls Kirk to say that everyone killed everyone else. He's gonna take a bunch of readings and analyze them back on the E, where the bodies aren't piled up like a Monty Python film. Then he discovers that he can put his hand through bodies and tables.
"So the ship is dissolving," he tells Kirk.


Sulu alerts Scotty to the fact that the Defiant is phasing in and out of space. Scotty calls down to the transporter room, because surprise! the transporter is broken.


So Spock tells Kirk that what happened to the Defiant is now happening to the E as well, and they should get the hell out of Dodge.
"Transporter's busted because of this weird space falling apart thing," says Scotty when they call for a ride. "I got three spots, but they're iffy."
Guess who volunteers to stay behind? The one who probably should be volunteering, and guess who tells him that if anyone should be left behind and be all heroic, it's him instead - so... yeah. Kirk will stay behind. Idiot.
Scotty has to try a couple of times, and mess with the controls, but he finally succeeds in beaming back Chekov, Spock and Bones. No go for Kirk. The Defiant phases out completely. Scotty tries again, but there isn't anything for him to beam from, and he announces that Kirk is gone. Dramatic music! Commercial break!

So the computer calculates that it'll be about two hours before the next time that the Defiant will phase back into this area of space. Spock guesses that it's like two layers of space laid on top of one another, and that the Defiant should appear again when they match up. In the meantime, it's kind of okay that the E can't go anywhere, because power fluctuations could mess with that line-up.
Chekov flips his shit for no reason, and suddenly attacks Spock and Sulu.


Bones happens to enter the bridge rather coincidentally, just as Spock pinches Chekov. Two Reds haul the unconscious navigator to sick bay.
"The hell?" asks Bones.
"Dunno," says Spock. "He lost it and attacked us."
"He was being weird earlier, like he was in pain," says Sulu.
"I think there was an illness on the Defiant that lead everyone to fly into a murderous rage," Bones tells Spock. "Possibly we brought it back with us. We should get away from here."
"Can't," says Spock. "Have to wait two hours, then try to get Kirk back. That's when we phase again. His suit has about three and a half hours of air left."
"Ship approaching us," says Sulu, and everyone looks to the viewscreen.
There is a ship. It looks like a paper airplane.


Uhura gets a visual on the screen.
...um.
Points for trying to make a non-humanoid alien. But... yeah, that looks like one of those origami balls that you fold up, and then inflate. They cut eyes in it and put some kind of iridescent paper behind them. Barring that, it's maybe a deranged peep candy?


The voice of the Tholian is super high-pitched and sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
"This is our space. GTFO."
"Bitch, this is free space," says Spock. "We're doing a rescue mission on a ship that's interphased. Should be back in like, two hours. Do you want to help us?"
"Fuck no," says the Tholian. "But we'll hang out for two hours. If you don't get your shit together by then, we'll administer dick-punches to your crew."
"Good to know," says Spock.

In the med lab, Bones is trying to mix some kind of serum to cure Chekov and keep others from getting rage-sick. Unfortunately, a lab assistant loses his shit and attacks Bones. Christine jumps in and hypos the guy. He drops to the floor and Bones thanks her. But the real news here is that they finally found a hairstyle for Christine that isn't obnoxious or a weird color-match.


The interphase time comes around, and Scotty tries to beam Kirk aboard, to no avail.
"The hell?" Spock asks Sulu. "We timed it right. Crap, I think the Tholians being in this space disturbed things enough that it screwed over the match-up."
Bones calls Spock. "We have to GTFO. Another crew member lost it just now, and it's not an illness. It's because we're phasing, too. It screws with the body. Do we have Kirk?"
"Nope," says Spock.
The Tholians fire on the E. Spock orders Sulu to transfer fifty percent of the phaser power to the shields. Then he fires on the Tholian ship. It's a hit, and the Tholians are dead in the water. The E is too, according to Scotty.
Bones bursts onto the bridge. "Why the hell are we still here?" he demands. "Quit screwing around with these aliens, and let's get the hell out of here!"
"Not without my boyfriend," replies Spock. "Get your ass back to sick bay and find a cure."
"Another Tholian ship is here," says Sulu, and they watch as the two ships connect at the rear, then fly away from each other, with a thread between them.
Then more threads appear across the screen.
Wait. Hey Star Trek, what are those threads connected to?



No, seriously. Do you not know how spiders work? The spider lets some line out from it's butt, and attaches it to something, then it moves to something else, and attaches it to that other thing. Now it may attach other threads to this thread. That is how one makes web. With threads and attaching.
"That's an energy field," says Spock, even though he has no reason to know that. "If the Tholians finish their web before we can get the captain and repair the ship, then we are fucked."
So, the Tholians started this web-thing by connecting to each other and flying in opposite directions. I really would not take issue with this if Star Trek was claiming that the web was sphere-shaped, and that they were creating it from one thread by spiraling in that sphere shape. In order for that to be the case, we would have to see the spiral threads cross in front of the E before any kind of "weaving" took place.
...we don't.



There isn't anything on that side. We don't, in fact, have any idea what shape the web might be, and the Tholians are just kind of guessing that the E isn't going anywhere, and that they can build this giant web on one side of the ship without working on the other side, all in the hopes that the E won't just fly away.

So Spock is gathering a bunch of crew members in the chapel for some meeting, and Bones comes in. Spock gives him flak for leaving sick bay when he should be working on a serum. Bones barks back that sick bay is proceeding fine without him, and that "this service" is where he needs to be.
Hold. The motherfucking comm badge.
Are you having a funeral for Kirk? Now? Even though one will probably be held at Starfleet later? While you're at red alert? While you're waiting for another interphase window to try and see if you can beam Kirk onboard? While you're supposed to be repairing the ship? And looking for an antidote? Are you shitting me?


"So the captain is probably dead," Spock addresses the crew. Then he uses the opportunity to justify his actions since Kirk kicked the bucket. Appropriate, Spock. A Red flies into a rage, and is hauled off to sick bay by two security Reds. There's a moment of silence and everyone leaves. Bones approaches Spock.
"We have to go to Jim's quarters," he says. "He left us instructions to be carried out, should he ever be declared dead."
Sure, why not? We've already wasted time at this funeral service, why not waste more hanging out in Kirk's cabin? Spock objects, but Bones convinces him.
Once in Kirk's cabin, Bones yells at Spock for staying and fighting the Tholians, rather than leaving that space and ensuring the crew was safe.
"I was trying to save Kirk, like always," replies Spock.
He puts a tape in, and Kirk appears on the little monitor.
"I'm probably dead," says Kirk. "You guys need to help each other. Play nicely, now."
They both feel kind of shitty after that.
"Sorry I was a douche," says Bones. "Hug it out, bro?"
"Don't touch me," says Spock.  
Scotty calls him to the bridge.

Uhura is in her quarters hanging out. We finally get to see her out of uniform, and she's wearing yet another floaty, shapeless thing. Blech. Anyway, she's in front of the vanity when she keels over in pain. When she looks up in the mirror, she sees Kirk in his weird-ass space suit.
She tries to talk to him as though he's really there, but he disappears.


She runs out into the corridor and into Bones' arms. 
"I saw the captain!"
He doesn't believe her, and she insists that she isn't crazy. Then she faints for some reason, and he hauls her off to sick bay.

We check in briefly with outer space, where the Tholian ships are continuing to build webs that are not attached to anything, not in any particular shape, and don't actually enclose the ship at all. As far as real estate goes, the Enterprise is "web-adjacent."

A Red attacks Scotty in engineering, and they take him to sick bay. A bit later, Christine brings Bones the test results on the Red engineer. He doesn't have a serum yet, but he kinda-sorta thinks he might know what could cure them. 

Oh, hey. The Tholians have finally started on the other side of the web. Which is probably also attached to nothing.



In engineering, a Red looks like Death Warmed Over. Scotty thinks they might be phasing, but a quick call to the bridge says they are not. Then he sees the ghost of Kirk.
"I see Kirk!" he says over the comm.
Bones comes onto the bridge. "Maybe they think they see Kirk because they've lost faith in you," he suggests bitchily. Seriously, Bones: WTH?
"Dude, get off my bridge," says Spock.
Bones starts to get angry, then apologizes, saying he thinks that the space is affecting him.
"Ain't no thang," Spock shrugs.
But then Bones faints in his arms as Scotty enters the bridge.
"It's Kirk!" Scotty yells.


Down in sick bay, Bones releases Uhura and tells her that she's not crazy. He then takes a drink to Spock's quarters. Spock and Scotty are discussing the interphase. The phasers definitely screwed things up, and Spock guesses that the next interphase time when they will line up properly is in twenty minutes.
"Cool," says Scotty. "I can have the ship ready then."
Bones comes in with the serum-drink and tells the boys that he's found a cure, and that they need to drink it. Apparently, it's a diluted Klingon nerve-gas mixed with alcohol that does something to the brain so that they don't become homicidal maniacs. Scotty is hesitant because of the nerve-gas thing, but once he's assured that it's safe, he grabs up the rest of the bottle, asks if it's good with Scotch, and exits. Ladies and gentlemen, this is our head engineer.


Spock returns to the bridge, where Uhura and Chekov have also returned. You know, it seems to me like a stint in sick bay would come with a mandatory rest period following, but you know, I don't run this ship, so...
Chekov says the Tholians are completing their web. Of course the next interphase is coming at the exact same time, because why not? On the viewscreen, the bridge crew sees the Kirk ghost and the web.
"We're being pulled by a tractor beam!" says Sulu.
Huh?
Scotty gives Spock all of his engine power, and the ship shakes, and they're free of the web.
"We broke through?" asks Chekov. "We're two parsecs away now."
"No, using the ship's power threw us clear of it," replies Spock.
I think that's what he just said, Spock.
The Kirk ghost reappears. Even though they've totally moved away from where Kirk and the Defiant were, Kirk's pattern was still in the transporter beam, or some shit that sounds only a little plausible. Mostly it just sounds like the sort of science that occurs when one is trapped in a web that's attached to nothing and has to get their captain free from some unsynced area of outer space, within the five minutes allotted at the end of the episode.
They try the transporter again, and get Kirk this time, much to my disappointment. Kirk has run out of air at the same time as the interphase and the completion of the web (how convenient), so Bones gives him a hypo. Way to go, Bones. By hypoing the back of his shoulder rather than at his exposed neck, you actually ruined the integrity of his quarantine suit.



On the bridge, Kirk tells Spock and Bones that he had his own little universe there for a bit. I suspect that Kirk spends a great deal of time in his "own little universe." Actually, I'm starting to wonder if Star Trek is some solipsistic dream of Kirk's, where only he exists and everything and everyone else is a figment of his imagination, created to amuse him. It would certainly explain a lot.
"How did things go without me?" Kirk asks, because apparently the whole world falls apart when he disappears.
"Things went fine," says Spock. "Nothing to report."
"Did you guys get along?" Kirk asks, because he's the daddy on this ship. Next he'll ask if they ate all their vegetables while he was gone.
"Yep," says Bones.
"What about that tape I left for you guys, that you were only supposed to watch if I was dead?"
"What tape?" shrugs Bones.
"We were too busy saving your ass to worry about watching a tape," says Spock.
"Totes," Bones agrees.
"O...kay, cool, I guess," replies Kirk, who looks put-out that they didn't watch the tape.
And Chekov snickers at the con, because he even though he wasn't there, he knows that Spock and Bones are full of shit.



There are three big issues that I took with this episode: firstly, that web. I know I've stated that it's not connected to anything, but Zod dammit, it wasn't connected to anything! Seems like a huge oversight, considering that one must have anchors in order for that sort of thing to work. Secondly, we just left the Tholians. No explanations given for them, because who cares? They were only a distraction, something to think about while we were waiting to get Kirk back. Like, there was a two-hour window between when they lost Kirk and when they tried to get him back the first time, but the writers wanted Spock to do something more interesting than just Netflixing during that time, so they made some hostile alien race to kill time. Here's the thing: if you're gonna name the episode after the race you're battling, make them more interesting, and don't just drop them like a rabid tribble when you're done with that part of the story. Thirdly: Kirk goes missing or gets himself kidnapped every fucking week, and he has for the last three years (actually, we skipped a year and a half in there according to the stardates, so it's really been closer to five). This is the only episode where they quickly declared him dead in the middle of the rescue mission, held a fricking funeral, and watched some posthumous tape he made. Now maybe we can excuse the tape by saying that he realized that he does this a lot and only recently made that tape because of it, but the first two? No way.


Death Toll:
Red deaths this episode: 0
Red deaths this season: 3
Gold deaths this episode: 0
Gold deaths this season: 0
Blue deaths this episode: 0
Blue deaths this season: 0
Total crew deaths this season: 3
Total crew deaths thus far: 45

We aren't really given numbers for the Defiant, and no one on the E bit the dust this episode, so numbers remain the same.

So reader Jon pointed something out that I had also noticed, but not until after I had posted last week's review: "The Empath" is shockingly similar in plot to "The Cage." Now, I know they say that there are a finite number of stories in the world, and that we really have no new ones to tell, we can only figure out new ways to tell them. Unfortunately, the writers of the scripts picked up by Star Trek believe in this whole-heartedly, to the point where there are like, 10 stories on this show, all rehashed week after week. So I'm gonna start putting that at the bottom, just for my own Hermione-like amusement.

This episode is shocking similar to: "The Naked Time", where the crew of a space station gets sick and kills one another, then the E crew brings it back on board the ship, and Bones must find an antidote before everyone dies.

*******

Stumbled across another kind of bottled tea, called Heart of Tea, and grabbed the Pomegranate-Orange flavor. The leaf base was black, and the flavor at first reminded me of those Mondo juice drinks that were briefly the rage in the nineties. Then, oddly, it reminded me of expensive chocolate. I have no idea why it reminded me of both of these things, but it did, and I can't account for the weirdness of tea. Sometimes it just is. It was good either way, and Heart of Tea comes in a bunch of flavors that sound pretty good.






That's not helpful.


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